Mixed Parenting & Identity: ‘Black’ Or ‘Biracial’?

biracial parenting teens

Image Credit: ThisNest.com (All Rights Reserved)

Mixed Parenting & Identity: ‘Black’ Or ‘Biracial’?

I was asked recently about how we are raising our daughters. The questioned pertained to whether we are bringing the girls up as black women or biracial women. My answer?  They will be black women and they will be biracial women. If there are any out there who think this is confusing, hear me out.

They are half of me and they are half of my husband. I am white and he is black, so they are both – black AND white. We teach them to embrace all the parts of their whole and to love every cell within them, however, how they self-identify and how they are viewed by various other members of society won’t always be the same thing. For example, I have heard it stated several times since his election in 2008, that President Obama is considered our country’s first black president – even though his mother’s skin was white like mine. Halle Berry was the first black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress – and her mother’s skin is also white like mine. Tiger Woods is the first black man to win The Masters, even though he is only one quarter black. Here’s one you may not know – the United States Navy’s first, black Four-Star Admiral was J. Paul Reason, and he also came from a multiracial background. With all of that said, we are raising women of color who will be viewed as biracial OR black, depending on who is doing the viewing.

Many whites and, as illustrated above, much of white society will consider my children black. The remainder of the white population will either:  #1. Have biracial friends or family and know enough to know better, or #2. Be so confused by my children’s racially ambiguous appearance that they will simply consider them non-white. I feel the black community is quicker to recognize them as biracial – although there have been instances when some of the black people in my children’s lives have expressed that they are “too white”, they “talk white” or “act white”. With that noted, now comes the part when we talk to our children about not only embracing the skin they’re in, but also about self-pride, self-integrity, and self-respect. They don’t ever have to pretend to be someone they’re not…and they should never deny a part of them they are.

My husband and I are both present and active in the lives of our kids. This means that, as with parents of all races, we talk to them about drugs and alcohol, sex, disease, and pregnancy, getting their educations, loving their God, and being the best people they can be. For us though, it also means involving ourselves in conversations about race, history, and how what has historically been kept separate, by hate – is now mixed in them, by love. I believe our children are very proud of themselves…and I hope they will always be proud of us.



  1. Guest says

    I agree with your later comments but I do not agree with the assessment that someone who is biracial is BOTH black and biracial. But I don't faought you to coming to that however I notice you did not say black, biracial, and white. That I have to lay fought for.
    I decided to move away these labels and stick with the biracial or black/white together and NEVER say one alone. Black represents monoracial. White represents monoracial. Biracial/multiracial represents 2 or more things at one time and will never be one at any given time. You maybe able to be apart of 2 separate races, cultures, etc.. but those things will never be separate within a singular person.
    You can teach both how the world sees someone and why so but still capable of teaching self love even when those around you object to the very being you are.

  2. Multiracial Advocate says

    Hmmm you say your kids and Black and Biracial. Why not Black, WHITE and Biracial?? What are YOU doing to change the perceptions in our society that sees Black/White Biracial people as solely or primarily Black and not both races? Obviously nothing if you do not see your children as much White as they are Black. 

    • says

       @Multiracial Advocate From the article… "They are half of me and they are half of my husband. I am white and he is black, so they are both – black AND white."What she is talking about is how her children will be identified by others.  This is something that many parents of biracial kids must come to terms with…their child's IDENTITY and the way society IDENTIFIES them are two very different things.  Unfortunately, we have to teach our children about both.

