Halle Berry’s “One Drop” Dilemma: This Mom Says She Won’t Make Her Biracial Baby Choose

Jennifer Johnson_and_daughter_MyBrownBaby.comBy Jennifer Johnson

When I imagined my daughter before she was born, I saw her with dark skin and light eyes. Instead she came out light-skinned with dark eyes. The complete opposite. I didn’t brace myself for the reality of this possibility— the possibility that my biracial children could have skin as light as my husband, who is white, and not look anything like me at first glance. I knew it could happen. I just didn’t think it would.

I grew up in the south, where racial issues were still tense and the predominant races were black and white and kids were forced to choose sides. It wasn’t as obvious as captains choosing kids for their kickball team, but it was noticeable, and people would call you out for it.

The black kids hung out with the black kids and the white kids hung out with the white kids. And if you crossed the line in the sand, you were considered a traitor of your own race. Blacks who had white friends were nicknamed “Oreos” and whites who had black friends were called “Wiggers.” The terms still disgust me.

So much in our world is black or white. The gray area is gone. This goes for race too. Especially in our country, where many are so quick to call President Obama “Black,” even though his mother is white. I’ll admit I do it. I also cop to being one of the women who was angry when Tiger Woods corrected people for calling him “the first Black golfer to be #1,” insisting he was the first Thai/Black. Why was he ashamed to be called black? I wanted to know. My husband took the opposing stance. Why should he denounce his mother’s side of the family because society says he has to choose?

Back then, there were no if ands or buts about it for me. My children would choose. And they’d choose their black side. Because that’s what they’d look like, and that’s what society would label them. This thinking fell in line with The One Drop rule I grew up hearing my parents talk about a rule created decades ago to prohibit interracial marriages. In Virginia, the Racial Integrity Act defined a person as black if the individual had any African ancestry, or one drop.

The term recently was brought to the forefront of celebrity gossip news amidst Halle Berry’s child custody case with Gabrielle Aubrey over their daughter, Nahla. In an interview, Berry told Ebony Magazine: I feel like she’s black. I’m black and I’m her mother and I believe in the one-drop theory, she said. “I’m not going to put a label on it, I had to decide for myself and that’s what she’s going to have to decide how she identifies herself in the world. And I think, largely, that will be based on how the world identifies her. That’s how I identified myself. But I feel like she’s black.”

Most gossip magazines have conveniently left out a majority of that quote, simply saying that Halle Berry insists Nahla is black, allegedly against the will of the child’s father, whom media reports say wants his daughter to be recognized as white. But I think Halle’s opinion is much more nuanced and, as the mother of a child who is both black and white, I identify and agree with what she’s saying.

I admit: I used to think that if a child of mine claimed to be “mixed” instead of black, that child would be taking a shot at me, as if it wasn’t a good thing to be called what I’m called. But then my daughter was born. Her skin as light as my husbands and eyes as dark as mine. She’s a beautiful mix of both of us. And when I look at her and consider who she is and her feelings for both her father and me, I think that making her choose one side my side seems wrong.

She’ll grow up facing questions I never had to deal with the oh-too-common “what are you?” question will come up on the playground time and time again. While I’m sure no harm will be intended, I certainly can understand how my daughter would feel embarrassed. I would think it simply rude. The more multiracial people I meet, though, the more I’m hearing they eventually got used to the questions, and would just smile and explain.

I don’t know what it’s like to be biracial, but I’ve met some who’ve told me they felt like they had to choose a side in order to fit in, or feel accepted by family members or social groups. A section of this TIME article calls this the “forced-choice dilemma.” It goes on to say that these days, mixed-raced children don’t feel the need to choose a side but share their background with pride. I’m sure that with Census Bureau stats predicting that by 2050, minorities will be the majority with the number of mixed-race children on the rise, the forced-choice problem will be a dying dilemma.

I’ve decided to squash it at my house.

I may choose my daughter’s dinners, wardrobe, and even try to choose her social circles; but today I’ve decided I won’t make her choose my race over her own. Now if she chooses her dad’s over mine on her own, there will be some problems. But I’m just going to pray we can raise her in a way that will make her proud of and claim both of her races.

