Raising Biracial Kids…ain’t nothing new

For some reason I keep coming across the issue of how to raise biracial kids, now I have been the mother of biracial kids going on 17 years now and honestly when I had my first kid, I never thought much about it. That said, over the years given the increase in interracial pairings particularly Black-White unions it seems I encounter more and more folks particularly women who grapple with this issue.

To be truthful, this is not an issue I think much about. Since there have always been biracial folks in America, shit we used to have mulatto’s, quadroons, and octaroons, all terms I despise but the fact is being biracial in America is nothing new. What is new is the fact that folks can lay claim to all their heritage, and whereas once upon a time, you got lumped in as Black, now you can pull a Tiger Woods and call yourself a Cabalasian or anything else you want to call yourself. As a sista friend told me who is also mothering biracial sons, she wants her sons to grow up strong and feel they can lay equal claim to being Black and White. Well I think its an admirable goal, but truth is that is not how I raise my kids, in fact I know some would say “Black-girl, why are you so stuck in the past” Well maybe its because when it comes to race in America, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Yeah, we have a biracial man with a decent shot at becoming president yet to the average Joe Six-Pack White Guy, they look at Obama and they don’t see half a white man, they see a whole Black man and if I got my facts correct Obama was raised by his white side. See, shit don’t change.

No, the issues for me in raising a biracial child come down to how does the white parent, see things racially? In my first marriage, my ex-unit didn’t like racial talks, which made for some thorny discussions and I suspect he  flinches when elder child refers to himself as a Half-frican. No, elder child is connected to his white side but the past year he has started to truly grasp that despite the lighter than Mama skin and the wavy not kinky hair, that when folks look at him, they see young Black man. Shit, the local po-po made sure of that not too long ago.

No, my kids are raised to know who they are but understand that race is complicated in America and frankly folks will make decisions based off your looks. Also mine is a household where Black history is discussed and dissected on the regular, baby girl has many dolls and only one is white. Instead she has dolls of color in a multitude of hues that reflect what she sees here in our house ranging from mini-me’s  caramel complexion to Mama’s cocoa complexion to Grandma’s dark chocolate complexion. That’s what beauty looks like in this house.

As far as the day to day of raising of biracial kids, in some ways I suspect its harder for white women, after all Black women have always had babies in varying hues, shit my own family ranges from what the ole folks used to call high yalla with blue eyes to almost jet Black. Never have I grappled with how to comb my kids hair, or tend to their skin to keep the ash off.

That said, when I was younger with my son, I did encounter a few idiots who mistook me for the nanny, to my son learning about race at 3 when a kid told him he was adopted since I was darker than him. Right now mini-me has started to tell her Dad that he is light and we are not, then again she also tells him he has no hair and we do..poor bald Papa.

In the end raising biracial kids is no different than raising any other kids, though now raising a girl, I do worry about the societal fetishivation of biracial women, now that scares me. Lord, knows I don’t want to end up with a remake of the Imitation of Life in our family. Seriously though raising biracial kids they need to know who they are and ideally have access to all their family, but I also think a healthy dose of understanding of race in America will also take them far.

16 thoughts on “Raising Biracial Kids…ain’t nothing new”

  1. Hi Black Girl in Maine,

    My adopted daughter is fair and has green eyes, and might be biracial. We know this, she knows this, and no one cares. She considers herself black which is how her friends and classmates see her. I think this is healthier for her sanity because she’s less like to feel as hurt if someone white acts in a racist manner toward her.

  2. I am not bald.

    I am a “follicle minimalist.”

    After all, I COULD have hair on my head, it would just be the horseshoe shape/monk-style look.

  3. Hi..This is my first time overhere on your blog…Thanks for visiting my blog the other day. Don’t be a stranger. I have another blog- “Escapades” in which I write Poetry and
    Fiction (http:// http://www.keithssongs.blogspot.com)-If that’s your thing, drop by and check me out on that one too.

    My Grandson is bi-racial…His Father is the product of an African American Mother and a Native American Father.


    Yes one of my very closest friends is bi-racial ( black father/white mother). She said she was raised by her father as being black for the same reasons you stated. Her mother always pushed she and her siblings being mixed.

    Well now she is married to a bi-racial man from Detroit who identifies himself with being a BLACK man, probably for the same reasons you mentioned. I suspect many mixed black males go through what your son is now.

    Anyway, they now have a daughter who is technically bi-racial, however he sees her as black both of her parents are. And my friend sees her as bi-racial. She has 2 white grandparents for goodness sake.

