For transracial families: do you think it's important that your child develop a racial identity? If yes, in what ways are you helping them to do so?
yes-- I wanted my kids to be as aware of their cultural history as possible. I bought them dolls that looked like them, bought them books with characters that look like them, watched movies and shows with main characters that looked like them, took them to cultural events like step shows and community pride gatherings and we have a Kwanzaa observance. I sought out a racially mixed church we could attend so that they would not only meet other people that looked like them, they would also meet other families that were transracial and not think of our family as anything other than normal.
I think that is a tough question, because "racial identity" can mean so many things. I want my son to be comfortable with who he is, and part of that is his race, but an identity connected to that race is not something I can create for him. There are a few things that I do want to give him, and I guess that could be considered part of racial identity, but I'm not sure if it is what you mean.
First, I want him to love and feel comfortable in his own body. He needs to know that he is beautiful as he is (considering how truly stunning he is, and how often he hears it from people, I'm not thinking that's too difficult a thing for now, but it may be when he's older). Part of that is not feeling "different" or out of place, so I do try to have books, toys, etc that are more diverse. We have diverse friends, but I also try to take him to events and activities where he will not be in the minority.
I also want him to feel connected to other people who look more like him. Given his somewhat complex racial background, they aren't necessarily of the same race, and given the cultural make-up where we live, most do not have the same cultural background. Those things add a complication to things, but it's a work in progress.
I can't teach my son how to be who he is in the world. Part of that is that I cannot show him how to be a Black man in this country. Given his biological background, as well as our family's complex cultural makeup, some things he will have to figure out on his own. If I can teach him to be comfortable in his own skin and confident in himself within the world around him, I will have done my job.
I think that is a tough question, because "racial identity" can mean so many things. I want my son to be comfortable with who he is, and part of that is his race, but an identity connected to that race is not something I can create for him. There are a few things that I do want to give him, and I guess that could be considered part of racial identity, but I'm not sure if it is what you mean.
First, I want him to love and feel comfortable in his own body. He needs to know that he is beautiful as he is (considering how truly stunning he is, and how often he hears it from people, I'm not thinking that's too difficult a thing for now, but it may be when he's older). Part of that is not feeling "different" or out of place, so I do try to have books, toys, etc that are more diverse. We have diverse friends, but I also try to take him to events and activities where he will not be in the minority.
I also want him to feel connected to other people who look more like him. Given his somewhat complex racial background, they aren't necessarily of the same race, and given the cultural make-up where we live, most do not have the same cultural background. Those things add a complication to things, but it's a work in progress.
I can't teach my son how to be who he is in the world. Part of that is that I cannot show him how to be a Black man in this country. Given his biological background, as well as our family's complex cultural makeup, some things he will have to figure out on his own. If I can teach him to be comfortable in his own skin and confident in himself within the world around him, I will have done my job.
I like the previous comments. I have a question to add:
We adopted our daughter at age 2, and was told (in the medical history paperwork post-adoption) that she was "a little bit Indian." (meaning Native American). However, I do not know how much is "a little bit" (and find it interesting that they used "Indian" instead of Native American.) When pressed, I learned the probable tribe, but am not sure. My daughter is pretty tan, and gets awesomely dark in the summer, but her tan-ness comes from her tan Caucasian birth mother, not her super fair-skinned birth father's family (all blond, very pale and freckled), the side that claims the Native American blood.
DD loves that she is part Native American, and when she's dark in summer, she say's it's because she is an Indian princess. (I hate to break it to her, but the tan doesn't come from her Native American heritage - her half sibs on that side are all super-white.)
So, how much do I enrich this cultural heritage, when I am not sure of the tribe, and suspect that there is very little Native America blood in her. She likes it, and we go with it, and it's neat, but we haven't done anything with it really, like connect with any groups, or incorporate any traditions from her probable tribe. It would be fun, but what if we did all that, and then found out it was the wrong tribe? LOL!
Thoughts?
Good Question.
I am also part Native American. Like your daughter, I've always thought it was cool and remember telling people about it, but we never connected to any of the traditions of the tribe either. Personally, I have been okay with that, but if it's something your daughter expresses of importance, do you know the region where the tribe comes from? Even if you do not know the exact tribe, many tribes seem to practice similarly in using the land etc. in a particular geographic area. Maybe just some general traditions or info on the tribe would be enough. If there are ruins or museums or anything to visit, you could go and make a date out of it!
I'm a lot like ruth on this one. Dh and I are 'seemingly white', while our children are Asian, Black American and Hispanic.
We have grown and very young children. One thing I've changed in my language about adopting across 'line's is to leave the 'race' comment out of it. In our family, we refer to this as 'ethnic lines'. In our family, there is only 'one' race...human, KWIM? :)
I also agree with ruth about the 'cultural' thing. It actually makes me wonder when I hear people talk about 'making sure my kiddos know their cultural roots'??? *What* roots are they referring to? First and foremost, there *is* no pure ethnicity.
For my Asian kiddos, should that have meant we ate rice and made them take karate during their childhood, or simply explained in detail what it was like to adopt them-as babies with facial features unlike ours-- and they might have to learn who they were and be strong in a predominately white country?
