With transracial adoption comes additional questions and concerns that may not be present in an adoption into a same-race family. Some of these are thought of rather quickly when considering adopting outside of your race. How will my child “fit into” our existing family? Will we be able to answer the hard questions or even relate to them at all? How will we respond to race issues when they arise?
Tackling these things before choosing to adopt transracially is something that all adoptive parents should be required to do. Racism hits our little ones much sooner than we as white parents could even imagine. My son first felt it in preschool. He was just four years old.
I’m not the expert on being black. I can’t be. I have absolutely no idea what it is like to be black in America. That is why racial mirrors are just VITAL to my children. As white people, we see racial mirrors everywhere we turn—our family, television, the doctor, the dentist, the police officer, the schoolteacher, the banker, the postal worker. White people are everywhere.
“But there are black doctors, dentists, police officers…all those professions you mention, Melinda?”
Of course, and I’m not suggesting otherwise. But all too often, we are surrounded in whiteness. We are. We may not even notice it until we have black children to consider. This is exactly why it is crucial that we seek out those who can be role models for our kids that LOOK like them. They don’t have a black mother and father to mirror. We must actively work on making sure that our children are comfortable with who they are—in their community, in their own skin, and in social situations.
We must teach them about their history—black history. We must always remember that black history did NOT begin with slavery. There is so much to be told about black history pre-America. To me, it’s important that my kids know that their roots come from much more than slavery in America.
The truth of black history in America is not a pretty picture. But this isn’t about pretty. This is about truth. This is about our kids learning why things are the way they are now and how we got here. It’s important that they know how this continues to affect their lives today. This is how we learn and grow.
Black History Month was designated as such in 1976 as part of the United States Bicentennial. This important piece of history in and of itself opened the doors to learning things that many of us (referring to my generation and the generation prior to mine) had never even known. Black History Month was not something we “did” at my school. I didn’t know it existed until I was well into adulthood. Black History Month taught me so much truth about the horrific beginnings of black lives in this country–details that were left out of my school textbooks.
Black history will be something taught to our children year-round. It will in no way be limited to one month a year.
But MORE than that, it taught me about so many amazing black inventors, doctors, lawyers, scientists, and educators (to name a few). I learned that black America is responsible for so many great things in this country and that America was literally built on the backs of those who were most oppressed. It saddened me that this was never known to me as a child and I was just learning them as an adult.
Now I have black children, a girl and a boy. They will have different experiences than mine. Their lives will be parallel in many ways, but yet completely divergent in others. White Melinda and Corey will be responsible for raising two beautiful black children who are secure in whom they are and educated in what that means.
Black history will be something taught to our children year-round. It will in no way be limited to one month a year. I struggle with it being set aside as one month because it IS OUR history. Black history IS American history. Consequently, in our house, black history is always celebrated.
Yet we will always take the opportunity to educate more. Black history month IS celebrated in our home and it incorporates the good and the bad. It is met with sadness and despair, and strength and passion. Sugar coating history does nothing but oppress those who are oppressed even more. We keep things real in our home. It was what it was and it is what it is.
My son is almost six and he will know that with oppression come a people of strength. He will know that he is capable of so many great things—just as those before him in even worse circumstances could rise above, so can he. We will teach him how strong HIS people are. The same with my gorgeous brown-eyed girl as she gets older. Most importantly, they will learn from our fantastic circle of black friends and “framily” that we have surrounded ourselves with and they will see their strength, love, and culture throughout their entire lives.
Where do you start? What kinds of things can you teach? There are many, many resources online. I’ll link a few below at the bottom of this article. This year, we are personally choosing Booker T. Washington, Little Rock Nine, and Dorothy Height as our three black historical figures to learn about. We will learn who they were, what they did, what their struggle was, and what they accomplished in their lifetimes. We are also going to learn about Gabby Douglas because my son loves her story and we will incorporate her movie into our studies. Lastly, (never least) one of my best friends in life will be visiting to tell him her story of struggle and triumph and what it has been like for her growing up as a black woman in America.
The possibilities are endless, really. There are so many articles, visuals, and age appropriate information available to us now. Take advantage of all the technology that you have at your fingertips. Just don’t forget that the best lessons come from real life experiences and relationships. Listen to the voices of your Black friends. They will be a guiding light to your children. They are the most valuable of all.