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“I like that picture of me as a baby mom, my skin was nice and white,” my daughter told me last week.

“What?” I asked her. Thinking I heard right, but hoping I didn’t.

“My skin was white, I wish I could go back to that,” she clarified.

“Your skin is beautiful the way it is, you don’t need to be different,” I said.

“But I do! And I wish my hair was straight!”

“Why?”

“Because then when I go swimming it would be silky smooth when I come out of the water,” she  told me.

Ok, well, that kind of made sense. We have some serious detangling sessions after swimming in the pool. But I told her that happens to everyone, whether your hair is curly or straight.

When your biracial daughter says she wishes she was white

“Your curly hair and skin are both beautiful,” I told her. “You’re brown like mommy and white like daddy, we made you the way you are.”

“You MADE ME?” She asked. Oops. This conversation was quickly taking a sharp turn toward another chat I wasn’t ready for.

“I mean, you’re just how you’re suppose to be, and we love the way you are.”

“But I want to be graceful, like Elsa. …What is ‘graceful’ anyway?”

I took this opportunity to try to turn things around.

“It’s when you’re elegant, calm, and gentle.”

“So basically the opposite of my brother?” She asked.

“Right… You ARE graceful.”

Her face lit up and she squealed with glee.

“Ok, I love my skin and hair!”

I knew the conversation was over for now, but not for good.

I distinctly remember in kindergarten was when I started to “wake up” to what other girls saw as pretty. And it wasn’t me. Some even went as far to call my skin ugly. To my knowledge this hasn’t happened to my daughter yet.

It’s left me wondering how I’ll react when she brings it up again, because I think she probably will at some point. I think it’s normal–not preferred of course–but somewhat expected given the society we live in.

I wonder, do little white girls ever tell their parents they wish they were brown? Do 5-year-old girls with straight hair ever wish for a head full of curls? Or has society’s showcase of beauty made that a non-issue?

When you go to school, turn on the TV, or watch Disney princess movies where very few look like you, it can alter your sense of what’s beautiful.

Biracial Disney Princess Series: My Little Princess- A cute and creative mother-daughter photo series featuring a biracial girl dressed up as Disney Princesses.

Ok yea, sure, there’s princess Tiana, and I love the movie, but I’ll be the first to admit how disappointed I was that she was a frog for 90% of the movie. I wanted my daughter and other little girls to fall in love with a dark-skinned princess singing and dancing in her gown throughout the movie, like little girls could during all of the other movies.

Nevertheless, she knows she can embody any princess she wants to be. I’ve made it a point to make sure the books on our shelves are filled with beautiful brown boys and girls who look like me, and my children.

When your biracial daughter says she wishes she was white: How to stay calm and work through the situation.

Now I’m becoming more aware of opportunities to point out people who challenge the norm. Black ballerinas, cheerleaders, actors and figure skaters. Though I’ve always told her she can be anything she wants to be, I think it’s important for me to show her people who are doing the things she loves and aspires to do. People she can see as beautiful and talented who also look like her.

Monica Kaufman, Atlanta’s top anchor for decades, and Oprah both played a huge part in my aspiring to be a news anchor. They were beautiful, talented, doing amazing things, and they looked like me. Somehow seeing them made that dream seem more realistic.

I know to some people it doesn’t seem like that should be important, but I’d argue otherwise. Just like we want our daughters to see women doctors, leaders, and other women doing wonderful things, and being role models; I’m wanting to see more of that for women of color.

My daughter and I have had similar conversations before, and I can tell the way she self-identifies is evolving. I’m trying to be careful not to overreact because the mind of a child works much differently than the mind of an adult. I just want to do my part in making sure she grows up to be proud of who she is, inside and out.


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Martha says:

I LOVE this post!
And I DREAD this conversation with my two daughters (currently one and two yrs old)!!!

Martha says:

Not sure what happened to the comment, sorry.

As I was saying.. you just want so much to protect and shield your children from these things…

I would love to see a post of your recommended reading! I’m always looking for book suggestions for my girls!

