The joys and heartbreaks of raising biracial daughters in a world that doesn't always accept them
It was sometime in February when Deb O'Hanley saw her daughter excitedly and excitedly approaching and pointed to the spot on her arm.
The scratch itself, and how it appeared on her daughter Sixtine's arm, would never be as confusing as watching her daughter as soon as the wound started to heal - causing the tiny patch of skin to become lighter.
"Mom, mom," said Sixtine. "Look! I'm peach."
Peach, said O'Hanley, is the word that appears to have mysteriously appeared in the vocabulary of her two biracial daughters at a young age to describe the people who watched her in the world with lighter skin than her own.
"I don't know where it comes from," said O'Hanley.
Submitted by Deb O'Hanley
"They ask a lot of questions about their color"
It wasn't the observation that troubled her, she said, but the excitement that she saw her daughter expressing about the sudden lightening of her skin.
"It makes me cry, to be honest," said O'Hanley. "I notice that because of their skin color, they ask a lot of questions about their color, because they don't understand why they were born white and why they are now brown, which is normal for mixed children.
"I think they just want to be like other kids, they want to be the same as their color friends."
O'Hanley, who is originally from France, has turned to P.E.I. for almost 10 years. She met her husband, a white man from Summerside, on a trip to Iceland in 2009.
There is a feeling of having to show and prove my worth to others anyway, and I don't want them to feel like they have to. - Deb O'Hanley
She said that when she raised her two daughters, Sixtine, eight, and Victoire, 7, she was happy to have her as a black woman with a typically darker complexion that you can see, identify, and relate can while on PEI
"There is not much black representation on the island," she said. "I am worried about what it will be like when they are older because they are very cute and I am sure that they will be cute later but there is a shift, I think.
"Maybe if they want to get their first job or something. It feels like I have to show and prove my worth to others anyway, and I don't want them to feel like they have it." to do that to be taken seriously. "
O'Hanley said "the shift" happened when she entered her teenage years.
Submitted by Deb O'Hanley
"It's because other people have pointed it out"
"Because you're more of an adult. So you're not just a cute little exotic brown kid, you're more of a black girl. So you don't bring that sweetness ... on your plate," she said.
"Just like when my father told me that he knew he was black when he moved to France. Because other people mentioned it, he felt that he was black and it was wrong, and that's how I felt . ""
She felt she shouldn't go to school with braided hair - things like that kill me. - Brooke Laybolt
Islander Brooke Laybolt has two daughters, 13-year-old Adrianna and 4-year-old Jazlyn. But they will never share the same racing experience.
Adrianna is biracial while her younger sister Jazlyn is white.
"It hurts me as a mother"
After the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, Laybolt has to ask how the individual life experiences of her daughters could and will differ.
Submitted by Brooke Laybolt
"I have a 13-year-old mixed child who is Canadian-Liberian," said Laybolt. "It breaks my heart that because of the color of my skin, my eldest does not feel that she has the same opportunities in life.
"I shouldn't have to teach both kids this. They're both the same, my oldest is just as beautiful and just as smart."
Seemingly small things, like the girls' hairstyle, manage to emphasize race issues.
"It hurts me as a mother. My other child, I can braid her hair and people will say, 'Oh my god, that's so cute', but my oldest child is afraid to go to school and make fun of something to do, "she said.
"There was a woman who was in [Adrianna's] hair for 11 hours and it was beautiful and she came home crying and we had to remove it because she felt like she shouldn't go to school with braided hair - such Things kill I. She should be able to wear her hair the way she wants. "
Submitted by Brooke Laybolt
The events of the past few weeks have caused mixed feelings in both mothers, who each brought their children to the historic demonstration last Friday, in which thousands of islanders took part in a call for justice.
"I cried so much and put my mask on," said O'Hanley. "Everything I felt and I couldn't put it into words, they had the words and I just felt like a sense of community.
"It was heartbreaking, but at the same time it made my heart warm."
"A Baby Wasn't Born Racist"
Still, O'Hanley worries whether people will remain motivated to keep the momentum going so that the demonstrations and calls to action do not become isolated splinters in time, and that one day their daughters may see a world rooted in justice and equality.
"I can feel ... I don't know if it's the pandemic and people generally think about their lives, how they are as a person, what's important, what's important ... I wonder if that's why is bigger, or maybe just years, "she said.
"I think education is ... the best way to change the world, to change things that don't work," she said. "A baby was not born racist."
Both mothers expressed the cruel reality of having to explain to their children the violent context of the demonstration and other similar demonstrations in North America - as well as answering their children's questions and experiencing their confusion.
I will just continue to educate them the way I raised them and tell them that they are both equally beautiful, both equally clever and both deserve equal rights in life. - Brooke Laybolt
"My four-year-old wanted to go to them and just tell them to be happy and that everyone was equal. It was heartwarming but painful," said Laybolt.
As a mother, Laybolt said that she would never be able to get rid of the concern she felt for both her daughters and her future.
"It's 2020 and things are happening that you simply don't think would happen," she said.
"I will just continue to educate them the way I raised them and tell them that they are both equally beautiful, both equally intelligent and both have equal rights in life. Now, yesterday, 10 years ago - 20 years later."
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