I'm all about exposing our children to different views our society may view them; but---especially with our Black American babies------to 'expose them to their culture' makes me stand back and wonder. Does that 'culture' mean they should act like Bill Cosby or Tyler Perry....or act like some Black American pimp from a very dark place no one need visit?
IMO, there *is* no distinct 'culture' anymore. Yes, have family/friends who look different than dh and I. Yes, give our babies history---and not just the public school history....but the overall history of all peoples.
Give our children the overall culture of what's right and good, KWIM?
I grew up on a farm in the Midwest. I'm seemingly white and yes, blonde. While many other farm kids growing up in the Midwest enjoyed stock cars, Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer and saying, 'ain't'......those were never part of 'my culture' if you will.
Honestly, I think there's a fine line when someone speaks of 'culture' and putting our children in a box to define them. I think adoption agencies are all over the place about this and perhaps go too far. Yes, there are differences in hair and how to style it; yes, there are differences in some skin conditions, etc.....but as ruth speaks----our childrens' inner spirits---who they are; how they can fare in life; and how *we* accept those details are so much more than this 'cultural' labeling.
Jumping off of the soapbox now, but hoping you all know what I'm meaning to say....
Sincerely,
Linny
I am interested to see the responses and I hope there are tons of them. I have struggled with this a bit. I can't trace a lineage for any of my kids for a bunch of reasons, so I'm not necessarily sure how to support this.
For my Biological-daughter: on my side she is a mixture of most of Europe. She does a teeny-tiny amount of Native American in her, but not sure of much else on her dad's side.
For Little Man - they are under the impression that he will be returned so they are not very forthcoming with any information at all. I did find the obituary of his Mom's mom - she is white. I have people ask me all the time if he has some Hispanic heritage. Not sure.
For Mr Tickles - His parents don't speak to most of their relatives and we don't really have a way to trace much. He is at least partially African-American, probably no Caucasian, and he sure does look like he has some Indian (India, not native) in there somewhere.
The most I can say I have done is support diversity in who I talk to, how I treat people, where we go and what we do. We have dolls that are all ethnicities for the kids to play with and we watch shows with a variety of character types. Other than that I'm not sure what that "means".
I think by default the best thing my daughter has is where we live. The city I reside in is very multicultural and many of our neighbors are minorities. I'm Cuban but very white, and most of our neighbors are AA or darker skinned hispanics or White. We also have a very big community of interracial couples, so my daughter has not felt self conscious at the grocery store as its quite common to have brown skin with a CC mom or hispanic mom or any combination thereof. Lots of blended families as well with stepchildren of color and vice versa.
My daughter has noticed differences in skin tone lately, but it has been all positive, and not negative. I thank my community for that.
Also how lucky am I at Target in the hair section, and get all these women both mixed and full AA as well as CC with mixed kids, helping me out with what may work and what may not work on DD's hair.
I realize we are very fortunate.
Rockstar is 3 1/2 now and biracial (AA/CC). Before him, DH and I lived in a fairly white world. We are both CC, live in a neighborhood with very little diversity, attended a church with less diversity, have extended families with no diversity and didn't really know anyone else. And this was pretty much what my world looked like growing up, too. But it became clear to me as a mother that it was now my job to make sure my child is not the minority everywhere he goes, and that he grows up with a more rounded perspective of the world than I did. So we got out of our comfort zones. We church-hopped til we found one where diversity was sought & celebrated, and the message was heart-piercing Bible truths. We attended an African street festival. We've become close friends with people of multiple ethnicities through church, playgroups, etc. We buy and read books where characters have multiple shades of skin tones, but also books about people I had never heard of outside of public school: Harriet Tubman, Duke Ellington, etc.
We aren't doing everything right, and I'm sure we'll change a million times over. I'm not dead-set on instilling any single racial identity in my son, but then again he has a varied racial/ethnic history, so how could I? What I hope we ARE doing is teaching him to recognize and appreciate differences, and to always want to learn more. And when the day comes that he experiences some form of prejudice that DH and I cannot empathize with, we now know we have amazing friends to turn to who (unfortunately) CAN empathize with him and whom we trust to speak to him as strong men of God.
ARoseByAnyName
So we got out of our comfort zones. We church-hopped til we found one where diversity was sought & celebrated, and the message was heart-piercing Bible truths. We attended an African street festival. We've become close friends with people of multiple ethnicities through church, playgroups, etc. We buy and read books where characters have multiple shades of skin tones, but also books about people I had never heard of outside of public school: Harriet Tubman, Duke Ellington, etc.
We aren't doing everything right, and I'm sure we'll change a million times over.
You mentioned you aren't doing everything right, but it sounds like you are doing a great job!
adoptionadmin
For transracial families: do you think it's important that your child develop a racial identity? If yes, in what ways are you helping them to do so?
Absolutely!! I hate it when adopted parents say "I don't see color" well you may not and good for you but you can bet that most people (sadly) do see color. I feel very strong about exposing children to their biological culture. To say "I don't know that culture" is acceptable but to then not try and locate or educate yourself on the culture is disheartening. Adopted children should have access tooth the culture they are raised in and their biological culture. The biological culture is just as much a part of them as the one they are being raised in.
My family is Asian and we adopted a bi-racial (asian and aa) little girl. We are doing all we can to expose her to the AA part of her culture. This goes well beyond just have dolls and books with AA characters. Don't get me wrong, that is a start--but only a start.