    I think you may be right about black mothers being able to navigate this easier. My friend expressed joy at being able to comb her daughter’s hair so she won’t look like those poor bi-racial girls who’s white mothers are clueless, you know looking like she did as a girl. *lol*

    Great blog very thought provoking and insightful.


  5. Wow, I’ve been thinking about this topic lately and I feel similarly — it’s more about how the White parent deals with race, and how it’s quite admirable, but nearly impossible to raise your bicultural/racial kid(s) with the idea that they can choose either White or Black. I’m also with you about how it seems White mothers have a harder time with how to raise their multiethnic children. (A big reason I avoid forum online for mothers of interracial children — they always seem to be filled with clueless White women who have little understanding of racial issues beyond ‘oh noes! i can’t do my child’s hair, it’s too hard!)

    Not to make too long a comment here, but I also wanted to address the last thing you mentioned — the fetishization of biracial women. In the past, I’ve been called crazy for getting annoyed when my daughters get told by random strangers that they are ‘soooo beautiful’. Sure, they are beautiful kids because come from God and my and my husband, but I know the average person is just like, “oooh, wavy long hair, light skin….aaaah, beauty!” and I do NOT want my girls to buy into that. I try to counter the colorism that I know will come up in their lives by emphasizing intelligence and good emotional well-being and behavior, but I am a little scared that they’ll grow up believing and attempting to benefit from that ‘mixed girls are so pretty’ nonsense. Thankfully my 5 year old wants to talk more about space and planets to random people and gets a bit confused with the comments she gets about people wanting to have her long hair (that drives me batty!). It’s just hair to her, no more, no less, and I hope it stays that way.

  6. I’ll share with you what an old man told me many years ago when I first moved to Georgia and we were discussing raising bi-racial children here in America.

    You are not raising bi-racial children here in America…you’re raising a black child. If you want to raise a healthy bi-racial child, you take them to a country where the color of their skin is not such an issue. You’ll do a major disservice to your children if you raise them to believe that one day they will be able to choose the race they want to belong to.

  7. I don’t get the whole big issue about biracial children. I asked my girls if they have any problems with other kids because they are biracial. They say no and that they get very positive attention. They pretty much said that nobody seems to care either way. Great post!

  8. It depends on the environment, people may not care. In larger cities like Miami, where I live no one seems to care. I am a haitian (dark skinned creole) woman and I’ve been married to an irish-american now for almost fourteen years. We have 4 biracial children and at their school (a christian school), the majority of the kids look biracial- they’re either biracial or hispanic (biracial looking)! Our whole family is close and their relatives on both sides love them, yet they still know they’re black. My husband and I, we never talk to them much about racial identity. However, they still know they’re black. How could they not? They came from a black womb! I think when it’s the mother that’s black, the kids always know that they are black and they’re proud of it. Like in Haiti, we have an old history of french fathers and african (queen) mothers. Over there, mulattoes of any shades (even those who look pure white) know that they’re black and they’re proud of it!

    The confusion of racial identity only seems to exist when it’s the mother that’s white. That is why me I don’t approve of white women having biracial kids. I don’t think they can raise a proud african. I think that’s a disfavor to african heritage…and I think that’s why african americans are so hung up on thinking that light skin is prettier… Many of them had white mothers! Honest to goodness, in Haiti, people value dark skinned women…and in France too, many men love “cafe” women!

    • I think it’s pretty racist to say that white women cannot raise biracial children. My father is black and my mom is white. My mother raised my brothers and I to be proud of our white heritage and black heritage. So did our father. Our father , who is black,knew it was important for us to have mixed race people for us to look up to.We were raised to view ourselves as biracial which is what we are. Why is it healthier to pick black when your white heritage is just as equal to your black?
      People who subscribe to the One Drop Rule are actually subscribing to the racist white slave owners’ rule of the past.
      It is better to view yourself as you truly are, and not claim to be something else just to please a society that has a messed up viewpoint. It also sad that blacks are willing to apply the racist one drop rule to mixed race people just because they are insecure in themselves. That is all that attitude is and nothing more.

  9. I am African-American, my brother and i are both light-skinned but our family is a range of hues. My nephew is biracial (mother is white) and both sets of grandparents live within 5 miles of each other-needless to day both sets see him often. Almost every time I see the my sister-in-law’s mother she gushes about how beautiful he is…over and over. My nephew is now a year old and she gushes just as much as she did when he was 2 months old. My problem isn’t that she thinks he’s beautiful (he is, both sides of his family are beautiful) but the fact that she says he looks “hispanic” or “native american” or any other combination of something except black. It’s as if she is in disbelief that he turned out beautiful DESPITE being half black instead of being beautiful simply because BOTH sides of his family are. I think my family’s influence as well as my brothers will teach him that white ideals of beauty are not the only ones to adhere to.

