Concerned about my son's perception of "color"

Valencia - posted on 01/01/2011 ( 11 moms have responded )

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I am an African American woman with a caucsian husband. We have two sons - 8 and 4 and a daughter on the way. While I do explain certain things to my children about race and culture, for the most part it isn't really made a "big deal" in my household or extended family. They have lots of contact and acceptance from both sides of our family. Both sets of grandparents are living and they have several aunts and uncles of of both races. For the majority of his schooling (my oldest) he has been in a very multi racial school. There was only one year (1st grade) where he was in a school that was predominantly white and we left that school district after one year because I didn't feel it was a healthy environment for him as there was obvious prejudice that existed in that community. We now live in an area that is VERY mixes - as a matter of fact, I have never seen so many biracial kids in one place in my life. I say all this to explain that my son has had a pretty good exposure to black and white people as well as others. That is why it is really strange to me that sometimes he seems to think that white is better. He has never come out and said that, but he makes comments once in a while that lead me to believe that. I was looking at pictures of biracial little girls online today because I am designing the invitations to my baby shower. I wanted to put a picture on the card of a baby that might look similar to what my daughter will look like. He came up and asked what I was doing and I told him. He said, "I wonder if our baby will be more white or black." I said, well honey it doesn't really work that way. She will be a combination of both because mommy is black and daddy is white. He then said he was more white down on the bottom part of his arm and more black as he went up his arm (which I thought was really funny) but then he started to trace his finger up the side of his arm and started at the bottom saying " good, good, good" and then when he started to get up to the elbow area where he gets slightly more tanned he started saying, "ah! black, black, black." I asked him why he said the lighter part was good and the darker part was bad and he looked embarrassed and said he didn't know and pretty quickly left.

I've never made a big deal of race with him, but I've never kept him in the dark either in terms of some of the problems with our society because it does come up from time to time, be it on television or situations of racism that he has personally witnessed. I've tried to explain to him that all people are beautiful children of God and no one is better than the other and that he should be proud of everything he is comprised of. I don't want to give him a complex, but I don't want him to grow up being one of those biracial black/white kids that seem to be trying really hard to divorce themselves from all things non-white. I'm not sure how to handle the situation. Any suggestions??

thanks guys! :)

Valencia

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BB - posted on 01/30/2011

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Children for the most part are more open than adults about feelings and realizations.Maybe your son is expressing something all people do if they are aware of it or not. Color Psychology studies how diff. colors effect mood and behavior. Ex. fast food chains use alot of red, yellow and orange. This is done because these colors stimulate heart response and increase hunger. Lighter colors and tones in the world give off feelings of joy,serenity,love,....think green grass,the color yellow, white clouds on a blue sky. At the same time think about darker shades and colors....tans...mundane,grays...how the sky looks before it snows or rains....the color black itself...or lack there of b/c black is actually a non-color,more or less the total absence of.Black is often used to portray evil,dark wickedness,mourning,death,emptyness..............think about colors in tearms of images like in the bible.....heaven is always light and bright where as hell is dark and scary.There was even a study done once where they sat school aged children down and showed them smiling faces of diff peoples and for the most part all the children including the AA children said the white people smiling looked nice and happier....I dont think your son is making any judgement calls hes just figuring out the world.....through a childs eyes...and expressions of his interpritation. He will get over this and move on....I dont think for the most part people hold on to the same likes and dislikes from childhood.Plus his dad is white..children always like to match and like to find order. My oldest child who is white and was raised by my AA husband askes when he will turn brown.We tell him he will stay the color he is and its great to be the way you are b/c you are you and if you were diff you wouldnt be the awesome person you are.Our 2 youngest girls are multicultural....our older daughter who is 3 tells me she is princess Tiana and that I'm princess Belle...thats her way of expressing that we are diff and thats fine...shes also expressed thoughts that daddy is black mommy is white and shes the color of cookies....Im sure its nothing to worry about, just reinforce that its great to be who you are and let him work out his feelings on it.good luck

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Lolita - posted on 02/03/2011

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I found this helpful with my sonand granted there is an age difference but it may help so I will share. My three year asked me one day what her= is after seeing a friend of the family who also has mixed children refer to ther mixed(filipino/black/white) son as "white boy". I then watched as he tried to unerstand what had just happened(his mind is far beyondhis years) and tell me "Mommy am I a white boy too then since daddy is white like uncle martin?" I told him "no babyyou are both black and white. who's baby are you?" I asked he looked up and smiled and replied"I'm your baby mommy, duh" so I told him "Exactly and therefore you are both . Our skin may be different but yours is a mix of mine and daddy's just like when we make colors change with our crayons" he smiled and grabbed his crayons asking me why when he mixed white and black they don't look like him"I burst out laughing ) I smiled and said because when it';s skin the colors of brown and gold and pinks and tans made you and your skin is beautiful because you are the best parts of us both" He walked up to his dady and told him" Daddy I have the best parts of you cause I am mommy's baby and you're my daddy"
I keep my son surrounded by the many different nationalities, and diverse types of people I am blessed to call my friends( the range diffently for race, age, body shape, sexual orientation , goth, punk, conservative, shy and boisterous )and the all show him equal amounts of love so that he knows that he can be ok with himself no matter what.
Your son may have had someone say something rude at school or snicker a comment to someone else and he heard it. It is a shame but it happens sit him down and let him know it is okay to talk about when that happens and how too enjoy himself all of him for the beautiful gift from God that he is. I hope it helps

[deleted account]

This notion that lighter (never mind "white") is better seems to be something that influences more than one kind of society. Lighter-skinned Indians from India are prouder of themselves than are the darker-skinned ones; the same is true in Sri Lanka and different places like that where people have Indian blood and are subject to those variations in skin tone. The lighter-skinned Haitians lorded it over the darker-skinned Haitians for hundreds of years, and I'm guessing the same might be true in Hispanic/Caribbean/Central and South American countries where there are black or brown people in the population. In FAR Eastern Asia, the old-fashioned notion that people of European descent used to embrace (before Coco Chanel came back from the Riviera with a suntan and started a trend) still applies: if you're dark-skinned, it's because you work out in the fields and suffer sun exposure; if you're lighter, it's because you have money and leisure to protect yourself from the sun.

