About a year after we brought our kids into our family through adoption my niece who was 6 at the time pointed at our middle child and said "Aunt he sure keeps his tan a long time". It never occurred to me that she did not realize that he was bi-racial but had strong African American features. If you did not know that his brother and sister were Caucasian and that they all had the same biological mother than you would look at him and see a beautiful black child. Ten years later thinking of that day when we explained to my niece that one of our children was black still brings a smile to our face.Where to start?
My family never referred to a person by their ethnicity or skin color so I guess it never came up even better she never gave it two thoughts. I guess I just assumed that everyone knew it without it being said.
With our kids when we sat the kids down and explained to the children that they all had the same tummy mom just different tummy dad's. We then did something a little odd, we all poked our fingers with a glucometer tester and we all took a piece of paper and put a little drop of blood on it. Then we mixed up the pages after cute band-aid's of course, and asked if anyone could tell me what blood drop's belonged to who. Well no one could and that was the point, we all have the same things on the inside and what is on the outside is not what matters.
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From that day forward when the kids talk about someone they met or friends at school, they will describe the color of their hair, the color of their eyes and other physical attributes but not one of them ever say what the skin color is.
Oh, the funny things white people say! It's pretty easy when you're white and in the majority to say that what's on the outside doesn't matter. When was the last time you couldn't get a cab or get a job or get a date or get an apartment because of the color of your skin? Do people lock their car doors when you walk by, follow you around a department store when you shop, racially profile you when you drive or get on an airplane or walk around in a neighborhood the police assume is too "rich" for your skin? Has anyone shouted at you, "[Racial epithet], go home?" Or let's look on the "positive" side of prejudice -- when was the last time you were told you were a credit to your race? or told that your affinity for math was because of your race? or told that your first-language English was wonderful for someone of your race and (presumed) nationality?
Try walking a lifetime in your biracial child's shoes before telling him or her that race doesn't matter.
You think your children are so evolved because they never mention race/skin color when describing someone? Not so much evolved, as having learned that such talk is forbidden in your house. Do you think your child will tell you about racial teasing at school? Will you hear about it if someone calls him/her the N-word? Will you hear about it when the teacher calls him/her to the front of the room for a mock slave auction in history class? Somehow I doubt it.
Do you think your kids don't mention it because they don't notice it? Couldn't be further from the truth. Kids notice, and at a far younger age than we think they do. Don't you think it must be confusing that they aren't allowed to talk about the things they notice? People who are comfortable with race can actually say the words! If there are two people trying to describe John to me, and one studiously avoids mentioning the quite salient fact that John is African-American while telling me in laborious detail that John is wearing a blue polo shirt and is tall and has black hair and dark eyes, and the other person says, "You know, the African-American dude standing in the back," I know which one has a problem with race. Don't you think your kids can figure out what your silence on the subject means?
And when your child is African-American, and you send the message that race is forbidden talk, how can you expect your child to form a positive racial identity? Would you say to a child, "I never think of you as a girl?" Or "I never think of you as a boy?" Those would be completely ridiculous statement, wouldn't they? How would you expect a girl or boy to develop a positive sense of identity if their gender was never acknowledged? You're essentially saying to a child, "I don't think of you as Black or Asian or Latino," when you refuse to acknowledge that race exists. You're denying part of your child. How can that be good?
Feel free to think of yourself as completely evolved on issues of race. Think of "colorblind parenting" as the progressive cutting edge (despite studies that suggest how bad it really is). But you have to recognize reality -- not everyone is as "colorblind" as you are. You have an obligation to prepare your child for the world he/she is living in. The world where race matters. The world where racism exists. You prepare your children for the dangers they will encounter in the world, right? Don't cross the street in the middle; don't talk to strangers; don't smoke, don't drink, don't swim alone. You teach your child how to cross the street safely when you're not there, you teach your child to swim so they can save themselves from drowning if you're not there. Don't you think you should also prepare your child to face racial encounters when you're not there?
I just don't get it -- how can parents adopting transracially ignore the race of their children? Do your love your child because of their race or in spite of it? Loving your child because of his or her race is loving ALL of your child, not just some parts of your child. Please love all of your child, including the color of their skin. Please.