The first time we adopted, my husband received a call from a black friend of ours asking to adopt his child at birth. He knew we were open to adoption and he knew our family quite well. I don’t know if we even thought twice about it at the time. We simply said, “yes” and waited.
My current husband is white, but I had been married to a black man for many years prior to that. I raised a black child for nearly ten years because of that marriage. I knew what I was getting into and I was prepared for it.
Or so I thought.
In the beginning of that marriage, I dismissed many things I should not have dismissed. I saw things that were clearly race related and stood against those, but I didn’t understand the micro-aggressions and how damaging they were (and are) to black people—to my black husband and son. I learned very quickly.
My (adopted) son was born six years after that marriage ended. I learned so much in those six years. I learned about white privilege and racial bias, the school to prison pipeline, and racial profiling. I had labels for these things now and I was educated on what these things were, how they affected those around me and how they would affect my son.
When my husband and I decided to adopt again, we turned down a white child. Most people thought we had lost our minds.
“You have been waiting for four years and you are going to say no just because the baby is WHITE? You are white!” they exclaimed.
What they didn’t understand was how important it was to us that our son had a sibling that looked like him. In our immediate and local family, he was the only person of color. We knew if he had a sibling that was also of color, he would never be alone. They would always have each other to understand and to lean upon in a way we (as white people) never, ever could.
My son is six and my daughter is two. Often, I hear him saying things to her, brotherly things. He tells her how he will always protect her and be by her side. He tells her that he loves her and he’s so happy to have her. He also tells her that black is beautiful and so is she. He tells her to never let anyone tell her different.
So yes, it matters. It always matters. Mirrors matter.
We adopted transracially at first because it came to us and we weren’t partial. We adopted transracially the second time because we understood. It’s a hard road. We’ve lost family and friends along the way. Those who just couldn’t understand our fight for justice and equality for all people. Those who couldn’t understand why it was SO important to us.
When your child is a person of color, you see those things through different lenses. You see things for how they are rather than how you believe they are. You stand for them always. Adopting transracially isn’t for everyone. You have a different kind of responsibility. It isn’t about that “cute little brown baby” everyone loves and adores.
That baby will grow into an adult someday. You must educate yourself. You must teach your child how to stand. You must give them a different set of wings. You must learn about their culture and the experiences of their people. From hair to music, history to resistance. If you are a white parent raising a black child, your responsibility is bigger than expected.