A Mixed Perspective + Amy’s Rutabaga Fries

We are a unique family. Even in the States, we stand out a bit; more so in some areas of the country than others. But in China, where we have served for nearly 7 years? We are a freak of nature. A zoo exhibit to stare at and sometimes touch or pet (yes, really).

My husband is African American, I am Caucasian and our three littles are a beautiful mixture.

God knew this plan he had for my life and started preparing me for it as early as 4th grade. I remember obsessing about Africa and its people. My parents invited exchange students from Mexico to live with us when I was in junior high. In high school I studied Spanish and enjoyed learning about various cultures. Even growing up in a small, mostly Caucasian town in Missouri, I knew the world was big and I was excited to discover it.

Before my husband and I got married, there was some push back from a few friends and family on both sides. Looking back, I know most of it was fear-driven and a lack of knowledge and exposure: Aren’t you moving too fast? (We knew we wanted a short engagement!) What about your kids? It’ll be hard for them to be mixed. Aren’t you afraid of what other people will say?

Of course during that time, our love-filled eyes for each other were blind to see any issues in the future. We just knew we were supposed to get married. We’d figure out the rest when it happened!

We spent a year in the States after our first son was born and honestly, I felt no prejudices. Actually, the exact opposite. Any time we went out, people goggled at how adorable he was. His curly hair, long eyelashes, and soft, tan skin were irresistible.

When we moved to China, I couldn’t understand anything the locals were saying until year 3, when I finally started studying Chinese. I started hearing phrases like, “Oh! Foreigner!” “Foreign baby doll!” “His eyes are so big!” “Look how long his eyelashes are!” “His hair is so curly! Is it permed or natural?” (Yes, really. To this day, this is still the most popular question!) Those were innocent phrases in which I tried my best to deflect, which was cultural, even though I, of course, agreed with their compliments.

But then I started hearing some that weren’t as nice. Things such as: “His skin is white like his mother’s; how beautiful. But his brother’s skin is dark.” “They all look like their father, but their mother’s skin is so white.” Confused, semi-disapproving looks following.

You see, in China and many other Asian countries, it’s more popular to be fair-skinned than darker. Whitening agents and umbrellas, sleeve covers, and full-faced visors on sunny days are abundant.

So these people who were commenting on my kids’ skin color were indeed saying one had “good” skin like his mama and the others were too dark like their daddy. Racism and prejudices know no country borders, folks. I’m sure you can pinpoint similar issues in the culture you serve.

By God’s abundant grace, I’ve never lost it with any of these people. I simply responded with something about how each of them is beautiful and how in the West, most people like tan and brown skin more, even going as far as sunbathing to achieve it. They just can’t wrap their minds around it, just like it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that they put whitening agents in every skin care product sold in the land. And to think I spent the better part of my high school years trying to be tan, which is impossible for my skin tone, just to fit in!

Along with His grace, God has given my husband and I the perspective that, much like our friends and family before we got married, the Chinese people just don’t know much about other cultures. They’re curious. Some of them have never seen foreigners before, let alone multiple races within a single family. They have the view that dark skin means you work outside, which means you must be poor. Sound familiar?

Does that mean we’re not offended sometimes? No. But we have to go back to where our identity is rooted. It’s not set in what others say about us, how they view us, or even if they like us. It’s in Christ alone, and we know exactly how He feels about us.

We are choosing to let the comments roll off our back and instead use our family as a platform and example to those around us. We start a lot of conversations by merely walking out the door! Opportunities to share His love and grace dropped in our laps multiple times a day is much more than we could’ve imagined! I have to remember a little suffering is so worth the lives that may be impacted. I mean, Jesus suffered a lot more than we do, and kept turning the other cheek, right? May I do the same. Every time.

Are you a multi-raced family? Whether yes or no, what obstacles have you come across with your host culture, perhaps experiencing being a minority for the first time? How have you handled them?

*****

Thank you Ashley for your beautiful post! If you’re looking for something to eat while you reread and let Ashley’s words soak in, I’d like to share my new fav food: the rutabaga. I have had to go off all starchy vegetables for a while and was looking for a new recipes when I read about the rutabaga. It looks like a turnip, but tastes more like a potato had a baby with lovely flavor . . . and that baby is much better for your body than a potato (so you can eat more fries!)

