But You Don’t Look Black…How I’ll Teach My Biracial Kids to Respond

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I’m a black woman of Jamaican descent and I have been married to my white husband for almost 10 years. We have 3 beautiful biracial children.

To me, my marriage to him is pretty basic. We go through things most couples do.

He and I argue about tripping over each other’s shoes in the hallway, he gives me the side eye if too many boxes/bags show up at our front door and I get mad if I tell him exactly where something is and he still can’t find it.

We live in south Georgia and for the most part, people don’t make a big deal about our interracial marriage.

They are, however, very curious about our children.

Teaching biracial kids how to respond when people say, "But you don't look black."

My husband is a farmer and works long hours away from home. So on most outings, it’s me and the three kids. Unfortunately, sometimes I am on the receiving end of bias. People assume that I am a single mom. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the cashier scan my hand for a ring while I’m wrangling all of my kids in the check out line.

Being a black mom raising biracial kids is a challenge because I am faced with microaggressions simply for being black. My kids will have to learn why mommy is often treated differently, even if that difference is subtle.

The things people say…

Thankfully  on my solo outings with my kids, not one person has been unkind, but I do get lots of questions:

“Is their daddy white?”

“What are they mixed with?”

“They have beautiful curly hair! Where do they get it from?” (This one always kills me. Take one look at me and guess)

And sometimes there are no questions. Just comments..and most of the time they are followed up with compliments about my biracial kids.

“Biracial kids are so beautiful”

“I wish my skin would tan like that!”

“They really have the best of both worlds!”

“You and your husband make beautiful children, you should have more!”

“I always wanted curly hair like hers!”

Teaching biracial kids how to respond when people say, "But you don't look black."

My kids haven’t quite caught on to why people are so infatuated with their appearance, but they have started taking notice to people commenting on their beauty.

In fact, my 5 & 7-year-old daughters frequently ask me why people think they are so cute. My response is usually, “because you are.”

As they age though, I’m sure that they’ll get it. They’ll understand that people are curious about their origins. They’ll want to know why our skin color doesn’t match. Even when they get an answer about their parents’ identity, their curiosity will be insatiable.

The difference between race, ethnicity and nationality

Most people interchange terms like race, ethnicity & nationality and think they are one in the same. People of the same ethnic groups share cultural traditions, language & history.

Race is generally a descriptor for physical appearance & nationality refers to where a person’s family is from.

People often get confused when they see biracial children because instead of considering all the factors, their minds go immediately to race.

Biracial kids can belong to any nationality or ethnic group.

Because of the deeply rooted discrimination in our country that is bound to racial constructs, people struggle with putting biracial kids in a box.

I’ve noticed the confused look on my peers’ faces when they see my husband or kids for the first time. My goal in raising my children is to help them see beyond the confusion and not take offense.

It is their choice

If the opportunity presents itself, they can educate people IF THEY WANT TO.

Their ethnicity is only up for discussion if they want it to be. Their job is not to be the spokespeople for all biracial kids.

If they understand the difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality, then I have done my job.

So when people say to them, Wow, you’re mom is black. But you don’t look black, they can say but I am PERIOD.

I want to teach them that they have control of conversations like this. If they feel like discussing their Jamaican + white, south Georgia heritage, then they can.

If they don’t want to discuss any of it, then that’s fine too.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Loved it and so well put! I especially liked the remark, “but I am, PERIOD!!!!

    You two are a wonderful example of PARENTS!!! PERIOD!!

  2. I LOVE that you are teaching your children that they have a choice about how, or if, to respond! Just because someone asks a question or makes an inappropriate comment, it does not automatically require us to engage them in conversation.

  3. That is a fantastic article—I am biracial also and receive comments such as “You don’t look black”—I respond with “This is what it looks like”. I love your response as well and the lessons you are teaching your children.

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