"Daddy, am I white?

by Blue
(Medford, OR.)

My two sons are biracial, my sife is a Fijian Islander (Melanesian), and I am European (White). My oldest son, 7 years, is light in color, and my youngest son is much darker, both were born in Fiji and spent the first 5 years there.

We had been in the U.S. for about 18 mos. when last week my son came home from school and asked me "Daddy, am I white?" I was floored, and did not know what to say, except to explain that like him our new President had one parent who was black and one parent that was white, that it did not matter what a person's color was, but what was in their hearts. Can you help me with a little bit better explanation?

Warm regards,
Blue T. Trenbeath

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Jan 12, 2009
Biracial Child asks Daddy, am I white?
by: Laura Ramirez

As the mother of two biracial children and the author of an award-winning parenting book on my experiences raising children who are mixed race (Native American and white), I have to say that there are no easy answers to this question, although I think you did pretty well on your own.

While the answer to the question is going to depend on your understanding of the issues, your own ethnocentricity and your child's ability to grasp abstractions, I suggest you learn as much about the subject as possible, so you can handle such questions with awareness and sensitivity. You can learn much by reading my book and my articles on how I blended two cultures to create a way of parenting that emphasized the most humane and resourceful aspects from two very different worlds. Mixed race children are not this or that, they are this AND that.

When my kids were little, I them that their daddy was brown and mommy was white and that means they got the best of both of us, but racial identity is much more than skin deep and so the transmission of essential values and beliefs accompanied these conversations.

One thing though: I believe you said you told your son that skin color doesn't matter. You may be unaware that this is a very ethnocentric view. If you ask most people of color, they will tell you that skin color DOES matter. In fact, they've fought long and hard for it to matter. And it certainly does matter in the physical sense because it is an aspect of identity. You are talking about skin color in a spiritual sense and in a way your child is not yet ready to understand.

As you can see, gracefully fielding questions from a mixed race child requires a lot of sensitivity. Read my parenting book and educate yourself by reading the other resources I recommend. Not only will this help you to raise children who have a solid sense of self, it will help you expand your perceptual lens and get beyond your ethnocentricity.

Of course, like you, I hope that President Obama is going to continue to inspire us all to do the same through his example of inclusion that obviously stems from his deep belief that we all have something of value to contribute. And, of course, we do.

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