Friday, June 29, 2012

Growing Up the Ethiopian Child of White Parents

From chef & author Marcus Samuelsson at Huffington Post, a recollection about growing up as an Ethiopian adoptee of white Swedish parents:
In my book Yes, Chef you can see old photos of them: my Mom with her beautiful, long hair and my dark blonde Dad, sporting a stylishly scruffy beard. They were so cool, so ahead of their time, without even trying. So many of our neighbors and my friends couldn't understand what my parents had done in adopting us, especially children from Ethiopia, but the impact on our extended family was immediate. I had Canadian relatives and cousins from Korea. If we got into fights at school, it wasn't because we were adopted. If we didn't understand what a word meant, it wasn't because we were adopted. My mother made sure that fact never creeped into conversation and she didn't let it define us.

But that didn't mean we were oblivious to the fact that Linda and I had white parents and my parents had black children. This one time we were visiting D.C. and my mother had to take us kids and leave the city. She had been so excited to come to America, to buy copies of Essence and Ebony magazine so she could learn how to comb our hair and buy the products she needed to tame our unruly afros. But she was getting it from both sides -- white people couldn't understand what this Swedish woman was doing with two little Ethiopian children, and black people would be constantly asking her a thousand questions. This was the 1970's and there weren't celebrities adopting children from African countries. I was about eight years old at the time and I can remember thinking Anne-Marie was most disappointed because her expectations of that trip were not met; how times had changed when I accompanied my mom to a conference for adopted children and their families in our nation's capital some 30 years later.

* * *

A dozen times a week, easily, I am stopped on the street by someone -- most often a woman -- who tells me that she is the mother of an adopted child. More and more, over the past few years, these women have adopted a child from Ethiopia and they've read about me or seen me on TV and know my story. While I love to hear these stories, I always wonder when will be the time the "norm" will flip on its head again. Will there be black parents adopting white kids? I'm waiting for the moment when some rich Nigerian man decides he wants to adopt an Asian child. Is this happening yet and if not, what will it take to change the conversation? In an open-minded world, everything is a possibility.

1 comment:

Anne said...

I heard him interviewed yesterday on NPR, really interesting!