In honor of Black History Month, we’ll have a couple posts about transracial adoption, specifically about white parents adopting black children. This is a post by Sara Kruger, editor and copywriter for this blog. Sara and her husband brought home their adorable son Teddy, who is African-American, in Nov. 2011.
My husband and my adoption journey began in Sept. 2010, at the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae adoption expo. Gathered in a Marriott ballroom were representatives from all organizations in the Washington metro area connected with adoption: private adoption agencies, law firms, public foster care agencies, and more.
One of the sessions we attended featured a panel of adoptive parents who had all adopted a child of a different race. They shared their struggles and took questions. Their underlying message was: This is hard. Really, really hard.
We heard this message throughout our adoption journey. During one of our training sessions through Adoptions Together, we listened to a video of black children adopted by white parents talking about how difficult their childhood had been, since they didn’t share their parents’ race. We left such trainings and workshops quite discouraged. We understood these videos and discussions were designed to make sure we were fully aware of what we were getting into, adopting a child of a different race, but we were frustrated nonetheless. Wasn’t there anything positive about transracial adoption?
Well, yes, in fact, there is. We are more than one year into this journey of two white parents raising a black child, and we can testify that, while all is not rainbows and butterflies, all is not cloudy skies and thunderstorms either. Below are a few of the positive things we’ve experienced in the last year.
- Living vicariously through our son’s ability to wear chartreuse and burnt orange, which would look awful against our light skin. (Ok, that one’s not a big deal, but we still get excited when we dress him in clothes of those colors.)
- Learning about the black culture, and earning cred among black friends and colleagues for our knowledge of hair and skin products designed for black skin, which dries more quickly than white skin.
- Interacting frequently with the black community, as its members stop to exclaim over our son. Prior to bringing Teddy home, we were invisible: we commuted to and from work, shopped for groceries, etc, and no one engaged us in conversation. This was mutual. We didn’t engage others either. But now, Teddy’s presence invites conversation everywhere we go. We do get our share of comments within the white community as well, but more so from the black community.
- Broadening the scope of media we consume: We now watch documentaries and read articles about black culture. We recently watched a rerun of CNN’s Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America, which opened our eyes to the concept of colorism within the black community. My husband read How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston. As citizens who strive to be well-rounded (we lived abroad for five years, for goodness’ sake!) we should’ve done this before…but we didn’t.
- Raising awareness about adoption—without even trying. As an obviously adoptive family, people frequently ask us questions. I have to admit, I don’t always welcome them; in fact, sometimes I consider them intrusive. But I hope and pray that we can be part of making adoption “normal”.
- Receiving only positive comments from everyone we meet. We were warned that people (maybe even family!) would be critical of our decision to adopt a child of a different race, but we’ve only received positive feedback—to the point where it’s actually awkward. Occasionally people laud us for our actions, which we’re quick to correct. We’re not saviors deserving of applause; we’re a family put together by God, just like every other family.
- Finding new meaning from Martin Luther King Jr. events and feeling newfound gratitude for the work he did, which will directly impact our son.
We know we will encounter challenges unique to mixed-race families. But when people ask us for advice, we’ll make sure to provide more of a balance than we received.