Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 12:38 pm
As odd as this may sound, I do not know how to approach this subject with Jillian. Lately, in fact almost every day, I hear from Jillian ' Mom . Im white right?" and " Mom. Your black right?" and then again " I want to be white like daddy not like you mom"

There is a whole new group of kids at her day care . This time every year sickness goes up, different words come out, and new behaviors strangle everyone. It is the changing of 'tides'. Older kids have moved on to kindergarden, younger ones move up, and new ones come in.

So this year, she is being told some where that she is white. And who ever is telling her or asking her this knows I am not. This I dont mind. Really. Im not angry , concerned, or even embarrassed. This is a totally innocent observation by maybe one kid, maybe a few... but.. Im at a loss for what to say. We ARE the only mixed race family there. There are lesbian familes, 3 of them, and one family of gay men. There are several Asian children, one brazilian girl ( who looks black) and a couple of middle eastern children. But I would be safe in saying that 85-90% of the children are white. And the one brazilian girl is adopted, so she does not have black looking parents. I think I am the only one there. Which is the reason i stick out. No problem-o.

i will tell her that she is both white AND black because she was made my mom and dad. I tell her that she came from my body which means she is a part of me. And I am black, so sheis part black. I then tell her she has part of her daddy in her too and she is also part white.

but beyond that.. Im not sure what to say or how to answer these questions.

She will ask " mommy am I really white?" Uhh...yes.
Mommy, are you black?
Uhh.. yeah.
Im not black am I?
Uhh.. yeah.
But I dont want to be black. I need to be white. Am I white?
and so on the conversation will continue.

It isnt a HUGE issue. At least not to me. And I hope it isnt to her.
I remember when i was young, it WAS a huge issue. I was not quite black enough to be black , nor was I quite white. I was teased beyond reason sometimes and I think it is because I did not have an outlet for my own questions. Not blaming my mother.. not at all.. I just dont want to mimic that.

So how do you answer that?
Are you black?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 22 • Views: 8,210 • Replies: 63

 
sozobe
 
  4  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 12:48 pm
@shewolfnm,
shewolfnm wrote:

But I dont want to be black. I need to be white. Am I white?


Maybe start here... "Why do you need to be white?"

I definitely found with my kid that asking questions back helped clarify things. She wasn't always using words the way that I would; or there was a backstory that wasn't obvious, that cast light on the specific issue.

Your mom was white, right? I wonder if that's part of the confusion? You had a white mom and a black dad but you don't call yourself white at all -- just black.

That's a spare thought... main thing is that I think it would be interesting to delve into why she has this desire to be white. Why she thinks she "needs" to be white. Might be something totally unexpected, that you can help her understand/ correct the record. (Like, "princesses are always white," or something.)
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 12:49 pm
@shewolfnm,
just tell the bean she and always will be a poopity-head
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:04 pm
@shewolfnm,
I missed the moments when my niece was going through this. Long story, she was taken away by the marshall's office for a while, don't get me started. But in all our early time together, except for the very early days when she was around two, she was clear that she was made by both her mother and her father and matter of fact about it. Always has been fascinated by people's heritage, interested in people of mixed ethnicity, the more mixed the merrier.

So, I don't really know how to handle it except be clear that her heritage is wonderful.
ebrown p
 
  3  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:07 pm
I grew up in a mixed-race family (by adoption). I am now in a mixed-race family by marriage.

I think the best thing is to consider this a long conversation rather than something to be addressed right away. I think you handled it well. Identity is a process.

My parents very purposely exposed us to race. We had the "Black is Beautiful" book, and we even had a rather racist story about a strong black prince rescuing a beautiful black princess from an ugly and cruel white demon. The first book I recommend, and the second book was part of the discussion in our family (and part of my parents' sense of humor).

My kids are bilingual and we teach them to be proud they speak Spanish. This is an important part of who our family is and I hope it gives them a healthy sense of identity.

Still, my older kids have dealt with the question in very different ways; for one being Hispanic is very important, and the other it is no big deal. (My three year old hasn't had much occasion to express this part of her identity).

