To Offend or Not to Offend

**This post was published by the Huffington Post as How Not to Offend Mixed Race Families. **

To Offend or Not to Offend

My first experience with a biracial individual was in 5th grade. Our teacher was doing a race count for FTE funding (schools get more money based on the number of minority students they have). Our teacher called out all the different races, then got mad when she counted and realized someone didn’t raise their hand. She said very loudly, “Who didn’t raise their hand?” (We’ll call his name Jason) Jason said, “I didn’t.” She then screamed at him, “Why not?” To which he replied, I’m not sure which one to pick (black or white). She screamed back, “just pick one!”

At the time, I didn’t realize how damaging this conversation was. It was insensitive of the teacher  to demand him to pick one race, when he was clearly a combination of two. How mortifying it must have been for him to have this identity crisis in front of all of his peers and teachers. This anecdote is an extreme example, but some people just don’t know what to say without being offensive.  I came up with a small list to help.

Do give compliments. It is acceptable to say, I love her hair. I love his complexion. She has beautiful eyes. Give a compliment and then put a period. Don’t say: He has beautiful skin for a mixed baby. I love her curls, where did she get them from. Usually when a compliment ends with uncomfortable ramblings, something offensive will come out.

give compliments

Don’t assume that a child does not belong to the parents because their skin doesn’t match. Dark skinned black people have light-skinned black babies. White parents with blue eyes, give birth to kids with brown eyes. This is genetics at work! Furthermore, some parents adopt children from an ethnicity different from their own.

light skinned biracial babies

Don’t ask questions about a child’s ethnicity unless you have a close relationship with the parent. I’ve been in line at Wal-Mart when the cashier has asked me, “Is their daddy white?”  I’m not sure what that has to do with my groceries. Thankfully my children were young enough to not internalize that question.

Don’t ask a child why their skin color is different from their sibling. Some of this may sound like common sense, but this exact scenario almost caused a fight at my school. No one chooses their physical features, so they should not be questioned about it. Especially with an audience.

Do ask hair care questions. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask what products someone uses to get such bouncy curls or to fight the frizz.

HOw do you get their hair to be so curly_

Sometimes conversations are awkward because we make them awkward. If we just focus on our similarities instead of our differences, we won’t get so hung up on saying the wrong thing and offending people.

What do you think? Have you ever asked a well-meaning question, but ending up offending someone?

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22 thoughts on “To Offend or Not to Offend

  1. Candis says:

    I love it! I am biracial and heard all kind of things growing up in Australia. “Give a compliment and then put a period.” Yes! If only I had a dollar for every time my mother and I heard “She has beautiful hair, where did she get it?”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lakisha says:

    I LOVE THIS POST!! I myself am not mixed but I can not imagine what that must have felt like for that student. The importance of giving compliment that don’t include a but is vital to a persons self esteem. Someone who walks around and continuously gets told there cute for a dark skin person is damaging. Thanks for raising the awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dacounsel says:

      I hope this will raise awareness. People have to be held red for the things they say. Even though we live in a free country, we shouldn’t freely damage & discourage others.


  3. creaticabardling says:

    I think one of the important things to remember is that it is usually done honestly, and not maliciously. People just don’t think about the barriers they put up when they ask these types of questions, or make the hurtful comments. It’s good that you have this post because it can help bring the issue to people’s minds so that they can understand that we are all just people. Not black people or white people or mixed people. People. Period.


    • dacounsel says:

      I agree. Thankfully because I grew up on an Air Force base, I had a lot of positive experiences with people of all colors & walks of life, so I understand that most comments are from ignorance, not a hurtful place. I’m hoping my blog will shed some light on the situation so people will learn how to be more sensitive to the needs of others.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. cavilleta says:

    This should be done for adults too. I get slightly offended when people are shocked (some really don’t believe until I show a family photo) to know that I am related to my very light-skinned and tall brother. I have tan skin and I am of average height. I just laugh it off but I subtly want to ask them if they wanted me to present them our birth certificates for proof.


  5. Lisa Martens says:

    This is a great article. It’s shocking that people can still be so inconsiderate in this day and age. I particularly like that you point out it’s okay to give a compliment and even ask a questions if it’s appropriate and not insulting or leaving the other person feeling bad about themselves.


  6. Amy says:

    This article is great! I found you via google+, and I just love the title of your website (arethoseyourkids). So fabulous. I have had so many similar experiences. I actually just wrote about this on my site, and my article is entitled “So are they yours or….?” I’m just so glad that more and more people are writing about this stuff so that awareness will grow!!So-are-they-yours-or/c1a1n/563faf340cf2f51f32313152

    Liked by 1 person

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