You know what the problem is with most articles regarding transracial adoption? They’re predominantly about black hair care written by white people.
Black hair care is vital information, but it’s not the only consideration when parenting children of color. I also don’t think white parents should be the educators on black hair care. Often we forget to or simply don’t uplift voices of color when researching transracial adoption. It’s interesting (and problematic) to me that white parents go to other white parents to learn how to raise non-white children.
When I was assigned this article, I immediately thought to myself, “Who is an adoptee of color I can interview?”
This article is geared specifically towards white parents adopting outside of their race, but it should be noted that transracial adoption is more broadly defined as adoption of a child that is of a different race than that of the adoptive parents.
“Growing up, I often wondered why black parents didn’t adopt me. I wondered why white parents were always the ones adopting kids of color.” —Angela Tucker
Angela Tucker is a nationally-recognized thought leader on transracial adoption and is an advocate for adoptee rights. In 2013, at the age of 26, Angela’s own story of being a transracial adoptee and search for her birth parents was featured in the groundbreaking documentary CLOSURE.
I thought Angela would be the perfect person to hear from about the top ten things we must know before adopting transracially. However, I approached her respectfully, knowing that it is not her job to educate me and being cognizant of this time in which we’ve just endured yet another assault on black bodies (Charlottesville.) I can imagine it is exhausting for people of color to continue to rise up.
1. You must be comfortable talking about white supremacy.
“If you are not comfortable talking about white supremacy, you cannot adequately parent kids of color. If you did not know that the National Association of Black Social Workers once said that ‘transracial adoption is a cultural genocide,’ you aren’t prepared to parent a child of color. Being comfortable with the discomfort that is America’s racial history is crucial in order not to perpetuate systems. ” Angela Tucker shares.
2. Why you want to adopt a child of color?
“Adoption is inherently traumatic as it is a solution to an unfortunate need. Transracial adoption is not only the severing of the child and their relationship to their first parents, but also the severing of their place within that culture. If adoption is only viewed as a beautiful thing for which the child should be ‘grateful,’ the child may grow up feeling it to be too difficult to talk about their unique identity. You cannot be squirmish talking about narratives, especially firmly understanding why it is such that transracial adoption typically means white parents adopting kids of color. Do you know why this is the case? Have you heard of the Multi-ethnic Placement Act of 1994? You should,” Tucker continues.
3. Your child won’t have the luxury of avoiding the conversations of race, privilege, and supremacy.
Tucker shares more, “Your four-year old child may be blissfully playing on the playground when they become the victim of a racial microaggression. You must see this, spot this, and shut it down.”
Tucker continues, “You may not be able to rely on the schools to accurately teach about our history as we know that many history books censor major details about our racist past (i.e. The Colfax Massacre, black culture of the Kentucky Derby in 1875, voter suppression). American history of race is uncomfortable. But you must know the whole truth and continue learning, for your child.”
4. If your child will be your first black ‘friend,’ you aren’t ready to adopt transracially.
“Chad Goller-Sojourner, a Seattleite and fellow transracial adoptee said that he grew up white and had to learn how to be black, telling NPR ‘Your child should not be your first black friend,’ in reference to being the only black person his parents knew. Adoptive parents should be comfortable and interested in the community from which they’re adopting.”
5. You cannot be complicit in racism and simultaneously love your child’s culture.
“If you are a transracial family and are not speaking about and working against racial injustices (like the alt-right protest in Charlottesville), then you are complicit and thus continuing white supremacy. It’s frustrating hearing white parents to children of color saying, ‘I want to do something but don’t know what to do.’ Not doing anything is not an adequate response to systemic racism.” Tucker explains.
“Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and hopefully we shall overcome.” —Rosa Parks.
I cannot think of much else that would make me a better transracial adoptive mom than standing for justice, against injustice and (systemic) racism. Sometimes this means posting on Facebook, most times this means having hard conversations with white friends and family. It always means talking about and noticing and celebrating diversity, and yet other times this means reaching out to my friends of color and letting them know I value them even when the world fails to.
