This is a question that all parents of biracial children will eventually face. How you answer that is critical. One thing you must remember is to never try to define the color or culture of your child. They should not be conditioned to be a specific color or choose between the two amazing cultures in which they are. Our children have a hard enough time trying to find their place in the world without being forced into a place that they themselves have not chosen.
My daughter identified as a “brown girl” for as long as I can remember. Her first year of school was spent in a predominantly black environment. When she started Kindergarten she was accepted into a scholarship program for a private school. Her world opened up in a major way. The school was a blend of races and a melting pot of culture. This is where the questions began. Mom, am I brown? Why is Layla white? What color am I really?
My response was not perfect. I was blindsided, because I thought she had established in herself what color she was already. I simply replied, “I don’t know baby; what color do you think you are?” “Mommy thinks you are whatever color you want to be”.
I needed help.
None of my friends faced the same struggle. Let’s face it. They have no idea what it is like to mend the wounds and deal with the struggles we or our children face living in a blended world. This wonderful life comes with a whole lot of hurts, questions and situations that the typical family just cant comprehend. The basic trials we face they will never encounter. I was at a loss of where to turn, and I could only hope I was dealing with it the right way.
I found a book that I read to her. The book is called “What Color is Ceasar” and it is written by Maxine Kumin. This book embraces a black and white dogs journey to self identification. He goes on a journey to find whether he is black with white spots or white with black spots. His family doesn’t care what color he is. They just love him because he is Ceasar. All of the characters he meets along the way have their own opinion of what color he is. On his quest Ceasar finds the real answer is that who a person is inside is what they are. It is not the outward appearances that count. It also helped my child understand she is whatever she wants to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not set her up for disappointment either. Realistically when my child goes onto the playground she is accepted more by one group that another. Her resilience is amazing, and she has a blended set of friends that she feels comfortable with equally. She now identifies as a tan girl, and she is very comfortable with that. She sees herself as equal to rather than different from everyone else, and that is a blessing. The differences she does acknowledge we identify as the strengths that make us who we are. After all, the world would not be any fun if we were all exactly the same.
Again, the thing I found the most helpful is resisting the urge to push my child into a categorization. It is so important to encourage them to find their own individual identities. There is no set of instructions that come with parenting a biracial child. There are however online communities on Facebook that are specifically designed to put parents like us in contact with one another for advice and support. Blogs exist to help us in everything from hair care to the tough stuff like this. We now have a wealth of support that once did not exist. Do not be afraid to reach out and use it, because the hard questions will come. After all, it was best stated in this famous African proverb , “It takes a village to raise a child”.