What Color Am I?

As soon as the words tumbled from my mouth, I knew I was in trouble.

We haven’t dealt with race in a while, I told the Mixed Chicks. That night, Simone and Nadia chose the books they wanted me to read to them. They each chose three, and Nadia picked Martin‘s Big Words.

“I have a dream that one day in Alabama little black boys and black girls will join hands with little white boys and white girls,” I read.

“What color am I? Am I beige?” Simone asked, showing me her arm as if she wanted me to survey it and then give it a color.

It took a moment for me to process her question. Simone likes to ask questions, but they are usually about the book.

“You’re beautiful, Boo,” I said, showering her arm with kisses. “You’re biracial. Your mommy is black and your daddy is white.”

I knew I hadn’t answered her question. Truth is, I didn’t want to. I will provide her with facts, but I want her to decide what she will do with them. It is part of my parenting philosophy. While I hated it growing up, I learned more when I completed tasks by myself or developed my own ideas. I don’t want Simone to confront me one day and say, “You told me I was this, and I am really that.” So, I kept quiet about her color that night.

“Biracial. That’s my color?”

Parent fail. I had confused her, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. I tried again, this time giving her the power to decide.

“What color do you think you are?”

“Beige?” she asked. I didn’t say anything. “Tan,” she said, confidently. “Daddy is beige.”

“You’re tan,” I confirmed. “Daddy is beige.”

This was not the first time I had fielded questions about color. I would like to say this question and others like it are becoming easier to answer. I am getting better at answering them, but they are still tough.

Note to self: Don’t go on any more podcasts, bragging about how you haven’t talked about race or any other difficult topic in a while. You will surely eat those words. Okay? Thanks.

So, what do you say? Have your children asked you something and you had to really think before you provided an answer?

  • A hasn’t asked too many questions. I remember one time she saw an AA woman on TV and said “Look mommy, like me.” I think she is definitely starting to identify as AA, or so it seems. I usually do the break down for her, lol. I tell her she is half African American, 1/4 Caucasian, and 1/4 Mexican. I know she probably doesn’t get it though.

  • Rania

    I like the gold answer as well (if they get it) but my newly 4 yo isn’t sophisticated enough for that yet. hahaha

    He never asked me what color he was or if he was black or white, but he has told me very confidently that he is Orange. ‘ Mommy is brown, Daddy is white, Ava (his baby sister) and Nicolas (his name) are Orange’. I just laughed and said, ‘Well, I guess you are.’
    Still makes me laugh thinking about it.

    You’re right. They can decide for themselves. 🙂 Mine already has even if it’s the color of an Oompaloompa. LOL

    • Orange is a beautiful color. I look forward to hearing how (and whether) the color changes over time.

  • Gwendolyn

    My oldest grandson was traumatized by an elementary school teacher who told him he was black because his father was black. He looks white; his mother is white. The teacher insisted on defining him. Allowing the child to define himself/herself is a wise thing.

  • Blanc2

    When our kids were little and asked this question, we told them that they were gold.

    • @Blanc2

      That is a wonderful answer, and I may just have to steal, I mean, borrow it. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • lff

    I literally wrote about the same thing today!!

  • How interesting. I can’t remember trying to distinguish between the color black and the color of my skin, but I do remember being obsessed with the different variations of color among black children when I was a child. I think if my daughter ask me this, we’ll get out the old designer’s color wheel and make a game out of picking hers. But I think your answer is perfect. She is both black and white, and though she might not understand that now, she’ll come to understand is later.

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