On the air, Jennifer Johnson delivers the news to the great people of the Lone Star State. Off the air, she’s a new mom and wanna-be Domestic Diva. She started documenting her journey through motherhood long before the baby was in the picture and has since blogged for Conceive Magazine, Parenting.com˜s Project Pregnancy, and Bravado Design’s Breastfeeding Diaries. Her journey began and continues on her blog Baby Making Machine.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

52 Comments

  1. I find your article distrubing coming from an African American woman. An ounce of Black blood in America makes you black. Do you plan on having your child confused about who they are? Have you desired to pass, your comments makes no sense to me as a lightskinned African American. “Oreos” were kids who rejected their African identity it had nothing to who you played with its pretending one is not Black. You do know that there is no race called “Mixed” in America. When your daughter walks in a room of all white people they will tell her who she is–don’t let color get you twisted. Your daughter can learn to embrace both of her culture but if you teach her to hate being Black then don’t be surprise when she decides to pass and leave you behind.

    • Sistergirl, I’m sorry you feel that way. As a dark-skinned black woman I can only speak from my experience. Just because I don’t plan to force my daughter to choose only my heritage over both her backgrounds doesn’t mean I want her to “hate being black.” I want her to love being a part of me, but also love being a part of her father too. Why does she have to choose one side? Because people like you say she does?

      I know when she walks into a room full of white people many will look at her and call her black, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m just not going to jump off the bridge because everyone else is.

      I know what the term “oreo” is suppose to imply. That doesn’t mean people used it correctly in my neighborhood.

  2. America has always been mixed, but it is only in our recent history that we have begun to acknowledge that the lines are more blurred than many of us feel comfortable with. As someone who comes from a very diverse background and an even more diverse family I applaud you for not forcing your child to be something other than who she, a child born of love. There will be times when she will be asked to choose and to be honest there will be times she will make choices but hopefully she will be free to claim both because by sharing both yours and your husbands families traditions, beliefs and more importantly love she will always be who she is even when others make that choice for her. In the end should she decide to only honor one aspect of self the real key will be for those who love her to accept her decision and love her just as much.

  3. Sistergirl, first off – I don’t think BMM is confusing her child. I believe what she is trying to say is that she is not going to let society force her to push her little daughter in a box. Her daughter is the love of her and husband. One shouldnt force one to just choose one side (white or black).
    However, you are right to say that “When your daughter walks in a room of all white people they will tell her who she is…”, that will be true to these people but if she doesn’t let colour define her, and she knows that she is both and neither, then the battle of breaking discrimination will be one step closer. But if you let historical one-drop rule define your world then we will never win anything. Loving your identity doesn’t mean putting yourself in one rigid box.

    Second thing – I am of the opinion that is to the child to choose. All the parent has to do is to show them love and let them love for who they are without colour barrier.

    xoxo, Ohima! @http://myafroitalianlife.blogspot.com

    • Well said – I would also add that “walking into a room of white people”, she can make the choice to not let THEM define HER.

  4. I enjoyed this article. It got me thinking a little bit. Im “white” and my husband is Black. I put “white” in quotes because Im Caucasian in nationality but I have dark olive skin and dark hair and ever since I was in the 5th grade people have been asking me “what are you”… even during labor!!! You do get used to it. People often assume I am what they are, Italian, Latina, Black and White Mixed. My husband is very dark skinned and was born in Ghana and grew up in the Bronx, He never fit in a box and was every mans man and was friends with everyone as long as Ive know him.
    We just want the best for our daughter and will support her in almost anyway she wants to express herself…(nothing dangerous or too sexy 😉

  5. I totally agree with Simone 🙂 to sister girl take it easy i don’t think she was saying being black was a bad thing.this article helps me alot as to what to tell my niece & nephews when that day comes.I tell them already they are the best of both worlds.it’s sad that people try and force kids to pick a side when they can have claim it all:))

  6. Wait…so why is it not wrong if she were to choose to identify as being Black, but wrong if she’d choose to identify as being White? Why are you only ok with her making a choice if that choice is to consider herself Black or biracial? Or am I misunderstanding? (I am honestly asking this; I know meaning can come off differently in type.)

