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Raising a Child of Ambiguous Race

We asked our reader panel: Have you ever been asked to explain your child's ethnic identity? How do you respond?



Kids without borders
Both of our children are blends of many backgrounds, and I don't like it when people try to pigeonhole them. When I enrolled the older in kindergarten, I was asked to specify her race. I protested, but was told, "The computer won't register her." I checked "Multiracial." When I wouldn't specify two races, they picked. Thus, my coffee-milk-skinned, black-eyed, dark-haired daughter was coded with a number that meant "white."

I've been trying for years to come up with a positive, catchy term to describe my multi-kids: A world girl. A boy without borders. Multis. All-American blends. Because not too long from now, kids like mine will be the majority, and nobody will think of asking, "What are you?"

And just what are my kids to provoke such questions? One is Indonesian, Chinese, Greek, English, German, Polish, plus. And the other is Irish, Native American, possibly Mexican, plus. Of course, both are absolutely gorgeous.
Roni Breite

Different perceptions
Our 7-month-old, biracial (African-American and Caucasian) daughter is olive-skinned, with her birthfather's curly brown hair. Most Caucasians don't recognize that she's biracial, so I find it interesting that some African Americans can tell right away. We are proud of our daughter, and we often explain her heritage to people in the context of her adoption. We hope that her heritage will be a source of pride for her as she grows.
Susie Martin-Lepore

I try to educate
Both of our children are Guatemalan, and their looks reflect the racial diversity of their birth country—our son looks Latino and our daughter looks Mayan. When people ask where they're from or "What are they?," I simply say that they are Guatemalan. If someone asks more specific questions, I explain that most Guatemalans are of mixed race and that their features vary widely. I'm happy to do this when it seems that people are just trying to educate themselves. I try to save being offended for questions about why they were "given up" for adoption!
Marcy McKay

Still looking for the right way
I'm the mother of an 8-month-old, part-Latino baby, and older African-American children. When asked if my youngest is Asian (or Eskimo!), I usually reply that he is part Latino. But that leaves the door open for the nosiest people to ask, "And the other part is…?" I usually answer, "I don't know," but instantly feel bad about letting myself get cornered and giving in to prying. I'm struggling to find a better way to handle it.
Stephanie Mullins

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