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How do I tell them that what they're saying is upsetting me?

(38 Posts)
bristols Fri 25-May-07 21:38:19

"His skin is much lighter than I expected."

Someone said this to me today about my nine month old DS.

This has happened quite a few times since DS was born and it's starting to bother me now. He is very fair and his hair is dark brown. I am white and my husband is asian. I really don't know how to handle it. I don't want to make people feel awkward as I'm sure that they mean no malice. They are just unthinking, or naive.

I feel that these people wouldn't make a comment such as "She's less ginger than I expected," to a red haired mother. Or even "He's much thinner than I expected," to an overweight parent. Why do they feel it's OK to say it to me?

What worries me is that DS is going to get similar comments throughout his life. I hate the thought of that.

Please help me with what to say to these people.

elsieanjoanne Fri 25-May-07 21:45:17

people feel they can say what they want without thinking an touch your baby i am very ginger my dd is very blonde with the biggest blue eyes ever an people always comment on how blonde (as if they shocked she not ginger) take no offense or tell them there comments are upsetting you. you should not be bothered by there commets yet as he hasnt had long enoough to become his own little person yet thats the fun bit!

bristols Fri 25-May-07 21:55:51

But I am bothered. Maybe I'm over sensitive. To me he is his own person already and I don't see why people can't accept that he is who he is and looks as he looks without feeling the need to comment.

NikkiBFG Fri 25-May-07 22:01:16


DS is half arabic and I'm always being told how pale he is etc but I honestly don't worry about it because DH, myself and eventually DS will know he's half Arabic and will be proud of both cultures and heritages so that's what counts - not comments from other people iyswim?

Its hard I know, but please don't let it bother you. Its not meant in any racist way I'm sure


bristols Fri 25-May-07 22:03:23

Thanks Nikki. I think that, being white and born and brought up here, I haven't been on the receiving end of racist comments. Have had a few when out with DH but nothing much.

I can't bear the thought of DS having to deal with such things and I suppose I feel that commenting on the colour of his skin is just one (small) step away.

NikkiBFG Fri 25-May-07 22:06:28

Yes I do see where you are coming from - I worry about that myself sometimes, but with babies, people just comment all the time and its never meant in any unkind way. Am sure the comments will stop as he gets older.

I have a friend who is English, white and her DH is moroccan. Her baby is just a lovely lovely colour and I told her that but it wasn't meant as an insult to fact that baby wasn't as white as her or anything like that, I was just admiring how beautiful the baby was.

SenoraPostrophe Fri 25-May-07 22:06:55

god, everybody tells me how pale ds1 is. Spanish people stop me on the street and say "que rubio" (how pale/blond). which I suppose is better than "you must get that child a dummy" which is what they used to say about dd.

It's annoying, but on the other hand he is pale (much paler than dh) and I suppose I'd rather they said something than nothing. ds2's name means "pale warrior" which is a sort of joke based on my expectation of getting these comments all the time.

at leats they're not just saying it behind your back, along with dark suggestions about the milkman.

WideWebWitch Fri 25-May-07 22:07:03

I bet they're just idly interested and don't mean to be offensive.

You never can tell what colour they're going to be. My ds is half Indian (I'm white English) and is olive skinned but looked very pale as a baby. He only got darker as he got older really and he still doesn't look massively Indian to me, just darker than me. Mind you, against blue eyed blonde pale dd (diff husband) he does look dark, they don't really look related! Ex dh's family has another half English/Indian baby with blue eyes and fair skin despite having an Indian father so skin colour is no indication of anything and varies enormously ime.

I think it's interesting and doesn't necessarily mean anything other than 'it's interesting' - I certainly don't mean anything other than that if I comment on someone's colour wrt their ethnic background (and I might well do with a white/asian mix since that's what I have!)

SofiaAmes Fri 25-May-07 22:07:30

I think that you probably are a little over sensitive as people do say things like that all the time to all sorts of parents. I am very freckly and more than one person commented about my children's lack of freckles. And how long my daughter was when she was born when neither me or my husband is particularly tall. Human babies tend to look like their parents and it's really quite normal for people to look for those similar characteristics when they are born. And interestingly, I have heard many asians comment on shades of skin color when a baby is born when both the parents are asian. I think people forget that some portion of skin color comes from the sun and that there isn't a lot of that inside your womb! Maybe you could make a silly comment along those lines when people comment on your baby's skin color in order to relieve the tension for yourself.
I would save your being offended for when your child is older and people make comments about his skin color in relationship to his ability (hopefully this won't happen, of course).

LoveAngel Fri 25-May-07 22:08:03

I hear you, bristols. My son is mixed race and I get so fed up of comments on his complexion and the texture of his hair. Its like everyone - black and white and everything in between - feels they have to have their say on it. Even shopkeepers and random folk on buses comment on my son's colouring.
I find it unbelievably rude, but I'm not prepared to make even more of an issue out of it at this stage (he is 2 yrs old). I hope that we can raise him with pride and confidence in who he is - an awareness of his racial/culutural heritage yes, but hopefully not an obssession with his pigmentation! If I ever feel that somebody has made a totally unacceptbale comment, then of course I will step in. Someone once commented on the shape of his nose and I made it quite clear that I thought they were being offensive (think I scared the old bat, actually!), and would do the same again.