In all this rambling... my point is that identity is something developed over a long period of time. The best thing is to treat it as an ongoing discussion... Parents have a big part in teaching, supporting and passing on culture. Kids will take what they need to figure out their place in the world.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:11 pm
@shewolfnm,
Why Black Girls Still Prefer White Dolls

This made me really sad to watch those beautiful little girls looking so forlorn.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:11 pm
@ossobuco,
Uh, wonderful is probably not the right word, in that I guess I'm not for promoting any skin color as somehow better by virtue of itself... but I think you know what I mean, that her heritage is likeable and good.

Soz's idea of asking questions back seems useful..
0 Replies
 
Eva
 
  3  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:12 pm
@shewolfnm,
I would have explained it the same way you did, shewolf. Most people only get to be black OR white, but she's lucky. She gets to be both!

I'd be very curious about why she thinks she "needs" to be white. It may be something as innocuous as Soz's "princesses are white" idea. But on the other hand, bigotry often starts early. You're in the perfect position to put a quick stop to that, and to let her know that racism isn't nice.

Jillian is one lucky little girl.

0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:14 pm
You have an excellent point Soz. I do NOT ask conversation 'feeding' questions at all and I think I need to change that behavior.
That never occured to me.. to find out the 'why' behind the I need to be white statement. I think I just thought too much about my own upbringing and let that stress dictate what i said and how I said it.

It could very well be a game she and her friends play where they are colors like crayons, or colors like people in movies, or..or..or..
Many options there. I will see what I can learn next time .

I dont think this is the defining moment of her identity and if it is, poor child will be confused for the rest of her life. HA
I just see a whole new door opening here. One about race, skin color, and where you can belong in society. I feel bad that she is only 4 and already aware of her skin difference and her mothers difference. Couldnt this wait a few more, ten twelve years ? ha!

Though I will admit one thing. I am glad it is starting now. Now that I myself am tacking that long time chip on my own shoulder from race, being teased about race , and never really settling into "any one race" . My own skin is more comfortable these days now that I dropped that thing.
if she will ever get an honest, simple answer out of me, it is right now.
0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:17 pm
Jillian is one big mix of really cool things.
African, Cherokee, Irish and German.
she is going to be beautiful, with one hell of a temper. Laughing
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:25 pm
I find this topic interesting, because I grew up as a "minority" in California, but we really didn't discuss "race" as a youngster. Most of my friends "looked" like me whether they were Japanese, Chinese, Hispanic, black or the few caucasians who lived in our "part of town" in Sacramento.

Fast forward to now; we have many races and cultures mixed in our family today.

I enjoyed reading "Hawaii" many decades ago, because Mitchener called the Hawaiian People the "golden people" for the mix they 'enjoyed.'

I love all peoples, but my older brother speaks badly about blacks in Sacramento, because as he explains it, they're the ones most involved in crime.

Even within my siblings, we have disagreements on many levels of politics, religion, and race.

The only time I was burglarized during my travels was in Ecuador when a young kid about 16 years old stole my camera and case by breaking the strap from behind and running away; and this was only two years ago. I reported it to the police and spent much valuable time, but nothing ever came of it.

It's kinda sad that young kids have to steal to make a living in this world.
Foxfyre
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:27 pm
@shewolfnm,
One of my daughter's best friends in Highschool was the child of a white German mother and a black American officer who had been stationed in Germany. They fell in love and married, and when his deployment was over, he brought her back to the states where they had five kids, none as dark as "Dad" but none as white as Mom, either. The Dad died shortly after the birth of #5. For whatever reason--perhaps she thought her mixed race family would have a better shot in the USA--she decided not to return to Germany and she has raised her family here. She and I met and became friends while participating in the kids' school activities.

Her answer to her children was yes you are white and yes you are black. And that makes you lucky. She made sure they knew they were smart and loved and special and beautiful. And she made sure that they knew what they could be proud of in their black and white heritages and their American and European heritages.

