I’m a White Man & my Child Will be Black {by John Chatz}

Image: Flickr / ♥ kacyphoto

Reality Check – My Biracial Child Will Be Black

John & his wife in Chicago

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.

Image: Flickr / Erica Cassella

Black Identity & Biracial Kids

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.

This article has been re-published by request from John’s blog It’s Never Just Black and White on Chicago Now.

 

John Chatz is a white man who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evanston and the north side of Chicago. In July 2010, he married an African-American woman and moved to the south side of Chicago.  He and his wife both have children from their previous marriages and are preparing to have their first biracial child together.  John works as an attorney for the government.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I don't buy into Tricia's "biracial is black" mentality completely. Maybe back in the day, but not now, at least not where I live, does everyone consider my children fully black (although some may). In our own family, there are black members who constantly refer to the kids as mixed, rather that accepting them as black – so how does it make sense to label them black – when black folks don't even always acknowledge that? Besides, where is the line drawn? My kids look like any number of races, yet they are black and white. What happens if your child comes out with straight hair, fair skin, light eyes? What about a child who is only 1/4 or 1/8th black? When does Tricia think that a child, with black heritage to some degree, will stop being considered only black?

    I'm so happy for you and your wife, and pray a safe journey for your little one as he/she is welcomed into the world. A child is the biggest blessing that God gives (loans) to us, and you will find your own way – through the opinions of others, past the thoughts they have based on their own experiences, and over any hurdles that society throws at you. – because you will love your child and he/she will love you both – and be a part of you BOTH! It sounds like your mind and heart are very open to helping your little one navigate the journey, so you're halfway there :-)

    • says

      @Donna Sparrow Donna, I definitely agree with what you're saying too…that our biracial kids won't be seen as only one or the other…especially by people of color, but by whites, especially mono-cultural whites, they will label my daughter within one box based on her appearance. She will be "Mexican" or "Latina" or whatever they see fit to call her, and I think the same applies for many children of color…especially in areas where mixed families are not as common.It's a double edged sword in a way, because she will not be "Latina enough" for those who see her as "too white", but many whites may only see her as "a Mexican".Definitely agree on both points, but I think instilling pride in the identity that is not upheld as "good" in our society is so important. <3

  2. Tape Operator says

    I would honestly like to believe that having a "present" father will impact this child more positively in their endeavors than being perceived as black will impact them negatively. Racism and discrimination aren't to be discounted, and in some places, surely, bi-racial heritage is perceived more negatively than being black is, the case of looking black but not being accepted by blacks, for example. But that aside, the malaise, despair and nihilism present in some segments of the black community are easily tied (in my mind) to lack of a local "role model of success", be it a father or just a "present" male, one who takes interest in nurturing a child and helping it to develop. I would like to believe that you has every intention of being "present", that is, available as both a role model and a supporter for your child – expressing your concerns for the world to see can be taken as an indication that you do have this intent. I'm Tape Operator. What most people don't catch about that is that I've spent thousands of hours in recording studios. In recording, there is a sort of argument between people who prefer recording to analog media, which is very expensive and people who are satisfied with digital media, which can be very cheap, the real difference being that digital is opens a range of options and is infinitely flexible, where analog, while offering more fidelity, limits options, tends to be inflexible and degrades over time.Coincidentally to my name, there is a magazine called "Tape Op", it's the best of the "studio geek" magazines. Recently, a producer was interviewed, the former bassist for a somewhat popular pop-metal band. The interview referred back to an article that had been written when that band was at the height of it's popularity, mentioning that this person, in his role at that point as a bass player, had complained that he "hated" digital and that he'd rather practice a part one million times and get it correct on tape rather than have the corrective options available to those who record into computers rather than tape machines.The interviewer, pointing out the fact that this person, as a producer, was using digital tools and computers, asked "ten years ago when you were playing bass, you hated digital. Now that you're producing records for other bands, you're using digital. Given your previous statements, which would you say is better now?"The guy's response was instructive: "There is less of a difference between digital and analog than you can get by moving a microphone two inches closer to or farther away from your source."A considered, intelligent and experienced response.So then, you are somewhat worried about the difference between the "white experience" and the "black experience", and how it will affect this unborn child. My suggestion (and your obvious inclination given the above) is that you move (and stay!) two inches closer to the source.

  3. Tape Operator says

    I would honestly like to believe that having a "present" father will impact this child more positively in their endeavors than being perceived as black will impact them negatively. Racism and discrimination aren't to be discounted, and in some places, surely, bi-racial heritage is perceived more negatively than being black is, the case of looking black but not being accepted by blacks, for example. But that aside, the malaise, despair and nihilism present in some segments of the black community are easily tied (in my mind) to lack of a local "role model of success", be it a father or just a "present" male, one who takes interest in nurturing a child and helping it to develop. I would like to believe that you has every intention of being "present", that is, available as both a role model and a supporter for your child – expressing your concerns for the world to see can be taken as an indication that you do have this intent. I'm Tape Operator. What most people don't catch about that is that I've spent thousands of hours in recording studios. In recording, there is a sort of argument between people who prefer recording to analog media, which is very expensive and people who are satisfied with digital media, which can be very cheap, the real difference being that digital is opens a range of options and is infinitely flexible, where analog, while offering more fidelity, limits options, tends to be inflexible and degrades over time.Coincidentally to my name, there is a magazine called "Tape Op", it's the best of the "studio geek" magazines. Recently, a producer was interviewed, the former bassist for a somewhat popular pop-metal band. The interview referred back to an article that had been written when that band was at the height of it's popularity, mentioning that this person, in his role at that point as a bass player, had complained that he "hated" digital and that he'd rather practice a part one million times and get it correct on tape rather than have the corrective options available to those who record into computers rather than tape machines.The interviewer, pointing out the fact that this person, as a producer, was using digital tools and computers, asked "ten years ago when you were playing bass, you hated digital. Now that you're producing records for other bands, you're using digital. Given your previous statements, which would you say is better now?"The guy's response was instructive: "There is less of a difference between digital and analog than you can get by moving a microphone two inches closer to or farther away from your source."A considered, intelligent and experienced response.So then, you are somewhat worried about the difference between the "white experience" and the "black experience", and how it will affect this unborn child. My suggestion (and your obvious inclination given the above) is that you move (and stay!) two inches closer to the source.

