Let’s Talk About {human} {mixed} Race

For those of you who haven’t been reading my blog for a while, or who don’t know, my children are mixed race. For those of you who don’t know what mixed race is – “denoting or relating to people whose parents or ancestors are from different ethnic backgrounds”.


Ava & Hannah

It’s never been a big deal, they’re my children and I don’t go around thinking of them in terms of a race group or classification, they simply are my whole heart. But of course, in real life, it’s simply isn’t that simple and it becomes even more complex when raising mixed race children in a country like South Africa which has such a long and ugly history of racial division.

When we first applied to adopt, we both simply wanted a child(ren), and to be totally honest, we never put any long term thought into the complexities of raising a mixed race child. It was naive, I realize that now. I’m thankful we have not faced any kind of glaring prejudice, of course, we get stared at when we go out as a family but as time has past, I’ve gotten so used to people’s curiosity about our family, I don’t really notice it anymore.

Then again, mixed race is becoming more and more common. I read an article from the census in the UK that states that mixed race is the largest growing ethnicity in the UK and I’m pretty sure that would extend to the rest of the world. National Geographic also recently had a fascinating article titled – Visualizing Race, Identity & Change, it’s fascinating, go check it out!

I know a number of multi racial families with mixed race children both online and in real life. So today the question popped up…. if you have mixed race children and are required to fill in documentation for them which includes race, which box do you check? Because there is never an option for mixed race. We’ve come across this on a couple of occasions when  enrolling my girls for schools etc and I’ve also always been a little unsure of which box to check. Coloured? White?

Interestingly, a number of people commented that they thought the race of the child would be determined by the father? I haven’t heard this before, but this comment was made a number of times, so I was wondering if there were any truth in it.  I went and read up on this and it would seem that race classification in mixed race children has changed over time, with some countries recognizing the father as giving the child a race and others or at other times, recognizing the mother for giving the child a race.

What has become most clear to me is that we need to stop thinking of people in terms of a colour because the colour lines have totally blurred.  Mixed race, for me anyway, has become so much more about a blending of culture and ethnicity’s and very little to do with colour. My children are a perfect example of this.

The interesting thing is that my children don’t fit the “colour” box and I’m also never sure what I should tick when being required to fill out a form.

If we go by the classification of my children getting their race from their mother, then Ava is white and Hannah is coloured. If we switch it around and give them their race from their father, then Ava is coloured and Hannah is white.







Personally I’d rather we remove the race box from officially forms and documentation because really, what does it matter anyway. I have on occasion completed forms and marked the race box as [other] with human race in the [please specify] area.






  • Cindy

    September 22, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    I’ve never really put too much thought into it until a friend asked me about it today. I’ve heard that it’s the Dad that passes on their “colour” to their kids, which is a bit ridiculous because he is only half of the equation. All of our kids look more white than they do coloured, so if we had to define them they’d probably be white? I don’t know, so I don’t bother ticking any box at all. I know that soon we are going to have conversations around this, but for now, I’ll just play out their ignorance a bit longer.

    • Sharon

      September 23, 2014 at 9:47 am

      I think coloured is the perfect word. Although I know in other countries its seen as offensive, it isn’t in SA and really that is what our children are, they’re a blend of ethnicity and culture.

    • Sharon

      September 23, 2014 at 9:46 am

      My selection usually depends on how I’m feeling on the day, sometimes I like to mess with their heads so will make up all kinds of responses!

  • Po

    September 23, 2014 at 7:47 am

    It seems pretty nutty to me that anyone would define race based on only one parent as both equally contribute half of their genes. And race is merely a social concept anyway. There are no race genes, just some hair and eye genes by which we define race. The coloured race is a complex enough concept as it is, never mind mixed race , which is really what coloured people are too, originally. Human race seems like the best definition.

  • laurakim

    September 23, 2014 at 11:13 am

    To be honest I never knew there was an official way to decide what race the kids were. I have always assumed my kids were coloured because they were mixed and they aren’t white – their skin is a darker colour.

    Regardless of how you raise your kids, the fact is that these “labels” exist, these boxes have to be ticked for a host of reasons. It doesn’t bug me much because it doesn’t affect our lives at all. The religion one bugs me more.

    Anyway as much as we all want to say that kids don’t notice colour, the fact is they do. They see it, they notice it and they question it – theres and others. I think that is normal. I think there is a further challenge though for those of us with mixed kids because when they start questioning their identity and trying to figure out there place – like my 12 year old – they battle to find out where they fit.

    Cameron has been raised “white” (for lack of a better way of putting it), so he should identify with white people and I think he does BUT then he goes to swimming and says “mom there are no other coloured people” – so he knows he isn’t white. I think why it is an issue of sorts is because he is new, doesn’t fit in yet and isn’t identifying with the white kids yet so is looking for something else he can identify with – colour.

    Its a complex thing and I do think, like you said, we also didn’t think of the long term affect on our kids.

    • Sharon

      September 23, 2014 at 11:16 am

      It’s very complex. Currently Ava is confused over how her and Hannah can both be coloured when she says her skin is “peach” and Hannah’s is brown. She doesn’t understand that coloured is so much more than a colour and it makes no sense to her that they are the same but different.
      So complex, so confusing!

  • Mandy

    September 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    The wonders of my life are “black”. We are “white”. Yet, they inform us that we are sometimes pink, sometimes orange and most times yellow. We live on a perpetual rainbow, always looking for the ‘pot of gold (answer)’. It doesn’t waver, for the most part, because we have brought our twins up to know that they live in our hearts, no matter what, and that they are constantly surrounded by very deep and valued love. They know it and at the end of the day, they feel it – to the point that we have to make sure that they don’t become precocious. Kids know no colour – it is parents that do and that is their issue, we have concluded. That has been our biggest obstacle and the biggest issue we have had. As far as forms and documentation goes, we have not experienced the same complications that you have – our kids are ‘swart’ and there is no amount of reckoning that is going to change that. We don’t want to. Because we don’t care – they are ours and that is all that matters. Thanks for a great, great blog, Sharon – Mandy

  • Ursula

    October 3, 2014 at 7:53 am

    This post is a reason why I love reading, because I get to think about matters which fall outside of my realm of experience. I guess that what matters most is how your daughters see themselves and it is families such as yours which will do more toward unity in SA than any political agenda.


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