While transracial families have been around for decades, in recent years, the number of adoptions across racial lines has greatly increased. I never knew I'd be one of those statistics, honestly! But now that I'm here, I'm LOVIN' it.
On Friday, Marc and I are speaking to some prospective adoptive couples on transracial adoption, so it's got my brain reflecting upon all of the wonderful and challenging things about parenting outside of your own race.
After finishing a great book on transracial adoption (Come Rain or Come Shine: a White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children), I've been tossing around and intrigued with this idea the author mentioned toward the end of the book:
We are not a culturally white family with a black baby.
Now sure, that's what it may look like from any outsider's perspective based upon our skin tones, but here's what I mean by that...
Jameson is not the odd man out in an all-white family. It's not an "us" (white parents and sister, Caroline... who is actually half hispanic!) and "him" (Jameson, who is black).
We, collectively, are now a transracial family. A black/white, white/black unit.
What that means is that we aren't trying to ignore Jameson's race and culture and make him squeeze into the racial culture we already possess. I do not want him to be a white man in a black man's body.
I love his heritage, I love his culture. I not only want him to have it, but the rest of us as well.
On the flip side, Jameson will inherit a heaping dose of white culture, by nature of growing up with white parents.
In other words, now our family has embraced and is continually working to integrate another racial culture into our own. The four of us are now a cultural blend. (a "mocha," if you will?.... he he)
"Combined, we have a single identity composed of merged traditions, backgrounds, and experiences." (page 199 of the book)
I love this thought. It means that my son will not be completely alone in navigating his African American and Haitian culture- we are all committed to immersing ourselves in this endeavor together.
Transracial adoption is a crazy, complex, lifelong journey, and we are just getting started down the road!, so I clearly have so, SO much to learn, but even in the past 10 months, adopting my chocolate-skinned baby has opened me up to so many new experiences, new perspectives, and new relationships.
Falling in love with another culture reveals many idols and sins in your own, and it's funny how I'm finding myself feeling a little in-between cultures now. Of course, Jameson's identity is SO much more than just his dark skin. I don't want to over-emphasize race, nor do I want to ignore it, as it is a large part of who we are.
Practically speaking, that will affect the neighborhoods where my family will choose to live, the way we can't ignore Black history month now, the places we will frequent, where we'll have his hair cut, the schooling we'll choose for him, the community events in which we participate. Our church is currently lacking in the diversity department, but I'm hoping for more color. I've already researched black churches in our town, wanting to attend special events or vacation bible school, etc.
It's important that Marc, Caroline and I know what it's like to be in Jameson's shoes, to be in the minority in a majority-dominated society. Jameson will need opportunities to be in the majority as well.
Now, hear me out- I'm not saying our lives will suddenly be centered around black culture, but now that it's part of my family's culture, it will most definitely play into each decision our family makes.
Many of you know our story, and how growing up, I would never have imagined my family to look the way it does, but God has graciously given me eyes to see how my children picture a much greater Kingdom than that of this world. Diversity is beautiful because it was HIS idea to begin with. Look at the array of colors and cultures that HE established in His own image!
While I'm proud to be a transracial family, the future is a little overwhelming to me at times, too. As you can imagine, there are many critics of transracial adoption on both sides: some are outspoken, but most are not. It's usually more of a subtle, underlying belief that people carry, thinking families should match. I know there are whites and blacks who think we have done a disservice to Jameson by adopting him as our son.
I've read the stories of adult transracial adoptees, and not a single one of them were "I was raised by a white family that loved me and we lived happily ever after." But what consoles me is that in every family, biological or adopted, there are issues, aren't there? Who of us ever has a story that is "and we lived happily ever after"?
There will most certainly be challenges, issues, experiences of racism, questions of identity. This is the hard stuff of transracial adoption. We already get stares, questions, misperceptions, and inappropriate comments and questions. As Jameson grows and starts to resemble a black man instead of the cute little black boy, some may not be as sweet and loving towards him as they are now. Just as every black family must prepare and train their children to wisely navigate a racist society, transracial families serve their kids well to do the same.
So that leads to an important point: adopting transracially IS NOT for everyone. I had a guy tell me how selfish his sibling was for wanting to adopt a baby in the same race as him. "There's no difference between adopting a white baby and a black baby," he confidently said, probably thinking I agreed with him, "You just open your heart to love a child, ANY child."
Oh, if only it were that simple, right?
The truth is, there are soooooo many factors to consider as to whether it would be best for a family to adopt outside of their race.
Is the family ready to incorporate a child's race and culture into their own?
Are extended family members supportive, or would a child be disowned or shunned?
How often would the child have opportunities to be around members of his/her own race?
Is the town or community in which you live racist?
Would the child be welcomed and loved in your setting?
Are both spouses and children on the same page with this?
Adoption itself is a lifelong journey. Adding transracial into it brings further complexities. It's quite the commitment. It requires tough skin. And speaking of skin, when your family has different ethnicities, everyone's suddenly going to know you're the "adoption people" now. With that comes a lack of anonymity. (but hey, with a bald daughter, we never had that to begin with!)
It's a little humorous how everybody seems to come out of the woodwork to talk to you. Even during the quick trip in your sweatpants to the grocery store, you'll hear tales of who adopted who, what child was in foster care, etc. In a way, transracial adoption means you'll forever be a lifelong spokesperson for adoption.
But I can't say enough about how Jameson coming into our family has changed me for the better. I notice a culture so much more than ever before. I NEED their wisdom. I value their experiences and stories. (Of course, we actually needed them in our lives all along, but now I really know I need them...) Their struggles now become our struggles, too.
Nothing has brought us more joy than opening up our hearts to that which the Lord had for us. And to think, He knew which child was OURS before we ever marked "yes" or "no" on any adoption form. He knew before we ever did how diverse and colorful our family would be.
And we couldn't be more thrilled.