EDITOR’S NOTE—It’s one of the greatest fears of any racially blended family—and it happened this past week in an airport involving a tragic mistake made by Cindy McCain, the wife of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. Claiming to be acting courageously, she wound up targeting an innocent family for police questioning. This is precisely the kind of problem Dr. Anni Reinking explores in her new book, Not Just Black and White. You can read the latest news story on McCain from CNN here—and you can learn more about Anni’s new book here.
Here is Anni’s response to this news …
‘A BONE-CHILLING FEAR’
By ANNI REINKING
Fear guides our actions. Fear guides our words. Fear guides our thoughts.
Fear is always at the forefront of my mind as a white parent of a socially perceived black son. Why am I talking about fear and the impact of fear in our lives? Because I, along with other multiracial families, experienced a bone-chilling fear this week.
This past week Cindy McCain, the widow of late U.S. Sen John McCain, made headlines because of her accusations of human trafficking solely based on the “non-matching” skin color of a toddler and a parent. Mrs. McCain, a human trafficking activist, soon was proudly telling a local radio station in Arizona that, “I came in from a trip I’d been on and I spotted—it looked odd—it was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child, this little toddler she had, and something didn’t click with me.”
While I respect Mrs. McCain and her work on human trafficking, I cannot imagine the assumed fear she felt when she wrongly accused, and later admitted to fabricating the story, of a possible human trafficking incident based solely on skin color.
Those are the reports.
Could Mrs. McCain have seen something else that provided a “see something, say something” moment in the Phoenix airport? Maybe. But that was never made clear. Her statements were based on the fact that the child and the mother did not have the same skin color.
My son and I do not share skin color. Could I be wrongly accused of something when traveling with my son?
This is not the first time something like this has happened in our country. In 2018, a young biracial teenager was traveling with his white grandmother when they got into an argument. Police officers were involved and assumed the young man was assaulting the white older woman, even though neither one of them ever laid a hand on each other. Eventually, the grandmother had to turn and yell at the police officers that the young man was not a threat, but was her grandson.
I am not comparing human trafficking to racial profiling, however, in both instances assumptions were made that could have resulted in potentially long-lasting results, based in racist ideals some people still hold about how American families should look.
So, as a reminder: We all live in a diverse world. We live in a world with multiracial families and transracial adoption.
Wherever you go this week—and whatever families you encounter—please remember: Family is not based on skin color—but on love.