Call for Submissions: “Black and White: Parenting on the Colorline,” an anthology edited by Caroline Berz, Jessie Scanlon and Kim DaCosta
When General Mills aired a Cheerios commercial featuring a family with a white mother, a black father and a biracial child, many viewers reacted positively, but the ad’s YouTube page was filled with so much vitriol that the company disabled comments. A white woman calling in to the black comedian D.L. Hughley’s radio show summed up the disgust: “Cereal is white. That has no place at the breakfast table. It’s offensive.” The Cheerios marketing team doubled down, spending $4 million to run a second ad with the family during the Super Bowl, yet many people are still uncomfortable with the very idea of a black/white family. As Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen put it, “people with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York—a white man married to a black woman with two biracial children.” These are the stories of mixed race families that gain national attention. The anger, suspicion, and ignorance they reflect can also be felt in our most mundane daily interactions. Last year, a white man shopping at Walmart with his biracial children was suspected of kidnapping. Black fathers of lighter-skinned children often draw questioning stares, while darker-skinned mothers are often mistaken for “the nanny.”
As a nation we are increasingly multiracial, but mixed race individuals and families are still perceived as an anomaly. For those of us living—and parenting—on the colorline, events like the Cheerios controversy are urgent reminders that the society we are raising our children in is far from “post-racial,” regardless of the election of the first African American/white president. Indeed, since Barack Obama moved into the White House, we’ve seen an increase in violence targeting those of African descent.
How do these issues affect the day-to-day lives of our families? How do they inform the many ways we parent our children, our hopes and dreams—and fears—for them? How do we go about the daily tasks of building and supporting our families, loving our partners, and growing into our own identities as parents when racism continues to be a defining issue in our schools, on our streets, in our government’s policies and sometimes in our own homes?
The essays anthologized in Black and White: Parenting on the Colorline will explore the multiple and complex experiences of parenting children of African and European heritage, and of families formed by transracial adoption. The collection will pay close attention to the ways in which the mixed race identities of children and parents alike are informed by gender, class, sexuality, language and citizenship. The writing will be humorous and lyrical, insightful and critical, and most of all personal, reflecting the joys and challenges of mixed-race parenting.
Topics can include (but are not limited to): pregnancy and birth; adoption; LGBTQ families; interfaith and interracial families; divorce; single-parenting; grandparenting mixed children; racial implications of different parenting philosophies; specifics of parenting mixed girls and boys; gender-nonconforming children and families; special rights children and families; experiences at playgrounds and in mothers’/parents’ groups; schools and education; notions of beauty; bullying; policing; questions of multiculturalism and diversity; individual and family identities that push the boundaries of the black/white binary.
Please send the editors a brief description of your proposed essay (250-300 words), a bio (200-250 words), and a list of previous publications. The essays can range in length and tone, though all should be accessible to a broad audience. Pieces are due on January 15 , and acceptance will depend upon the strength and fit of the completed essay.
Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Caroline Berz has been engaged in active dialogue around issues of “race” and identity for as long as she can remember. She has worked closely with Facing History and Ourselves for over fifteen years first as an intern, then as a full-time staff member and most recently as a member of the National Teacher Advisory Board and adjunct online facilitator. She has piloted new material on the American eugenics movement, South Africa and Rwanda. She spent a decade as a high school history teacher in Boston area public schools teaching a variety of courses ranging from Modern European History to Modern World History to her personal favorite, a junior/senior elective on Race and Membership. In 2008, she transitioned from being in the classroom full-time to curriculum writing, film education and outreach. Helping schools and communities to become “fluent” in multiculturalism is one of her passions so she enjoys leading diversity workshops in schools for teachers, students and parents. She has a BA in US History from Tufts University and a Masters in Education from Harvard University and is mom to two young children, ages 2 and 6.
Jessie Scanlon has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for 20 years. After graduating with honors from Brown University, she earned an internship at Wired magazine and worked her way up the masthead to become a senior editor. Along the way she co-authored Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age. After ten years on staff, she became a contributing writer for the magazine. In addition to her pieces for Wired, she has written for national magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Slate, Popular Science, ID, Dwell, Men’s Journal, and TED.com. After four years on staff at BusinessWeek, where she spearheaded its online coverage of innovation and design, she shifted to working primarily in books. Most recently, she helped write Leading the Life You Want, a Wall Street Journal best seller. Jessie lives in Cambridge, MA, with her husband and two children.
Kim DaCosta, a sociologist, is especially interested in the contemporary production of racial boundaries. Born in Boston and raised in two of its suburbs—both largely white and blue collar—she is the fourth of her Irish mother and Black father’s six children. The experience of growing up in metropolitan Boston of the 1970s and 80s, a time and place uncomfortable with when not outright hostile to interracial families, first sparked her academic interests. Kim’s book, Making Multiracials: State, Family, and Market in the Redrawing of the Color Line (Stanford 2007), explores the cultural and social underpinnings of the movement to create multiracial collective identity in the United States. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and holds a PhD in sociology from Berkeley. Kim is currently a professor and dean at New York University and is the mother of three children.