    I’m biracial. I get a lot of the comments you mentioned. My parents never made me choose, but I myself see myself as being Latina, not White. Like you mentioned above, when I walk into a room of White people, almost all of them will point me out as being “ethnic” (they may not pick Latina, but they know I’m not 100% White). But more than that, I just feel very connected to my mother’s culture. My brother considers himself White though. I think both are ok, because WE’RE the ones making that decision, not anyone else. 🙂

    • Marfmom, personally and quite honestly it has to do with my pride. I want her to feel like she wants to be like her mom. That’s understandable right?

      But beyond that, I can understand why she may want to be seen as white, which traditionally has been seen as a majority of the more accepted and privileged class, but I want her to be proud of her minority heritage. I think as a culture we need more positive role models and voices in the black community and I want her to be one of those.

      • My opinion, it’s not right, It’s not wrong, It’s just my opinion… ‘quite honestly it has to do with my pride’ Perhaps that is the key. There is no doubt that you love & adore your daughter. She deserves a strong female role model as you her mother. Your daughter should learn to be her own woman, her own self full of womanly pride, both black & white pride for that is her ancestery.
        ‘I think as a culture we need more positive role models and voices in the black community and I want her to be one of those’ to denounce her ‘white’ ancestery is just as bad as denouncing her ‘Black’ ancestery. It would be a lie. As children our parents make decisions for us all the time. With decisions you’ve made she is of both. Let that love shine with in her.

  7. We actually struggle with this in our house too because my kids are biracial, but do NOT look even “one drop” Mexican. I am a pale redhead, and they somehow got ALL of my genes. In fact when my mother-in-law or husband takes them out in public, they often get mistaken for the babysitter. And my kids are bilingual, which REALLY confuses the heck out of people. There’s nothing more hilarious than seeing a pasty little red-headed kid spouting off Spanish!

    But society is, no doubt, going to identify my kids as “white” even though we marked the “Hispanic” box on the census form. And I know that skin color is already confusing them. My 4 yr old is CONSTANTLY asking if he’s going to be “brown” when he grows up, like his daddy. Ummm… sorry son. Not in the cards.

    I’ll just have to see how this plays out, and answer questions as they arise. But I completely understand the strange inter-family and internal complexities of having kids that aren’t the same “color” as one of the parents. I think as long as we don’t focus on it too much, the kids will follow our ques.

    • That’s how it is for my sister! While my brother and I are dark, my sister is so White she’d get heat rash indoors in September. She looks JUST like my dad. It’s difficult because she identifies with being Latina but people have a very particular schema for what a person of Latin American heritage looks like.

      • Isn’t it funny how other people think it’s their place to decide what that person’s ethnicity is based solely on that person’s skin color? One time last year on twitter I said something about my kids being white Mexicans, and I got a TON of tweets calling me a racist. People actually thought I was making a racist joke. I was like, “People – my kids ARE white Mexicans! Back the frig up!”

    • Aren’t genetics amazing? When my husband goes out with our daughter people will ask him things like “does her mom have curly hair?” and he’s like “ummm, yea..?”

      I sortof wonder if as mothers we take note to these things more because it’s about our children, how they’re perceived and in turn how we are thought to have raised them.

      I think it’s so awesome your kids know Spanish and from the sounds of it, appreciate all of their backgrounds.

      I hope one day I can look back at this post and say “wow, how did I ever even worry about that?” I agree with you though, I think a lot of it has to do with not focusing on it too much. Yes, learn about, and be proud of where you came from–but like any one thing, don’t let it define you.

  8. Well, being completely white (or a mutt – who knows really) and having ZERO experience in either a biracial relationship or even biracial society for that matter (I live in Southern Idaho what can you expect) I feel that I’m out of place even saying anything. Buuut….

    Racial pride is something that’s completely foreign to me, but of course something I respect immensely. Having a sense of identity and “labeling” yourself as something (be it black or LDS) can be helpful to many people in finding “who they are.”

    I completely agree with you that your child should be able to express whoever they want to be – but still find it a little awkward and strange that it would be an issue in the first place. There was really another choice? The comment by Sistergirl and Halle vehemently affirms that women of color make this a more exhaustive issue than it really needs to be. If she wants to call herself “white” – let her. If she wants to call herself “mixed” – let her. If she wants to call herself black… well, you get the idea.