When I was reading recipes, I didn’t even know what a rutabaga looked like. Turnips are on the left, rutabagas on the right.

I will say, you need a good knife to cut them.

And then remember, oh yeah, you need to peel the rutabaga. Apparently I channel Edward Scissorhands when I use a peeler.

Next cut the rutabaga into fries (I’ve also tried cutting them in slices and mashed rutabaga).

Next coat them in olive oil (or whatever oil you have) and sprinkle with some salt.

Place on a baking sheet and put in a preheated oven. Know that they are going to take 30-45 minutes so don’t wait until you are starving to start working on these little bits of deliciousness from heaven.

Part way through, stir so both sides get brown.

When done . . . enjoy! You might want to add a little more salt.

Not sold on them yet? “Rutabagas are an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of fiber, and a good source of potassium, manganese, and thiamin.”

Slightly adapted from Very Well

Ignore her hopeful 15 minutes.

Ingredients

  • Rutabagas
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400- 425 F (204-218 C).

  1. Peel rutabagas with a paring knife and slice in 1/4″ rounds. If you like, you can do them in strips – they will cook a little faster, but you have to watch them carefully or they’ll burn.
  2. Smear with oil and a little salt and put them on a nonstick baking sheet.
  3. Cook about 12 minutes, turning twice. Take out when golden brown and tender. Immediately sprinkle with garlic powder and paprika. I like to add kosher salt at the end as well.

I have also tried this delicious option: Almond-Crusted Root Vegetable “Fries.” You may not have almond butter, I think peanut butter would work.

10 Comments

  1. Sally February 5, 2017

    Same. We lived in a country in SE Asia and often felt our family was a mini circus that people couldn’t take their eyes off of. My husband and I are white (just the two of us would cause lots of stares), we had five kids at the time (this reality alone blew peoples’ minds), and two of our children are Ethiopian (what the???? was the look all over their faces). Every time we went through immigration, every person in the room turned to stare us. We quickly realized there was no sneaking in the country. Over time I began to understand that most of the people (in Asia) had never seen someone from Africa. It was like they were looking at whatever new iPhone had just come out. And, I grieved for my African children; the reality of how rare they were in this new culture concerned me.

    1. Ashley Felder February 8, 2017

      Sally, your family is beautiful! You wrote your comment as if it was in the past. Have your African kiddos grown up a bit now, old enough to have conversations about what they felt when people stared or poked? Curious what those conversations may look like for us in the future!

  2. Stephanie February 6, 2017

    My husband is from M country in Western Asia and I am American– we received the most push back from other Americans (and Westerners, really) before heading to SE Asia for a year of studies with other international students, so they seemed the most accepting. The closest we felt to a ‘same race’ couple is when we went to Turkey and we both passed for Turkish! God definitely knew what he was doing when out of me and my 3 siblings I am the only one who didn’t end up with blond hair, blue eyes, and white/red skin–instead He gave me dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and a darker, easily tanned skin tone (though still white compared to my national friends here in West Asia). We were only in the States for a month after our wedding, so when we go back next year we are curious to see what interactions look like–especially with his background and current political issues. People asked us the same questions before marriage–about what about our future children? Cross-cultural marriages are more difficult, can you handle that? (from the same culture married people–not others in our position.) This post will be helpful to read again when I grow tired of the looks and the ‘well meaning’ questions that point out differences rather than tie us together.

    1. Ashley Felder February 8, 2017

      Your last sentence got me. I hadn’t thought of our lives in that way. It can be exhausting. I hope your loved ones back home are just ready to hug you after being gone, and are ready to dismiss any fears they had before! We’ve learned that time really does help. Our families needed time to get to know each of us. Now, they are probably embarrassed they raised such questions. But, I know they asked because they love us.

  3. Kim February 6, 2017

    We will be married 30 years this coming December. I am white and my husband is West Indian. His parents grew up on St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean. We have 4 grown children: Our oldest son is 27 and in the Air Force, married and with our granddaughter; our daughter is 23 and was just married last May (where the photo was from in Texas); and we have twin sons who are 18 and graduating high school this year. We have been overseas for 14 years. The first 1.5 years we lived in Ukraine. Because of race, my husband was stopped by the police for a passport check on the average of once/month. In Nov. 2004 the police took my husband and beat him. Our older son was 15 at the time and he also was stopped by the police. We ended up having to flee the city of Kyiv as the police would not leave us alone. We then lived in Kazakhstan for 8.5 years and did not have problems with race there. We had fruitful ministry and have close national ministry partners to this day who are some of our closest friends in the world! Sometimes people would say to me, are your children adopted? But I get comments like that, too, in the US. We have now lived in Turkey for almost 4 years with our younger two and we’ve not had issues with race here. We just sometimes deal with things like: when my husband and I put our groceries up on the check out counter, we get asked if this is all together–we get asked the same in the US! Our daughter’s in laws called her the N word….yes:( and they refused to come to the wedding–their loss! It was a beautiful, God-glorifying wedding between her and our wonderful son in law! Both of our older two children did have issues with race while they were in college–one in Florida and one in Texas. Growing up, the most difficulties our kids had with teasing with racial issues (and yes, these were at MK schools) were from kids that were from Asian cultures. My husband even had another worker who was Asian here in Turkey tell him that our marriage was wrong because we are not of the same culture. The joyful side: I love the color of my kids’ skin–they are all so beautiful and they love the Lord! They ask me what it feels like to get a sun burn…lol! My kids joke that dad is the dark chocolate and mom is the white chocolate so they are the milk chocolate!! There is a great book I read a few years ago, Your Intercultural Marriage by Marla Alupoaicei. She takes a biblical look at intercultural/interracial marriage. It’s a good read and from her own experience!

    1. Ashley Felder February 8, 2017

      Wow, Kim, you have had some really painful experiences. I’m sorry these things have happened to your family, but I hope you have become stronger and closer to the Lord because of them. When I start to think that racism is dying down in America, I hear or see another story likes yours. Satan is still using it to ruin lives and run people off course. How devastating. I hope your daughter can be a Light into her in-law’s lives! May she be confident in the Lord when she speaks with them!

      Thanks for sharing that book–I’ll check it out!

  4. Elizabeth February 6, 2017

    Loved this post and the comments, thanks for sharing! My husband is Kenyan and I am a white American. We’ve lived in East Africa since we were married a couple years ago and only get the occasional stare. I didn’t really think about it much until recently as we are pregnant with our first child. Most people comment how cute or beautiful the baby will be, but I know that not everyone we encounter will share that opinion so I sometimes wonder what our children will experience and how to help them through. There’s definitely more to think about in a bicultural/biracial marriage but it is also a rich experience and I wouldn’t trade it!

    1. Ashley Felder February 8, 2017

      Interesting that you didn’t get more than the occasional stare by just being married, but more has happened since pregnant. I wonder if there is something deeper in the culture about mixed kiddos. I don’t do it often enough, but start to pray now for your baby about what he/she will encounter. That God will give them the grace and boldness to deal with whatever comes their way. May this be for all kiddos, but especially these in unique circumstances!

  5. Ashley Felder February 8, 2017

    Amy, I’m excited to tries these rutabaga fries! Now, to find a rutabaga in China….?!

  6. Lori February 9, 2017

    We also have a mixed marriage – I’m white and my husband is black. We have lived in East Asia serving along with our two sons for almost 7 years now. We lived in the states married for 10 years and I never had personal experiences with racism until meeting and dating my husband. It made me realize how much richness to life people who aren’t open to friendships and relationships with others of all colors and counties miss out on. We have mostly enjoyed living overseas with many positive experiences and for the most part all our Asian friends accept us and don’t even ask many questions. We also teach courses at a university part time and the Asian students enjoy my husband as their teacher – he’s probably much more fun than me 🙂 I’m the serious type in the classroom I guess! Our kids have had mainly positive experiences overseas and as far as I can tell almost no negative experiences in the USA – probably because we haven’t been there long enough or in any public schools for them to have those. My husband often says he feels safer living overseas – he isn’t afraid of getting shot just going out for a run, but he won’t go running alone without me in the states, especially in rural or unfamiliar areas. I feel sad for all the stories he’s shared with me from his life but thankful that God has us living in a place we are mostly at peace and feel safe. Thankful that both our families love and accept us both and love our kids. I pray that He can use our unique family in this unusual life to reach many others for His glory!

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