Saturday, February 3, 2007

Transracial Adaption

As a white family deciding to adopt transracially, you are no longer a “white” family.

By deciding to adopt internationally, you are no longer an “American” family.

But you are white-centric, American-centric.

And the kid did not decide to make the trip. In a confluence of effort, from the child’s birth relatives to two governments, adoption agencies and your own desire for a child, a kid of another race and another culture has now been transplanted into a white family in America.

You have so much love to give.

You have resources and a quality of life far beyond that offered by an orphanage in the child’s home country.

You will give your child the benefit of an intact, stable, loving, supportive home.

You may have saved your child from disease, poverty, indentured servitude, war, famine or an early death.

But, as a necessary by-product, you have also placed the child into a new culture and a new environment.

This is the first decision of many, as it will by your decisions and your attitudes that will determine the culture of your family and the experiences of your child. Even as your child develops some autonomy (getting spending money to spend on music, movies and books, determining his or her own friends – the scary thought of having a car!) your decisions will still affect your child’s experience. For example, it’s hard to make black friends if there are no black people in his or her school, or your church or your town. You may have attitudes about music, movies and other cultural influences that constrict your child’s experiences. You may express attitudes and opinions that the child will internalize and/or mirror.

Your family is not a "multi-cultural family" in practice, the way a family with one white parent and one black parent would be. Your family – whether it is headed by a straight/gay/lesbian or TG white couple or a single straight/gay/lesbian or TG parent – is a white family with black kids. The power and authority of the family lies with whites.

By adopting transracially, white families have also assumed the responsibility to shape and form how the child feels about his or her own racial identity (and, for international adoptees, the child’s feeling about his or her native culture). The responsibility exists whether the adoptive parent chooses to acknowledge it or engage the issue. Doing “nothing” is also a choice… and one that may be disastrous for the child and the family.