Guest blogger, Victoria DiMartile, shares her personal life story as a transracial adoptee. She shares insightful information for those considering transracial adoption. Please note this is her personal opinion as an individual living life as a transracial adoptee and we all have our own voice to share, please respect her story she has chosen to share with us. Thank you :)
Touted by many as representative of a “post-racial” society where love transcends racial and cultural barriers, transracial adoption is often shrouded in happy-go-lucky myths. These inaccuracies, when unaddressed, create an unstable and harmful foundation for transracial families. Transracial adoption is hard, but it’s not impossible - it just takes a lot more than love to do it well.
As a transracial adoptee on the long road towards a healthy, unified racial identity,
there are a few things I think all prospective White adoptive parents should know before embarking on the life-long journey of transracial adoption. First, if you’re contemplating adopting transracially or have adopted transracially, I hope you’ll take the time to honestly answer the following questions. Second, I hope you use this information as a chance to lovingly educate yourselves and others. Lastly, I encourage you to frequently take your heart for a racial “tune-up,” revisiting old-information, research, insights and knowledge to constantly improve the way you guide and support your children of color through this complex experience of transracial adoption.
1. Do you believe adoption begins in loss? Birthmothers lose the joy of raising a child, adoptive parents struggling with infertility lose the experience of biological children and adoptees lose a fundamental biological maternal bond and, in many cases, lose connections to and knowledge of their family history. Transracial adoptees face an additional loss: loss of racial mirrors in their family and community, loss of consistent and natural exposure to their own culture and, in some for international adoptees, loss of language and national heritage. Recognizing the transracial experience as one shaped by compounded losses will allow white adoptive parents to more readily support their children of color as they navigate the loss of and connection to their racial/ethnic identity.
2. Are you willing to change? Like any meaningful, long-term relationship, parenting a child of color child will inevitably involve ups and downs, heartache and triumph - some of which you’ll be prepared for, most of which you will not. If you are not emotionally mature enough as an individual to accept and integrate constructive criticism that challenges you to change your perspective, beliefs or behavior, you will not be prepared to listen, learn and adapt in the ways your child requires to feel safe, seen and affirmed as a person of color in a white home.
3. Do you believe white privilege exists? If that statement initiated any sort of discomfort or prompted a “but…” response, I suggest saving this article and returning to point number two. Recognizing, admitting and leveraging white privilege is absolutely paramount when it comes to parenting children of color. If you find it difficult to stomach the fact that whiteness brings with it certain tangible and unspoken social and economic benefits you won’t be in a productive position to listen to and receive the inevitable experiences of discrimination and prejudice your child will bring home attached to their skin color. In order to help your child through their racial identity journey you must believe the reality of their racially charged existence. If you’re looking for resources to help you understand white privilege, I recommend the following in this order:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
What is White Privilege Really?
Wide Awake: An Honest Look at What it Means to be White
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism
Me and White Supremacy
4. Do you interact with people outside your race? How white is your inner circle? Pretty white? If the only exposure you have to people of color is through television shows, the occasional “token” minority coworker or through mission trips to third-world countries, you need to consider how you will effectively parent a child of color, day in and day out. Your first meaningful relationship with a person of color should not be your child. If you’re looking to adopt transracially, consider moving to a neighborhood or joining social organizations that naturally cultivate diverse communities before you adopt. When you adopt a child of color, you should not expect them to assimilate to your culture, environment and racial/ethnic community. You should make the necessary changes to assimilate to their racially/ethnically specific needs. If you have already transracially adopted and live in a predominantly white community, are you prepared to make those changes?