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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5 Responses to "Yes, I am her biological mother."
  1. Mary C. Henry says:

    I have similar experiences with my biracial daughter (I posted about this, too). If I’m out with just her or just my husband (who is from Kenya), people don’t realize we’re related- especially now that my daughter is a teenager and looks older than her age. I find it frustrating, actually.

  2. Angela Shortt says:

    You can see by my picture that I am black. My ex-husband is also black, and we had three children, two girls and one son. All three of them are what you could call, “different shades of black”, and my youngest daughter looks what might be termed as “mixed”. These different color combinations withiin one family rarely raise eyebrows in the black community, where it is generally accepted that you never know how the gene pool is going to affect the color of your children’s skin. However, I was downtown sitting at a bus stop with my children on a very hot summer afternoon, and an elderly white woman looked us over and said, “So, the father your baby is a white man, huh?” And she winked at me. I guess the inference was that I had an affair with a white man, and my daughter was the result. I wasn’t the same person that I am now in terms of patience and acceptance, and I informed her that every last one of my children had the same father, a black man. Then I left the bus stop to buy some cold drinks for my children and myself. Presumption and ignorance used to make me very heated. Luckily, I’ve learned since then that people are what they are. They can change, but most likely, they don’t. I don’t waste my time getting angry.

  3. Some call me racist says:

    “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.”

    Seems like a pretty reasonable assumption to me. A black family would probably want a black child, and there are many more black children up for adoption that there are white children. Most blacks would want to hire one of their own for a position like that.

  4. J Hill says:

    I have raised my biracial son alone. I get the adoption assumption all the time. When he was a toddler, one of the older ladies at my church asked me how old he was when I got him. It helps that I know an all white family where people assume the mom is a second wife because her dark hair and eyes don’t match her blond blue eyed children who are copies of their dad. I think people are clueless about how genetics works.

  5. Unashamed says:

    I definitely understand what you are going through even though I do not have kids of my own yet. I am black (not light skin more of a medium/dark tone) and my husband is white almost pastey. Anyhow, the looks and stares and sometimes comments that we get are just right down “Rude”! And very uncalled for. We have been together going on three years in April and have been married for a year. So, we are starting to get use to peoples reactions when we are out in public together. Before we were married we knew that this would always be an issue for us because people are still very ignorant when it comes to raccial issues that still exist until this day. I do have concerns that people will be very mean to my kids and insulting to me whenever we do have kids. Thank you for writting about your experiences, its helps a lot of us to feel like we aren’t in this alone.

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