    Also, every time the grandfather sees the baby’s hair curling up, he licks his fingers and flattens it down on his head. Disturbing to anyone else? I seem to be the only person in the family with a real problem with him doing that.

    It’s fine if this just bothers me, but I’m concerned that the baby will grow up thinking that there is something ugly about his black features and something wrong with being proud of the fact that he is black AND white. If nothing else, his family should support him in embracing both sides. Am I overreacting or does anyone else think this is a problem?

  10. It’s different depending on the country your from. When my children visit my husbands family in Ghana they don’t consider them black but white. So it all varies in location. I’m was born in Germany so I’m rather pale. So all my kids came out light. My olderst daughter lives in Scotland now and nobody thought she was black.

  11. i definately believe there is a difference in raising biracial kids compared to mono-racial kids. sure, you raise them the same in morals and right from wrong and etc…but the sole difference is how you raise them considering they are two races.

    i am biracial, i have a white mom, most biracials i know are the same, and most also only know or are connected with their white side more.

    my mom sometimes has stereotypical racist views of blacks which have affected me alot growing up…although she said i was both black and biracial and nobody could say different, she didnt exactly show me any black culture other than Motown music.

    i wouldn’t be surprised if white moms are worse at raising biracial kids than blacks…i think its because for the first time they have to think outside the white privelege box. they have to start thinking in terms of being a minority themselves which they aren’t accustomed too. I cringe when I hear a biracial say they grew up as one of few people of color in an almost all white town…they have some horrifying stories, and i just don’t understand how a white parent could subject their kid to that other than the fact that the white parent forgot that they can no longer life that “all american white” lifestyle.

    there is a difference in raising your kids…because you have to pay attention to you respond or interact with the other that is your child…you have to remember especially white moms, that once you have a child of color, you are playing by a whole new set of rules. I feel like i was not well prepared for this racist world, this racist country…i am having to learn on my own because you can’t talk about race in a white conservative family like mine…

  12. I happened upon this blog tonight. I appreciated it. Well written and not too uptight (like some people who go bonkers over such topics). I am the white woman who is raising 2 bi-racial daughters from my first marriage (husband/father deceased) and another daughter whom is fully ‘white’ (so to say) with my current spouse.

    I can agree that it may be different for the white woman raising the non-white child simply because that woman was never ‘of color’ for a moment of her life (whether or not she tries to convince herself and others that she somehow is or that she somehow qualifies as being so due to circumstances, ha!). However, with that said I will state that my experiences were mostly what they were due to aspects like geographical location, socioeconomic status, the ages of myself and my children at any given time, the participation of both maternal and paternal family members, etc. I couldn’t always help those things… if I was broke and on welfare we were treated one way and if I was the Exec VP of my company we were treated another (both actual circumstances in my life). You know the cycles…. everyone goes through that.

    My point is this. What never changed was me. I never worried about how to do their hair or carry on about how ‘exotic’ they were. Nor did I engage in discussions about whether or not they were more black or white. That to me is nonsense. Big deal…. so my girls are destined to be more “white” because they are raised by me. Good! I like me! And because their dad died when they were little his influence simply isn’t there. Sad but true. What it all boils down to is that my kids are just kids and people are just people… no one is all that unique. My bi-racial and non bi-racial girls all believe in God… and to Him we are made in His image…. and so far that’s enough for them. And for me too….

  13. I was wondering what all this fuss over bi-racial childrens hair was about? I always thought it was pretty logical and was no different from any other kid with very curly hair that had a tendency to dryness, or is there something massive I’m missing? Some magical problem I’m unaware of? I’d like to know since my first kid is due later next year and will be bi-racial, though here in Uganda we call them Grey, or more often Grey Babies even when they’re an adult.

  14. just stumbled onto this one… one of these days we’ll get together and have some great conversations <3 There is a certain WOC blogger I avoid because even tho she writes some excellent stuff about race, feminism, and ableism, she also maintains that only a Black mother can/should raise a child that is part Black.

    I can't remember, do you watch the show Parenthood on NBC? They recently had an episode called "The Talk". I'd love to hear/read your take on it.

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