Yes, I am her biological mother.

Mira Tanna
Orlando, FL

My father is from India, my mother from the Netherlands, and I am married to a man from Nigeria. I look white to most people, and my children look black to most people. When I pick my kids up from school or camp, I get curious stares and kids ask me if I’m their mother. Some venture further and ask how I can be their mother if we have a different skin color. I smile and explain that their father is a lot darker than they are and I am a lot lighter and my daughter or son are in between. Sometimes adults start talking to me about adoption, and I realize that they assume my kids are adopted. When my daughter had surgery a few years ago, the anesthesiologists were asking about her allergies or reactions or medication. One of them asked if I had ever reacted to anesthesia and I was about to answer when the other interrupted his colleague. It was clear that the doctor had assumed that my daughter was adopted and thus my reaction to any medication would be unimportant. Now that my children are getting older, they also notice these reactions and we joke about it. I tell them that when they’re teenagers, they will probably use the fact that many people don’t think we’re related to their advantage. I realize, though, that the assumptions made about me when I’m with my children (and without my husband) are often quite different than if the racial differences were reversed. I know that black women (or those perceived to be black) who have children who are perceived as white, are often assumed to be the nanny or caregiver of their children. In both cases, the assumption is that a mom cannot be biologically related to a child who appears to be a different race. However, the further assumption is that a white family would adopt a black child but not the reverse, and that a white family would hire a black caregiver, but not the reverse. I think it’s human nature to categorize people, so I have decided to take the looks and questions I get as an opportunity for a “teachable moment” rather than an annoyance. I know if I were on the other side of the fence, it would be more difficult for me to keep my cool.

 

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