My 2-year-old daughter looked at my husband and said, “Daddy is tan.” She looked at me and said, “Mama, you’re brown.” She gazed at her milky skin and inquisitively asked, “Mama, what color am I?”
I didn’t know what to tell her. She is a very fair-skinned, biracial child. In my household, we don’t make one shade superior to another. I don’t protest that I’m too dark, and my husband doesn’t complain that he’s too light.
We believe in the statement made in the book, Black, White, Other, by Lise Funderburg. It says, “For many people, their first (and longest-lasting) impressions of race come from parents and family.”
My husband and I want to balance our daughter’s perception of race. Yes, there are differences; but it’s OK for these differences to exist. We openly acknowledge our differences in hair colors and textures, height, eye color and size. Our daughter, Micah, thereby looks at people as people.
The Encyclopedia of Human Behavior says, “Observations made the world over have shown that children play indiscriminately with members of other ethnic groups, and are either unaware of obvious physical differences or accept them as a matter of course.”
All too often, it’s taboo to say that someone’s hair texture is nappy or to describe a person as black. If you use these terms in a discriminatory manner, then by all means, hold your tongue. I use words like nappy and black to describe myself, and I feel they’re the equivalent of my husband saying straight and white. They are merely descriptions, nothing more.
While we parents with biracial children should frankly discuss our differences, we should not make this topic a daily headliner. Not every day needs constant conversations about the variety of skin colors, but when the topic comes up, we need to address it and teach our children the unvarnished truth. Different colors are a way to describe people. Color is not a defect, just as other physical characteristics are not errors.
Micah believes Daddy is big (he is 5-foot, 4-inches); while Mama is little (I’m also 5-foot, 4-inches). Her 18-month cousin also is big, “like Daddy,” she says. She loves Nonna’s waist length hair as well as my tightly coiled puff. She notices our differences, without making them into flaws.
“Mama, what color am I?” Micah asked me again. Before I could answer her, she confidently said, “I’m tan and brown!”
“That’s right, baby,” I said. “That’s right.”
Photo caption: Meet Micah, my 2-year-old daughter. How would you answer your fair-skinned, biracial child’s innocent question, “What color am I?”