    You’re correct – you can choose her wardrobe (for now), her social circle (for now), but ultimately she will make these decisions for herself as well – just as she will with her race.

    • I don’t think your comment that “women of color make this a more exhaustive issue than it really needs to be” is fair. There is an entire historical context that you are missing. It wasn’t that long ago (and probably even still today to an extent) that children of mixed race were pressured to disregard their Black heritage if they could “pass” for White. Minorities were (and still are, in more subtle ways) considered “less than” Whites. So, I understand Sistergirl and Halle’s concern (though they missed what Jen was trying to say in her post).

      Being biracial IS an issue. My parents didn’t belabor the point, but other people did. I was either too Brown to be White, or too White to be Brown. I think that it can be easy to just allow society to dictate what race your children identify with and so yes, there is another option to encouraging your child to decide for him/herself.

    • MarfMom you beat me to it, thanks.

  9. The one-drop rule is one of the most absurd and offensive creations in the history of race relations in this country, and I will be so very glad when it’s only used in history textbooks as a way to teach our children what horrible things human beings can conjure up for each other.

  10. I found the article refreshing but the comment from Sistergirl very disappointing in this day an age. Just because society has spent decades brainwashing us into categories, doesn’t mean that we can’t step outside the box and create the world we want to see.

    People of MIXED HERITAGE have an assumed advantage of learning about two cultures/ ways of life. This should be embraced and balanced in good measure with objectivity, so that the child can learn to love and understand what they decide to see in the mirror. This is also a great opportunity to teach the child the importance of tolerance and respect for others other than their self.

    I see a brighter future with this approach.

    Just a thought from London.

  11. I’m bi-racial, and grew up in a mostly-white world. My father (who is black) isn’t from this country (or Africa) so the term African-American always bothered me. So did being labeled in general. Depending on how I dress and do my hair and makeup, I can pass for any different number of races. Call me perverse – but I enjoyed doing that in my younger days. It’s always bothered me that I have to tick one box – and one box only – on certain forms. It actually brought me to tears in the hospital, when I wasn’t allowed to check “other” as an option for my son’s birth certificate (why is that even an option?!? Gotta love Virginia). Because he’s truly multi-racial. I’m black & white and my husband is white and Native American (with red hair from his Greek side). I will never make my son choose. I will help him celebrate all of his roots – even the “non-diverse” ones. And I hope that when he’s old enough to tick boxes himself, they’ll let him choose more than one.

  12. Were you joking about this?
    “Now if she chooses her dads over mine on her own, there will be some problems.”

    I enjoyed reading the article and agree for the most part but that line bothered me. If she is free to choose, why would there be problems?

    • Karen,

      I’d say I’m half joking. Of course she’s going to choose what she wants to choose but as her mother I’d be a little hurt if she chose not to identify with “me.”

      Also, I think it would depend on the reason for her choice. We have traditionally been seen as a “lower class” and less accepted group of society. I wouldn’t want that to be the reason for her choice.

  13. I can completely understand your thinking, Jen. I am half Filipino, half Northern-Euro-mutt. People always thought I was Irish or Italian. I still get ticked off when I can only select one “race” on forms and other places where I’m expected to identify and when that happens, I usually say “other” or “decline to answer”. I’m proud of both sides of my ancestry, and no one will put me in a box.

