I'm a White Man and my Child Will be Black

I’m sitting at work the other day and one of my co-workers calls and we start talking about my wife’s pregnancy.  “How’s she feeling?  Are you doing ok? How are all the kids taking it?  Have you picked out names?”  Etc., etc.  This is a female co-worker and to me its an odd thing how women feel no hesitation to ask personal questions whether they know you well or not.  Guys don’t do this.  My male co-workers and friends barely bring the pregnancy subject up.  When they do, it’s more in the form of sympathy for my perceived plight than anything else.  They’d rather talk about the Blackhawks anyway, and so would I.

I digress.  During the female co-worker’s question and answer session with me (I’m going to call her Tricia), she asked if we had picked out names yet and I told her not yet and that I didn’t know the sex of the baby, but that we had talked about some possibilities.  I do know Tricia fairly well so her questions really didn’t bother me.  I remember she asked me if I liked Elliot as a boy’s name?  (I actually do.)  And then, when I made a joking comment to Tricia (a black woman) that Elliot is a very “white” name, she said, “You know, your baby is going to be black.”

On cue, I responded, “No way.  She’s light-skinned and I’m well, you know.  So black isn’t possible.”

“I’m not talking about that,” Tricia answered.  “In the eyes of society, your child will be black.”  In the seventh month of the pregnancy, I admit that I haven’t given this concept much thought whatsoever.  Of course my wife and I have discussed having a biracial or mixed race child and we have discussed raising a child with a Jewish father and a gentile mother.  We’ve talked about the best places to live and raise our child.  But, we’ve never talked about having a black child.

Tricia, who is married to a black man and has two daughters, had previously explained to me, before my wife was pregnant, that she named her daughters Kate and Andrea so that when the classroom teacher is calling attendance or the admissions staff person is looking at the application, there won’t be an immediate assumption that the children are black.  “Makes sense,” I thought then, but sad as well.

What happened to the concept of a biracial  or mixed race child?  I wondered.  Tricia continued, “You can call the child biracial, but everyone will think of her as black.  It’s not like how your people determine if the child is Jewish based on the fact that the mother is Jewish.  If one parent is black, the child is black.  That’s just how it is.”

I tried to find some clarification of this concept on a variety of websites, but I kept getting directed to forums where the topic was “White Father, Black Mother and their Children” or something similar.  In all of those sites, the topic went from the color of the child’s skin – apparently the consensus is the skin will be whiter if the mother is white – to the racists who declare interracial marriage appalling and the resulting offspring as disgusting.

To me, this is not and never has been a skin tone issue, but an identification question.  How will a child, raised by a black mother and white father identify him/herself?  I intend to work on this question so that I’m not caught off guard in another conversation on the topic, and so that I can provide insight when necessary.

To that end, it was curious to see the position taken by the National Association of Black Social Workers  which has argued that biracial children should be treated as completely black.  Consistent with this view, courts and adoption agencies usually categorize biracial children as black when considering placement. The primary justification for this treatment is that, in the eyes of American society, a biracial child is black and, therefore, must identify positively with being black and must be able to cope with discrimination toward her as a black person. … As a result, the NABSW concludes that when an adoption or custody proceeding concerns a biracial child, a court or adoption agency should favor placing the child with Black parents.

The more I looked into the issue – talking to people and reading what I could find – the more it seemed that Tricia was right.  And, I started to think that I must be some kind of fool to have not even considered this before my recent conversation.  Perhaps my foolishness is based on the fact that race really doesn’t matter to me while it still does matter to a significant segment of our society.

I have heard President Obama refer to himself as a “biracial black man.”  That is his conclusion, his characterization and, as such, should be good enough for the rest of us.  But, with race and the difficulties that people have in discussing the issues and accepting each other, nothing ever seems “good enough.”

As the future parents of a biracial, multiracial, mixed, black/white, or “whack” (I made that up) child, it will be our job to create some kind of foundation and hope that the child grows up confident and secure with whatever he/she sees in the mirror and feels inside.  To help that process, I intend to rely on my instincts, research, conversations, and experience.  I also intend to stay off internet forums.

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  • I think you've got it right. This whole thing is baffling to me and I think that the more that people like Tricia talk about what "society" thinks the more they reinforce this bizzare pigeon-holing. Notice how Tricia phrased her comment. She said "your baby is going to be black", not "society will call your child black". Strange.

  • In reply to Gary Lucido:

    I get where you are coming from. However, it also kind of sounds like hiding your head in the sand and denying the realities of the country that we live in. It would be nice if everyone thought like you and that the inequities and negativity that we see didn't exist but they do. The job of a parent is to protect their kids.

