Friday, March 23, 2012

Adoption: White People Raising Black Kids

I'm the white mother of three kids. One is my white, biological son. One is my mixed race (Mexican, Black & White) son through adoption, and one is my black daughter through adoption. I have no idea how my mixed race son will look when he's older but the vast majority of people assume he's our (caucasian) biological son, so for now I will focus on my black daughter.

We have always tried to avoid labels such as "white" and "black" for our kids in favor of "peach, light brown and brown". But let's face it, society views us parents as "white" and our daughter as "black".

Like so many other people, I'm outraged by the Trayvon Martin murder. It's not just about a racist murder, it's about the refusal of the Sanford police department to arrest the paranoid, racist man who killed an unarmed kid.

I've heard so many points of view about this... it's because he was a black kid wearing a hoodie. That is of course no excuse for what happened. That's like blaming a rape victim for being dressed provocatively. There's nothing he could've done to have prevented his murder. But it gets me thinking... what about racial profiling? How are black parents preparing their children for that? What am I missing because I'm a white woman who never has and never will walk in my daughter's shoes? I can't help but think I'm missing some valuable information as a white mother.

Should white people even be raising black kids? That's an uncomfortable question that I don't like to ask myself. Some angry black adoptees who were raised by white parents might argue "no". I tell myself that it's better than being raised in an orphanage. But the reality is I have no idea what my daughter's outcome would've been had we not adopted her. It's really neither here nor there, because we adopted her. She's our daughter and nothing will change that now.

Can I do as good of a job raising a black child as a black mother could do? Goodness, I would never be so bold as to make that assumption. I won't even assume that I'm not messing up my white, biological child. Parenting is all one big experiment really, and we only get one chance to raise our kids. In the end we'll find out how well we did by the relationships we have or don't have with our adult children. It doesn't mean I'm giving up or tackling this with a laissez faire attitude.

I, as a white mom of a black child, take race and racism seriously. It's an issue. While in the year 2012 (with a black president) we have come so far as a country, this Trayvon Martin tragedy shows us that we still have a long way to go.

I can't delude myself into thinking that just because we live in Los Angeles, or that my black child is a girl, that I won't have to prepare her for racism in the world. Just reading Gina L. Carroll's recent post about the Trayvon Martin tragedy and how her kids have personally been affected by racial profiling has reminded me that girls are not immune. While I believe we have it easier in Los Angeles than transracial adoptive families in certain areas of the country, we still have areas of LA where we get open mouthed stares when we go out together as a family. (we try to avoid those areas as much as we can now)

So what have I done to prepare myself to raise a black child? I've read books on transracial adoption. I've tried to educate myself where I can. I joined an online group for white mothers of black children to learn how to take care of my daughter's hair and skin. I try to be an advocate for my kids whenever I can. I try to listen to my black friends and learn from them. Because in the end, I simply don't know what it's like to be black in America.

I grew up with white privilege. I didn't have parents telling me I needed to act or dress a certain way in front of police, or in stores, or while walking alone at night. The fact is racial profiling does happen whether it's with police, or with gun-toting paranoid civilians. What do I do to protect my kids? I don't want my ignorance as a white individual to lead to the possible harm of my child.

This is where we need you, our black friends, to help us fill in the gaps with raising our black children. White parents of black children... ask your black friends for help, and listen to what advice they give you.

While I honestly believe there is nothing Trayvon Martin could've done to prevent his death, there are things we white parents of black children need to know in preparing our children for racism and racial profiling. Teaching them to be proud of their beautiful black skin and hair is simply not enough.

I don't have answers. I only have questions. I need help. I'm listening. Please teach me, so I can prepare my daughter.


  1. Julie, I am sort of in your shoes. My older 2 daughters are half black. My ex husband is black. And, living in Idaho I have raised them in a predominately white area. When they were young, I would get the standard questions. "Are they adopted?" "Is their father Indian, Hispanic, etc?" When I would say that no, they are not adopted, I would get funny looks. My youngest is white. As in, European white. The looks got funnier (not funny ha-ha). My daughters have had to deal with stupid, uneducated comments, mostly in History class when studying slavery or the civil rights movement. My children have never been labeled by me as my black or white children. They are my children. Whether biological or adopted, they are our children. Stares and glares are to be expected, but the main thing is to instill in them a sense of worth and inner beauty regardless of skin color. I am proud to say that my oldest will graduate college in May with an acting degree, and my middle one is finishing her first year of college to be an Art Therapy Counselor. All 3 of my girls learned that it's not what you look like on the outside, but what you are on the inside is what counts. My favorite phrase when they were little was "God doesn't make junk." You do your best, pray that they will be happy with who they are, and make them strong adults who can take on the world.

    Bless you for taking 2 children in need into your home and giving them wonderful lives. And bless Mr. G too.

  2. I'm black and adopting from ethiopia and STILL asking the same questions because of potential differences in the shades of our skin. I think the hard part of the battle has been won. Do you know how many people don't have any concept at all of white privilege?! For what it's worth I think one great thing you can do for your daughter in this regard is keep her around people that look like her. it's amazing what a little boost of self-esteem you get when you walk into a room full of people that look like you. Even in the wonderfully diverse place that is Los Angeles I think we still need to be intentional about this. One way my parents encouraged this (we grew up in a white-ish part of town) was using a black babysitter. She was 15, had curly hair, did well in school and was the coolest person on earth to me and my siblings. I loved her and thought she was so pretty...which made me feel a little more lovable and pretty. Black hair salons are also a wonderful place. Nothing quite like a room full of black self employed women!!

    p.s school does a CRAP job of black history. it's important to know what contributions we had in making America what it is. There is so much more than Martin Luther King and President Obama...unfortunately no one told our text book writers that. Not sure what books you guys use but maybe you could supplement and all your kiddos could learn more about one another.

    1. Dom, I know it took forever for me to reply, but I wanted to let you know how appreciative I am for your comment. I agree on how school does such a crappy job on Black History. That's one of the reasons I'm happy I homeschool. I plan to provide much more education for them on Black History and African History.

      I love your suggestion for a positive black role model. Their Kung Fu Sensei, who the kids train with 3x week is black and is he's a part of our family and a strong role model for our kids. I'm so happy he's in our lives.

      We also have a black hair stylist do my daughter's hair. She is so proud of her hair and recently told me she LOVES her hair, which makes me so happy!

      Anyway, thank you for your valuable insight and feedback!

  3. Hi, we are about to adopt twin african american girls and are a caucasian/asian couple. we have much to learn! Can you suggest a book for us to read?

    1. In case you still need some guidance check out this blog... It's mainly about hair care, which is a start... but she does hit some serious topics as well.

  4. im a black kid being raised by white people living in a mainly white and have had to try and find my own identity and that identity is just that i am myself and anyone who dont like this can do one my white pearents dont bring up race in my house but i have had to learn about my trinadian culture off of the internent and this is why unlike many of my friends who are white i want to get married to a black woman so i can make up for the lack of black culture i missed out on as a child i dont know what will happen to me in the future but i just aim to look after my self and dont listen to what society thinks please tell me how you view my situation thanks brad