We celebrated my baby girl’s first birthday with a party.
The color scheme was pink and green — my sorority colors. My husband and I decorated with flowers, streamers, balloons and photos, and our house was filled to the brim with food and family … and presents!
Among the books, clothes, toys and money was a gift card to Old Navy.
We’d never shopped there before for our daughter, so we took a look online.
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A picture of an interracial couple and child — the one that caused a racial firestorm on social media last week — was one of the first images we saw.
I am black, my husband is white and our daughter is biracial.
“Awwww,” we said in unison.
“Look at us,” I added.
We kissed each other, hugged our baby siting on his lap and went on to click around the site looking for short-sleeved onesies.
It was — and IS — refreshing to see our family represented in the media.
We even quietly and casually point out, smile at and nod to other interracial couples when we see them out and about, especially if they have children.
Once my husband said, “Wow. I’ve never noticed how many mixed couples there are.”
I often compare it to getting a new car. After you purchase your particular make and model, you suddenly notice it more around town when those cars have been there all along.
In the same vein, the Old Navy ad shines a spotlight on an already occurring “phenomenon.”
Mixed couples exist, have existed and will continue to exist.
Advertisements featuring them are holding a mirror up to society and, like it or not, America. A 2013 Pew Research Center analysis revealed that 12 percent of newlywed couples had spouses of different races.
Reflection is representation.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz, whose work focuses on the immigrant experience in New Jersey, put it best: “There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”
Moving mixed couples’ representation from the margins just makes sense.
Unfortunately, as was seen most recently with the Old Navy ad, many folks would like to cover that metaphorical mirror with a veil of bigotry and intolerance.
My husband and I were just dating when Cheerios featured an interracial couple and child in a May 2013 commercial. Backlash from that commercial inspired interracial couple Michael David Murphy and Alyson West — a white man and a black woman — to create WeAreThe15Percent.com, where they post pictures of their and other interracial relationships “to publicly reflect the changing face of the American family.”
When I married in November 2013, I sent them a picture from our wedding.
They told me thanks, but that due to the influx of photos, our picture might not be posted for another year or so.
That made me smile, made me feel accepted, gave me assurance that there were more people like me — like us — out there.
I saw myself.
I saw us.
I saw representation of the type of family that we were creating.
Fast forward almost three years to my baby girl’s first birthday party. Black, white, Hispanic and biracial loved ones from 80 years to 16 months old were all there to celebrate. And I saw something else: a reflection of the America that I have faith in.