  • Oh...and I'm just as baffled when people try to tell me that my kids are Jewish because their mother is Jewish. WTF?

  • In reply to Gary Lucido:

    Thanks for reading and your comments. It is strange and sometimes baffling.

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    In reply to John Chatz:

    Hi john, you're correct its never as simple as black and white. Im 29 and have 2 children. Im black and indian but we'll just say im black. My husband is white. My children "look" cuban. Society will label you according to what you "look" like ( sad to say). Never say that your child is black..he/she isnt...they're biracial. When they get older they may "choose" to indentify with just one race, but its a personal preference. We try to make sure the kids know their black history, native american history, and caucasian history. You'll have some people who think your kids are unique and possibly only cute because they are biracial ( this is harmless ignorance) then you will have some who frown upon it as if marrying out of your race is a crime. Be prepared to deal with the ignorance, it never ends. It's important to enstill in your child that no matter what society says or claims you are....YOU know who you are, and never forget it! Good luck to you and your wife

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    In reply to Jesica Lovecraft:

    I love your view, I can't agree but I love it. My point of contention is that biracial, well it just does not exist. I am of African ancestry, Scots ancestry, Chines ancestry and Sir Lankan ancestry. All of my ancestors came to the new world as forced labor. What does that make me? Black. I say this because being of mixed ancestry is what being black in America is. All and I do mean all African Americans are of at least Sub Saharan African and Western European ancestry, no African American is of pure Sub Saharan ancestry. Africans and Europeans have blended genes in the new world for more than Three hundred years. Very early on it was decided that this blending produced "black children" as the African community continued to absorb European and first nation genetic influences into its ethnic milieu the reality became that being of mixed race became the norm and the name of that norm was black. So the question begs how do you remix what is already mixed and how can a child be bi(meaning 2) when one parent is not a pure blooded expression of one of the 3 races known to anthropologist. The African American parent is by definition already mixed race. Much like Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicanos, Mexicans, Jamaicans, Bahamians, Trinidadians and most New world black communities. Even President Obama, Who Father was purportedly of pure Sub Saharan African stock can not claim to be of 2 races due to the fact that his mothers family lays claim to some First Nation ancestry and the native peoples of North America are not of Caucasian extraction but rather belong to the Asian branch of the Human family

  • Thank you for this...I am married to a "biracial black man" and hope we'll have a child or two together. I often have thought about what it would be especially to raise black boys in the city. Unfortunately there is a lot stacked against them, even if they have educated biracial parents. I particularly find it sad that your friend gave her children white names...I have been excited about the Arabic and African names we might be able to give our children..but Tricia is smart.

  • In reply to Amy Negussie:

    Thank you for reading and your comments. We're looking forward to picking a name also.

  • I hear ya. I have biracial friends and will be a father to a biracial child(soon I hope). It is something that society makes them choose. For example, one of my friends is biracial she was told that she was not black enough and white enough. It's sad.

  • In reply to Evan Moore:

    Thanks for the comments. I always enjoy reading your perspective on things.

  • In reply to John Chatz:

    Thanks man

  • John,

    I thought you'd be interested in this Blog, particularly pages 3-7 (I put a link to your post on page 5):

    “The Random/Not-So-Random On America’s Obsession”

  • In reply to 1HM1:

    Thanks for your comments and the suggestion. I took a look at that blog and had no idea. Thanks again.

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    I think the child will grow up and define him/herself however she or he wants. The mixed-race individual has that right. Who are we to say what you are?

  • In reply to Author James Lewis:

    Thanks for the comments. I agree. It's just an interesting path to take getting to that point.

  • The history of the one-drop rule is a strange and peculiar one. It's great that you are arming yourself with the best information you can. We talk a lot about these issues on my podcast/blog "Is That Your Child?" (isthatyourchild.com). I'd also suggest you take a listen to the Mixed Chicks Chat podcast (mixedchickschat.typepad.com/) too. Lots of good information out there that goes beyond message board chatter.

  • Thanks for reading and the response. I'll check those out.

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    It is always interesting to me how the experts are rarely " Biracial " themselves. Biracial children identify many different ways influenced by many different factors- not just the traditional one drop rule. And as a Biracial woman who would agree much of society sees me as a Black woman, I am also seen as a Latina woman, and whatever race the cab driver is and on occassion a White woman and definitely Biracial amongst Biracial people. In short, it depends were you are and who is defining you. Society has a lot of subgroups. I recommend the " Multiracial Child Resource Book" published through Mavin Foundation. Also check out www.mixedheritagecenter.org for all resources multiracial. Really, the community is really large and growing and complex. Michelle's recommendations above are great too. You may also want to check out the annual mixed heritage arts festival and their is an academic one too.