Realizing that this kind of perception dies hard doesn't PROVE anything about why your son feels as he does. In your place, however, I'd be willing to bet that he's hearing something from other children that causes him to think this way.

In case you feel that it's a particularly negative and particularly unique thing, consider this:

When my daughter was still very small (four or five years old) she was taken by her father for a checkup with our HMO pediatrician, who was a doctor new to her and to our family. When she came home, I asked if the doctor had been nice. "I didn't see a doctor," was her reply. "I saw a LADY."

Where did she get the notion that a lady couldn't be a doctor? Certainly not in our home--and you can bet I set her straight on that very quickly.

Sometimes, if you're like me, you almost feel as though these ideas are somehow born in us.

Incorrigibly,

Sharon

Michelle - posted on 01/22/2011

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from the moment my daughter could look in the mirror and recognise herself me and my partner would stand either side of her and say daddys dark chocolate, mommys white chocolate and when you mix them together you get milk chocolate...which is out daughter. She has never questioned her colour... although she did once fool me..
She said " mommy you black?" I said " No mommy white, brianna black" and she was like "noooo im pink" ... I later realised she was talking about my black jumper I was wearing - and her pink top haha.
I did say to her though, if anyone asks you what colour you are say 'pink' lol. My neice who is white will ask why is Brianna brown? and we just explain that her daddy has dark skin, her mommy has light skin and if you mix them you get brianna.

Gill - posted on 01/18/2011

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Sounds like you've done a great job but unconsciously he's picked this up and realises maybe he had inadvertently offended you. Could you pick your moment to let him off the hook and explore further. My daughter , 16 and son 12, are mixed race Caucasian and Afro-Caribbean and both seem to have a healthy appreciation for both cultures. As young children they naturally identified people as brown or white although I never introduced the term

Michelle - posted on 01/15/2011

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My daughter is biracial. And I agree society and television have alot to do with what children see as beatiful and good. So what i tell her is that everybody is different and that is what makes this world so wonderful. God created us just the way he wanted us. All we can do as parents is to teach our kids to love themself just the way they are. So tell them all the time how wonderful they are and that you love them. And hopefully their generation will change some of these ways in the future. Good luck and god bless!!!

Nichelle - posted on 01/13/2011

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Valencia, I am in the same boat as you - I have been married to my Caucasian husband for 15+ years and we have an 11 year old son and 5 year old daughter. When our son was around 4 or 5, one of the kids in his daycare (who was African-American) asked him why his parents were 2 different colors, and of course, he didnt have an answer. He came home that day and said he wanted to be "White like Daddy". We also do not make race a big deal in our home, but we do talk about it and have let our son (who is gifted, so we can have these kind of discussions with him so early) know that he is a mix of both of us and to be proud of that. I think that society bombards our children with the idea that being White is better or more advantageous. We just tell our kids that they are beautiful the way they are, and they dont have to choose to be either color because they are both colors. So far it's worked. Plus, there is starting to be so many biracial children of all different types that they arent as "different" as they used to be, so maybe that will help them in the future. Good luck!

[deleted account]

Here is the thing you have to remember: Full black kids with both black parents have the SAME issue. Honestly, I think you are right its society and television. Kids pick up on cues around them. It's not your fault and its not because they are mixed. Its just in todays world, despite MLK and Obama, there is negativity surrounding being black. It sucks, but it is what it is for now.

You and the ladies who responded are doing a great job IMO. You are being aware of this issue and doing what you can about it. Just know that once he or she grows up and understands race better they will be thankful for what you did while raising them. Good job!

Valencia - posted on 01/06/2011

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Thanks ladies for the support. It is important to expose our children to both sides of themselves so they can feel positively about everything they are made of. I hope that he will see both sides of himself as a plus and not a liability. I guess no one ever said this was going to be easy, haha.

Janessa - posted on 01/03/2011

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Valencia it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with what you are doing so far. Keep it up on explaining and putting postive images of color people. I am afraid that my son my not like black people because we live in a small town he is the only mixed race beside the natives who are mixed themselves but our town dislike natives. Sinces I was raised in white culture because i am adopted i do not know many blacks at all and he seems to be afraid of people of color :( He is only 19 months but I am worried because when he gets older he will be playing sports not to many minorties are in. At least your son gets to be both worlds my son only gets to see one side if anyone has tips for me that would be great.

Natalie - posted on 01/02/2011

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i found this post so interesting and i'm hoping that any advice you receive with regards to this you may pass on. i don't have experience with it as i'm a 22 year old white british girl but i worry about my son (his dad is black british). my son is only 7 months old and sees as much of both sides of his family but i seem to be the only one concerned with how he will feel to grow up with a multi-racial identity. my boyfriend doesn't feel like it's an issue to be discussed and is in a place where he assumes if it doesn't come up then he doesn't need to worry but i want to be prepared to guide my son in any way he needs and it's an area where i'm definitely going to feel out of my depth. i was hoping that being open with him about it and not trying to disillusion him might be the key but i can tell that you worked hard to do that and your son has still presented you with this issue. i wouldn't be too disheartened by it though, with your love and support he should grow up to be a balanced and understanding individual who takes pride in himself as a whole.

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