The Color Question

Simone started asking questions about race when she was 3, so I knew Nadia would soon have questions of her own.

I should not be surprised by such questions. They just keep showing up when I am not ready for them. It was reading time, and we were all in the room. Simone was reading a book aloud, when Nadia spoke up.

“Am I black, Mommy?” Nadia asked, twisting her arm to and fro for emphasis.

I sat there stunned for a moment. I don’t want to tell her what color she is, and I couldn’t get my mouth to form the right words. So, I punted.

“Ask your father.”

“You can be anything you want,” he said.

Hmmphh, wish I had said that.

Two days passed before I asked Nadia why she wanted to know whether she was black.

She started telling a story in rapid fire. Best I can tell a classmate, whom she named, had called her “blackie” and other names with the same ending. I couldn’t fully understand the other words Nadia said. She talks well, but she doesn’t always speak clearly.

“Were they bad names?”

“No.”

I let it go until the next morning.

“If anyone asks you what you are, say you are biracial. Can you say that?”

“Biracial.”

“Say my Mommy is black and my Daddy is white.”

“My mommy is black and – What am I supposed to say?”

I chuckled. That is a mouthful for a 3-year-old.

“Say my Mommy is black and my Daddy is white.”

“Mommy is black and Daddy is white.”

This is the first of many lessons. I have no intention of taking up this matter with the parent or the preschool. First, I have a 3-year-old’s version of the event, which isn’t much evidence even on a good day. Second, and most importantly, I don’t think any irreparable harm was done.

One thing is for sure. Conversations like this one make parenting difficult. It is not the subject matter or having the conversation that concerns me. I am not even worried about children making distinctions at such a tender age. What troubles me the most is the waiting. Ken and I may have to wait a decade or more to learn whether we passed or failed this thing called parenting.

  • I had a similar conversation with A recently. I think you handled it well. I am surprised by the blackie comment though. Kids…

  • anita2

    As a biracial person, I find it very interesting when people want to correct the assumption that they are black. Your daughter’s classmate (I love children because they are so frank) assumed that she was black based on appearance. Speaking factually, she is biracial, but at surface value, what others will see is a black person and that’s okay.

    I love that Halle Berry’s mom told her that she is a BLACK woman because, in this world that is what people she and that is how she will be judged. As a biracial woman myself, that is the best advice a mother can give a biracial child.

    Factually, your child is biracial, but to the world, and even to a child, she is BLACK and that is a WONDERFUL thing. Teach her that early on. 🙂

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