A question about race and "colour"

This is an odd question but one I have been unable to answer myself. In a recent discussion with some colleagues on race and identity (mostly focusing on New Zelanders) we were all stumped by the following question. Allow me to make broad assumptions about race in this question.

What would a child of a bi-racial person (let’s say half white and half black) and a white person look like?

Would they look like say Barack Obama or Tiger Woods or would they look more “white”. Regardless what they would look like, why? What is the dominant gene if that’s even the right phrase?

There’s no simple one-size-fits-all answer to your question. There are several sets of genes that influence skin color. As I understand, the interactions among those genes can be rather complex and are not fully understood. I’m pretty sure that in some cases it’s possible for a child to be darker than either parent or lighter than either parent.

So the child could look like Tiger or could look like Obama or could be lighter yet. There is no single dominant aspect. The full details of why are still under study.

I’m not sure why you’d think there would be just one possible answer to this question. The child’s appearance could be anything from as white as the whitest grandparent to as black as the blackest grandparent. Possibly more so in either case. Furthermore there is no single gene involved, so the question of simple gene dominance does not arise.

It’s hard to believe you could be unaware of this. Is there some assumption or subtext behind your question?

In the case of black ancestry, quarter-ancestry people generally look about how you would expect. There’s a pretty linear migration in terms of both color and physical traits as you move from one to the other. I believe that back when racism was a (large) issue in the US, some quarter-black people would pose as latinos, if that gives you any indication of the appearance. But even with a 3/4ths white ancestry, there’s still the chance you’ll come out looking nearly fully black (as those who typed faster have pointed out–though I disagree that it’s as random as all that.)

East Asian ancestry seems to disappear much faster. I went to an international school in Japan, so I’ve seen a pretty good number of half-Japanese people (often called “Halves”.) You can barely tell that they aren’t pure white. The epicanthic fold is generally fully gone, so they appear to be regular Caucasian black-haired people. I doubt that at a quarter mix that there would be anything to tell you that the person had any Asian ancestry. (Take for instance Keanu Reeves and Brandon Lee.)

I have a vague feeling that I have seen some black/Japanese halves in Japan and that they appeared fully black, but I may be wrong. But assuming so, it would seem that the East Asian gene isn’t very strong.

Or it could mean that he lives in New Zealand, where there aren’t a lot of black people.


Mea culpa, I didn’t realise New Zealand had a Chicago, Illinois.

The East Asian gene? Can you really believe there is exactly one?



Given the use of the word “colour”, I think it safe to assume that he’s not a native, even if he’s here now.

Is there one behind yours?

Color is controlled by multiple genes. The range of possibilities for the children can be approximated by a bell curve, with the maximum probability roughly halfway between the parents, and the tails stretching far beyond either parent. Kids can be born anywhere along the bell curve, but are obviously most likely to lie in the middle of the curve.

FWIW, I know lots of half-and-descending-fraction-Indian (dots, not feathers) kids and they nearly all look superficially Indian (black hair, brown eyes, olive or darker skin).

I find it a little odd that, although Barack Obama has one white parent and one black parent, we say that he’s black. Genetically, he’s half white and half black. By saying he’s black, we should also be able to say that he’s white (since it’s 50/50). Everyone likes to stand by the notion that Barack Obama the first black president. I guess you could say he’s also the 44th white president, too.

This is a question of classic recessive vs dominant genes vs genetic luck. What we call color is more than one gene. Im not black, but Im a noticable non-white ethnicity and Im darker than my parents and my brothers. Thats just how the genetic dice roll.

I imagine the person in the original question would simply look like his parents, like we all do.

Are you totally unaware of the history of race in the U.S.? It’s not necessarily right, nor logical from a modern perspective, but after 200 years of people with any detectable black ancestry being called black in this country it’s not what I would call odd.

Why do you find it hard to believe that I am unaware of this? Do you know me? Do you follow my posting history? What an unpleasant comment.

Thank you. Despite Askance given me both an agenda and a genetic knowledge that I don’t have, this helps answer my question.

The country is 15% Maori, however, which comprises a higher percentage of the population than African-Americans in the US.

I wonder, is there not much intermarriage between whites and Maoris?

This was what led to my question on SD. I’m Irish just in case anyone wanted to know.

It’s fairly easy to figure out what a child may look like from a black/white union but not so clear if it’s a white parent and a bi-racial one (black/white).

Basketball player Jason Kidd is half black and half white (irish) and has a white wife (think she’s Latina). Picture of the family here: http://www.babble.com/CS/blogs/famecrawler/2008/01/08-15/jason-kidd-family-bathtub-kids-sports-illustrated.png

*possibly NSFW