When we adopted our son in 1991 — he is African American and Latino; we are white — there weren’t many images floating around (either in my mind or in the media) of transracial families. Neither were there many books on the subject of parenting a child of another race nor many agencies educating adoptive parents on the right way to go about it. (Little did we know, there isn’t a right way.)For an eye-opening look at the teen-age years, check out her article, the Trouble With Troubled Teens.
In not knowing quite what to do, we did a lot: sought out friends of color; talked openly about race and racism; went with our son to culture camp; got books and artwork depicting different ethnicities; wrote letters to accomplished men of color for advice; read about racial identity and history; celebrated Kwanzaa; visited a Baptist church; even traded homes one summer with a family from a Black and Hispanic neighborhood in Oakland, CA.
There’s plenty we didn’t do, too: We didn’t move to a community that was racially mixed in the way our son is; our closest family friends were still white; our gung-ho efforts to pursue ethnic friends and experiences petered off as our son got older; and we chose to send him to a better school than the one that had more kids of color.
Our second-hand attempts to boost our son’s racial pride over the years have been outweighed and outnumbered by his first-hand experiences with prejudice. Big-impact opportunities he’s had — like meeting a group of Tuskegee Airmen and spending a day with Quincy Jones — are no armor for the small, daily daggers he’s encountered — like being stopped in ninth grade by a security guard at his own high school or being watched like a hawk at 7-Eleven.
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