Transracial Parenting Means Learning about Racism in America


According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 84% of international adoptions are transracial and only 19% of internationally adopted children are white (based on a 2007 survey). This percentage shows international adoption almost always means transracial adoption.

Because most international adoptions are transracial, MLJ’s education classes focus heavily on preparing white parents to support their children in a prejudiced society. Many adult adoptees, who were adopted before mandatory education became a standard practice, say they wish their parents had been better prepared to handle the racial element of parenting an adopted child.

Racism. Did your heart just skip a beat? I have met few white Americans who are 100% at ease with talking about prejudice in our country. Yet, if we choose to adopt internationally, America’s racist legacy will almost certainly become part of our family life. Your adopted child will look to you to teach them, support them, and help them navigate the prejudice they will encounter.

That’s right. Your child will encounter prejudice. Not just because other people will be confused that they don’t resemble their parents, but because racial stereotypes are still a significant part of our culture.

Last week, I attended a fantastic program at Conner Prairie, an award-winning interactive history park near Fishers, Indiana. For about two hours, myself and a dozen other guests played the role of African slaves attempting to escape to freedom in 1836 Indiana. The staff warned us repeatedly that the people we encountered were also playing a role and reassured us that no one would physically hit us. We were put in our place by our white masters and brought face-to-face with slave hunters. The assistance we received was begrudging at best.

We all agreed that the experience was intense, and came away with new insights on slavery, racism, and civil rights. While I can never fully know what it’s like to be Black in America, this program helped me realize how even kind-hearted white people still saw themselves as superior. And I recognized how much these attitudes are still expressed today.

How can I say they are still prevalent today? We don’t tolerate overtly racist comments anymore in the public space. We’ve elected a biracial president. We attend diversity trainings. Most of us have a friend who is a different race than our own. We happily adopt children of a different race or ethnicity. Why am I bringing up the past?

First: it’s not as if racial commentary and racially-motivated actions aren’t present every day. Most of us hear jokes based on race and don’t speak up. We make assumptions about crime, about education, and about ability based on visual appearance. We know it’s wrong to be racist, but racial indicators are still embedded into our culture.

This fact may be painful, but it isn’t surprising. We are only two generations past official segregation and Jim Crow. There are nearly a thousand White Supremacist groups active in the United States. And before you dismiss the influence of these groups, please be aware that a declared white supremacist ran for Congress in 2010 in northern Indiana. On a more subtle level, consider how segregated our neighborhoods remain. In metro Indianapolis, most people still live in neighborhoods mostly filled with people who look like them. Or consider the on-going gap in wages and education between caucasians and people of color. Take a look around you as you go about your day or attend an event. How many people of color do you see?

Publicly, we no longer tolerate obvious racist remarks, and yet indirect comments can still belittle, dehumanize and hurt. Our very difficulty and discomfort with the topic of race shows how much of the past is still present. As human beings, we will always make judgments based on appearance, some positive and favorable, others negative. The question you must ask yourself before you adopt transracially is, are you willing to challenge those judgments in yourself and in others around you? Are you willing to prepare your child to handle the judgments, good or bad, that others will make about them based on their appearance?

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here

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.

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.