  • Thank you for reading and for your comments. I appreciate the insight and I will follow-up on your suggestions.

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    You can also try the multiple facebook groups with biracial or multiracial in the heading. Some are more active than others- posting articles and discussing thoughts on what it means to be Biracial. The one universal theme- regardless how society sees the person or how the person identifies racially, there is something about being Biracial- a universal experience of some sort that is hard to define. I would argue being a FGM is also a different experience than being a MGM. ( first generation v multigenerational). And I would also argue that being in an intact family or even a family were the child has a relationship with both parents influences the how a child may identify racially. ( In short, when both parents active in your life influencing you and shaping who you are- hard ( or harder) not feel attached to both racially and culturally).

    I also forgot that you should check out the Biracial Family Network ( BFN) of Chicago ( keeps active with postings on the Interracial Meetup group) Chicago. Their annual holiday party is December 3rd. The organization is 30 years old. Like I said above, the community is large once you connect.

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    We are raising 3 biracial girls from the ages of 3, 4 aned 19. The 19th year old has mentioned that there are growing clubs with an emphasis on being biracial, multiracial..etc., I understand that there are unique needs discoure that and respect the need to have a seperate group for themselves.

  • I feel for you as the mother of a 4 yo biracial child. My husband is AA and I am caucasian. I think like life even in the biracial family world there are lots of relatable similarities and also differences. I always from the beginning thought that people would refer to my dd as biracial or mixed. My husband warned me from the beginning she'd be seen as black her whole life which actually hurt to hear. I thought whoa...she's half of me and yet to the world that part doesn't matter? But I've let that go. Honestly, in the world of mixed race I think it depends on actually how your child looks in all honesty as to how the 'public' will perceive them. My daughter looks 'mixed'. Most assume that she's what she is...a mix of black and white. However, others see her and think she's Puerto Rican. She sees herself as a mix of brown (she doesn't get the concept of being called black--- when she's 'brown' :-) like her Dad and 'creme' like me. I tell her she's the best of both of us. I think building self esteem and surrounding your child with lots of different people of different races and ethnicities is important and fortunately I've always had friends from a variety of ethnicities and religions. My dd's pre-school is full of different ethnicities and a number of mixed race kids of different races (i.e. hispanic/black, hispanic/white, asian/white, etc.) which to be honest I think makes it easier for fewer questions on race and color to come up because she's surrounded by different colors every day. Also, there have been two kids at her school who have one parent who is AA and Caucasian where unlike my daughter...they both looked maybe best guess...Italian. I as someone obviously atuned to this wondered what their life as a mixed race child where I highly doubt anyone would first guess them or ever call them black or AA like your friend Tricia or my husband said they would. Like parenting in general, I think you feel your way through and do the best you can and definitely do everything you can to promote their positive self-esteem in general. Best of luck to you and your wife.

  • Thanks for your comments. They are very helpful and insightful.

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    John, I feel for you and your child to be. I am the child of a mixed marriage - a white father, and an Afro-Latina mother. Let me say that not everyone has the ridiculously antiquated and narrow-minded "one drop rule" concept of race. You may wish to consult members of Project RACE. (Reclassify All Children Equally).

    I think I would have exploded if I had to listen to someone like "Tricia". The reality is that society is going to treat the child according to his or her APPEARANCE. If your child LOOKS white, then people are likely to treat the child as white (or Hispanic, if the child looks Hispanic, as in my case). Kim Kardashian's ex - Kris Humphries is biracial, but I didn't even KNOW he was until I saw wedding pictures with his father, and that's coming from another mixed person.

    There is a good set of youtube videos - biracial,not black dammit is the phrase that will bring them up. Recording those for future viewing as a family might be a good idea.

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    What an idiot. Doesn't this dude realize there are 9 million people in just the U.S. alone that identify as more than one race?? No he just wants to sit here an whine about how is daughter is going to be seen as Black. Well he knew that when he got with a Black woman. Instead of sounding like a little prick why doesn't he work to change racist society perceptions?

  • Thanks for reading and sorry you missed the point of this post and the blog. Do you feel better now that you called me a prick and an idiot?

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    In reply to John Chatz:

    This is the Youtube video I love on this topic - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErW9FJ_az0I. Have a safe pregnancy & all the best to your family.

