Two months ago, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that mixed marriages are on the rise.   According to data, one in 10 Americans tied the knot with someone of a different race or ethnicity.  Over the last decade from 2000-2010, there was a 28 percent jump in interracial or interethnic couples jumping the broom.  Note, Hispanic is not considered a race, rather an ethnic group.


Many of these couples procreate and give birth to biracial babies.  Although the parents are two different races, the children often must pick only one.  Society pressures people to choose with the “one drop” rule, and many forms force people to check off a single box under the category of race.  Just this week, the public bashed Academy award-winning actor Morgan Freeman for saying Barack Obama wasn’t the first Black President, but the first bi-racial one.  Is he right?  I once read an interesting quote that said, “If you had on a black and white shirt and someone asked what color  it was, what would you say?”  Although you may identify with one color over another, that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace both.  That’s what Diary of a First Time Mom’s Mom of the Week is teaching her kids.  We caught up to Vija Xiong, an African-American mom who crossed cultures and married an Asian man she met in church.

What will you teach your children about race?

We are going to teach our children about both races—Hmong and African-American. Though we will do our best to encourage our children to embrace both cultures, we know society will want them to choose. We are uncertain how we will prepare them for the demand to pick a side. My son looks African-American, so we are pretty confident he will “fit in”  to that culture. My daughter’s journey will not be so clear. She has straight hair and could pass for a variety of ethnic groups. Every day, I tell her she is beautiful.  I teach her to love herself. We say together, “God loves me; Daddy and Mommy love me; my brother loves me and I love myself.”


As for as  racial slurs are concerned,  I would tell my children, “It is not what you are called, but what you respond to.” In jest, friends refer to my son as Tiger Woods. However, we make it very clear to our children they are African-American and Hmong.


Can you tell me more about the Hmong race? 

Hmong is a nomadic tribe within Laos. They originally migrated from China. In America we might describe Hmong as mountain people. They are a unified community and tend to maintain their culture. The benefit of being so close-knit is taking care of one another. The other side of the issue is the challenge in assimilating and embracing others who are not Hmong. The largest concentration of Hmong in the United States is in Minnesota, Wisconsin and California. The Hmong are also in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.


Can you speak the language?

The Hmong language does not have an alphabet and for the most part is not written down. A few Universities are trying to maintain the language by starting websites and creating booklets. I am fortunate to have a book of the Hmong language from a relative. However, without someone speaking the language to me, I am unable to discern the information in the book. My family and I practice inconsistently on learning basic information such as numbers, greetings and sayings. My husband’s former Hmong church formed a class for anyone who wanted to learn the language. Unfortunately, no one participated.  There’s a growing fear among the elder generation that the language as well as customs will disappear.


In what ways do you teach your children about their diverse culture?

1. Family. We spend a lot of time with cousins and grandparents.  The Hmong culture is family oriented and filled with tradition.

2. Cultural festivals.  We celebrate  the Hmong New Year, and the kids wear traditional attire at various events.  We also attend Black arts festivals and have celebrated Kwanza.

3. Music. I am a former DJ and believe music is a great teacher for culture! I play everything in our house: Hmong, R&B, Jazz, Classical; you name it!

4. Language.  As mentioned, we

5. Going to venues such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. center. African-American culture starts with learning about the contribution of African-Americans to America-science, math, engineering, etc.  We’ve also visited the African-American Panoramic Experience.




Was your family accepting of your choice to date/marry someone outside of your race?

From a very early age, my family knew I would not marry an African-American man. I was always drawn to men of different cultures. So, it came as no surprise when my husband and I announced our engagement.  A lot of the acceptance has to do with my husband’s character. For example, when my sister was getting married, and we were still dating, he sat in the front row for the ceremony as though he “should” be a part of my family. I think if he were timid or shy things may have turned out differently and we would face more challenges.



What is the best part about being in an interracial family?

The diversity. I have so much to embrace and learn.  I’ve even learned how to make some Hmong food.  The most common dish is Pho (This is the Vietnamese spelling. Remember there is not a true spelling in Hmong). We would call it a noodle soup. I learned the recipe by being in the kitchen with someone making the dish and taking notes. Another favorite is Mum-blou (or sticky rice), you soak the rice 24 hours, then steam it.


Do you plan to visit your husband’s homeland?

We do plan to visit Laos. We have relatives there but do not maintain contact with them. Another tradition is for the family to live close together. A family reunion a few years ago, resulted in the decision for distant family members to move to Georgia. Only a few members of the family have moved thus far, but more are transitioning to Georgia when they can. Goes back to being able to take care of one another.  We are 5 minutes from two sisters, 20 minutes from my in-laws, another sister and two brothers, about 30 minutes from two more sisters.


What advice would you give other mothers raising biracial children?

First, you must decide what you want to embrace. I hope both cultures. Then seek opportunities to be apart of each culture. Second, prepare your child instead of raising them in a bubble. I first thought I would not address racial slurs, teasing or bullying. Then my mother challenged me not to be naive. My concern was not to create a fear in my children about other people. I quickly realized preparing my children was very different from teaching them to fear people. Third, making my home a place where both cultures are embraced. I learned to cook Hmong food. We celebrate Kwanza. Whatever you feel creates a safe place around your culture. Finally, be secure. I love my husband. My children see it everyday. My children know our house is filled with love.


Ultimately, teaching culture is the responsibility of the parents. If we lived in a less diverse area, we would need to step up and equip our children in regard to culture. I can not ask anyone else to make them feel accepted. Teaching my children to be secure is my responsibility and mine alone.


Hey DFTM family–Are you raising bi-racial children or have you adopted outside of your own race?  If so, how are you teaching your children to embrace their cultures?

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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