  14. No need to worry about making a decision for your child, society will take care of that. The real question is how will you deal with the racially confused person that will be created?
    Last night my wife and I sat our two boys down in front of the television to wash Lawrence Fishburne perform Thurgood on HBO. It was incredible!
    As a young black man growing up in Tucson Arizona, I first heard about Thurgood Marshall during a black history lecture in high school. Although I come from several generations of attorneys in Nigeria, I had never seen a black attorney here in the United States commanding such power. He was not afraid to speak his mind. I was forever changed.
    I set my sights on law school. I had no idea how I was going to get there or for that matter who would pay for it. All I knew was if this strong black man could do it… so could I.
    So, when my wife and I saw the announcement that the presentation would be on HBO and available for ON-Demand, we knew we had to take advantage of the opportunity. It was incredibly important that our sons SEE someone that looks them doing difficult, brave and important work within American society. This needed perspective allows young people of color to close their eyes and see themselves also doing big things.
    You see, we (my wife and and I) have been working hard for the last few weeks explaining to our sons that although the Oscar nominations failed to bring about one nomination for a person of color, there were still many film projects out involving many talented people of color.
    However, no matter how many times we said it; there was still a look of confusion and frustration on their faces. Yet while watching the HBO presentation depicting the life and work of a great African American, we saw the confusion on their faces replaced by pride and renewed imagination as to what they could accomplish.
    As parents we must never forget that our role in the development of strong confident children of color requires that we constantly remind them of who they are. Unfortunately, there are far too few people of color in broadcasting, advertising and programing. As a result, children of color are being mentally damaged on a daily basis. From outdoor adventure commercials that refuse to show any people of color, to highly publicized designated honors that only depict white people.
    So to combat this altered reality that is being perpetuated in main stream America, we as parents of color must create alternate digital, print and program realities for our kids. Therefore, we will be the constant reminder to the young children of color that their lives must only be examined through the eyes of people that look like them. And everyone else is irrelevant.

    • James I think you make an excellent point. Society defines a lot of things but that doesn’t mean I have to go against it or that society can’t be redefined.

      I think a part of my job as her parent is to show her success can be and is achieved across the board. Aside from films there’s a world of industries that are lacking diversity and it’ll be my job to make sure she knows there are great and talented people of all races in almost everything. And in situations where equality is still unfair I’ll help her to see those who are striving to redefine the norm and encourage her to do the same.

  15. I’m a pasty redhead, and from the geneology I’ve done so far, I’m pretty much of European descent except for a few Native American grandmothers and grandfathers in the mix. I get asked all the time what I am – and maybe its just because I’m in the “majority” – but I don’t find it offensive. People who are from Russia want to know if I’m a Russian descent (so far, no proof that I am, but there is a pretty good tall tale that I could be!) Friends from Scotland want to know if I’m Scottish. A roommate was sure I must be more Irish than Scottish. When I taught on the Reservation, the kids were thrilled I’ve got a bit of Native American in the mix. Maybe I’m living in a world of unicorns and rainbows, but I’d like to think we’re moving closer to the day when asking, “what are you?” is replaced by something less weird (I think that a really odd way to phrase the question) and less about making judgements or putting people in boxes, and more about curiosity about the heritage that makes you who you are. I think its beautiful to be able to identify with multiple cultures. I may only be able to identify in a historical sense, but I would love to be able to claim something current. 🙂

  16. James, I agree with just about everything in your post. You’re right that the media needs to make more of an effort to be inclusive in his depictions of minority groups.

    But about your first comment. You say, “No need to worry about making a decision for your child, society will take care of that.” Therein lies the problem and the heart of the issue in this blog posting. Society has far too long “taken care of that.” And what happens to the biracial child who doesn’t look the part, so to speak. I have a biracial son with blondish hair, blue eyes, and my facial features (I’m white). Nobody ever assumes his father is black. If society chooses for him (and they will probably choose white) then where does that leave him in terms of a connection to his father’s culture? What if he wants to identify as “black”? Or even biracial? This is the very reason the whole notion of “race” is so absurd–though, of course I understand the complicated and unfortunate history behind it. It’s just so frustrating to know that, scientifically, there is no such thing as “race.” And, yet, as a society, we continue to perpetuate the idea as though it’s something real.

  17. I have two children who are biracial (I am white, my husband is black). Both of my kids have very fair skin, but dark brown eyes and dark curly hair. For us, it is not an issue. Our children are NOT black and they are NOT white. They are both, biracial, and they are beautiful. There is no one drop rule in this house. When they get older, we will teach them what society labels them, but it will be VERY clear to them that they are half of both races, and with the love and admiration they receive from both sides of our families, they will be proud to be both. My 3 year old already has such a strong sense of self that I’m not even remotely worried about it. It’s people who continue to perpetuate the one drop rule that bother me. If everyone would just drop that, then this whole issue would disappear that much faster! I challenge anyone to label my children as “black” or “white”. I when through the pain of pregnancy and childbirth and sacrificed my body for so long so these children could come into the world. No one is going to deny them of the chromosomes they got from me. And their father loves them so much and puts in so many hours at work to provide for them, and then comes home and plays with them, no one is going to deprive them of those chromosomes either. If we’re ever going to get a biracial checkbox on applications, census forms and other papers, we’ve got to let our kids be who they are and stop trying to put others in a ridiculous box they were never meant to be in!