      • tiana1017 says

         @biculturalmom  You and Donna are 95% correct. I would say 100% but i'll explain below what I mean regarding passing for white but for the most part you two are definitely correct compared to these other readers.
        BTW I just chose 95%, this is just a make up percentage.
        I am biracial and not sure of these other people commenting are biracial, I'm assuming they're not and possibly have biracial kids or don't.  
        I've seen pics of your daughter and although I do see the mix look in her, you're right, if anything she would be viewed as latina first before she would be seen as white.  George Zimmerman is a classic example which I'll explain below. 
        From a biracial person, I'll tell anyone from experience, most biracial kids who happen to be mixed with black  are VIEWED by the world is either BLACK or biracial maybe but NEVER white. The reason is in America, if you do not look lily white you will not be perceived as white. I'm surprised for example Zimmerman was called White from the beginning , I think his surname had something to do with it and if he mainly looked like his dad he probably could get away with just identifying himself as just white.
        I thought it was funny how many whites would comment all over the internet that he's not white, he's latino.  True his father is white and his mother is latino, ( peruvian).
        I'm black and mexican. Never in my life have I been seen as just Mexican,
        there's so many biracial people all over the world,  people in the NBA who most wouldn't think are biracial are simply looked as black.. Other examples are: Obama, Tiger woods, Blake Griffin, Halle Berry for starters and no one ever labels them as WHITE, even though they are mixed with it. Obama is known as a black president even though people are aware his mixed heritage, same goes for Halle who was known as the first Black women to win an oscar for best main role, Tiger is not known as white and even though he likes to deny his blackness at times if you ask a child what race he is, they will say black.
        If most could see what I looked when I was born most would not believe. A lot of mixed children look very light or white but as they get older at times they get darker and hair texture changes. I've seen interracial couples say oh the baby is not too black looking but wait until they get older, of course not all IR couples think this way and just love the fact they have babies no matter what they look like.
        To everyone reading this, unless you look like Jennifer Beals, Martin Gore from Depeche mode, Author Dave Matthews, there's so many examples to list but these people can technically ( pass) for white so maybe in those cases they can be known as biracial or white but most biracial kids have a strong black appearance, it will show up in skin color, hair texture or facial features but most of the time they will be seen as black.
        There's been many biracial people who have passed as white and for the ones who have curly hair, tan skin etc, they will say they are jewish, italian, greek. and surprisingly people believe them but for the most part, MOST biracial people are NEVER seen as just white.
        This is not limited to just black and white, I've seen eurasians and other mixtures try to pass as white only or some mixed black people just want to say they're black because sometimes it's just easier to deal with it so you won't have to debate people to justify your biracial.  I refuse to just identify as black and at times I have been forced to choose just one ethnicity like when I was applying for a security job. I told them I am both equally but they kept asking what do you identify or closely resemble or something like that, I don't remember so I choose hispanic since you can be black and hispanic as in puerto rican, cuban, dominican etc and simply choosing black would just boxed me in as black and not identifying the fact I know of the latino culture and language for example.

        • says

           @tiana1017 Thanks for sharing all your feedback with us Tiana.  I really appreciate it because it's not often enough that you get to hear the perspective of someone who has experienced life growing up biracial.  I know that it will be different for my daughter because she is mixed Latina/white, but having a biracial perspective really helps me to get a snapshot of what's to come and how to teach her about her own identity.

    • tiana1017 says

       @Multiracial Advocate  You can read my response to biculturalmom so you can understand where she was coming from.

  3. says

    I'm not saying they are BOTH black and biracial – I'm saying that they will be viewed as either black OR biracial, depending on who is doing the viewing. Of course they will never be perceived as white, even though they are half white, since their father's DNA in them makes them non-white in appearance. My children know they are biracial, they are half of me and half of Tony – so they are biracial. There is no way around that in my mind, however, it isn't my mind that will be the only one forming opinions about the race of my children, or any multiracial child for that matter. I am in 100% agreeance with you regarding the teaching of self-love, and that is what we're doing – I pray. Thanks for your perspective, it's appreciated :-)

  4. says

    Chiming in here, Donna…I love this post and think it's indicative of the experiences of many families with biracial kids.  It seems like everyone has to debate about how we identify our kids.  For me, I agree with you.  My daughter will be PERCEIVED as Latina or biracial.  No matter what, she will NOT be perceived as white and as such, helping her to identify positively with the labels that will be placed upon her is my main priority. 
    Our job is to help our children feel good about who they are and how they identify…this article is an excellent look into that discussion and I'm so glad you've shared it with us here.  We have a lot of the same thoughts at home and I know many other parents do too.  <3

  5. tiana1017 says

    The reason why she did not say black, biracial and white is because most of the time, the world will not accept a biracial person being just white. that's what she meant. If anything most biracial people will be automatically identified as black OR biracial if they're lucky.
    I'm a perfect example, unless I open up my mouth most perceive me as just black although some or very few can tell I'm biracial, I had to tell the american red cross twice to list me as biracial and not just black, they automatically go by looks, same as with police, if i get a ticket on the ticket it wil be a code for black not white or biracial lol.

  6. maxine says

    I agree and dis agree yes they ARE bi-racial,and black to some..mainly white people will see them as black because visually they look like black children just with lighter skin and then you get some black people who think the 'one drop' rule no matter how out-dated still exists..but in my opinion..It takes two people to make a black child so they are not black.

    However if they choose to self-identify as a black person that is their right..

    The fact is we live in a world where you are judged by what you look like,this all depends on the mixed raced person being able to pass for a certain color..eg. so if a mixed person looks black he will be treated as such ,and if white they will be treated as such no matter what their race of parent thy may have.

  7. says

    I think, after years of shrugging and saying, “I don’t really think about it.” I have to admit that I’m perceived as white, even though I am just about as bi-racial (biologically speaking) as you can get: on my mom’s side it’s pure German for several generations, (she has blonde hair and green eyes) and on my father’s side it’s all black for generations, every last one descended from Southern slaves.

    It was never an issue growing up, and it wasn’t discussed much, and I feel like, because of my appearance (“Latina? Italian? Oh, maybe some sort of bi-racial mix…?” is the most common guess), even with my wild, curly hair, I’m not called black, even though, to ME, I look it.

    I’m not totally sure how to feel about that. This is what I look like, btw: