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Intentional Living

As a transracial adoptive family, there is a source of information and wisdom I have found very important to tap into. Beyond the books and seminars, reading and studying the lives of other transracial adoptees has expanded my awareness of issues of race. Many adult adoptees share (through blogs or books) their past experiences of childhood and adolescence, & while many of them had very positive upbringings there are more still who speak of their ongoing struggles with race & identity.
Trying to be intentional about being a family who ‘walks the walk’, my husband & I have always felt it important to exist outside of the ‘white bubble.’ I grew up in a foreign country, and while I never experienced negativity for being a minority (at least not that I remember), I do remember what it felt like to be the only white person in certain group settings. After my family moved back to the states, although I was now racially in the majority, I can still recall feeling like an outsider (for our experiences DO shape us).
I grew up with friends of various racial and cultural backgrounds, and luckily it wasn’t until I was in junior high that I recall my first run in with racism. I struggled with being ‘too white’ in a predominately African American school, but when I transferred to an all white private school I was suddenly ‘not white enough’!
Biologically my family has 3 biracial members (caucasian & African American). The youngest, my son’s age, has no awareness or concept yet of racial identity. But the older two, both girls and ages 17 & 12, have struggled in different ways as they try to establish their unique identities. The oldest, who just graduated high school, embraces her African American culture only. She dresses a certain way, listens to rap, corn-rows her hair, and only has black friends. The younger girl has only embraced her Caucasian heritage. She straightens her hair, is highly involved in church and school activities (both her church & school are almost exclusively white), has all white friends and does not seem to identify with black culture at all. To be sisters they both have drawn very different conclusions to their question of ‘where do I belong?’ and ‘who am I?’
It has been a learning experience for me to watch them grow and develop differently, and I try to apply the lessons they’ve indirectly taught me as I parent a child of color.
Let me make my point: as parents of children of color let us not be foolish enough to disregard the need they WILL have to find their unique ‘identity’ in their specific race/culture. As a Christian, of course I do not think our outward appearances should be primary in defining oneself. But I can not deny that racial identity is very important to people of color & different cultural backgrounds. As a white mother with a black child, I will not raise my daughter as a ‘white’ child. She’s not white! By being unintentional in matters of race with both of my children, I would only be teaching them that their uniqueness is not important enough to receive my attention. I can’t ‘unintentionally’ teach a black child about black culture, because I am not black.
Love is NOT enough when it comes to raising an adopted child. Love is very important, but it must be met with trusted resources, support, wisdom and understanding. If you are blessed to have a child of a different race or cultural background, then you and I must be the ones who make ourselves the minority at times. Intentionally seek out friendships with those who share the same race/culture as your child, frequent the diverse city parks, enroll your child in a diverse school, attend a multi-racial church. In doing so we are showing our children that we honor and celebrate differences, and that racial identity is just as important to us as it is/will be to them.

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