The Transracial Challenge of Adoption

I think one of the biggest challenges for our adoption is the transracial element. We’re adopting a kid from Ethiopia—they’re going to be black. We’re very, very white. That can pose a lot of problems.

In our pre-adoption classes they had us do an exercise where we put a colored bead in a cup to match the race of each person they read off—your doctor, your boss, your coworkers, your neighbors, your favorite author, your favorite actor, your favorite musician, your vet, your barber, your lawyer, your accountant, your fill in the blank. At the end of it I had a lot of white beads in my cup. So did everybody else (including the black guy), which is partially because Minnesota is predominantly white. But it helps to see it so vividly.

As a child grows up they need to see people who look like them so they don’t feel like a complete outcast. And that means intentionally trying to be more diverse for the sake of our child. We’ve already made some good steps in the right direction—living in a diverse (for Minnesota) neighborhood, owning a decent mix of multi-cultural books, etc.—but we’ve got a long way to go.

In general, I think race is going to be a tough issue.


Partially because no one wants to talk about it. It’s uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable for me in the pre-adoption classes. It still is. But the issues that come up are real. Our child is black and they’ll be treated as such, which means be profiled by security guards and cops. While I may disagree with such treatment, I can’t deny it exists and I can’t not prepare my child to deal with it.

Ignoring race doesn’t make the problem go away. Being color blind is not a solution. While I may never notice or care that my child’s skin color is different than my own, lots of other people will notice (<strong>Update:</strong> Reading back on this, that sounds a bit insensitive. I should care that my child’s skin color is different than my own, but in order to celebrate that difference.). We’ll probably face discrimination or prejudice, whether it’s as a family for being multi-racial or my child alone for being black.

It gets even more complicated when you consider the plight of a black child in a white family. Racially they’ll be black, but culturally they’ll be white. Their upbringing and experience won’t fit the expectation. One of the adoptees from Colombia shared how hard it was being a Latino but not speaking Spanish. It’s the same kind of thing.

But despite all those issues and challenges, I am some what excited about the challenge. Race is such a messy issue in America. And I think it will only get better when we face it. And now I’m being forced to face it. Kind of sad that I have to be forced to face it, but there it is.

Disclaimer: I’m not recommending multi-racial adoption as a way to tackle the racism problem in America. If anything it makes adoption a lot more complicated. For me, race was a secondary issue. It’s a secondary issue that brings up a lot of challenges, but it wasn’t a primary concern. Much like I don’t have a gender preference, I don’t have a race preference. A kid is a kid. Of course every kid is different and different races will mean more issues, but still, bottom line, a kid is a kid.

One thought on “The Transracial Challenge of Adoption”

  1. Race is a tough issue, and you’re right about people not wanting to talk about it, and sometimes to even acklowledge it. I guess I’m lucky to have had a really diverse group of friends over the course of my life. My two closest friends are both married to white guys, and their kids are interracial/bi-racial, I’m not sure what the pc term is. I know that they have both experienced some bigotry, and maybe their kids will too. I hope not. I hope that as a society we’re moving forward and becoming more accepting and open. My best friend is black, and we openly talk about issues related to race. I know that if she says something insensitive or offensive about my religion it’s unintended. She knows the same is true for me, and we’re open enough to tell each other if we’re hurt. I guess my point is that everyone is capable of being rude/offensive/insensitive about something inherent in other people, we just have to be open enough to acknowledge that fact, remedy the situation, and then move on.

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