‘Swirling of a Different Kind’: Interracial Adoptions…How Do Those REALLY Work Out?

Ms Karazin and friends:  you commented on one of my posts that you would like for me to write about my perspective as a white parent/couple adopting an African American child.  I hope this meets your expectations.

I have tried not to be a mere “lurker” but to leave appropriate comments and identify myself on web sites focused on interracial relationships.  While Beyond Black & White is appropriately focused on dating, mating and relating, much of the content is helpful to us who have “swirled” through blending of extended families and adoption into our nuclear families.

Transracial adoption, like interracial coupling, is less controversial than even a decade ago.   But it still raises significant and valid issues between thinking, caring people both pro and con.  And, of course, not everyone you and I interact with daily is thinking or caring.

I won’t go into the history or politics of adoption except to say 20 years ago my wife and I–both white suburbanites-adopted an African American girl and six months later an Hispanic girl.  Both were born to urban women with extended families who wanted involvement but had obstacles of their own.  This was two years before federal law prohibited race as a consideration for adoption.  And this was counter to strong opposition by the National Association of Black social workers who even today equate adoption of black children by white parents to be cultural genocide.

Can I describe 20 years of bliss producing perfectly balanced children?  No.  Can I report children damaged by racial misunderstanding and cultural isolation unable to fit in with their peers or identify with their family heritage(s).  Certainly not.  (Much to my dismay, neither one seems to want to date a guy like Daddy, they like dark skinned guys, LOL.)

We are, and remain in many ways, a typical family with all the joys, frustrations, hopes, challenges, and successes of any other family but broadened and magnified by our differences amidst our unity.

Except for the fact that my wife and I chose to step out of our homogeneous environment I wouldn’t say we are any different from any other suburban (white) couple.  We grew up with few friends and acquaintances who weren’t like us.  The possibility of interracial dating just wasn’t there.  We had friends and family who were unabashedly racist. And yet as we entered the workplace, traveled, and reached beyond our families and communities we began to long for change.  Not superficial political change but deep change from within–change that might even in a little way heal the hurt of innocent children needing love and then spread to draw together people and generations to come.

This was not the dream of some idealistic youngsters.  At age 40 we said “Hell with the opinions of family and friends.”  We did the right thing and have been blessed and challenged beyond our dreams.  We watched relatives who previously expressed ignorant racist comments weep openly as they held our beautiful girls.  We heard sincere apologies from acquaintances  burdened by guilt after temporarily shutting us out.  Without exaggeration every one of our family and friends has been changed for the good by knowing and learning from our girls

Undoubtably we parents have learned the most.  Whether hair and skin care, historical information not normally found in schoolbooks, or differences in worship styles and church traditions, we have been stretched and challenged to grow.

Of course this begs the question “What of the children?  Are they just sacrificial lambs to the cause of racial unity?”. Since both are the age of consent I believe they would be willing to give their candid responses separately upon request.  What they express to me is that they would not have given up the childhood they had for what would have been available through biological family or same race foster care.

We have all grown through our differences.  We certainly don’t see eye to eye on some cultural values.  But we love one another and depend on one another.  My wife and I are now close friends with the biological mother and family of our oldest daughter (much to her dismay–she thinks we’re ganging up on her).  Both daughters reserve exclusive rights to alternately protect and fight one another

…sounds like any other family with all of its wonder and frustration?   You bet!  And I wouldn’t give our experiences and love for one another for anything.

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