Most studies done on biracial or mixed-race children growing up in America have been done on those with a white and a black parent. There is no general agreement yet on the stages they go through, but Dr Tatum says it goes something like this:
- ages 1 to 5: You become aware that your skin and hair is different than one of your parents. You want your same-sex parent to be like you. One girl said if she had a magic wand she would turn her mother brown like her. Your parents say you can be both black and white but it does not make sense. You may get a good deal of unwanted attention. But worse than that is if you get cut off from the black side of your family and your white side bad mouths them. That, along with the racist messages coming from society, will make it hard for you to feel good about yourself down the road. It is not as bad the other way round because society will help you to feel good about your white side.
- ages 6 to 12: By now your parents have stuck a label on you: black, white or biracial. You are starting to think of yourself that way too – and at the same time you are finding out how well that label works in practice. If you do not look like your label it is going to be rough. “Biracial” does not work in all towns and neighbourhoods. It depends. If you look white, then your friends are going to be in for a shock when they see your black parent. (It is less of a shock the other way round.)
- ages 13 to 18: This is the hard part. You are going to be asked to choose sides. The tables at lunch become more divided by race. There is no biracial table. If you sit at a black table they might say you are “not black enough”. You will also have to hear their angry words about whites. You might share that anger if you have experienced racism too, but for you it will not be so straightforward. Yet at the white table you might hear racist remarks. Even if you look white, “passing” as white might not be as easy as you think if they know you are part black. You will run into the same trouble with dating – many white parents will see you as black no matter what. So if you are, say, a biracial girl growing up among whites, they might say you look beautiful and “exotic” but you are still dateless.
- ages 19 to 25: You become more secure in yourself. You are less affected by what others think. You can freely accept both the white and black parts of yourself. It is much easier to think of yourself as “biracial” than it was in high school.