A New Normal

While their early-’70s raised-ranch home is somewhat atypical in their Larchmont neighborhood of stately Tudors and classic center-hall Colonials, Angela and Jeffery King say their family is just like any other residing on its winding streets. There’s a regulation basketball hoop, plus a smaller plastic one in their driveway, and a hammock in the yard. Inside is a happy profusion of toy cars, Legos, and kids’ books. Though theirs is a multiracial family with one adopted child and two biological ones, the Kings, says Angela, without a trace of irony, are “boring and pretty plain—very vanilla ice cream.”

On a dating app, the pair couldn’t look more dissimilar. Angela, 49, is Caucasian of Italian and German background; Jeffery, 57, is African American. She grew up in conservative rural Pennsylvania and he in the more liberal Larchmont. But spend some time with them, and it’s clear the pairing works; indeed, they are celebrating their 21st wedding anniversary next month.

The pair “met cute” at the New Rochelle YMCA pool—she was the lifeguard, he the swimmer. After dating several years, they married. Although her mom did pose the rhetorical question—“You realize he’s black, right?”—the difference of their races was never as much of an issue as was their different religions. Her father was concerned that because Jeffery was Presbyterian, they couldn’t be married in the Catholic Church. 

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A younger Ava and Nina clown around at home.

Jeffery, who was raised in Mount Vernon until he moved with his family to Larchmont when he was in the eighth grade, is a project superintendent for a Manhattan construction company, while Angela is a nurse practitioner; together, they have three children. When they had trouble conceiving, they adopted their eldest daughter, Ava, as an infant 14 years ago; her biological mother was white and her dad “black Puerto Rican.” Of very pale complexion, Ava self-identifies as white. With some medical intervention, Angela became pregnant with Nina, now 12. With a more typically African American skin tone, Nina sees herself as black. Eight years later, Angela gave birth to a happy surprise: their son, Charlie, now 4. A light-brown-haired cutie whose complexion falls somewhere between his sisters’, he has not yet articulated a racial identity. Because, as in many other “modern families” today, they were older parents when Charlie was born—Angela was 44; Jeffery was 52—they joke that they are more concerned they’ll be mistaken for his grandparents when they take him to kindergarten than for being of different races.   

The Kings live in Jeffery’s family home, where he grew up in one of only three or four black families in town. Jeffery recalls often being the only kid stopped by the police when he rode bikes with his white friends. He says his experience living here now is markedly different (“I tend to have a large presence, which I think muzzles comments,” he notes), but it’s not all Kumbaya for the King family. “I am not naïve enough to think discrimination doesn’t exist,” he says. “While people here are more educated and usually have better manners about not saying things out loud,” adds Angela, “they may think it to themselves.”

Perhaps because she is white and others may not be aware of her family’s composition, Angela hears her share of those hurtful comments. “I don’t personally feel discriminated against on a regular basis,” she says, “but if someone doesn’t realize I am married to an African American or have an adopted child, I will often be privy to hearing discriminatory comments about race or adoption.” 

Nina was one of only two black kids in her grade in elementary school, and is still one of few in her middle-school grade, and both she and Ava have been subjected to unkind remarks from classmates who don’t believe they are sisters. “We do get a lot of questions like, ‘So, they’re not your real parents or siblings?’” says Ava. “I just say ‘Yes they are’ and change the subject.” Adds Nina, “Just because the outside is different doesn’t mean we don’t act like a normal family. We laugh, we cry, we fight, and we forgive each other.” Echoes their dad, “We’re just like everyone else in Larchmont: trying to pay our bills, raise our kids, and have some fun along the way.” 

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