On Thursday night DH and I attended a workshop on transracial adoption. This is a required class for all couples considering this option, but we would have jumped at the chance to go regardless, since it is a topic that has been on our minds since we first began to think about adoption as a possible choice for us.
I think this is an incredibly complex topic and I've been wrestling with it for awhile now. First let me state unequivocally something that I'm sure anyone who knows us well already knows: We would have no problem loving a child of any race with all of our hearts. This is just a non-issue for us. I think, for DH, the story more or less ends here. We would love our child, our child would love us, it would have some struggles but we would help him or her through them and our love would be enough. I like this story. I want to believe this story, but I think this is where my life as a kindergarten teacher comes in. I have seen children struggle with racial identity and I know it's incredibly difficult under any circumstances, especially if you happen to be saddled with white parents. The story for me gets stuck on the question of what is truly best for our child. I honestly think that probably the best case scenario for an African-American baby is to be raised in a loving home by loving, awesome African-American parents. But here is where the story complicates further, there are not enough African-American adoptive parents to provide homes for all of the African-American babies eligible for adoption. Unfortunately the same is not true for white babies, largely because of the intersection of class and race in our society and that African-American mothers are disproportionately poor.
One thing I know as an early childhood educator and as an avid reader of all information I can find about adopted children, is that it is an unforgivable burden to place on a child for them to have to feel like they were any "luckier" to get adopted than a child would be that happened to be born into a lovingbiological family. Do I think that the students I teach are "luckier" than the children in earthquake ravaged Haiti right now? Sure, but do I think they are told this on a regular basis by strangers? Doubt it. Do people feel like that's an okay thing to say to children who have been adopted internationally or into a transracial family? Apparently it is something these families hear frequently.
Okay so back to the question about our family. We know that whatever baby finds us WE NEED and WANT more than any parents could have ever longed for a baby ever, but is it okay for our baby to need us a little bit too? I don't know. I wrestle with this a lot and I don't have a clear answer. I do know that in some ways DH and I are better equipped than some of the other white families who were at this seminar to be up to this job. Many, (but not all!) of them seemed to have the first part of the story down. They wanted a baby and felt certain they would love that baby more than anything regardless of race. But for many of them their story ended there. At least I know for certain that when we think about our story it has a few more pages at least. The concept of White Privilege was brought up and and excellent article by Peggy McIntosh was distributed. (http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf) This is not the first time I've seen this. Or the second or the third--maybe like the 5th or 6th. Because a million years ago I was a college student majoring in sociology with a specialization in social injustice, and a dual degree in Woman Studies to boot. This article was pretty much standard fare in every course pack I ever had, and in fact was assigned again while I was at Bank Street. I've spent my share of time thinking about White Privilege. These ideas are of course always with me, but as a benefactor of white privilege I have put them on a shelf for a while and spent a lot of time thinking about the developmental stages of painting that children go through, and the benefits of play in early childhood education. But like I said, transracial adoption has been whispering in my ear, and with it all of these things that I used to spend so much time thinking about.
The woman conducting this seminar was amazing. She had adopted transracially 23 years ago and was a therapist who specializes in working with families that are struggling with these issues. I wanted to sign up for therapy with her right away, but at the very least I am glad she is out there as a resource. At the end of the seminar she said that one way that she personally felt like families were ready to embark on this journey was when they were filled with doubt and anxiety over how difficult it would be, so I guess I definitely qualify there!
She also shared with us many difficult questions her daughter had posed to her growing up and one that she said was the most difficult was when her 5 or 6 year old daughter asked her why she wanted a brown child instead of a child with light skin like her. I have thought a lot about about how I would answer this in the last couple of days. The workshop leader said she responded by saying she had brown people in her life that she loved, and always wanted to have a family that had brown and white people together. I think that's a pretty good answer and it makes me think about all of those hours spent thinking about racism, racial identity and social injustice when I was young, and grateful that regardless of what baby finds it's way into our home, I'm glad those truths have made it to the forefront of my mind again.
Ultimately we are doing an open adoption (more explained about what that means later--this post is way too long!) We will not choose who our baby will be but instead we will be chosen by our baby's first parents, or it's birth parents as they will be come to be known to our child. I have no idea who they will be or what they will look like but for now we are open to a child of any race and I will keep wrestling with what that will be like if our baby happens to be of another race.
On a more mundane note it is FREEZING cold here today and I am so glad to be here in our warm house hanging out with our poor little doggy Willow who is recuperating from her 2nd and hopefully last surgery. She is much better this morning and is, fingers crossed, on her way to recovery. We are now trying our best to keep her as immobile as you can keep a 75 lb dog. DH is at the auto show with his dad, something that I would rather gouge my eyes out than have to do. :) FAB
Kindergarten Readiness and the Summer Gap
10 hours ago