As soon as the words tumbled from my mouth, I knew I was in trouble.
We haven’t dealt with race in a while, I told the Mixed Chicks. That night, Simone and Nadia chose the books they wanted me to read to them. They each chose three, and Nadia picked Martin‘s Big Words.
“I have a dream that one day in Alabama little black boys and black girls will join hands with little white boys and white girls,” I read.
“What color am I? Am I beige?” Simone asked, showing me her arm as if she wanted me to survey it and then give it a color.
It took a moment for me to process her question. Simone likes to ask questions, but they are usually about the book.
“You’re beautiful, Boo,” I said, showering her arm with kisses. “You’re biracial. Your mommy is black and your daddy is white.”
I knew I hadn’t answered her question. Truth is, I didn’t want to. I will provide her with facts, but I want her to decide what she will do with them. It is part of my parenting philosophy. While I hated it growing up, I learned more when I completed tasks by myself or developed my own ideas. I don’t want Simone to confront me one day and say, “You told me I was this, and I am really that.” So, I kept quiet about her color that night.
“Biracial. That’s my color?”
Parent fail. I had confused her, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. I tried again, this time giving her the power to decide.
“What color do you think you are?”
“Beige?” she asked. I didn’t say anything. “Tan,” she said, confidently. “Daddy is beige.”
“You’re tan,” I confirmed. “Daddy is beige.”
This was not the first time I had fielded questions about color. I would like to say this question and others like it are becoming easier to answer. I am getting better at answering them, but they are still tough.
Note to self: Don’t go on any more podcasts, bragging about how you haven’t talked about race or any other difficult topic in a while. You will surely eat those words. Okay? Thanks.
So, what do you say? Have your children asked you something and you had to really think before you provided an answer?