Is She Black or White?

When my daughter was a newborn I was in a store when a girl about 7 years old looked at her, looked at me, and asked, “Is this baby yours?”

Her mother looked terrified and held her hand as if to say, “Please let’s go, and how could you ask this question?” But the girl proceeded, “But she is white!”

I smiled and responded, “You said she is white, but she is delicious! You know why?” She said, “No.” I said, “Because she is vanilla and chocolate. She is both black like me, and white like her father – like vanilla and chocolate ice cream, she is delicious!” The girl smiled and said, “Yeah! She is delicious!”

The Washington metropolitan area is a tossed salad of people of many races and cultures. A biracial, bicultural family should not be abnormal, however I hear many comments about our children. At first I only smiled or ignored the comments, but as a parent it is important for me to ensure secure and healthy development for my biracial, bicultural children. Studies indicate that biracial children have the added challenges of developing and integrating dual cultural identities, as well as developing both a personal identity and a positive racial identity. The following practical suggestions are result of my research about how to raise my children.

Use narratives – They help to start conversations about race. Research has shown that telling stories about the parent’s own childhood is one of the most powerful ways to strengthen the child-parent bond.

Provide Labels – Racial identity is a unique issue for biracial children in that, biologically, they have a dual racial heritage. It is important to be a step ahead and teach your child how to describe themselves before others do.

Monitor your own attitudes about race and reactions about other races or cultures.

Maintain an open dialogue – Talking about race routinely indicates the parents are open to answer questions and discuss concerns about race.

Be involved – Monitor, and if necessary, intervene in your child’s relationships with friends and peers. Engaging the child in activities that make her feel good, can build self-esteem and counteract negative messages from others.

Celebrate Diversity – It is important to provide opportunities for biracial children to develop positive images of themselves including their racial heritage. Positive self-images are nurtured in interactions and activities in which children are able to identify with positive role models that include family members, peer group, school and community members.

I hope that as a caregiver, my baby is encouraged to see herself as a whole person with diverse cultural and racial backgrounds, talents, interests, and experiences. And when pressured from others to choose one distinct racial label, I hope she will feel comfortable enough to just say, “I am delicious.”