Transracial Adoption: Beyond Books & Dolls

When my husband and I first considered transracial adoption, we took several months to dive deeper into what it would mean not only for us but also for a child coming into our home through transracial adoption. We considered our family and friends. We took a look at the makeup of our neighborhood as well as the schools. We sought out voices of those who were adopted transracially to widen our perspective.

When we had discussions about these things with friends and other prospective adoptive parents, for some, there seemed to only be a surface level of understanding of why this is important. Books & dolls. That seems to be the basic level of agreement. That was the easy part – yet we knew it was only the tip of the iceberg and not nearly enough.

Being ready for transracial adoption doesn’t just mean stocking your child’s library with books that have black characters or purchasing dolls that have brown skin. It’s also about welcoming in voices of those who share the same ethnic community as your child. It’s about mirrors, not only on tv, but in real life. Most importantly, it’s about pushing yourself to never stop learning. Since you don’t share the lived experience, you need to be open to taking guidance from those who do. While at times some of the feedback may be hard to hear, it will be important to understand for your child’s sake.

Last month, I was watching a conversation in a Facebook group for hair and skin care unfold. The white adoptive mother wasn’t able to accept any of the feedback she had solicited from the black members of the group about her son’s hairstyle because she was stuck on the fact that her one friend, who is black, told her that it was cute. She had posted the picture of her son’s hair hoping for affirmation of its “cuteness” and not for real feedback. She was not able to hear any of the black women who were explaining why it wasn’t appropriate however she was happy to respond to the other white adoptive parents who showed her support. Just because your one black friend said (fill in the blank) doesn’t mean that’s the one right answer if you hear even more voices of the black community telling you that they disagree.

During a dinner table discussion with our friends the idea of considering a move came up. “Are you really considering moving just because there isn’t enough diversity in your town?”  Yes, yes we are and we should be for the sake of our child.

It’s hard for people of any privileged group (white, heterosexual, male, cis-gender) to fully understand living in a world without strong, positive, daily mirrors because they haven’t experience living outside of the majority.

I finally found a way to help more people “get” it, for the most part…

Imagine as a child, growing up in a world where every single person you interact with is the opposite sex. So, for me and my sisters it would have meant that every neighbor, teacher, childhood friend and church member were male. Not only that but also only men and boys in the grocery store, at gymnastics class, in the library, and even at the pool in the summer time. Then imagine this trend continuing through your childhood into adulthood with only a glimpse of someone of the same sex as you on occasion but not really playing any significant roles in your life. What might the impact be of not having any mirrors growing up as a child? Now apply that to race.

It’s vital that prospective adoptive parents considering transracial adoption know that love is NOT enough. And saying that one is colorblind is actually not healthy or helpful as outlined in this post Please Cut the Colorblind Bull. It’s about diving into the world you will be bringing your future child into and seeing the experience from their eyes. It’s about stretching yourself to learn more, about things you haven’t personally experiences, and do better.

If you are a parent through transracial adoption, what’s something you have learned along the way that you wished you had known at the beginning?

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