A few months ago, the Our Children program, Raising Black Children Across Racial Lines brought together transracial adoptees and adoptive parents. Together, they discussed the unique issues brought about when white parents raise children of color. Some recurrent themes stood out ...
Adoptees had some common thoughts:
Please expose me to more people of color.
Having successful role models that look like your children is essential. Said one panelist (and Cradle intern!) Evelyn Metric, "I wish my parents had exposed me to more Black and brown people who were successful. I wish they had more friends who looked like me so I could have seen examples of what Black and Brown greatness is, instead of reading about Frida Kahlo or Caesar Chavez in a textbook."
Work to communicate with me about race, don't wait for me to come to you
Adoptee Karen Thomas reminds that most children have trouble bringing up emotions with parents, and adoption adds an additional layer of difficulty. "We already have a heightened sense of not wanting to create tension. We think, "will they not want me? Am I disposable? I'm not really theirs…" When you add race to this heightened sense, it's a lot. So you will be the one who has to communicate, because you can't expect your kid to let you know these things."
Don't rely on schools to teach your child about their history
Find ways to weave African American history and culture into your home and daily life."Don't just celebrate Black history during Black History Month," says Thomas. "Do it often and intersect white and Black history, because it really is our history." Don't forget to discuss African history, too."
Learn from me and from my mentors
It's enough to observe and absorb says adoptee Scott Smith. You won't have all the answers and that's okay. "You're going to have to rely on your kids to give you clues, and when those clues don't working, you're going to have to go to your kids' mentors, friends, churches, community centers, whatever it takes to learn what it is we're spending a lifetime living," he says.
Adoptive parents also shared words of wisdom:
You have to be uncomfortable
Adoptive mother Anna Bonick says she had never really confronted her whiteness. She says, "After adopting my daughter, I realized just how uncomfortable it is to acknowledge my whiteness. We had to learn to become uncomfortable. That was key in learning how to talk about racism with our children. For the rest of our lives will be uncomfortable and ashamed and angry.
Be conscious of the power dynamic in your family
U.S. society is dominated by the white majority, says adoptive father Ryan Liebl. "The hard part of parenting transracially, is that that's the same dynamic in your home. Our son gets really mad when we try to talk about race, and from his perspective, what an ugly truth to start trying to figure out, and what an ugly way to understand it, from a white parent."
Work to emphasize that Black is beautiful.
Bonick works hard to ensure her daughter sees examples of Black women in art, pop culture and magazines. "I realize the enormity of being a white woman and technically being considered the standard of beauty, and then having to look at my daughter, who is seeing that society, and embrace her and say 'Your Black is so beautiful.' So we get little things like an Essence subscription."
Cultivate meaningful relationships with Black families
Liebl emphasizes the importance of friendships with people who look like your children. "Our kids seeing our relationships with other adults who look like them has been really important. When those adults compliment our kids, it really resonates. It helps our kids absorb how much we love them when they see us love people who look like them."
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