WideWebWitch Fri 25-May-07 22:08:34

I don't think people are being racist, I tihnk they're just interested.

hatwoman Fri 25-May-07 22:16:17

I honestly think this is the usual comments on babies. but, in fact, I think that in commenting on his skin colour, people might be conveying their comfort with it, if they somehow thought it was an "issue" then they wouldn't comment on it iyswim. ie it's not a big deal, it's just the colour of his skin and they put no more thought into commenting on this than they would commenting on his chubby wrists, pointy ears, cute dimples.

bristols Fri 25-May-07 22:19:07

SP - LOL about milkman!

WWW - I don't think people are being racist. Certainly not intentionally. This is all very new to me and, as I said, I have very little experience of this. I think that makes me more sensitive to it all.

LA - good to know I'm not on my own. I guess it's something I'll learn to live with in time. As you said, it's probably best not to make more of an issue of it.

Am feeling a bit more chilled about it all now. Maybe the glass of vino I'm having is helping too!

NikkiBFG Fri 25-May-07 22:20:14

Glad you are feeling more chilled. DH's family are actually delighted that DS is so pale and white - its unusual in their family so cue much cooing over him and much preening on my part!!!

bristols Fri 25-May-07 22:20:51

Hatwoman - yes, I do see what you mean. If they had a problem with it, they wouldn't mention it at all. Good point.

MissM Mon 28-May-07 21:13:07

Bristols, I'm white with olivey skin and my DH is Asian. DD is just one, and ever since she was born people have commented that she's 'not as brown' as they would have expected. The people who say that the most are DH's family! Now that it's been warm people are starting to say 'she's looking a lot browner/darker now isn't she'. I honestly haven't thought about taking offence, I think as others have said, that people are just commenting on how she looks (and plenty of them say how beautiful she is, or what a lovely colour her skin is). Please try not to take it personally or in a racist way. I think people are genuinely interested and would probably be horrified if they thought they'd caused offence <hug> as well.

Cancerian Mon 28-May-07 22:39:57

I think we are all too hung up on pigmentation. This in my view is something that is not going to go away. I am Black, British and I am very light skinned and this had caused me no end of hassle growing up amongst girls who were also black but of a darker shade of brown. Why? It is a global problem as it is deemed the lighter you are the more beautiful and more opportunities will be available to you as you are closer pigmentation to your white counterparts. It is so ridiculous but it happens.

People will always assume that because you have a darker pigmentation that your gene will always be the most dominant thus your offspring will be of the same or darker pigmentation but this is not always the case whether the child of mixed race parentage or not.

The bottom line is I find that white people will often find your child is white enough and black people are of the opinion it is not black enough, thus reaffirmation of your child's background is very important and should start at home as this is what they are up against.

The bizarre thing I have noticed also is that black people say my daughter resembles my husband who is white and white people say she resembles me. This in my mind just reiterates my point.

Cancerian Mon 28-May-07 22:52:36

Sorry missed an important word in my 3rd paragraph is NOT white enough....

domesticgrumpess Mon 28-May-07 23:03:00

Message withdrawn

cat64 Mon 28-May-07 23:12:05

Message withdrawn

BigBadG Fri 01-Jun-07 20:30:57

You are being a bit sensitive but I don't blame you as this kind of ignorance still bothers me from time to time. People look at babies and just say what ever comes into their mind without thinking first, whether it's rude, thoughtless or just plain ignorant!
I'm black, my husband is white (v.pale) and DD has an olivey-mediterranean look with curly european hair. In her first year i don't think a week went by without some random stranger asking if she's mine!!! Very upsetting when your full of breastfeeding hormones and haven't had a good night's sleep in months!! Her features are much more like mine now so I don't really hear it so much. I certainly wouldn't let it pass the way I used to though, I'd say something sarcastic so at least they maybe think before they upset the next person.
Cancerian is absolutely spot on... all you can do is be positive and proud, and show your child what a great thing it is to have such a rich cultural background

Wimmilymorris Fri 01-Jun-07 22:01:30

I can see why you find this irritating.

I'm mixed race. My husband is from the West Indies with West African, Chinese and Amerindian heritage. I love and am fascinated by the differences between my children. They all have different skin colour, eye colour, hair colour and hair texture.

Commenting on your DS's skin tone isn't in itself offensive. But the comment you quote is. I think it's because the words used betray that it was something that was on their mind, i.e. how was your DS going to "turn out". And it's because it hints at some of the complex issues behind relative shades of colour that Cancerian mentioned.

My reaction to these types of comments really depends on my view of the person making them. I usually know in my gut whether the comment comes from a genuine interest or from an inappropriate/judgmental stance, and respond accordingly.

sleepycat Sun 03-Jun-07 21:33:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tinkerbellstar Mon 04-Jun-07 20:37:53

I feel exactly the same, My DD is mixed race and when she was born nearly everyone was saying she looked too light, I think this is ridiculous as how can u possibly predict that just because one of you has darker skin that your child will be dark skinned,I think people just don t think before they speak so don t let it annoy u,

fannyannie Mon 04-Jun-07 20:42:21

I agree with those that say try not to let it bother you - my DH is black I'm white (blonde haired, blue eyed pale skin).

DS1 is by far the darkest of our 3 DS's, DS2 a little lighter (although catching up - DS1 has 'darkened' as he's got older), and DS3 (who's only just born) has already had numerous "oh he's not as dark as the other 2 is he comments"..

Sleepy's comment reminds me of when DS2 was 3 weeks old and I'd taken him to be weighed - I had DS1 with me too and someone asked who's children I was looking after (well I have to admit none of my boys look anything like me LOL).

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