Mari says:

Great chat! love the exchange 🙂

Lauren says:

It is kind of strange (and annoying) that most of the toys/movies/shows for kids all show only white characters. When my son was a toddler he asked why he wasn’t brown… he said he was peach and he felt like that was boring. (he told me I was yellow.. hahaha I am pretty olive esp without a tan) Back then I just said because you were made “peach.” When he got a bit older he asked me why everyone had different skin colors and I just told him the same reason why people have different hair colors and eye colors… it would be boring if we all looked the same.

Erin Marie says:

This white girl wishes she could have brown skin and/or curly hair. All the time. I think it’s so beautiful. And I asked my equally white sister and she said the same.

I do need to do better about getting a variety of skin tones in our picture books. Any recommendations? I never know what’s going to be a good book or not, so we’re pretty classic around here right now.

I just replied to one asking below with a few off the top of my head: Of Thee I Sing and The Talking Eggs are some of our favorites that we read over and over. I’ll totally get to researching/working on a post about more of our favorites!

Destiny says:

When my oldest was in kindergarten there was a girl in her class with dark skin and she badly wanted to have skin like her because she thought it was so beautiful. It’s just children noticing differences and it’s perfectly normal. We acknowledged that this little girl did have really pretty skin and then pointed out things about her that were beautiful because they were different.

Steffani says:

I am white and for as long as I can remember, I have always wanted darker skin and tight curly hair! 😉

My daughter is mixed (my husband is half black, half Mexican) and even though she isn’t even one yet, I am realizing how important it will be to acknowledge her heritage.

I agree with the above comment, any recommendations for books? I have a couple with different skins colors, but haven’t found many!

Thank you both for the idea! I’ll hafta do another post about our favorite “diverse” books. Off the top of my head we love: Of Thee I Sing, The Case for the Lovings, I Wonder… A Sibling Surprise, The Talking Eggs, and Anna Hibiscus (though we got sidetracked on other books and haven’t finished this one yet). I need to check out more, order my favorites and do another post about it 🙂

Myrinda says:

Yes. Though when I was younger, I wouldn’t ever say I was “white”. My mom is “white”…she has blonde hair and blue eyes and fair skin that burns easily. My dad is half Italian, swarthy, olive skinned, black hair and hazel eyes. I look quite a bit more like my dad. So much so that, upon meeting only my mother, an adult friend asked if I was adopted! lol! I still lived in a world of blonde barbies and babies, even though there were brown haired ones available. My mommy’s blonde hair was so pretty and my brown hair seemed boring…but I always loved my darker skin, especially in the summer. And I’ve always loved curls. So yes, sometimes little white girls would like to not be white.

Oh how I love these conversations! To help my daughters love their hair and texture, while styling their hair, I would frequently tell them how much I loved “playing” in their thick, curly hair and how lucky they were to have it. To help them love their skin, I would compliment them on their beautiful, chocolate skin and pretend to gobble them up. We love chocolate around here! 🙂 It has been working for our daughters-my 18 year old attends a school that is not very diverse and she told me she would never want to change her skin color and that she actually enjoys being different. My 9 year old has natural hair that I style with braids and beads and she tells me she loves her hair because no one else in her class styles their hair like hers. I think what happens is that people shy away from talking to their children about their skin and hair and then try to make up for lost time. Begin talking to them as babies and I believe they will grow up loving themselves for who they are. It sounds like you’re doing a great job teaching your daughter about self-love! She’s absolutely beautiful, by the way!!

MistyK says:

I can recall being 5/6 and having the deepest desire possible to be just like Ariel. I wanted to have her bright red hair, sparking blue eyes and wanting more than anything to sing just like her. And my much older sister telling me that it was impossible to change who I was and that I was never ever going to be blue-eyed or red headed and how I cried over how unfair it was. The desire changed when I discovered Belle. Ah yes! She had brown eyes and hair, I could grow up to look just like her! But nope, my hair was black and my deep brown eyes were not her lovely light hazel. Thus when Jasmine came about I was thrilled! FINALLY a princess with whom I matched hair and eyes! And yet I was then told that my skin would never be that glowing warm color. In each case it was never pointed out that I could learn their personalities, their strengths, or that I could be beautiful like me. I have thankfully learned that as an adult, and strive to teach my daughter that as well.

