It may have been Vin Diesel who coined the phrase “shadow people” to describe what it means to be part of two different racial groups: how they might look like one race or another, but would feel the pull of each world, not being able to properly identify with either. Derek Jeter, Mariah Carey, Tiger Woods, The Rock, Lynda Carter, Halle Berry, Jessica Alba. You get the idea, all shadow people to one degree or another.

I suppose the dilemma facing the parents of potential “shadow people” is similar to what folks go through when adopting/raising trans-racially; thus, the sleepless nights as we, as parents, try to think ways to ensure that our children find a place of wholeness for themselves. Like any good parent, we want to spare our kids from having to go through unnecessary pain. We don’t want them to have to experience the cultural disenfranchisement, that sense that they have no place. That they don’t belong to either group or aren’t accepted by either group. Too black for some, not black enough for others. While we may aim for them to experience the best of both worlds, life has taught us to prepare for the opposite.

One racial equivalent of the dark night of the soul would be the journey of nigrescence (part of me wrestling with the idea of ontological blackness). I believe it’s important for my children to know both sides of their cultural heritage and be proud of both sides of them while leaving room to explore each. We intentionally keep them in multi-cultural environments, from school to our circle of friends/family to the church we chose to attend.

Our goal is to guide them in their search for “ontological themness” – defining themselves, for themselves, as themselves (as eikons of God) – not hindered by people’s expectations and definitions. Sometimes race can be a journey of its own, a bumpy road laden with historical baggage and the often overwhelming sense of community responsibilities. It’s easy to retreat to what’s comfortable … for the parent. At the very least, I’m there and have been through a version of this. And I want a world of substance for my children, not shadow.

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