Updated: Apr 21
I have learned a lot over the past 26 years about being a white parent with children of color.
My children have been my primary teachers. Through their experiences I have been enlightened about matters such as interracial dating; the experience of being a “minority” in a majority race family and culture; what it feels like to be a part of two divergent cultures and sometimes not feel fully at home in either; and what it’s like to get pulled over and questioned by the police for no other reason than the color of one’s skin.
Last week I wrote that at one time, prior to adopting our children from India, I truly felt like I was colorblind. The above-stated experiences of my children, some of which have been very painful for them, have again informed me that colorblindness is a myth.
Those who claim to be colorblind are often well-intentioned but misinformed. Claiming to be colorblind can limit a parent’s effectiveness and relationship with his or her adopted child of color. Authors Josie Crolley-Simic and Elizabeth Vonk wrote an interesting article called “White International Transracial Adoptive Mothers’ Reflections on Race.” They recall the reflections of one of these mothers, who stated, “I don’t see my daughter as Asian very much. She is just my daughter. She is part of my family . . . for all practical purposes, though, she’s not Asian, she is an American kid. She is growing up here (in the U.S.) and I am not Asian.” Again, well-intentioned and partially true, but misguided. In our attempt to normalize our child’s environment, we can instead end up complicating it.
I’m not saying here that we should parade our child’s ethnicity and skin color before everyone as some kind of badge of honor for us and our child. That would do a lot more damage than just claiming we are colorblind. What I am saying, parents, is just be aware and sensitive to your child. Skin color is obvious. Be aware that you do not live in their world. If you have a child of color, be aware and sensitive of how awkward and self-conscious they may feel at times (especially in public) with white parents. I have learned that intercountry adoption as well as domestic transracial adoption can be wonderful experiences. There are challenges inherent in being a white parent with children of color, but these challenges can be effectively addressed so our child(ren) can flourish. Next week, some practical advice for us parents including how to talk with your kids about these issues with your kids during “teachable moments”. I welcome your feedback!
(*If you would like to read the above-mentioned article by Crolley-Simic and Vonk in its entirety, it is from the publication Child and Family Social Work, vol. 16, (2011).