Last summer she received a coloring book of generic princesses and I noticed that all were being colored blonde with blue eyes. I asked her why that was and she answered that it was ‘because that’s what a princess looks like.” It broke my heart. We talked about how every woman was beautiful and soon she filled each page with princesses that have different skin and hair colors than what she saw.

It’s helped with her own body image I can tell. She can see others uniqueness, and celebrate that along with her own.

Karin says:

I have extremely pale skin and freckles and when I was in elementary school there were some mean kids that would tease me about it. I remember praying as a child to have brown skin and brown hair because that was beautiful to me. As a teenager I did everything I could to tan my skin and bleach my freckles but to no avail. The next step was accepting that I looked like me and trying to look like someone else wasn’t going to make me happy. I finally realized my freckles and pale skin were part of what made ME beautiful and unique, but more importantly that realization gave me the confidence inside that is what makes someone truly attractive. I think short or tall, curly hair or straight, pale or dark, we all go through a period of wanting to change ourselves, but it is accepting ourselves that allows us to realize our true beauty.

To answer the title question, YES. Yes, I did wish my skin was brown. There was a boy at my church that I was madly involve with and I just new if I was brown like him, he would like me too …..
Of course that’s not the way it works but as a 8 year old girl crushing on a 12 year old boy … that’s what I thought.

Grace says:

I had thin stick straight blonde hair and I desperately wanted thick dark wavy hair like my best friends. I also have a huge bum even when thin, like Kim Kardashian huge, or even bigger, plus big lips and I’ve always felt deformed because of it. Even though now those things are fashionable , it’s too late and I really can’t see the desirability of them. I think every girl has things she wants to change about her body.

Sarah Dvais says:

I have raised a white child in a black culture and a black child in a white culture…and I can tell you they both wanted (at least for a short while) to look like most of those around them. Learning to love who we are is a battle we all must face – I figure it allowed me to get the conversation about race (and it’s real lack of importance to one’s overall happiness) out of the way and focus on the joyous uniqueness in everyone. Great article 🙂

Lisa says:

I absolutely love this article and every signal comment. We as mothers should be the first to teach our girls how beautiful they are, no matter what shade of skin or eyes they have or rather their hair is curly or straight.

Mia Adam says:

Yeah. This is SO true.
I can really relate to this!
I think you are doing wonderful job handling this! How I wish my mother would have answered the same for similar questions I asked her as a child..

“I wonder, do little white girls ever tell their parents they wish they were brown? Do 5-year-old girls with straight hair ever wish for a head full of curls? Or has society’s showcase of beauty made that a non-issue?”

It is SO TRUE that representation matters.
This is really beautifully written btw 🙂

christina says:

this literally made me tear up because my daughter is 6 and in the same boat. it breaks my heart that it starts that early. as a white woman raising bi-racial children i started seeing how down played blacks are in socity (forgive me of my ignorance). it upsets me more than my black husband (maybe cause he is use to it) like the other day my black friend had white people emojis in her discription box on instagram. i was like “wait, why did she do that?”. i went to my emjois and reliazed they had no black emjois. to me i was like “that is so messed up!!”. when cherrios came out with that commercial with the mixed family i was so happy i did a victory dance. i mean it literally feels like victories to me. there are so many other examples i can give but you are definitly right about giving our children more examples of people she can see as beautiful and talented who also look like her. praying for our beauties to be proud….why fit in when you were born to stand out

Meme says:

Not only little girls want to be white, but so do little boys. My son went through this also. He hated his curly hair and so badly wanted it to be straight and blonde.

Kim says:

Great post.

Beth says:

I hate that children are made to feel this way. She wasn’t born not loving the skin she’s in, and the fact that she ever has to think about it one way or another in terms of negative or positive is just crazy. I will note for the record that when I was little, I very much did want to have dark skin and hair. To me it was exotic and awesome. I still look at my Egyptian friend Sandra with absolute longing because WOW. We’re all raised to some degree to think that we’re not enough as we are. I’m just glad that your daughter has you to talk to so that she has someone to remind her that who is already IS beautiful.

Nicole says:

What books can you recommend? I have two little girls who are also biracial. I feel like it’s a complex issue, because their skin is closer to mine (white), but they both have curly hair & look more like their Daddy. They’re small, so our books mostly have animals or characters as their main characters, but I’m always looking for recommendations.

