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White Mothers, Black Sons

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Kelley Ellsworth with her husband and four children. Photo courtesy of Kelley Ellsworth hide caption

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Photo courtesy of Kelley Ellsworth

First, thanks to those of you who are already playing the name game. In last week's post, I invited our listeners to help us pick a name for the program. We had a slow start — I admit I was beset with the same insecurity I experienced right before my wedding ("What if nobody comes? Waaah.") But of course, you did not disappoint. Suggestions are rolling in and we love reading them. We especially love the spirit behind them. Keep playing!

And in another shout-out to listeners: This week's feature actually originated as a listener comment in response to one of our first podcasts. Before Christmas we did a program introducing a segment we plan to offer regularly: the Mocha Moms. They are a nationwide support group of primarily African-American women who consider themselves stay-at-home moms (an elastic term at best — one of them is a state legislator, for heaven's sake). But we think their common sense approach to parenting issues offers something for everybody. In response to our feature on making Christmas culturally relevant, we got a posting from a woman who described herself as a white mother who is part of a multiracial family. She had a number of thoughtful questions she wished she could discuss with the Moms.

That got us thinking about the particular challenges of white mothers raising biracial or multicultural children and so we organized today's program around that theme. We invited three white mothers (white Mochas! Just like at Starbucks!) raising biracial or African-American children who came to them either by adoption or biologically. We started out by focusing on sons just because the whole white woman/black man relationship is so fraught in our history — and, let's face it — the story about Madonna's decision to adopt was everywhere. But as you will hear, the conversation roamed far beyond that. And we invited one of our regular panelists, Jolene Ivey, a co-founder of Mocha Moms, to offer her take on what seemed unique to the multicultural family and what was just, well, family.

After we finished the taping, one of the Moms said, "I wonder how the kids would answer some of these questions?" Good question!

So we invited Rebecca Walker, one of the most thoughtful young writers on issues of race and identity, to talk to us about some of these questions. She is the author of the memoir Black, White and Jewish. Her mother, Alice Walker, also an author, is African-American and her father is white and Jewish. She also wrote the introduction to a new anthology of short fiction on the multiracial experience called Mixed.

We had also planned to talk with the editor of the anthology, Chandra Prasad, about her selections as well as her own experiences as a multiracial American, but she had the nerve to go into labor right before out interview! (We trust that all went well and we wish her and the new baby all the best!)

We love how you helped us brainstorm even though you weren't in the room with us. I've asked this before, but if you haven't weighed in, I'll ask it again: Would you have appreciated an opportunity to participate in this conversation somehow? Why or why not? And if yes, how? Would you like to have been able to call, or if we had posted the topic in advance, would you have e-mailed questions or comments? How about a post broadcast conversation? Would you find it interesting to have a Web chat with our guests after the fact? Finally, would you have liked to have heard from an "expert" — a psychologist or someone like that — to talk about the issues we discussed in the broadcast?

No need to answer all these questions unless you want to. You can pick just the ones that interest you. And thanks again.