Mom of Biracial Teen Troubled Daughter Is Choosing 'Side'

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I'm at my wits' end and don't know what to do.My husband is in the Army and several months ago we PCS'd from Fort Hood, Texas, to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Things were great for us at Fort Hood, but things have not been great at Fort Jackson.

I'm black and my husband is white, and our three children are biracial. Our oldest is grown and has left the house. The problem we're having now is with our daughter, who is in the eighth grade.

We live off post at Fort Jackson, and the area we moved to is very ghetto. Almost all the kids in our daughter's school are black, and most of them seem to have a "ghetto" mind-set. The black girls at her school have been pressuring her to pick her black side over her white side.

At Fort Hood, we lived in a diverse community and our kids never had any problems fitting in and finding friends. Since moving to South Carolina, our daughter has been acting blacker -- she dresses differently, wears her hair differently and listens to gangsta rap now. She has also been doing worse in school and is failing two classes!

Now she is ashamed of her dad because he is white. She won't let him drive her anywhere; she wants me to drive her. She doesn't want to go out to eat with our family because she doesn't want any of her friends to see her with her dad because he is white. Now, she identifies herself only as being black.

I hate seeing my daughter reject her white side, and I hate that she is ashamed of her own father. My husband hasn't said so, but I suspect that he is hurt by her behavior. The only solution I can come up with is to withdraw my daughter from her school and homeschool her to get her away from all the bad influences, but I work full time and can't afford to quit my job.

-- Half-White Teenager

Dear Half White,

There are a lot of dynamics going on in your family, and many of them are cultural. We live in a society that wants us to pick one race and say which side we're on. We really do divide racially down the middle in nearly every situation. Remembering this, it's not hard to see why adolescents behave in the same way.

This is a tough age for your daughter. Teens want to be like their friends. They want to look, dress and act like their friends. They imitate their friends' attitudes and listen to the same music their friends like.

The first thing you have to do with your daughter is set firm ground rules for her behavior. Let her know what you expect from her and what you will not tolerate -- and then enforce those limits.

Is she buying the music you don't like? How is she buying it? Same goes for her clothes -- who is buying them for her? If you don't want her to dress a certain way, don't buy her those clothes and don't give her the money to buy them.

Teenagers don't have money unless someone is giving it to them. If you aren't buying the clothes and music for her, you need to find out where she's getting the money.

When it comes to our children, we have to do what we have to do. If this means you have to homeschool your daughter, then that may be what you have to do.

Your daughter is at an age where she wants to know who she is racially. It's important for you and your husband to be the front runners in building the racial bridges. Do more to help your daughter get to know both sides of her family and her heritage. Let her know why she ought to be proud of both sides. Finally, solicit the help of a school counselor.

I hope this helps!

-- Ms. Vicki

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