When Family and Friends React Negatively to Transracial Adoption

If you've encountered situations like these, how have you responded?

Lita Jordan November 20, 2017

“Blood doesn’t make a family,” the popular adoption meme reads. How very true and poignant in the adoption community. Bringing a new child into your family, as joyous as that time may be, can lead to internal struggle within your family and friend groups, especially in cases of transracial adoption.

What happens when the rest of the family does not feel the same? What happens when society’s opinions and prejudice begin to affect your child? As we have seen in shows like, “This is Us,” unfortunately not all family members are quick to get on board and may treat children of another race differently.

I reached out on social media to some of my fellow transracial adoptive parents and asked for their experiences encountering racism within their own families. The following is a collection of stories they shared with me.

“I can’t love her the same.”
1. “I can’t love her the same.”

I almost got into a physical altercation with a family member who told me that she loved my daughter but, you know, she just couldn't love her "the same" as the rest of the kids in the family because she is black. I tried yelling and reasoning and finally just had to walk away. After lots of calm-down time, I let her interact with my daughter under strict instructions that everything must be "fair" between her and the other kids. My sweet girl won a blatant racist over. They bonded and the family member actually passed away not too much later. In retrospect, I'm glad my girl had the opportunity to forge her own relationship and make happy memories. But, yeah, there were almost blows.

“I don’t like to think of them like that.”
2. “I don’t like to think of them like that.”

Family member - "You should cut their hair-they look like they have afros."
Me: "Well - their dad is black"
Family Member: "I don't like to think of them like that."
Same family member: "Oh my god, now they look like little Mexicans-dress them different or something."
Me: "Well, their grandparents ARE from Mexico so they are Mexican"
Family Member: "I don't like to think about them that way"

"She should learn to tone it down a bit.”
3. "She should learn to tone it down a bit.”

After mentioning to a family member that my black daughter wanted her hair braided for back to school she stated, "I don't know why she always has to act so black. She's growing up in a white household - she should learn to tone it down a bit."

“But I have black friends!”
4. “But I have black friends!”

My sister-in-law told an incredibly racist joke at my son’s birthday party. I confronted her about it and she told me to “lighten up. It’s funny. I’m so not a racist. I have SO many black friends.” It took a long time to explain that having black friends is not a license to be racist. Racism as a joke is still racism.

“Don’t let the door hit ya on your way out.”
5. “Don’t let the door hit ya on your way out.”

I had to cut a close family member out of our life completely. When we adopted my son, she began to post on Facebook about how she “didn’t believe in mixing races.” When we talked to her about it, she stated she was “allowed to have an opinion” and that we had to respect that. I told her she can respect the fact that we won’t let my son be touched by her nonsense and also respect the request for her to stay away from our family until she learns to channel her ignorance elsewhere.

A United Front
6. A United Front

We were at a family reunion when an aunt we had never met yelled out, “How’d that happen?” when she saw my daughter run past. I was so proud when my mother-in-law very quickly told her if she ever said something that ignorant about her grandchild again, she would not be welcome at another family event. It is incredibly meaningful when our family speaks out against ignorance before we even have to.

Check-out Shaming
7. Check-out Shaming

Often times when I go somewhere with my very blonde-haired children and my biracial daughter, it is assumed by someone that I have multiple “baby daddies,” as they call it. One man in line behind me at Walmart commented to his friend about how I must have “got around” in a poor attempt at a whisper. I happened to know the cashier, who immediately and loudly asked how the adoption was going. The man looked at his feet and did not speak a word for the rest of the time in line. On the contrary, whenever my very white husband takes our children out, he is treated like a saint!

Why Does it Matter?
9. Why Does it Matter?

The first question from my family member every time we take in a new foster child is “Are they black?” It may seem innocent, but it still hurts. Why does it matter? How would they react if they were?

You Don’t Know Him
10. You Don’t Know Him

We struggle dealing with judgement of my daughter’s birth father. We have an open adoption and he sees her regularly. We have friends and family who can’t understand how we would “let” him be around her. He is a black and the assumption is automatically that he is some sort of danger to her. He is an amazing, college-educated man who does his best to stay in his daughter’s life even though he chose not to parent due to various circumstances. It makes my blood boil when people assume the worst and they are quickly corrected.

People Can Change
11. People Can Change

Before we adopted, my father-in-law was notorious for making racist comments and using very racist language. We were incredibly concerned to bring our child to meet him. To our very pleasant surprise, he fell in love with him immediately and has not spoken a negative word in the three years he’s been home. He treats him exactly the same as all of his grandkids and I have even seen him speak out against racist statements on Facebook. It was like a light switched on when our son came home. People can change!

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Lita Jordan

Lita Jordan is a master of all things "home." A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the "other Michael Jordan" and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on Facebook.

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