'I love my mixed race baby - but why does she feel so alien?'
by LOWRI TURNER
Lowri Turner: Emotional turmoil over the colour of her child's skin
"She's getting very dark, isn't she?" This is what one of my friends recently said about my much adored - 12-week-old daughter.
She didn't mean to be rude. But it was a comment that struck me with the force of a jab to the stomach.
Immediately, I was overwhelmed by a confusion of emotions. I felt protective, insulted, worried, ashamed, guilty, all at once. The reason? My lovely, wriggly, smiley baby is mixed race.
Now, I think of myself as pretty 'right on'. My home is on the border of the London Republic of Hackney. I've been to the Notting Hill Carnival, even if I found the music a bit loud. Yet now I realise what a 'white' world I inhabit.
I am white and I have two sons from my first marriage who are both milky complexioned and golden haired. My twin sister, who I spend a lot of time with, has a Danish partner. As a consequence, she has two boys who are also pale skinned and flaxen haired.
Into this positively Scandinavian next generation, I have now injected a tiny, dark-skinned, dark-haired girl. To say she stands out is an understatement.
My colouring and that of my children has never really been an issue before. However, three years ago I met the man who became my second husband and who is the father of my daughter.
Although born in the UK, his parents came from India in the Sixties. This makes him British-Asian and our daughter mixed race.
There is another more PC term for the plump little bundle I strap to my front. She is 'dual heritage'. It's a bit trendy, but I quite like it. It implies a pride in coming from two cultures, rather than the less attractive connotations of 'mixed race'.
The usual time something is labelled 'mixed' is when it's a packet of nuts and they've bulked out the luxury cashews with cheaper peanuts. I'm not sure I want my daughter to be regarded as an adulterated version of some pure original. Still, it is the most accepted description.
The truth is, whatever the label, the fact there is a label proves that my daughter's conflicting parentage matters.
At the more frothy end of the scale, mixed-race children are regarded as pretty dolls — white kids with a nice tan.
When I was pregnant and people asked me about the child I was having, and I explained her father was Indian, they would often coo something along the lines of: "Ooh, she's going to be beautiful!" as if I was discussing a new rose, made from an exotic cross-breeding programme.
On a less benevolent level, mixed-race children can receive a hostile welcome from both white and black communities. Being neither one thing nor another may get you on the cover of Vogue, but it isn't an easy way to make friends.