Perspectives About Transracial Parenting

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting at the top of an indoor play structure with my kids. There were a couple other kids near us, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them. At some point, they disappeared down the curvy tube slide. Not long after, a piercing scream from inside the slide sent a hush throughout the room. A mom jumped out of her seat and rushed to the bottom of the slide; a little boy was coming out, and as quickly as his little legs could carry him, he ran past her and back up the play structure. Moments later, a little girl appeared screaming and sobbing at the bottom of the slide. The mother bent down to her level, and pointing to my son at the top of the play structure demanded, “Did that little boy hurt you?”

Why would she think my son had done something to her daughter? He was nowhere near the little girl. And if she was going to insist on blaming someone right away, why not blame the other little boy, the one who was also in the slide and tried to get out of there as soon as possible? Oh, right…my son was the only brown-skinned boy. As I watched her daughter shake her head and then point to the guilty party, a million things seemed to go through my head. Thankfully my son was still playing happily, completely unaware of what had just happened. What would I say to him if he had noticed? Because I was twenty feet above this woman’s head and she hadn’t addressed me directly, I didn’t feel it necessary or appropriate to confront her and cause a scene, but if my son had noticed, then what would my response be towards her?

In high school, we had a week devoted to diversity, with panel discussions every day related to race, religion and sexual orientation. We would attend these events reluctantly, rolling our eyes and complaining, “Once again, I’ve learned that not all Asians are smart and not all Blacks are in gangs.” Looking back, I realize what I did learn. I learned that being willing to sit down, despite the fact that it may be a bit uncomfortable, and hold an ongoing dialogue about race and racism is necessary and important.

As my husband and I parent two children who are of a different race than ours, we realize this is the key to teaching our children to demand respect from others by being strong and confident in who they are, and to treat others with respect regardless of the color of their skin. Right now, while our children are young, that dialogue is relatively simple. We say things like:

“I’m brown, you’re light brown, and papa is white (or pink, or light brown, depending on the day and the child making the observation).”

“We put this special conditioner in your hair, because it helps keep your beautiful curls healthy and shiny.”

“Mama, did you know that I’m the same color as your two favorite foods, chocolate and coffee?” “Hmm, you’re right, I’m pretty hungry right now, I wonder if you taste anything like chocolate…” (This always ends in kisses and giggles as I pretend to “eat” the child)

Later on, I know our conversations will not be this easy. We will eventually need to talk with our children about stereotypes, both positive and negative, regarding all races, and how these may affect people’s perceptions of and attitudes towards them. We will need to talk about this country’s sad history of slavery, discrimination, and racism. We will need to talk about the fact that while we’ve made great strides, some people are still hanging on to images and ideas that our simply not true, and that yes, it is unfair. Together we will need to think of appropriate ways to respond when confronted with racism.

Sometimes it seems overwhelming, and yet, though it may be painful and uncomfortable, even if it is unfair, we will keep talking…

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.