  18. First of all, thank you BMM for sharing this!

    My thoughts on this: you don’t have to be biracial to encounter this dilemma!!

    I was born in Canada to two German parents. We lived in Canada until I was 12, then moved to Germany, and spent a lot of time travelling. All my life I’ve been asked “where are you from?”. But all people want to hear is “I’m German. I’m Canadian.” But I’m not! I’m both. I do not fit in a certain box. Sometimes I feel at home where I am, and sometimes I feel too Canadian to be German or too German to be Canadian. My 7-month old son will be faced with a similar dilemma: a British father and German-Canadian mother…sure he won’t be questioned for being caucasian with this heritage, but he will still need to figure out where he feels most comfortable and like he belongs.
    I do not plan on dictating where he will look for that feeling of acceptance, and I do not feel like it should be race-based anyway. Growing up in Canada showed me the beauty of a multicultural society, and I hope my son will be able to experience it too. It gave me personally the chance to see people for who they are, not what they look like or where they ‘come from’! I think all of us moms will be doing something great for the world our children (biracial or not) live in if we can instill that simple mentality in them – to see past the categories society puts us in and love and respect people for who they are.

  19. I personally don’t see the issue. YOu talk as though your baby looks white. She does not. She looks like a light skinned black girl.

    You’re right, she doesn’t have to choose sides. But, I dont see people asking her “what is she”. It’s apparent to me that she’s black/biracial, I can’t imagine anyone thinking something else.

    Am I the only one?

    • I don’t think you’re the only one Janelle, I see that too (obviously). But after being asked if I’m her mom and seeing the shock of disbelief on people’s face when I tell them I am, I realized it’s not apparent to everyone.

  20. What is the biracial look? Because a lot of regular black folk have it, i even know some who have the white look. I guess they’ll say they’ve been raped a couple of generations. I wonder if they will put that on the census.

  21. My partner and I – both white – are the parents of an adopted multi-racial son. He’s also in a somewhat unusual situation – we know his mother is bi-racial but his father’s identity is unknown to her. So my son is biologically African American, Puerto Rican and ___? I’ve been asked by strangers if his background includes Dominican, Colombian, and even Sicilian blood. My answer (after “mind your damn business…”) is sure… it could be all of the above.

    We are not naive enough to believe for a moment that race will not play a huge factor in his identity throughout his life. But because of that big question mark above his biological father’s background – and the fact that it is not possible to ever uncover it- I too will leave it to him to explore the cultures he feels connected to, and even ones he may not. Ultimately, it is up to him to decide. In many ways, that unknown is a blessing because it opens the door to so many opportunities and experiences he might not otherwise have.

    I DO know that regardless of his mixed-race background, he is 100% wonderful, beautiful, loveable and the greatest blessing we could possibly receieve. That much I know for sure.

  22. Puerto rican, colombian, and dominican are not races but nationalities, there are afro puerto ricans, colombians and dominicans.

  23. Thank you for bringing light to this topic. I recently had this same conversation with a friend and told them that I didn’t agree with Halle Berry. I don’t understand how some of these mixed people, who were RAISED by their white mothers just claim one race. Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey and Halle Berry were all raised by their white mothers. Why do they have to choose? Because of some law that came out 100 years ago to further oppress us and deter us from inter-racial marriages?
    I applaud you for recognizing the problem and for saying that you will allow your daughter to choose.

  24. The one drop rule is still law today why do you think we have to fill out race forms? on some documents if you check black and white they automatically change it to black.

  25. Shaneika is right. When my daughter entered kindergarten, I filled out her school form and checked both the white and black boxes on her forms. This year, when she entered first grade, they gave us the forms from last year and told us to update any information that had changed (such as address, phone number, etc.). When I looked at what it said for “race,” it said “Black.” They had ignored the checkmark I had placed by white the year before. What did I do? I wrote, in very large letters next to “Black,” “AND WHITE.” We’ll see what the form looks like next year. I imagine it will still say “Black.” I’m considering not even checking boxes in the future as a way to protest the whole notion of identifying children based on the color of their skin. I know it has to do with funding and anti-segregation issues, but I’m sick to death of being forced to identify myself and my children based on a social construct that for too long as been a way of oppressing certain groups of people.

