Kansas City artist Shane Evans was raised by a mother and father whose racial and cultural backgrounds were different from one another. But to Evans they were just mom and dad. He’s also raising a mixed-race daughter.
That’s why Evans was eager to collaborate with his friend, actor Taye Diggs, on a children’s book that takes on the complex issues of growing up in a mixed-race household. Diggs has a six-year-old son with actress and singer Idina Menzel, who is white.
The book, Mixed Me, came out in October. Evans is the illustrator.
Last month, Diggs drew criticism when he told TheGrio he wanted his bi-racial son to embrace his mother’s white heritage as much as his own heritage as a black man — that the boy could be both black and white.
“When you [call biracial kids black], you risk disrespecting that one half of who you are, and that’s my fear,” Diggs told the website.
It’s an idea Evans embraces.
“I am this child and a parent as well,” Evans told Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard Wednesday. “We can talk about race all day but that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about two different people raising you.”
Evans said understanding the response people have to biracial families is complicated. Perhaps unnecessarily.
“If you want to understand who I am, just come and ask me,” he said.
A caller to the show from Parkville, Missouri, drew a chuckle from Evans when she said people wonder how her “jigsaw puzzle” family works. As a white parent of biracial and multiracial children, she said she feels the need to prepare the children to hear things they may not have heard before.
“If someone is bold and fearless enough to ask, you need to be bold and fearless enough to help them … to show them the love between you,” Evans told her.
Evans and Diggs also worked together on a previous book, Chocolate Me, Diggs' story of growing up black in a white neighborhood.
Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer at KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @laurazig.