  • .
    Perhaps it would help if someone informed your
    co-workers that the racist 'One-Drop Rule' was
    BANNED in the U.S in 1967 by the Supreme
    Court (via the 'Loving vs. Virginia' case).
    In additon -- it was a "black" American (Mildred Loving)
    who got the racist 'One-Drop Rule' BANNED in the U.S.
    in 1967 AND it was a "black" American (representative
    John Conyers and his colleagues at the 'national black
    caucus) that successfully fought to have the 'Multiracial'
    / 'Mixed-Race' option returned to U.S. government forms.
    The following link contains information on the racist, reeking,
    odious, ODR ('One-Drop Rule') -- which, thank goodness,
    has finally been legally "cleared from the air" of the USA:
    Related Links:

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    I so agree with you! I am a white mother to a biracial kid and I a pregnant with my second one. I find it really disturbing to be totally ignored when people say that mixed children are black. What are they doing with the white part of them? The news are doing it also when talking about Obama or Halle Berry by calling them "the first black..." I will never ask my children to identify themselves to black or white but it looks like the society is forcing them to do so. The children are saying that my son is brown and THEY ARE RIGHT! And we always say that the truth is coming from the mouth of the children... Good luck and enjoy the new baby!

  • In reply to Fannya:

    Thanks for your comments and for reading the post. Good luck to you as well.

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    As a mother of a "mixed" chic I know all to well how society looks at her. And the majority of society does see her as black however I have told her she does not have to identify any way she doesn't want to. She is 16 now but I remember when she was younger and black was the only catagory to pick on any standardized form and I would cross the whole thing out and put Human. I mean there is only master race right? As my daughter started to grow up and realize the ways of the world I posted the Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People on her door and told her She did have the right to identify herself however she wanted to identfy and no one could make her be something she didn't feel she was or wasn't. She defines herself today as Bi-Racial but that has changed over the years (as she did identfiy as black for a while) and I don't hold that against her. I have friends who bemoan the fact that thier child will never call themselves white and demand that they confirm this by telling people they are mixed or white and black. I have never cared. As long as my child is healthy and happy I could care less if she called herself blue with elf ears :) The blogs will not go away, the "Trishas" will follow you (and insist they know best) and everyone will have an opinion but as a family you have a right to classify and identify however you feel is correct for you!

    Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People
    "I have the right

    •not to justify my existence in this world
    •not to keep the races separate within me
    •not to be responsible for people's discomfort with my physical ambiguity
    •not to justify my ethnic legitimacy
    •to identify myself differently than strangers expect me to identify
    •to identity myself differently than how my parents identity me
    •to identify myself differently than my brothers and sisters
    •to identify myself differently in different situations
    •to create a vocabulary to communicate about being multiracial
    •to change my identity over my lifetime--and more than once
    •to have loyalties and identify with more than one group of people
    •to freely chooose whom I befriend and love"

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    I'm a black woman married to a white man, we have a 3 1/2 yr old son. My husband and I have discussed this. He can't understand anyone who is mixed only identifying with black. I agree with him 100% and will not follow any "one drop rules" as I'm not slave, and these are not slave times. My son is half my husband' DNA and myself. To deny one or the other simply isn't the obvious truth. I absolutely refuse to let "society" dictate what my son is or isn't. I did a paper on this and through my research I saw a very interesting point about mixed race children who are asian & white and they are NEVER scene as only Asian by society, they are always exactly what they are; Asian and White, no questions asked, it's accepted, done & done. The research I did also talked the troubled history of black/white relations and cited the past as reason for the society view in regards to a child who is half black and half white. If "Tricia" accepts "societies rules" for her family, then let her. As a parent you, inevitably are the only who will lay down a foundation who your child is. Society can kiss all my black ass! My son is multicultural, he's african american, irish, swedish and scottish...... that's how we are raising him and I dare and pity someone who ever tries to tell him and differently. Also, we make sure that Miles is around children who are mixed like him and children of other ethnicities. At 3 1/2 he knows that Joakim Noah, Dustin Byfliguen (sp?) "match" him. He has even told me that our family "matches" others families, down to the black women with natural hair like myself to his father's clean shaven head. He speaks spanish fluently, knows the Arabic alphabet and how to greet and introduce himself. He knows that my family is black and his father's family is white and he is mix of both families. But these are things WE have taught him, not society. Don't let anyone deny you or your genetic strands in your child. Black women or White women who marry or have children outside their race don't get pregnant on their own, so they never "just or only black".

  • .
    Listed below are links to information on the topic
    of the history of 'Race'; 'Mixed-Race', 'Interracial
    Marriages / Relationships'' etc. found in the U.S.:

  • To you and your family members, your child will be biracial. To cops, employers and other people,your child will be Black. She/he can perceive him/herself to be whatever she/he wants but society will only see your child as Black. Barack maybe biracial but people only see a Black man. The skin color (and its wont matter how light or dark/hair texture wont matter either) will be the only thing that matters. Sorry but its true.

