Mama, What Color Am I?

July 22, 2010
Written by Terez Howard in
All About Family
Login to rate this article
A biracial child
Explaining color differences to our biracial child

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?”

All About Family


"What color am I?"

Submitted by Kat on

I'm the proud mom of 3 biracial girls with various hair textures and skin tones. Being a teacher, when they were 3 years old, I used the following children's books to introduce them to the beauty of who God made them to be: THE COLORS OF US and ALL THE COLORS OF THE EARTH. I then took brown paint and flesh colored paint and we combined the two to match the hue of their skin, my skin, and their dad's skin. When each one saw how we each are a combination of different colors, they felt even prouder of who they are! Now they're 15, almost 12, and almost 6. My high schooler shared with me this week that someone in her diversity class asked her "what" she was. She replied "biracial" - African-American/Caucasian. One of her classmates replied, you're "mixed". She quickly responded, "Dogs are mixed...I'm a person and proud of who God created me to be!"

One of the hardest thing I

Submitted by rmaciastang on

One of the hardest thing I have had to deal with as an immigrant is the obsession with racial issues that in my opinion divide and make inter-racial harmony more difficult. Acknowledging the power differential that exist. As an ethnically Mexican and racially multiracial individual, and husband to an African woman and father of three biracial children, I am always upset by the insistence that children are this or that. In Mexico I was raised in a multi-racial family, so I experienced what it meant to be loved by a white and a black grand parents and all the shades in between. We were just a family of Mexicans that loved and supported each other. I don't feel that you have to always talk about racial distinctions but I do agree that incidents of racism--which I have experienced by most of the cultural groups in the USA with the exception of Native Americans--are likely to happen and that at some point children need to be ready to face that type of adversity. But most important is, in my opinion, that we model for them--more than talking to them--how it is ok to have meaningful relationships with people that are compatible regardless of skin color, ethnicity, or other type of superficial socially created divide. My Children have learned through example that they can play and befriend any one who is willing to do the same with them, and also that they don't have to tolerate anyone who is harmful to them even if it their of their own family.