  26. Oh, and the irony is that my daughter’s skin color is closer to mine than my husband’s. She has a light tan, with blondish hair and green eyes. But they’ve met her father. 🙂

  27. Great article! I never thought of my beautiful brown twins as anything but Black until the school sent home a racial/ethnic survey. I honestly had to pause and think. My husband is Costa Rican and looks like any African American brotha walking, while I am a very light skinned African American. Until that point, it honestly had never occurred to me that I was raising biracial children – I mean after all, birth certificates don’t even list race anymore. While my children will never be mistaken for anything but African American, it was on that day, I made a commitment to make sure that they ALSO learned about their Costa Rican heritage. We have since taken them to their father’s home twice (they are almost 5) and are making sure that there is a connection with their family there. I applaud you for making a commitment to leaving the choice to your daughter.

  28. They are bi-cultural not biracial, there are afro-latinos.

  29. They are bi-cultural not biracial, there are afro-latinos. But the census totally ignores that there are hispanic/latinos of african descent.

    • You are right about there being Afro-Latinos, as my husband is one. If you want to be technical, they are both as race is generally defined as a group of persons related by common descent or heredity, which my husband and I are. That, however, was not the point of my post. 🙂

  30. She’s beautiful and the answer to what she is.. Well, she’s human.
    That should be enough :-). Unfortunately, in this world, it doesn’t seem to be. However, knowing myself (and even though I am pasty white) I’d be a little more than miffed to have to generalize what I am in for someone in a some small box on a piece of paper that doesn’t mean anything in my daily life.
    So when I have to fill out the box – I don’t.

  31. “But Im just going to pray we can raise her in a way that will make her proud of and claim both of her races.” I agree with you 100% and that is what we are trying to do as well. I am white & my husband is black. Our son, who is 11, is as light as I am with light brown hair (it was blonde until he was about 4!) and my daughter, who is 9, is as brown as my husband with dark brown hair. They are proud to be biracial and wont let anyone leave out my part or my husband’s part in creating them. I cant imgaine a time when they would say, “I’m white” or “I’m black.” They are proud to claim both their races and I am proud of them!

  32. Monica Roberts

    Wow! This article is interesting, to say the least. I have bi-racial children (I’m black and my ex-husband is white). My two children by this husband are fair-skinned with medium brown hair. My son has medium to small curls and his hair is coarse and think like my really nappy hair. My daughter has looser curls, but they are coily and springy. They both have obvious black features where you would never be able to mistake them as white, no matter how fair their skin. While I never made their genetic makeup a big deal growing up, on their own, they both considered themselves black. Their dad and I were together for years, so they could have questioned who they were, tried to claim one side or the other, or whatever, but they never did. They just assumed they were black.

    My daughter will say to people, if they ask, that she is bi-racial, but at home, for whatever reason, if the subject comes up, she settles on being black. Neither one of them has had a problem with it. I’ve asked them how they’ve felt about their choice, especially since I never pressured them to say one or the other (although I have told them how society will automatically label them and that they should never be ashamed of either side), and my son, who is the oldest (21 years old) will simply say, “But mom, I’ve always considered myself black. I feel like I’m black. I’ve always been comfortable with that, and my dad has never had a problem with it. Dad has never felt slighted.”

    Now I have multi-racial grandchildren that I have custody of. My son (bi-racial) has a wife who is Guatemalan (Hispanic). My grandson looks like his Guatemalan mother, and my new granddaughter looks more like my son and you can even see her black features in her face already. Both children are fair-skinned. People assume that my grandson is totally Guatemalan, and my son says that he considers his son black or a black Guatemalan. He says the same for his daughter. His wife doesn’t have a problem with it because the latter label includes both of their ethnic backgrounds. My son says that since he looks like a fair-skinned black man instead of bi-racial, and since he’s not ashamed of who he is, it’s just easier to say he’s black. He doesn’t feel like society has forced him in a box. He put himself in one. That was his choice. My daughter doesn’t see what the big deal is. She just wants to be looked at like a person.

