In 2012, when my husband and I took those first tentative steps toward adoption, I had never heard the words ‘transracial adoption.’ I grew up in an adoptive home with a brother who is Costa Rican, a lone caramel drop in a sea of vanilla. As a late 80’s-early 90’s coming-of-age kid, I don’t remember the phrase ‘transracial adoptive family’ ever used to describe our household dynamic. We knew other white adoptive parents raising kids with varied skin tones but none seemed to have the language for this unique phenomena. In my young mind, our family was just moving through life, handling the complexities of an adoptive family but believing we were basically typical.
Becoming a transracial adoptive parent has been surprising, both in its beauty and pain. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t think I needed to and I’ve met countless other diverse families who challenge and inspire me to parent more effectively and with greater awareness.
In the midst of necessary growth and meaningful connections, my eyes have also opened wider to my own bias, white privilege, and the systemic racism that both built and plagues America.
As I’ve listened to various Black and Brown voices via books and podcasts and online spaces, I’ve gained a better understanding of the history of racial injustice and white supremacy that runs rampant in this country. I’m humbled by the work of the Holy Spirit that’s led me to confession and lament for my own complicity in a social construct designed to benefit the skin I wear. I grieve the ongoing experiences of racism and bias that stalk my beloved family members and friends of color. And I wonder nearly every day, what these issues will mean for my kids as they grow.
Despite the personal work I’ve done to better understand minority experiences and the fierce love in my heart for my kids, they will likely struggle to find their place, not just as adoptees, but as Black/white kiddos in a home and community where they are not the majority. This is not a pessimistic perspective but a sobering reality as I continue to wrestle with questions about our future and the fact that my best efforts will not be the ‘cure all’ for their sense of belonging.
- How will my kids be treated as they grow from Brown toddlers to Brown teenagers to Brown adults?
- Will they feel like they belong to their white parents?
- Will they feel like they belong in our predominantly white community?
- Will they be considered the token diverse friend?
- Will they be Black enough for their Black friends and white enough for their white friends?
- Will the “N-word” be spray-painted on their lockers?
- Will Eden be pulled over by the police and assaulted–or worse?
- Will Sam be followed by police officers, his innocent actions mistaken for criminal intent? Will he understand when I tell him how to stay safe when approached by a police officer?
- Will they be part of the disturbing school statistics that tell us students of color are more likely to be mistreated, harshly disciplined, and accused of cheating than their white peers?
- Will they be able to wear hoodies without their motives being suspect?
- Will they be denied service in restaurants and stores?
- If we move to a more culturally diverse area, will we be resented for our whiteness, which grants us certain benefits, status, and freedoms that people of color don’t necessarily enjoy? (See also: white privilege)
- Will white people ever stop touching Eden’s hair? How old will she be before they respect her right to personal space?
- Will I always have to explain to others that I’m their ‘real’ mom?
In the rubble of my angst however, I have discovered a hidden nugget of hope. While this basic truth doesn’t solve systemic racism or trivialize our legitimate struggles as a multiracial family, it does help to restore my joy and peace when I’m bombarded with worst-case scenarios:
Our diverse family was designed by the hands of a perfect God.
I could tell you the details of our pre-adoption research, how we chose an agency, what it’s like to wait and prepare for the unknown, why we said ‘yes’ before we were sure of our kids’ ethnicity, and how adoption can be affordable for a family living on one very limited income.
But behind our myriad human choices, Divine hands were quietly weaving the different colors of our family long before 2012. The circumstances and connections that surround our adoption stories can only be explained by the creative work of a good and perfect God.
The Divine design of our family doesn’t excuse us from engaging the social issues that accompany white parents raising non-white children in America. Celebrating our family’s varied hues doesn’t deny the reality of racial injustice or ignore the work we must do to stay ‘woke,’ particularly as white parents raising Brown kids. Divine design doesn’t protect our family from the harsh realities of being non-white. Some days this responsibility feels especially heavy.
On those days–when I get the invasive questions and comments from white people telling me, “We should all be colorblind…racism is just blown up by the liberal media…it’s not that bad…why are you raising your kids there…”–I return to the truth that our family was God’s design long before ‘Merica, 2019.
On those days–when I see the depths of learning and unlearning still needed in my own heart–I find assurance and strength in the One who knit my kiddos together in the wombs of their courageous birth moms.
On those days–when I’m tempted toward overwhelm as I consider my kids’ future identities as biracial adoptees–I turn from fear to trust in the One who has written them in the palm of His hand.
Sometimes I find it easier to get anxious or angry over what is beyond my control–the microaggressions in the form of racist jokes, strangers insisting on touching Eden’s hair, Confederate flags waving to us on family walks, and invasive questions about their ethnicities. While I can (and do) try to graciously respond accordingly, I cannot totally eliminate these frustrations from our lives or force minds to change.
And yet, I can stay aware.
I can continue my own personal work and education.
I can help my kids navigate these issues of belonging and race.
I can build resiliency and courage in their young hearts and minds.
I can teach them how to love our enemies, real or perceived.
And I can choose to rest in the Hope that holds me and reminds me that our diverse family was designed by a good God who is always with us and always for us.
**Featured photo cred: Nathan Dumlao at Unsplash