War Babies and Bi-Racial Children

After the Viet Nam war there were countless children fathered by American GIs, children who belonged nowhere because they were only half Asians, children the US did not particularly want. That was not a new phenomenon.  It has happened in every war, and the racism that accompanies these occurrences is far from new. Still when I read a recent BBC Magazine article about the children of black WWII GIs in the UK, I was struck anew with compassion on the one hand as well as with anger on the other. There were 100,000 black GIs in the UK during WWII, obviously and inevitably inviting love affairs. US law however made it difficult for GIs to marry and for black GIs race complicated the issue even further.  Inter-racial marriages were illegal and miscegenation laws were on the books until 1967. For each of the children affected by the affair of a British woman and a black GI there was a moving story, not to speak of the children who went to a home to be placed for adoption. Imagine being a bi-racial child in Dorset after WWII, growing up in the fifties. Their experience with racism may not duplicate what it might have been in the US during that time, the UK did not have the indignities of segregation, but the racism they were subjected to, was still difficult for them to experience. One child got into a fight and the teacher told the mother, these people can’t be educated.  Being black may have been cute when they were children, but as they became teenagers it made them feel different and inferior. One person recalls how upset the mother of a boyfriend was. He ended the relationship because of what would happen if they had children.  Another child tried to make himself look white by drinking milk of magnesia and eating chalk. Besides the issue of racism, these children were also exposed to the fact that they were born out of wedlock, sometimes to mothers who had husbands fighting in another country. They never knew much about their father, usually not enough to look for them when they grew up, and what makes the stories even more poignant is that now in their 70’s they still hope finding their fathers is possible.  Obviously what it means to live as a bi-racial child is not limited to children of GIs. There are many bi racial children today, as well as people, who experience incidences of racism.  Racism may not be what it was in the 50’s but it still manifests itself. Given that we now know more and have higher expectations to transcend racist attitudes, the way racism is still experienced does not speak well for our society.  For example, how often do we not realize that non-whites are not seen and treated as are their white peers when they mingle with white society?  The racism expressed is more likely to be an instance of what is called micro-aggression, being waited on last,  shaking hands with less gusto, being passed over in a group conversation, saying something that denotes the speaker’s bias towards whites…  Sometimes they call it the white edge or something similar that means the same thing. No matter what it is called, it happens every day and we ought to know better. Perhaps that’s why thinking about all this I recall the words of that anti-war song during the 60’s, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” which ends with “when will they ever learn.”