“You are no longer white. You become multiracial and multicultural when you adopt transracially. It is important to make this mental shift so that the needs of these children (and every member of the family) can most effectively be met; and so each family member has a better opportunity to reach their fullest potential.”
Rhonda Roorda is an international speaker, author of four books, and a black transracial adoptee. She is a woman of faith and believes in our families. But she is honest because she knows truth is what will make this world better. Her work is geared towards transracial adoption.
When I asked Rhonda Roorda the most important thing white parents need to know when they are open to adopting transracially, that was the first of many things she said. You are no longer white.
Which means that for white adoptive parents raising children of color they should no longer view their world solely through a lens of whiteness and privilege. They should broaden their scope to appreciate narratives that are not just theirs but also their child’s and the community(ies) in which that child comes from. “The problem is, far too often when parents don’t make this mental shift, the journey that they take with their child is less authentic and most likely will fall apart in the long term,” said Rhonda.
There are a lot of necessary and valid conversations happening regarding the question: is it even possible for a white couple to successfully adopt and raise children of color?
When I asked Rhonda this question—which is greatly personal to me, since my son is a child of color—I breathed a sigh of relief. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy path. It also doesn’t mean you should do it, unless you take it seriously.
Adopting transracially is not the same as adopting a child of the same race. Adopting transracially is bold and you must be ready and equipped for the journey to come, if you want to be a good parent.
“I do think it’s possible to successfully raise children of color as white parents. It is absolutely doable. Let me say this: I am supportive of adoptees, adoptive parents, and non-adopted siblings. And I believe in our families. I am committed to our families. Through my work, and other work on this issue, I know that transracial adoptions can be beneficial to the adoptees of color, white and non-adopted siblings, and to white adoptive parents. But it is a bold and complex journey that requires added knowledge, added experience, added expertise, and a whole lot of humility,” said Rhonda.
I asked Rhonda, “What does success look like in raising a child of color as white parents?”
Her response is one we should all pay attention to, especially if we are a multiracial and multicultural family: “The adopted child of color especially needs to learn how to be comfortable in his/her skin. To understand and absorb all of his/her story in its entirety. [The child] must be able to adapt into a white family and in many cases move comfortably in a predominantly white environment, and in addition, feel comfortable with his/her own history. And understanding that story: the complex story involving the treatment of black and brown people of color in America. For when these children grow into adult citizens, they are perceived first by the color of their skin; not by the pedigree of their white adoptive parents.”
“As a black adoptee, it is important for me to understand the history of black people in America. I need to understand that the history of black people in America is also my history as well. This is critical to embracing who I am. White parents cannot deny this part of their child’s history and culture, if they want to successfully raise their child to be a confident and productive adult who is able to tap into the power that comes from this transracial adoptive experience.”
Rhonda continued, “When you ask me, ‘Do I think transracial adoption can work?’ I do. But we have to do things differently. Since the first transracial adoption placement on record involving a black child in 1948 in Minnesota to now—2017— for at least 70 years, transracial families, not just those raising black and biracial children but other children of color, have been raising these children in predominantly white spaces as if the race and the culture of their adopted child was insignificant … and that love was enough. This must change. We now know that yes, love is critical, and that the race and culture of everyone in the family matters. We have to start looking at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves: ‘What do we need to change in our lives as white parents with privilege to start raising kids of color to be confident and competent in both white communities and communities of color?’
“Complacency and ‘colorblindness’ are exactly methods that will lead to transracial adoptions failing and failing miserably. When we adopt transracially, the stakes are very high. The values in what we do and don’t do have a huge impact on our children—how they see themselves within the family and within the world. Our children must know that they are worthy simply for what makes them who they are. It has truly taken a village of extraordinary people who have walked this amazing yet challenging journey with me. They have reminded me to always look to God as my source, to remember my rich ancestry, to have a spirit of gratitude for the family that chose me, and to let my essence shine without apology. I wish you the very best as you consider transracial adoption or as you are already embarking on this journey.”
My time with Rhonda was infused with wisdom, experience, grace, and truth. Read more from her, as a black adoptee raised by white parents.
ABOUT RHONDA ROORDA
Rhonda M. Roorda was adopted at the age of two into a white, American family with Dutch heritage. She was raised with her two non-adopted siblings in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Rhonda is an Author & International Speaker on Transracial Adoption. Rhonda’s latest book, In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption was named by Choice Magazine as a 2016 Outstanding Academic Title. With the late Dr. Rita J. Simon, she co-authored a landmark trilogy of books on Transracial Adoption (In Their Own Voices, In Their Parents’ Voices, and In Their Siblings’ Voices). he was just awarded by the North American Council on Adoptable Children 2017 Friend of Children Award. You can read her blog here, and visit her on Facebook and Twitter.