My husband and I are white, we are looking to adopt. The race factor isn’t that big of an issue to us. We live in central California, and we see bi-racial couples and childeren all the time, and no one seems to be bothered by it. Is it different in other parts of the US? And why because it doesn’t seem to make a difference in our area, what is you opinion on us adopting a child of another race? And does the race matter?
this is a great question!
sadly, i think the fact that it’s even up for discussion indicates what an uneasy relationship we all have with the topic of race, much less when we are forced to deal with it’s ism in our lives…
i do not believe racism can be narrowed down by region anymore. we live in a mobile culture, and people with bias have been broadcast from sea to shining sea. and the nature of racism has changed, because it is aware of it’s public face, so its manifestation is more subtle and nuanced. you never can know when you will meet it or what form it will take. but it lingers. it is everywhere. in practice, we have not caught up with the ideal of “we are the world” yet.
even in a cosmopolitan city your children will encounter racism. but in a cosmopolitan city, there too will your children encounter more people to identify with. even in a city, there are regional differences. i live in a major city, but its cosmopolitan has moved to the edges of the urban center, so the center is now predominantly an economically advantaged racial mono-culture, while various races are forced by economics or by choosing community to hug the city’s margins. the racial divide is now a fifteen minute drive by car. it is the inverse of the white flight found during the genesis of surburban developments.
and if you travel to the rural areas, an hour drive by car, race and economic class become even more distinct and separated. i don’t believe there is more racism there, just that it is more obvious.
odds are that, even with your best efforts, you will never be able to offer an experience that can give your child adequate access to their race’s experience, as your race might be the limiting factor for entry into a racial community. no matter how open and supportive you are with your children, you will not be able to shield them from society recognizing and remarking on how different they are from you. this will come in the form of celebrity, curiosity, criticism, hostility, or second class status. and no matter where you live, your child will encounter subtle and sometimes overt racism. nor will your experiences dealing with race differences in any way match or effect you in the same way it effects your child. this will take its toll, but it will be their own private burden to deal with. so yes, race matters. it hurts a lot. it hurts in ways that deeply alter your self esteem, and the subtle variety takes years to recognize and dissect in order to understand why you feel bad.
i will not speak about my own experience at this time, but i will share the story of an african-american male adopted friend. his well meaning caucasian parents adopted him believing their love and understanding would cancel out the race factor. he was considered too white by the black minority where he grew up. he was considered too black by the white majority where he grew up. (this was a liberal, open-minded community) and though his parents tried to be color blind and provide a color blind world view for him, the truth was his world was color focused. because even if there is no hatred and the society is accepting, the fact is that people still address and relate to people of color differently. it wasn’t until he was in high school where some african american sisters took pity on him and helped TEACH him how to fit in better as an african american male that he began to stop feeling like an alien. all of which was to the detriment of his place in white society and to his relationship with his adoptive family, both of which he rejected to be more fully black. he spent his adult life very angry over having been put in this avoidable situation, and it wasn’t until a nervous breakdown that he finally came to terms with his adoption and forgave his parents.
this is a stark example. however, most of us transracial adoptees have parallel paths. i believe, if given a choice, most of us would have preferred to be placed in a home that matched racially.
here’s some interesting commentary on YouTube:
struggles for identity
struggles for identity 10 years later
Assuming that the adopted child will be raised in a region where there is no racism and nobody is bothered by race.
– your child will want to look like mommy and dad, and will say, “I want eyes like yours, mom” (for asian child) or “I want my hair like dads” (for black child). And if your response is that he is beautiful, that everyone is unique or that his eyes/hair are beautiful, he will not believe you, he will think that you don’t understand him.
– your child will look at other families of his ethnicity with envy them and wondering “what if” and “why” . Your child will never let you know about his thoughts.
– when your child hears people talking about a newborn baby and how its nose is just like its mother nose, it will pinch his heart. Your child will be hurt and jealouse whenever he hears people saying how X looks like its mother. But he never talks to you about it.
– if you go out all together with his white friend, people will think that the other child is yours, and him the child of someone else. And that will hurt him.
– your child will come to belive he is white. Sometime, he will be surprised to see a stranger in the mirror,, so he will avoid looking himself in the mirror.
No racism involved in all this above.
And IF there was racism, how are you going to teach the child how to deal with it? will you be able to recognize racism?
My parents couldn’t recognize racism. They told me once, they wanted to adopt a girl, but they didn’t want to adopt a black girl, not because they are racist, but because: “A black kid would have suffered too much of racism. What you have gone through during your first years is nothing compare to what would you could have gone through if you were black during you first years. Believe me, you didn’t suffer of racism.”
By “what you have gone through”, they meant the kids at school making a circle around me, mocking at me, pulling their eyelids, calling me Chinese, saying Chinese people are dirty. Those are only what I have told them. I never told them I was threatened two times by taller kids only because I was “Chinese”.
IF there is racism, as a white person, how would you recognize it?
I don’t live in USA. I live Quebec, Canada. Here too, people, adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents, say there is no racism and no one seems to be bothered by it. All Quebecois will say there is no racism; even many immigrants will agree with that. But there are people of color that will disgree with that.
Because as white people, you are less able, if not able at all, to recognize racism.
When I talked about my experiences to some friends, they all said that it wasn’t racism. They all said: “kids are like that.” When I told them there were adults around us doing nothing to stop them, they said: “It was in the old days.”
Indeed, it’s much different that the old times. But my husband, who is white, noticed people stares at us a lot. And he finally understood it has to do something to do with race. BTW, all these friends are white.
Later, when I talked about my experiences, withouth pronouncing the word racism, to a black friend, she said she too has suffered of racism.
This response really nails things so well. Thank you.
The “cosmopolitan class” of bourgeois adopters has definitely become dominant, now that Capital uses an even-keel multiculturalism to sell Product and Lifestyle. At the Adoption Initiative Conference last year it was proposed that adoptions should only take place in major East- and West-Coast urban centers, with such families living in “Adoptee-towns”. An adoptee proposed this; I was horrified at the concept of further ghettoizing ourselves.
Look on the bright side, having adoptee bantustans would make outreach and organizing adoptees lot easier. Large parcels of land are available in the Detroit Bankruptcy Zone for a Potemkin village model Adoptee-town settlement. I like this modest proposal…
I know there’s a satirical element here, but I’m missing the reason for using Potemkin village. (This is one of my favorite sad/funny stories from Russian history; Pullman, of railroad Pullman car fame, pulled something similar, but he actually expected his workers to live in his fake houses.)
What is the “false front” part of the proposed Potemkin-Village ghettoization here? Or, am I just sub-caffeinated and missing a good joke? 🙂
I don’t want to hijack the thread to belabor my snarky comment, but the definition of Potempkin villages has evolved to include state-sponsored and subsidized model development projects, show places to dislay to international agronimsts, far away from the realities of displacement, poverty and surreality of the mass projects the model propogates. The notion of limiting adoptions to the coasts seemed to beg for the next logical high-modernist step, completely socially engineered communities of adoption.