So….I’m Not White?

When my daughter was in preschool, she was under the impression that we- we being her immediately family consisting or my mother, me & my daughter – were white. Granted we are very fair-skinned people. My mother has been mistaken for a white woman by people viewing her in person – I have a few photographs where I’m winter pale and have had people ask if I’m mixed or white. My daughter has our fair skin and she attended a predominantly white preschool.

I’m honestly not sure how the discussion came up, but it became obvious to me that my daughter thought we were white people. She was 4 at the time. And I told her no, we were black people. She looked at me and she asked me distinctly – “So I’m not white?”

I told her, “No, we’re black people.” She thought for a second and then she immediately grouped her & myself into that “we” – because we are slightly darker than grandma. And she says, “But grandma is white, right?”

And I told her, “No, grandma is not white. She’s black too.”

I remember explaining to her that being “black” had less to do with skin color than with being family with or descended from black people.

Thinking back, I think another student told her that she was black and she wanted to know if it was true. She seemed to accept that explanation and, it’s only now that I wonder if she ever wanted to be white or was surprised that she was not. But I do remember her distinct surprise on finding out that we were black. At the time, she didn’t seem disappointed or worried, she just wanted to know.

Thanks to Deborah from Ohio for submitting this story

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  • jennifer

    that sort of reminds me of when we were 3 and 5 or so, and someone wasked my sister if our mum was “an indian” and my sister said “i don’t know.” at the time, mum wore her hair in a long braid, and had a cowichan sweater, i guess that’s enough to make you “indian” to a kindergartener!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaKeisha-J-Johnson/23421515 LaKeisha J. Johnson

    Being “black” is more than just being “descended from black people.” Otherwise, everyone would be black. I believe in giving children the whole truth, especially when it comes to their own bloodline. In this case, I would simply have confirmed for the child what she is clearly able to determine on her own by looking in the mirror – that she she is descended from both black African and white European people. I would have further explained that the family chooses to identify as ‘black’ for social, cultural and/or historical reasons. If the family doesn’t know its origin, it is okay to simply say so and then involve the child in ancestry related activities to discover more about her past.

  • pealsmom

    I don’t understand why the mother didn’t confirm that they were clearly multi/bi-racial. To completely deny the family’s European heritage just makes the whole thing even more confusing to the child. Also, making sure the child understands the difference btw the label ‘black’ and one’s actual skin color is SO important. It’s also very strange that the mother was so surprised that the child raised this question when it was clear that others were also confused about the family’s racial makeup.

    • Andrea

      Because they are CLEARLY not multi racial.  They are black.  I have dark skin, my sister has light brown skin and my cousins have very pale white skin.  They are not white or biracial, so why would anyone say that.  My cousins also have grey and green eyes.  

      Oh, and my grandfather was biracial.  That doesn’t make any of us multi racial, we are all black.  You must not be, I’m assuming.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/LaKeisha-J-Johnson/23421515 LaKeisha J. Johnson

        They are the very definition of multi racial, as are many black Americans.

  • 283565

    I think it’s hilarious when black people discriminate each other because someone is light skinned or not black enough. Whether they will admit it or not, black people are just as racist as white people. Racism can and does exist within all races.