“How come you have black mother?” an inquisitive young boy asked me. We were four, playing at a park near my childhood Chicago home. I stared at him blankly but never responded – I had no idea what he meant.
For many years I never understood why so many people would ask me that question. Growing up biracial was a challenge. Greeting cards always showed mothers and daughters with the same skin tone and light eyes; the books in school reflected “diverse” families, but separated the white family from the black one. Mine was never represented.
My father told me about the frustration she endured every time she’d take me to the zoo or park. “She’s so cute. Are you babysitting?” they’d ask. As a young mother, she was angry that people would make assumptions that she couldn’t be more than my nanny because of her chocolate skin. Having to claim your child to complete strangers wasn’t covered in the parenting guide.