Biracial Stories: She’s the Mom, Not the Nanny

black mom biracial child i'm not the nanny

Image: Flickr / Erica Cassella

Biracial Stories: She’s the Mom, Not the Nanny

A funny thing happened on the way to the Starbucks a couple of weeks ago.  How could a woman, the mother of a five-month-old baby, be mistaken for that child’s nanny? It’s a colorful tale.

Several months ago, when my wife was pregnant, I was concerned by the comment an African-American co-worker made that even though I’m white and my wife is black, our child will be black.  This comment, and my subsequent post discussing it (I’m a White Man and My Child Will Be Black), drew numerous comments regarding mixed-race children, raising multi-ethnic children in America, and the so-called One Drop Rule.

I read what I could on the various subjects and, at least, began to consider things that I had not even contemplated before.  Yes, I was naive to the “consequences” of having a mixed-race child, but the amount of research and writing on the subject somewhat overwhelmed me.  So, as we made our way through the pregnancy and the birth, and now almost five months into the child’s life, nothing much significant has happened on the racial front quite yet…Unless, you consider somewhat comical comments and reactions people have when they see the baby and us or some combination of the three of us together.

To understand the comedy, you have to appreciate the importance of skin color.  Both my wife and I discussed and wondered what “color” this biracial baby’s skin would be.  I am not what some would consider pasty white – I’d say I’m more Mediterranean and darker than some white people; and she is kind of medium brown – or as she describes herself, “mocha latte.”

As for the baby’s skin color after five months of her life, people say (yes, “people” know these things) that a biracial child’s skin tone will have taken root.  However, as of now, you wouldn’t know that this was a biracial kid.  She’s as white as Dick Cheney.  Judge for yourself:

biracial baby i'm not the nanny black mom white dad

© John Chatz

“What a cute baby…What is she?”

Well, maybe some olive tones are in there, but you get my point.

A couple of weeks ago, a lady stopped me in the parking lot of my dry cleaners (Mister Swifty – I love the name of that place) as I was carrying Sasha inside and said, “What a cute baby, what is she?”  I truly thought she meant boy or girl.  I wanted to say, “Hey, idiot, do you think I’d dress a boy in a pink hoodie?”  But, rather, I just answered straight and polite, “She’s a girl.”

The lady’s response was, “No, I meant is she Irish or Italian?”  I didn’t tell her she’s a mixture of Jewish/Russian and black – I didn’t think she’d be able to handle such a jolt early on a Saturday morning on the south side.  Nor did I feel like getting into that discussion with this woman, but you get the idea.

Recently, a relative saw the baby at a family function and said, for the third time over the past three consecutive months, “Boy, her coloring is really coming in now.”  Again, what I want to say and what I actually say are inconsistent.  My audible, “Yeah, it sure is” didn’t match my thought of “What color and what baby are you talking about exactly?  Her pink cheeks or the off-white color of her fingers?”  Let her think what she wants I suppose.

The take-the-cake example so far involves the question my wife was asked the other day as she rolled Sasha up to the Starbucks in her stroller.  (As an aside, mothers seem so proud when they walk with a new baby in the stroller, while dads seem kind of slumped over, eyes darting around to make sure no one who knows them catches a glimpse.)

A couple approached my wife in the Starbucks parking lot and the woman aked, “We’ve seen you in here a few times recently, do the baby’s parents live in the neighborhood?”

“I’m the mom.”  Women can be cold and much scarier than men when crossed, especially when it involves family. It doesn’t take a lot of words to make a point.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry, I just thought …”

“Mmmmm hmmmm.”

And then they were gone up the street.  I think they’re getting their coffee at another Starbucks these days.  But, my wife and I will still be there, along with our white/black/mixed/Italian/Irish/Russian/Jewish/Christian/African baby.


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

white dad biracial daughter interracial familyJohn 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.



  1. says

    LOL I had to chuckle at the last bit. As for myself I never know if I should be pissed off or feel sorry for these people. Most times I just chuckle. I'm define myself as Black West Indian and I'm from Trinidad, West Indies however, my family make up is very diverse and all of my grandparents of of mixed race from different parts of the Caribbean. My Husband is Chinese Italian and our son well I've adopted the word blasian from America as it best describes the 'main' race you can see in him, that said, he like his dad looks more Chinese, lol. As you can imagine we get all sorts of comments from friends, family strangers alike, so far nothing I did not anticipate. When he was born on my Chinese side of the family the comment was 'lets see how he looks in 3 months time' And now he's 1 1/12 we get comments like, 'I can now see the black in him' And i know its not about his appearance as its not changed but he's very social, lively, cheeky and never sits still, so guess what aspect of his of him they are referring to, lol. And still I chuckle because I don't yet know how to respond and I know I'll have a life time of such comments, to I'm picking my battles.

  2. Tina says

    I am Sicilian and I have the Olive/ Mediterranean Skin tone Myself My daughter is Sicilian and Puerto Rican But she always Looked full blooded Puerto Rican and she is very much darker then Me. I have often been asked why I had someone else's baby with Me because she was too dark to be mine (this was when she was a baby and was sleeping and her face was cradled in my neck… Most of these questions I got were when My daughters face was not able to be seen from the "viewers" angle) But once My daughter would turn her head so it would be facing in that persons direction or she would wake up You could tell instantly that she was My child. She looked like a seriously Darker version of Me. So I know the feeling but in the end she is beautiful happy and healthy and that's all that matters :)

  3. Brooke says

    The comment about the baby's coloring coming I'm fairly sure was not mean to be offensive. It's just that as a child with African American in her any color her skin would have, would show later. I have caramel colored skin and when I was born I was as light as your daughter. Plenty of African American or multiracial children do not show and color in their skin until a few months later. I think they were just saying that soon you'll be able to tell what her final skin color will and I'm sure it will be beautiful! She's adorable