I read an article the other day that said something like 40% of all adoptions are now trans-racial. How fantastic, I thought! So many families that look like ours!
It used to be, ‘back in the day’ that people wanted to adopt a child that blended in with their family and looked like they did, and there is nothing wrong with that. But as attitudes change and the world grows (in every sense of the word), more and more adoptions are trans-racial. Foreign adoption, foster care adoption, even private agency adoption unites parents who want to love a child with children who need a family. To these families, race and culture do not stand in the way of love.
But love shouldn’t make you color blind.
Heart, colored pencils Image Credit: Shutterstock
I remember in my foster care training course we watched a short video about trans-racial adoption. An African American teen was being interviewed about what it was like growing up with Caucasian parents. Well, as soon as the video ended and the lights went on, one of my fellow students (Caucasian) raised her hand and said, “A child is a child, you love them no matter what, and love is color blind!” This, of course, started off a lively discussion in which pretty much every person in the class brave enough to speak up at all loudly professed the same sentiments.
Now, I have an older biological son who is Asian and Caucasian. He has dark hair and eyes, and a beautiful complexion which he proudly refers to as ‘beige.’ He looks more like his dad than he does like me. So I knew a little bit about this particular discussion. For example, I know that love can be blind, but love shouldn’t be color blind.
Not talking about color, culture, or race at home may be done with the best of intentions, but it’s really not the best thing to do. If a child doesn’t hear and become comfortable with the subject in the safety of their home among their loving family, what will happen when they go out in the world and are confronted by strangers with it? I’m not necessarily talking about stumbling upon a skin head rally so much as other kids at school talking about the subject, or reading about issues such as the Civil Rights movement in history class. A subject can become taboo if it’s never spoken of, so if you ignore it at home you run the risk of it being awkward for your child in the real world.
A child’s self identity changes as he is exposed to more of life. When my son John was younger, say 10 and under, he thought of himself as Asian. That was his personal identity. It probably came from spending a lot of time with a very large Filipino family and feeling comfortable with them. If you ask him today, he says he identifies more as white, and although he has a very diverse crowd of friends, he says he likes feeling unique and not just one of the crowd. He has a positive self image and has no problem discussing race and culture. In fact, he is proud of his heritage on both sides.
I could never say enough good things about John, and the fact that he has a healthy outlook on race, color, culture, etc is just one more wonderful thing about him to add to the list. But part of why he’s that way is because we never shy away from discussing race and culture at home. We have our little family jokes, like ‘we’re all the same color on the inside –red!’ that make it an easy discussion and not a big scary subject. Nobody is the victim in our home, and we all look the way god wants us to look. We celebrate all our cultures, African American, Filipino, and German-Irish, with food and traditions that are fun and interesting.
Of course, John is aware that there are bigoted or racist people out there, and that he may someday come across them. He says he believes those people are just using race as an excuse because they are unable to fit in socially. (Pretty darn smart of him, huh?) We do our best to prepare him for this side of the coin as well, because no matter how hard we try, we as parents can’t always protect them from everything. The important thing is that he is comfortable with himself, he knows he can come to us, and he is as prepared as he can be.
Our younger son is African American/Caucasian. He is too young to understand most of this, but when he does start to notice it is our hope the groundwork we’ve done at home will make him comfortable with the topic. The goal is to be comfortable with who we are, not pretend it doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.
As parents, our hearts see our children for who they are, and love them unconditionally. As smart parents, we do our best to prepare them for the eyes of the world.
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