03/19/2015 04:22 pm ET Updated May 19, 2015

Starbucks, Race And Why Some Think It's OK To Ask If My Wife Is The Nanny

Courtesy of Pete Wilgoren

Starbucks wants to talk about race relations in this country. Well, I don't necessarily want to hash it out with my barista over a cup of coffee, but no doubt my family is part of the melting pot.

I am white. My wife is Latina. Our kids are both. One looks more like me. One looks more like my her. But the looks from others are what we notice most.

Imagine getting the double take from someone wondering if my wife is the spouse or the nanny. Yes, people have asked her. On the bus. In the park. "Oh, are you the nanny?" Try explaining THAT to your kids. Ignorance. The second look comes when they try and figure out the kids. Are they white or are they Latina? Which? It's almost like the silent stare demands an answer from us. We don't give one.

It didn't take long for the kids to notice differences in their skin tones too. I remember this drawing one of my girls did. They looked like twins. Same outfit. Same shoes. Same hair. Same bow. Different skin tone. We'd remind them that it doesn't matter WHO they look like. Or it shouldn't, anyway. The bottom line is I want them to be strong Latina women... strong white women... just strong women... bilingual and independent.. who don't need to be defined by others' perceptions of skin tones.

I think it's safe to say the race issue in the United States is a complex one. But it's far more complex than a cup of coffee. There's no doubt in my mind the Starbucks in suburban South Pasadena, CA may have a very different view than the Starbucks in Huntington Park, CA, the working class Latino neighborhood near where my wife grew up. I've been to both many times. Only 10 miles away, but they couldn't be further apart.

Still, I realize I've had it easy. My kids too. We've had it much easier than the bearded man with the weathered face and a limp who'd stand outside the Starbucks in Highland Park, CA when I'd go. He was homeless and living in his car right near that Starbucks. Each day he'd stand outside the store as I got coffee. I'd give him food or some cash and he'd give me a "god bless you" in return. I haven't seen him in a while now. I wonder what HE thinks of the race together campaign and how things are going in the U.S..

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