    In regards, to your co-worker naming her child kate or whatever, I think that is sad but then again, I work in HR and I can tell what ethnicity a person by their first names, almost 99% of the time or by their address. I dont discriminate and not call them though. If they have the skills and education, I want to interview them for the job.

    I plan on naming my future kids whatever I like. A name dont define who you are nor what you will become. Name you child what you like, if you want to honor your culture or a previous family member then do that. I have known people with unique names all my life and never seen any teasing occur. The teasing and bullying I've seen were targeted towards kids that were considered weak or unfortunately too smart. I was too smart and got teased a little,hey that's life, but at least I graduated on time and made it through college three times!

  • In reply to Mickey:

    Thank you for the comment. I can tell you know what you are talking about and I'm sure what you say is true - sad, but still true. If my child gets teased fro being too smart, I guess I'll have to deal with that, but it could be worse.

  • Dont listen to her. She is not half and half so she wouldnt know, she is probably jealous aswell. my mother is black and my father is white and most people think im white anyway and are surprised to find out that i am actually half black. Especially ive noticed when the father is white the children look more like him rather than when the father is black for some reason, but people i know that have white mothers and black fathers look more full black(not always but mostly). I have blonde wavy hair and brown eyes and my siblings have brown hair and blonde hair. Your child is what his or her parents are which is black and white. Not just one or the other. Both. And dont let anyone ever tell you or your child different!

  • In reply to hello:

    I completely agree!! I am black and my boyfriend is white, we just had our son about a month ago and he looks just like his dad!!! the only thing my son got from me were my eyes lol. regardless as to what either of our races are our child is beautiful! I plan to raise my son to know that no matter what color anyone is they are first and foremost... A HUMAN BEING!
    Like you said, he is a mixture of both and has gotten the best from both of us. That is the most important thing

  • Go to NegroParents.org for information

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    Well, I think my question is, "When Obama was elected four years ago, did you celebrate that the US had its first black president?"

  • In reply to Davon Woodard:

    No, I didn't celebrate. But, I was happy that the person I voted for was the person who won.

  • I do not understand why biracial kids are classify as black ,to me that is disrespecting the race of the other person. if one of the parent is black and the other is white the child is half and half , why is the child black and the other race of the other parent totally ignore? if the child is biracial the child is mixed and should not be classify as one over the other . why is the child not classify as white ? one parent is white ,one is black so why not stick the white instead of the black , as far as how i see it , if the child is biracial i never say that they are black . i say that they are biracial . We need to respect the input that both parent contributes to the child . John call your child whatever you wish ,do not let society define who your child is , society is made up of ignorant and foolish people, and sometimes if you follow society you yourself become ignorant and foolish. Also ,so what if the child is black ? does that make him less of a person? As far as i know, we live and we die, it doesn't matter what color white or black,people are people, no one race is superior to another race,, we are all the same, flesh and blood. One day we are going to live in a world where it doesn't matter what color you are , one day when the devil and his evil angels along with evil people , will be forever gone and God and love reigns supreme.

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    The identity of race has gotten more complicated in recent years. With more information known about genetic diversity and early human migration, and with more races being in close proximity, it is obvious that the "white, black, asian, latino" categories of the 20th century are being blurred to a degree that they are in need of re-evaluation.

    That said, it is naive to think that the appearance of ones skin, hair, and features does not solicite unwarranted discrimination and categorization. As Americans, the big four have been ingrained into us throughout our lives; we automatically put people into one category at first glance.

    The black race is one that is already very diverse. Lena Horne is in the same race category as Michael Clarke Duncan (random name drop). Black individuals can have kinky hair or straight, broad or thin noses, light or dark skin, or anything in between. The features required to categorize someone as black are so broad that, many times, those with any black-ish features are thrown into that mental category automatically, biracial children included.

    Though many of us, especially in younger generations and populous cities, have developed a multitude of categories based on a plethora of appearance/personality traits, there are still people who have trouble thinking outside of the box. Children of all races have to deal with unwanted discrimination, a lot of which is from their peers. Kids of a certain age have yet to learn about the world (or have not yet figured out the tact behind inquiring on a sensitive subject). Some of the most hurtful comments I remember from my childhood were from other children on the topic of appearances........

    This comment has the potential to turn into a dissertation. Points still to be made include: childhood self esteem, culture as it pertains to race perception, culture in terms of race identity, changes in societal race perception, the future of race relations in the US, AND the future of race in the grand scheme of the world. Trust me.. it is a full circle.

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