    I sometimes don’t even check race boxes on certain applications (the ones where it is optional) for political reasons, not because I want to protest my children and grandchildren being or not being one thing or the other and because I don’t want them forced in a box. i don’t even care about that. They are black…and a whole lot of other things, so I take the opposite response of many of the people who have commented here. If they check black, okay, well, they are black. If they choose not to make a check mark at all, well, I’m good with that too. I don’t have to worry about them checking white because none of them think they look that way (and they don’t) and nobody would believe them if they did. My grandson MAY be able to check Hispanic because he totally looks that way and his mother is, but these things are not that big a deal for us. Whenever we’ve been forced to check something, especially for the grandchildren, we just write in black/Hispanic or black Guatemalan. Whatever.

    In our house, church, and circles, we’re Christians, so we like to identify with Christ first. After that, for us, nothing else is really that big a deal, well, unless you consider the time we spend in history and culture (I’m a homeschooler) making sure they know the history of all of the people groups they can racially identify with, just so they know who they are and where their ancestors came from). Aside from just the obvious fact that for many reasons, history is important, identifying here on earth and spending a whole lot of time mulling over it, is not our idea of using our brain and time wisely.

  33. I am native American and white. My ex husband is black. Our daughter is all three. I will never categorize my daughter as one race or another. She is biracial, mixed or whatever you want to call her. We will never deny that she is something, she is not just black, white or native American. She is a great blend of us, her parents and she should never have to choose one race, just to make it easier. I want her to be proud of her heritage, all of them. They helped make her who she is, but they will never define her. She isnt just that black girl or mixed girl. It may be where she comes from, but it will have nothing to do with where she is going in life. She will do things and go places because of her inner spirit, ambition and desire for a wonderful life.
    Just because something is how it is, doesnt make it right. No one should be defined by their race, except the human race. On the inside, we all look the same. I know it seems inevitable, but small changes can make a difference. I want her to be proud of everything about herself, but race isnt something to be proud of or put down, it is just a small part of who one is. Who someone is on the inside is what matters. What we do with this life is what matters. How we treat others is what matters. Love matters!

  34. People are clearly missing the point of your article and those people will never get it. I am half Black and half Indian, and I have never called myself black… My Father who is “Black” (really he’s mixed with a lot, but says it to please America) always taught me along with my mom that I was not just Black. And I am not… I am not going to go by a rule made for slaves to keep Blacks and Whites separate classes. Let your daughter make her choice, it doesn’t matter what other people label her, it’s how she feels about herself. I was never confused. And I have a mixed up family and none of them were confused. When some one asks what an I, which is quite frequent I say I am mixed. And I am proud of that…

  35. Seems a lot of folks are missing the point. The idea of a multiracial or multiethnic person “choosing” to identify with one of the races or ethnicities within them is really kinda of ridiculous. By definition they are multiracial, bi-racial, multiracial … PERIOD. No further definition needed. No choice needed. They are the beautiful product of God’s rich diversity in our world. My children are the mix of two multiracial parents. They are multiracial … period. So how do they identify (because “racial identification” seems still so important to so many, including multiracial people)? By understanding they are a mix of at least three different races or ethnicities. Why do most people over 25 not understand this? All my children’s friends get it (maybe because so many are multiracial). My son doesn’t even understand “race.” Ever since he started noticing skin color, everyone is a shade along a spectrum between dark brown and light blond. It’s a wonderful way to see the world. Too bad so many folks, including multi-racial folks don’t see the world this way … the way it actually is.

  36. Like your daughter, I was born very light/fair skinned. They thought my mother was my baby sitter, sometimes. My mom is Black–very dark skinned; and my dad is Black-Puertp Rican, very fair-skinned with freckles and light brown hair (before he passed). Over the years, my skin has darkened a little to a tan color. However, I appreciate the melanin increase for many reasons–especially the fact that at 46 I pass for someone in my 20’s …seriously.

    Just be prepared for the possible skin darkening. Many African-American babies start out very light, but have various shade progressions over their childhood. She and you may not have to choose, nature may beat uounto it. 🙂

    Take care and Blezzings on the beautiful baby–of the HUMAN race.

    Stephania B.

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