Jennie says:

When I was 7 years old I wanted to be Asian. There were a lot of Asian girls at my elementary school with long black hair. I use to close my eyes in front of my mirror and pray my hair would turn black, because I had faith it would. Children are very impressionable. I try to expose my girl to dolls and books with characters of various ethnicity’s. Lottie dolls are wonderful but there are no dolls with curly hair.

Sarah says:

I was a kid in the eighties (white, Irish), and I remember wanting to look like Whitney Houston in the video for I wanna dance with somebody! She was so beautiful.
I have a book I read with my 4 year old called The wolf who wanted to change colour. He’s fed up of his colour so he tries lots of different colours but realised he’s just right the way he is. It’s a good message, I think. We all want to change something about ourselves but if we can accept ourselves, that’s great.

Ms white says:

What a crazy world we live in. What we want seems to be carved out by culture. And we seem to want the opposite of what we have.

Elizabeth says:

I have red, curly hair, freckles and very pale skin. I was often teased as a kid for my red hair and freckles. I grew up in a beach town and I sun burned within minutes. I often wished for a different hair color and skin that would tan. Sadly kids tease other kids about anything different. I’m in my 50s now and I’m happy with my hair color and thankful I don’t have any gray but still wish for skin that would tan and no freckles 🙂

Sarah says:

There is a good book series about a black princess. It’s called Princess Truly. The author is Kelly Greenawalt.

We also really like the books I Love My Hair and Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. The latter is similar to an African Cinderella story.

Thank you for your blog!

Jennifer says:

That is awesome! Thank you Sarah, I’m going to check that out!

Joanne says:

I think there’s a history that has mainstreamed (beyond individual personal preferences) the idea that Eurocentric beauty is more appealing, added to that the media (from books, to TV, to film) where people of colour are rarely seen…though we’re in a period (hopefully not just another cycle) where that’s changing, I think. Even in a majority black country (in the Caribbean), I did not escape this nor did my niece a generation later (I remember having to carefully pick my way through a conversation not unlike the one you had with your daughter). You and your daughter read my book, With Grace, some months ago and as I blog about the writing of the book here https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/%23weneeddiversebooks-author-rewrites-the-fairytale.html we need more diverse images and stories out there so that all children can see themselves and realize that they’re beautiful and special and worthy just as they are. Good job on the talk by the way. I think you handled it well.

Jennifer says:

We love your book!

Thanks! I’m glad you did.

Sarah says:

My blond haired blue eyed daughter is five, and has had many full blown melt downs because she is broken hearted that she can’t be brown and have pretty brown hair. Not tantrums, she is truly sad. From as early as she could show preference for toys and baby dolls she has exclusively reached for or asked for the ones of color. Her favorite was doc mcstuffins for awhile and now her favorite is bumblebee from dc superheroes girls. I’ve explained to her that god made her exactly how he wanted her to be, but despite that and the fact that I’ve explained to her she can’t change it, she continues to tell me she will be brown when she is older and then she will be pretty. We go to a pretty evenly multiracial church with her school leaning a little more toward a larger Caucasian group. We don’t watch much TV either so it truly doesn’t seem to be a cultural thing, just something she was born wishing. I’m still at a loss of how to help her accept herself the way god made her.

Joraffe says:

Oh, she is so beautiful! I am white with blue eyes / fair hair – and have always wanted dark skin and hair! I guess it just comes down to wanting what you can’t have!

Maddie says:

Ok this is gonna sound weird but I’m a 13 year old and I love your youtube channel. I also do all Star cheer and I’m so happy that your daughter it .much love.

Danielle Stevens says:

thank you soooo much for this! I really needed this. I just turned 27, living in Los Angeles, grew up in Chicago and I didn’t begin feeling this way until JUST NOW!!! In the 90’s I feel like new things were exciting and posed opportunities and society as a whole was more accepting. Although there are more accepted things now, ‘beauty’ seems to pose as a clone, of the next girl and the next girl.

I am so happy to hear that…(even though I’m 10 years late), I’m now noticing it and feeling like I owe it to my fellow swirl-girls to be a role model!

-Danielle

Jennifer says:

Yas girl! Do your thing and inspire this next generation of girls!!

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