Transracial adoption, particularly white parents adopting children of color, is a lightning rod issue for many. No one is more aware of that than actress Kristin Davis, herself the mother of two adopted black children. She recently sat down on Red Table Talk to discuss why she pursued transracial adoption, and how she continues to navigate being the mother to two Black children in America.
Before the interview, Jada Pinkett Smith and her mother Adrienne discussed some of the perceptions within their community of white adoptive parents: Namely, white saviors who believe they can ignore the race of their children. Davis acknowledges that belief, but says that, at least in her case, race was very openly discussed during the adoption process. She had initially started out saying she would adopt a child of any background, and even took classes on black hair before adopting her first child, Gemma, now seven.
But even with all her careful prep and awareness of racism in the United States, she wasn’t prepared for what it would mean for her own children to be subjected to racism.
“This is what I want to say, as a white person adopting: You absolutely do not fully understand. There is no doubt… there is no way you could,” she said.
Davis teared up recalling how early it started, and how not being able to personally relate to her daughter has affected her. She described two specific incidents. First, when Gemma was a baby and people would say, “Won’t she be a great basketball player?” totally unaware of their racial bias in even saying that.
The second incident she recalls happened when white girls were excluding Gemma on a playground and the school refused to acknowledge racial bias could be a factor. That led to Davis seeking out a more diverse school for Gemma.
Davis also talked about her decision to adopt a black son. While she was guided by a willingness to adopt a child of any race the first time, her daughter asked for a Black brother, so she once again approached her adoption agency, saying they were open to it.
“It’s one thing to be watching it happening to other people. And it’s another thing when it’s your child and you haven’t personally been through it,” she says. Davis went on to talk about how she can acknowledge and discuss race with her children every day but also will never be able to truly understand what they’re going through. She also emphasized that she seeks advice from Black mothers about discussing hard topics with her children, like events in the news.
Watch the Red Table Talk episode below for the full, frank discussion: