Why is it racist to wonder what colour your child’s skin will be?

Why is it racist to wonder what skin colour your child will have?

13 March 2021

9:00 AM

13 March 2021

9:00 AM

Maybe I missed something here. Or maybe I am just completely naive. But why is it racist to ponder what the skin colour of a new baby will be?

According to most of the American and British media, post the Harry and Meghan interview, it absolutely is racist. It’s horrendous. Evil. Bigoted. Especially so in the US (a country where barely over 10 per cent of the married population is actually inter-racial). But these are generally the views of people who don’t actually know what they are talking about. Because they are not part of, or in the slightest bit close to, an inter-racial couple.

So first the obvious declaration of interest: I was born in Mauritius. I look Asian. Or brown if you prefer. My wife was born in Slovenia. She is white and blonde.

Yes, it is an unusual match. Our respective families are the most open–minded groups of people you could ever meet, however. Never a hint of racism on either side. But have we discussed the skin colours of my kids, since long before they were born? You bet we have, and still do.

Before my son Joe popped out 11 years ago, my late mother enquired endlessly what the different colour options were. She went further than the mystery ‘racist’ royal, suggesting that a darker version of brown would be better, as the kid would be more likely to follow the Hindu religion (that of our side of the family).

My wife’s family — who could not have been more welcoming to the first brown face that ever entered their remote village in eastern Europe — were hoping for a ‘whiter’ result, thinking that made it more likely he would follow Christianity.

I joined in with all this. We had endless family discussions, usually over countless bottles of wine. It was all a great guessing game, and a damn good laugh. I had a side bet running with some friends on what exact colour Joe would be. I guess that makes me racist too.

Joe, as it turned out, came out on the whiter side of white. My mother adored him, and promptly joined in the plans for his christening. ‘Second one will be a bit more brown I hope,’ she told me. But her hopes were further dashed when my daughter Evita appeared three years later, also looking ‘a little bit whiter’ than she imagined. She came to that christening too.

Things finally became more balanced in 2013 when our third child, Savannah, was born, definitely on the brown side of brown. My mother was thrilled. I lost another bet. My in-laws found it all very amusing and confusing, before we all went to a Hindu temple together.

And guess what my close friends did? Exactly what I would have done: made several lurid suggestions about there being no way I could be the father. ‘The colours don’t add up,’ they told me.

My kids often point out that within our own family, the five of us are all completely different skin colours. They think it’s really cool, and even cooler to talk about it. For them, it is a source of positive fascination. When it comes to race and religion, they want to know more, learn more, embrace more. At my daughter’s birthday party in February last year in Bolivia (where we live for some of the year), the guests included an indigenous Indian, a black Brazilian and a Bolivian of Japanese ancestry. Many languages, many colours, many questions and many laughs. Did one of the parents go online to see who matched which Dulux paint colour scheme? Yes, guilty as charged. And that makes them racist? Come on. Get real.

Context is everything. Nobody actually has a clue what the context of the rogue royal remark was regarding Meghan and Harry’s unborn baby. We probably never will. But you know what? My kids understand context. My wife does. My in-laws and my friends do. So did my mother. But if you look at everything in black and white, then by my count there are a lot of racists in this story. Me. My wife. My mother. My in-laws. My close friends. The guests at the birthday party. We should all be cancelled.

Or maybe we should accept the inconvenient truth, which is that none of my friends or relatives is in the slightest bit racist, and that most of us interracial folk like to have a good laugh at our own expense.

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