As a transracial adoptive mom—white woman raising a child of color—I lay down my defenses and commit to raising my white and brown children to not be complicit nor colorblind.
6. Colorism. American norms still posit whiteness as best/prettiest/smartest/richest etc.
“We live in a country where we are still celebrating the ‘firsts’ for people of color, and where white celebrities are consistently named as “Most Beautiful Person in the World” on pop magazine covers (I know, I saw Halle Berry in that list, too). Ava Duvernay is the first black woman to win the Best Director award at Sundance Film Festival (2012). Lisa Blunt Rochester was the first African-American woman elected to congress in Delaware (2016). Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming (2016). When people of color don’t see ourselves represented in various positions in society we question if we’re even able to attain those positions. Representation matters.”
7. You may not be the best parent to your child in certain situations.
Tucker shared with me the importance of understanding your limitations as a transracial adoptive parent.
“White parents must know that they may not be the best one to discuss issues and dangers of implicit bias. Learning about Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Charleena Lyles, and other cases of biased policing may be better received if it comes from someone who looks like them—someone who has also experienced life in a brown body.
. . . my parents don’t know how to play piano, so they didn’t give me piano lessons, they hired a piano instructor. Same line of thinking could be applied here.”
8. Your comfort or discomfort with people who are different than you.
“Have you ever been at an event where you are in the minority (understanding that as a white person you are still of the majority culture)?“ If not, why? Many white adoptive parents using their child of color as their crutch or reason to celebrate other cultures. would you be interested in that culture if you didn’t adopt your child?”
9. How Your “friends” Respond to “#BlackLivesMatter”
“Have you ever posted #BlackLivesMatter on your page? Do you have a sign in your yard? If not, why? If so, you may need to unfriend folks from your friends list, or educate them about why this matters to you. Those who feel defensive about these sentiments likely aren’t folks who your kiddos will feel safe around.”
10. Listen, seek out, amplify and lift up voices of adult adoptees.
Sharing personal truths are hard—especially for transracial adoptees who have grown up feeling conflicted, but society demands that they feel grateful for being removed from a potentially bad situation. The bravery of speaking publicly, and risking judgement and worse yet —another rejection—is a risk that I find powerful and will ultimately help me better parent my son. This is why I value Angela’s voice.
Any time I have the privilege of writing about transracial adoption, I will always do my best to seek out and lift up voices of adult adoptees. Especially adoptees of color. Far too often we hear from white parents about how to raise their children of color; I cannot help but think this is entirely backwards. We are the ones needing to listen, seek out, and hear the voices of adults who are and were in our children’s shoes: children of color being raised in white families.
It’s always an honor to work with Angela Tucker. She is a voice for countless adoptees of color. Transracial adoptees have experiences that will most closely resemble my son’s experience, and I am not afraid to admit I won’t understand his experience fully. So, if not for anyone else—for my son—I will listen.
More transracial adoptees to listen to, seek out, amplify, and lift up: Rhonda Roorda, Rebecca Carroll, Jessenia Parmer, April Dinwoodie, Tony Hynes, JaeRan Kim, Susan Ito, Susan Harris O’Connor, Harlows Monkey.
Learn more about Angela:
Angela Tucker is the subject of the documentary CLOSURE, the Post-Adoption Program Manager at Amara, a foster-care agency in Seattle Washington, and the founder of The Adopted Life (www.theadoptedlife.com). The Adopted Life began as a personal blog; a means by which she hoped to build a community of other adoptees growing up in closed adoptions. Since its launch in 2009, her blog has grown in readership and purview, and is now the name and platform for The Adopted Life miniseries. Angela’s work has catapulted her into her becoming a sought-after keynote speaker for adoption and child welfare-based organizations. She was recently named “Seattle’s Smartest Global Women.”