    • Tape Operator says

      Apologies for the formatting – the blog isn't catching my line returns for whatever reason.

  4. TyroneBrown says

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries. The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them. Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to "assimilate," i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites. What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries? How long would it take anyone to realize I'm not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem? And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn't object to this? But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews. They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

  5. Diana says

    John be a man and stand up to your wife and let her know that you are not invisible. If both of you are cool with your son identifying himself as only black then that means you are invisible in his life because you are not black right?
     
    I'm black and mexican and regardless if I look more black or look more mexican I'm still both. Now whether how the world tends to see me is a different story but it's not any of my business how the world sees me, what matters is that both my parents and myself know what I am and nobody, no black person no mexican person will have me deny either of my blood heritage because that means I am denying one of my parents which I refuse to do.
     
    Thanks

    • AudreyJohnMelzer says

      I think you mean for him to stand up to Tricia? His wife didn't make the point in the article. I don't agree with him being invisible if he understands that his child may be seen as/ identify with being black. He's definitely there as a father caring for his child, but embracing the situations that may come later. I'm the daughter of a black American and a St. Lucian (West Indian). I used to only identify myself as black. Only recently did I go ahead a start to call myself both seeing as I was raised in a very bi-ethnic home. But it was just easier to call myself black as a kid, to make myself seem like less of an "other." Thank goodness times are changing. My sons will be able to identify as bi-racial while understanding that many people will view them as black or something other than white. And my white husband is fine with that.

  6. Lisa says

    Thank you for your post.  I am a white woman married to an African man.  Yes, he is from Africa and not African American.  I have thought about the fact that our children will be black and wondered if I will be able to provide them with the information and support network to be a strong black American.  My husband doesn't know any more about this area than I do.  We will be great parents and do the best we can but I do wonder about it.

  7. says

    I wasn’t too pleased by the into to the article…so sorry us annoying women care enough to ask about someone’s wife’s pregnancy. Was that supposed to be humorous? I am too serious, I guess.

    I agree with Tricia that if your multiracial child appears to be visibly of African heritage, US society will read him/her as black, and to serve your child, you have to be prepared to understand the implications of that in terms of the color-caste hierarchies of our racist society, our systems of privilege, and so on.

    At the same time, I very much agree with the last couple of comments from Donna Sparrow and biculturalmom that your child’s lived experience will be much more complex than “black versus white.” Being acculturated in a household where the parents are intermarried adds unique elements to identity development. Your child won’t fit into a box. In the end, just like with Obama’s personal assertion of how he defines his identity, your child will also decide which labels s/he prefers. And s/he may change her mind and then change it back again. That’s fine. We just have to be open to that as parents and accept that we must contribute to identity development in a positive and non-controlling way, and also have a consciousness of how broader society “reads” our children racially and prepare them for that, too.

  8. says

    this makes me ferious why are people still having black and white babies it does not make sence what so ever those mixed black kids are just gonna side with there black side and disregaurd there white side as mean as that sounds asian latino mixed so fourth and so on its like a magnet black is black white is white!!!!!!!!

  9. Devin McLarty says

    I am so inspired that you are making an effort to better understand and society and change it's negative ways. I too hope to be the parent of a biracial child one day, for I have family members that are biracial, and they are beautiful, strong, amazing people. I love people of multicultural heritage, and wish I could be also.

  10. Sandianne karakova says

    Id have to disagree that your wife is light skinned (from the photo) she's brown skinned. You seem kind of put off or opposed to having your child look black. You decided to have a baby with a black woman ergo darker skinned child. You could have 3 children together and they could all look polar opposite from each other. I am black, my husband is white, my ex husband is white. My 2 children look different facial feature wise but they both are tan skinned with brown eyes and hair. One child has longer looser curls than the other. Your odds of having a pale child with blue or green eyes (vanessa williams look alike) would be better if the mother were white and you were black. I have a cousin that is white and her husband is black. Both daughters are light tan one has brown eyes one has greenish blue eyes and light colored hair, they have their dad's nose and kinky hair texture. Your attitude towards black children or children who look black is disturbing

  11. says

    I am a biracial woman, with a German father and a South African coloured mother. I found growing up this way extremely tough at times but learned to love myself and love to encourage other biracial youngsters to be proud of their rich heritage. I have recently married a biracial man, mixed coloured and Turkish and very excited to start having children. Also very excited about how they will look :D

  12. MB says

    @ Sandianne….I disagree. Vanessa Williams has two Black parents of mixed ancestry, not a white mother. Look at her…she is lighter than many biracial children. And I find the opposite to be true. It generally seems to be that white men/Black women produce lighter-skinned offspring than white women/Black men couples.

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