Guest blogger: Rachel Garlinghouse
Thirteen years ago, we said yes to transracial adoption. But not after having nightly conversations for hours—yes, hours—on the topic. You see, adopting is one thing. But adopting transracially? That’s a whole different world.
We looked at every resource we could get our hands on and had many conversations with people we knew who were part of a transracial, adoptive family. We examined our pasts, our beliefs, and our biases. And then—we said yes.
We knew we weren’t fully ready—because you can never be—but we knew that we were 100% committed to a child of color if we were chosen by an expectant parent of color.
Today we have four Black children—and I can tell you, transracial adoption and subsequent parenting is a big, important job. It’s an honor to be my kids’ mom—and it requires me to relentlessly pursue what is best for them.
Here’s what I know to be true of transracial adoption:
Love isn’t enough.
Colorblindness isn’t real.
Race should be acknowledged and celebrated, not ignored.
Parents should be adjusting to their child’s racial culture—not the other way around.
Transracial adoption is a sacred, serious honor.
Adoptees of color face the same racial stereotypes as non-adoptees of color, and in fact, sometimes face more teasing/bullying because they are told they “act white” or are called “Oreo” (black on the outside, white on the inside).
If you’re considering adopting transracially, you need to ask yourself—and discuss with your partner, if you have one—these questions. Be proactive!
1: What does my family and circle of friends look like?
Do you already have racial diversity in your life? If yes, who?
Do you have a close relationship with those families or individuals?
Your child shouldn’t have to adjust to your racial culture. You should be adjusting to your child’s.
2: What does my community look like?
Look at your workplace, your schools, your house of worship, your extracurricular activities, your county. Are these places reflective of the child you will bring into your home?
Your child shouldn’t join your family and be the token person of color in the spaces you frequent.
3: What beliefs do you hold about your child’s race and racial culture and history?
This is critically important. And please, be honest. What stereotypes do you believe? What experiences have you had with people of color? Recall specific instances. And then reflect on them.
And what can you do to change your beliefs? To evolve into the parent your child needs you to be? Expand your circle of friends, read books/listen to music and podcasts/watch films by people of color and about people of color. Immerse yourself—and learn.
4: What steps are you willing to take?
Your child needs you to step up—all the time—for him or her. What are you willing to do for your future child? What are you not willing to do? Be honest!
Are you willing to move neighborhoods or towns? Are you willing to drive farther for more racially diverse opportunities? Are you willing to change churches? Schools?
5: What’s your level of commitment?
Many times, people will tell me they’d just love to “adopt a little Black baby” or they think “mixed kids are just so cute.” They fetishize what it’s like to be a parent of a child of color.
Here’s the deal: racism is alive and well. I say often, kids of color are torn down every day by peers, the media, the lack of representation, the obvious racism, microaggressions, etc.—so we, as the parents, must work even harder to build our kids up. You can check out HOW to build up your transracial adoptee here: http://www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com/2018/09/10-ways-parents-can-support-their-transracial-adoptee.html
These five questions aren’t the be-all-end-all of your introduction to transracial adoption. Not even close. My husband and I have been parents for eleven years—and we never, ever stop learning, changing, and growing. And you shouldn’t either.
Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of White Sugar Brown Sugar, a platform focusing on adoption, race, health, faith, and motherhood. Rachel is the proud mama of four kids, all of whom were adopted with her husband of sixteen years. Her experiences have been shared on Scary Mommy, CNN, MSNBC, Babble, NPR, CBS, abcnews.com, Yahoo!, Huffington Post, and many more. When Rachel isn’t writing and doing media appearances, she can be found in her home, hair in a top knot, dancing with her babies in the kitchen, and sipping coffee. Read more on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and her site. Check out her latest book, The Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption: The Wit and Wisdom You Need for the Journey.