David, an adoptive father, explains how he and his wife raise their children to acknowledge and understand racial differences.
Our boys are fairly typical kids. Both love soccer and playing video games. Josh, our oldest, joined our family through infant adoption in 2007, and we have an open relationship with his birth mother. Ben, our youngest, was born in 2008 and joined our family in 2009 through international adoption.
But there’s one way our family may not be typical: Josh is Hispanic. Ben is black. My wife, Ali, and I are white.
For now, our community still largely experiences our kids as “Ali and David’s boys.” We have some influence on where they go, what they do, and how they are seen. But I watch the news, and I see the headlines. I know the white spaces our family inhabits won’t always embrace our black and brown boys as part of their community. As a white parent, that reality makes me at once sad, angry, and afraid.
A whole package of fears
Every parent has deep fears about what could happen to their children: Will my child be bullied? Will they succeed? Will they make friends on the first day of school?
Parents of children of color have a whole other package of fears: Will my child be called a racial slur? Will they be followed at the store? Will they be pulled over or confronted with a gun? Will they make it home safe at the end of the day?
1,000 conversations about race
In our house, we talk about race like we talk about the weather. We’ve already had 1,000 conversations about race and systemic racism. It’s part of their awareness, and they have language to express it.
As we prepared for our first transracial adoption with Josh, our adoption specialist walked us through that familiar process of checking off boxes about our adoption preferences and openness. She talked openly with Ali and me about ramifications of each check mark and helped us think through ways we could better prepare ourselves to parent children from another race and cultural background. Ali brought home all kinds of books related to transracial adoption, and we often talked over breakfast about what it would mean for us to become a multiracial family.
Our kids are going to hear things at school, and they’re going to talk about racialized events with their friends. These conversations influence how they see the world and their place in it. That’s why Ali and I read, talk, notice, question, and advocate; we are teaching our sons to confidently enter hard conversations about race and how, with grace, they can shape them.
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