Thoughts on Adoption and Race
Recently my husband and I have had a few pretty interesting conversations about interracial/transracial adoption. We are still working to decide if adoption is for us or not (see my most recent article on our adoption decisions here), but we are also thinking about decisions we will have to make if we choose to adopt. So, today, I’ve decided to share our thoughts and questions on adopting a child of a different race.
So, while we’ve had a few interesting conversations on the topic in the last week or two, when I read a post the other day by a fellow blogger on transracial adoption, it got me thinking that maybe I should put our thoughts down on paper. I’m pretty sure we are not the only potential adoptive parents asking questions and thinking about the potential race of an adoptive child. (Please note that this post may not be perfectly politically correct, but it comes from a place of honesty and is an attempt to articulate our decision making as it pertains to our road into adoption. And, while I know I’m probably verbalizing things that are not meant to be verbalized, I’m okay with doing so because it is an important decision we will have to make if we choose adoption).
Regardless of the type of adoption (domestic or international), a decision we will have to make is about the race of the child we are willing to adopt. As two Caucasian individuals, who are really as white as they come, we never gave it much thought as we naturally always assumed our children would share our race as our genetic make-up would result in a white child. Yet we both believe in equal rights in every way – gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. We really don’t see any distinction between people, yet through adoption we have to make a conscious decision. So, this whole adoption thing, is really pushing us to consider all potential races. Specifically, if we chose domestic open adoption, we will be forced to fill out a check-list of races we are willing to accept. I find this odd, but I guess it’s a choice we will have to make. Are we okay with adopting a child that is Native/Metis, Caucasian, African American, Asian, etc? And if we chose international adoption we will quite literally be choosing what ethnicity and race to adopt when we select the country. Since we started discussing adoption nearly a year ago, we’ve always assumed if we choose international adoption we would choose to adopt from Southeast Asia. There are a number of reasons why we would see adopting from Southeast Asia – we absolute love that part of the world; we would love to have our child be familiar with their heritage by being able to visit; we love spending time in this part of the world; and, there are lower alcohol and drug heath issues with adoptive children from this part of the world, etc.
So, when we started this conversation, my initial reaction is that I don’t care about race in the least. When my husband started to point out that maybe we need to be a bit more selective on race, I was actually taken aback. What did he mean, I thought he was just as open about race as I am, did I miss something in our 13 years together? Nope, I really didn’t miss anything, he is all about equal rights, but he started posing a few really interesting points. Truth be told, as politically incorrect as it may seem, we really do need to consider these things.
So, here’s the list of things we’ve started questioning when it comes to the race aspect of the adoption decision:
- What are we willing to take on from a stereotyping and prejudice perspective? We, as the parents, and our child, may face racism. This is something, as two white people, in a very white culture, have never experienced. Are we okay with this experience for us, and are we prepared to deal with this and help a child deal with this? How, will we handle racist comments and people staring at us because we don’t look right?
- We learned from another couple who chose to adopt a child of a different race that the mother constantly faces questions about the child’s race, but the father doesn’t. If the mom is out in public with their child, perfect strangers will stop her and ask weird and often rude questions. Strangers have even asked their older child (about 6 years old) about it, which is just so inappropriate. If the dad is out in public with their child, no-one says a word. If they are out together, no-one says a word. This doesn’t really concern me, but it is really good information to have.
- I’ve noticed when a lot of people consider adoption, they are often looking at what is the best fit for them, the adoptive parents. But, we are wondering what the best fit is also for the adoptive child(ren), as we have no desire to provide a child with a harder life. For example:
- Adopted children are likely to have a lot of identity questions regardless of their race and the race of their parents. Will the experience of a being a child of different race then the parents cause additional problems for the child? What are the long term reproductions on the child of being in an inter-racial family?
- What is the experience of a child in a school which there skin color is in the significant minority? For example, what is the experience of child who may be the only African American child? We live in a predominantly white community, will this make the experience of adolescences significantly harder on a child?
- Are certain races viewed as better than other in our Canadian culture? If so, which are they, and should we be choosing to adoption from a more preferable race?
- Will our child be okay with being raised in a white family and culture? Obviously, if we adopt a child of a different race, they will be brought up in white culture, because that’s all we know. We recognize that our parenting will play a significant part in their acceptance of this, but how do we learn to make this easier for them?
- Do we want people to know that we adopted without even knowing us? If we adopt a child of a different race, both we and the child will clearly be identified as atypical. Everyone will know instantly that something is different about us. People will start guessing – are we a blended family? did we adopt? did the mom sleep around? Are we okay with this type of conjecture silent or not?
- How are we going to deal with family members who will likely struggle to accept an adopted child, let alone an adopted child of a different race? We suspect problems with my husband’s family accepting an adopted child in the first place (see my post on that here), but we anticipate a lot more problems if we adopt a non-white child as they are often racist. And, although I think my parents will be more accepting of adoption, yet we have also heard them make racist comments in the past. (It’s probably a post for another day, but neither of us remember our parents being racist as children, but now we hear things coming out of their mouths that just cause us shock and sometimes outrage). So, are we prepared to put our parents in their place and force them to change their attitudes if they want to be part of our lives? The one things we know is that if we adopt, we simply will not tolerate family members making any sort of unacceptable comments about adoption or racist comment around us and our child(ren).
Truthfully, my personality says adopt a child of a different race. If we are going to adopt, why not help a child who will likely will face more problems with adoption because they have a different skin color. In this part of the world, most adoptive parents want white children who look more similar to them, so a child of a different race could really benefit from us checking off more race boxes. We have the financial means and the emotional capacity to support the child better than most, so why not take this on? We should be able to handle it. Oh, and screw family members who don’t understand, that’s their problem and if they see our child’s skin color as an issue, then they don’t have to be part of our lives.
My husband’s a bit more practical and says, we really do need to consider all these implications. What are we really willing to take on for the rest of our lives? Do we really want people staring at us? Do we really want to alienate our parents even more?
As always, when it comes to adoption, we don’t have any answers. Just questions and thoughts running around on the seemingly never ending hamster wheel, also known as our brains.
Does anyone have any thoughts? Or does anyone have any experience with interracial/transracial adopted families that they would like to share?
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