She confided to me that she did feel somewhat left out socially at times and felt that she sometimes didn't really belong in the earlier years. She didn't know if it was her heavy German accent or if it was because she was single and raising a brood of mixed-race children in a very "white" town. I suspect it was because she was a single mom with a large family in a very traditional 'couples' town, but at any rate that all wore off in time and she became quite Americanized. She is now a committed Kansan who is enjoying her grandkids a lot.

Her kids grew up quite well adjusted, took part in drama and music and sports, and so far as I know have done quite well for themselves. They would all be in their 30's or 40's now.

So, I guess my advice is to help your daughter believe she is the most special person in the world, is well loved, can do anything she wants, and help her know that it is okay to be 'different'. If she doesn't know what to say when kids ask her about her race, she can say "I am black and white". Aren't I lucky?

0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 01:58 pm
@cicerone imposter,
cicerone imposter wrote:

I find this topic interesting, because I grew up as a "minority" in California, but we really didn't discuss "race" as a youngster.



We lived in really poor areas of town , where the majority of the community spoke spanish.. There were black families, but they were.. 'thugs' as my mother would say. And the thugs were always the ones breaking into everything.

We never really discussed race in my house either. Nor with the few friends I had. But the question would come about as it would with all children. " Why is your mom white looking and you are not?"
Sometimes, I truly would not know what to say. I never knew my dad. I assumed he was all black, but he could have been part.. god knows what.. so I never felt like I could just say that Dad is black and mom was white. So I wouldnt. Then the teasing would start.
I would ask my mother sometimes, but she never really addressed the issue. Probably because she didnt think it was a big issue. She had me about the time that the racial divide was no longer acceptable. And people were calming down about standing in a grocery store with a black woman (<--her words) So , part of me thinks that she just watched everything change so , race was not a big issue anymore. Dont address it, and it wont fester.

but.. im only guessing.
0 Replies
 
George
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 02:24 pm
I'm white. My wife is Asian.

When they were little, my kids raised the question of whether they were white
or Asian. We told them "both". Mommy's roots are in China, Dad's in Ireland.

Both Hermione and Nigel have a strong sense of the Asian part of their identity.
I think that is because they grew up in a very predominantly white suburb and
felt their "differentness" more than their "sameness". They had a lot of contact
with Mommy's side of the family and spent a lot of time in Chinatown, so they
got to see a lot of Asian faces and hear a lot of Chinese spoken. There were one
or two incidents at school when they heard some nastiness, but not much else.

So both Herminone and Nigel have taken it pretty much in stride.

Clive couldn't care less.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 02:30 pm
Tell her she's taupe.

Taupe can be anything from a pinky-tan to a purply-brown. Most skin falls into the range of taupe.
0 Replies
 
panzade
 
  1  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 03:34 pm
@shewolfnm,
it made me sad to read your post...but I felt better when I read the great replies.
Here's hoping one day a future bean won't ask that question
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  4  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 03:40 pm
@shewolfnm,
Given Jillian's age, I wonder if this has to do (in part) with her wanting to be more affiliated with dad than mom - and the black/white thing being useful for that.
dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 03:46 pm
@ehBeth,
actually the bean prefers affiliation with the dys who just happens to be very white.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 04:12 pm
@ehBeth,
That's a great point. I had a similar thought but a different direction -- I don't know where things are right now with you and the mister, and how much the Bean knows about that. But there might be something going on with white = dad, black = mom, and she is concerned about losing ties to her dad.

That's one of those if-then things though, nothing to go on, just a spare thought. I'm interested in what surfaces when you ask her.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 11 Sep, 2008 04:17 pm
@shewolfnm,
I haven't thought about it, Shewolf, but my knee jerk reflex would be to answer a her questions with questions: "Why don't you want to be black?", "why do you need to be white?"

The "Am I black" question I would sidestep: "you look kinda Puerto Rican" (which she does). I might also point her to some pictures of Puerto Rico so she sees it's a pretty place.

No idea if this would work, but that would be my knee jerk reflex. Take it for what it's worth.

EDIT: I see Sozobe has been pirating my insights again before I even had them. Some nerve!
 

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