Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Transracial Adoption Challenging Even in Racially Diverse City

Great article at the OaklandLocal, some strong adoptee voices, so I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing:
When the school bell rings, most kids are excited for their parents to pick them up and take them home.

However, for Donye’ Brown-Lamm, the end of the day in grade school was the beginning of frustrating and sometimes hurtful conversations.

Her classmates couldn’t understand why she, a black girl, was calling the white woman picking her up "Mom." When she explained she was adopted, she remembers some kids asking why her real mom didn’t want her.

“In junior high, I wanted a black family or wanted to be white because I was tired of explaining myself,” Brown-Lamm, now 19, said. “Little kids are mean, very mean, and if you’re different they’re even meaner.”

* * *

“Many things come into play when forming a strong self-identity around race, gender, etc., and within that puzzle is do we understand who we are and feel rooted in a community and see people doing things around us that we want to emulate,” Professor Julia C. Oparah of Mills College and co-author of "Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption," said. “Being in Oakland isn’t a guarantee of being in a diverse environment.”

Sara Blair, 24, knows this all to well. Growing up in an affluent white family and identifying as “Filipino, African and Jewish with Spanish blood,” she said connecting with other students at the elite schools she attended was difficult.

* * *

“I don’t regret being transracially adopted … I think it proves that we are human,” Blair said. “But I think there needs to be a movement of white parents educating themselves about what it means to be a person of color in this nation.”

“You can still live here and live in demographic isolation. You may see people of color, but you may not interact with them and that can create a problem,” Beth Hall, executive director of Pact - a nonprofit, which serves families of transracial adoption in the Bay Area, said.

While Oakland may be a diverse area, many people still live mono-racial lives, Hall added.

* * *

Gloria King, executive director of the Black Adoption Placement and Resource Center in Oakland, said adoption when in the best interest of the child is always positive, but parents can provide a disservice to children if race is not discussed as a family.

“I think it’s a handicap if you’re colorblind, and it’s setting your kids up for failure," said King, who also works to recruit more black families as adoptive parents. "People are not colorblind, they can see it.”


Anonymous said...

Oakland is not really diverse. At least not like San Francisco. Just because there are a lot of Blacks in Oakland, does not make it makes it mostly a Black community (speaking about the heart of Oakland, mainly). I can understand why children would make fun of her in Oakland. Most Black children are not in mixed families, but in Black families in Oakland. San Francisco has a lot of mixed families, but not Oakland. If this child was in a mainly Black area of Oakland, then culturally, the children would question her...although, it's sad that in today's world, children are not better educated by their parents about tolerance and differences in families.
We live in northern California also, in an area where there are a lot of Chinese Americans, Blacks, Whites, and mixed families. We have not encountered our daughter being made fun of for being Chinese nor for having White parents yet. She is in second grade, and being that there REALLY IS such a diverse population of people in our area, I don't think she will encounter too much of it, at least within our own community. There are probably 1/3 Asians, 1/3 Whites and 1/3 Blacks where we live...and a lot of mixed families. Were as, in the heart of Oakland the demographics are a higher percentage of Black families to White families (unless you go to the Oakland hills, where it seems to be reversed demographics, and mostly not mixed families in either locale.

Anonymous said...

Powerful read. But nothing new. I think more than a few of us understand the racial overtones our children may readily face when not sheltered at home or in our immediate care.

I would take it a step further though and echo Anon. in saying that ALL PARENTS need to educate their children about race and fundamentally teach tolerance, acceptance and respect for every minority; not just people of color but everyone who falls into that category. ( women, homosexuals, etc.)

Furthermore its imperative that SCHOOLS educate and demand a zero discrimination and bullying policy. That umbrella should cover all school sactioned activities as well, such as extra curriculars, sports, Girl Scouts, etc. All staff should adhere to this as well. "Pretending" not to notice it will not be the norm, rather the exception.

It won't be perfect and yes, it needs to come from the home first; BUT its a start.

Lastly our kids are resilient but sadly part of the race dialogue needs to include ways to deflect unwanted inquiries and handle said encounters. Helping them to build "their shield" so to speak, so every arrow doesn't pierce with such force. AND frankly we parents need to better arm ourselves too; confront racial inequities when witnessed.

Lead our children by example.

How many of us have simply winced at an off colored racial or gay joke or stereotype delivered by a coworker or extended family member rather than educate and send the message its really NOT okay??


Anonymous said...

This just shows how adoption is always about the parents and not about the child. Parents may say that they don't care about a child's race, ethnicity, etc, that it is love that makes a family. But it is the child who pays the price. Saying that people need to be educated about tolerance, understanding, differences,etc. is not helpful given that these messages have been strongly communicated since the 1970s. And yet children are still paying the price today.

Comparing San Francisco to Oakland is also futile since the truth is most of the country is more like Oakland. San Francisco is the most progressive, liberal city in the nation. And it's hardly as if all transracial adoptive families can move there.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the last Anon. Anon #1 made the point that children who are in diverse areas are probably less likely to be teased. Her point being-- Oakland is not diverse. This can apply to many cities.

When we were researching schools, I asked Jane brown if I should look for a predominately Asian school(our children are Asian). Her response was: no. Look for a school that has diversity in family make-up, race, ethnicity and staff. It's not the easiest to find and we've had to make some compromises... but we have had the same experience (so far)as Anon #1.We are just another mixed family at the school (with most parents assuming my husband is Asian.)

Anon #3