Black Like Mommy, White Like Me

Race in America is wonderfully complex, unless of course, you're 3.

Carrie Pratt
Carrie Pratt

Simone snuggled up beside me and pointed to my face. “Mommy,” she said, “is a black girl.”

How observant, I thought, for a 3-year-old to make such a distinction. “Yes,” I said, “Mommy is a black girl.”

“Simone,” she continued, “is a white girl.” In all the time I had dreamed about being a mother and teaching my daughter about her African and European heritage, nothing had prepared me for a statement like this.

I demanded to know who had told her such a thing, but my question was met with silence.

“Well, you’re a black girl,” I said, knowing that I wasn’t being any more accurate than she had been a few moments earlier.

Simone repeated her newfound knowledge to her father and added, “Daddy is a white boy.”

He told her she was neither white nor black. “You have the best of both worlds,” he said.

His explanation wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly better than mine.

For a moment, my mind drifted back to our wedding day in 2001, when raising children seemed so far away, when we were just one of the 1.4 million interracial couples tying the knot. In the 41 years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriages, the numbers continue to rise. In 2006, interracial marriages totaled 3.9 percent of the nation’s 59.5 million marriages, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.