If you have been listening to the news at all lately, you have probably heard the tragic story of Trayvon Martin‘s death. Since adoption is the place my mind is most of the time, I just keep thinking, “How many transracial adoptive parents know that this story is relevant to their own families?” In his Washington Post blog article, opinion writer, Johnathan Capehart, recalls “the list of the “don’ts”” he received from his mother about how to behave in public when a young Capehart was about to transfer to a predominantly white school. As a black woman in America, Capehart’s mother knew through lived experience the challenges her son would face as a black man in a white world. So when I hear the accounts of adoption professionals like Melanie Chung-Sherman about the lack of attention to race in adoption placement, I worry that our kids of color are not in line to receive valuable skills and information they need to survive as a non-white person in a predominantly white society from their white parents. What if some white parents of kids of color adhere to a our-world-is-colorblind philosophy? What kind of lived experience will they share with their children? What will happen to their children when they leave the protective umbrella of their parents’ white privilege?
In my personal experience, my answer to that question is that we (transracial adoptees) are not ready to recognize, confront or incorporate racism into our lives. Since no one has taught us about stereotypes or racism, we tend to take the race-based teasing to heart and can begin to believe that people hate us because of who we are at our core and not because of ignorance or hate. My parents, bless them, probably have never heard of an Asiaphile or “yellow fever”, but looking back, it would have been really helpful if they had known and warned me that there might be people in the world who value me for only what they perceive my Asian exterior to be (submissive, sexually knowledgeable, etc.) and not for the person I really am. I didn’t know how to separate a generally disparaging comment from a racist remark until college where I took classes specific to race and began educating myself about race and race-related issues. Parents, college is too late for your children to begin learning about race when they themselves are a person of color.
Transracial adoptees are Trayvon Martin because we, too, despite our white upbringings can just as easily be turned invisible by fear, ignorance and hate. Racism hurts and it can kill. Jonathan Capehart’s mother knew to warn him of these dangers – Do our transracial adoptive parents know to do the same?
To transracial adoptive parents, if race is a scary space for you, please be responsible and find the support, resources, and education you need to make it a space where you and your kids can learn and grow. Your children’s race is not a card they can play when it seems convenient and then hide in their sleeve when it isn’t. Your children’s race is in their very DNA and is showcased for all to see 24-7. If you can’t hear me, a transracial adoptee, then please listen to these transracial adoptive parents here and here.