Race Matters: What does it mean in your transracial family?

This was from the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parent Association’s Cultural Connections Conference, where I presented this past weekend.

Things to think about when parenting a child transracially or transnationally:

  • Will
    your child have any adult role models that reflect his race?
  • Who
    will your child see on television that positively and accurately reflects her
  • Are
    the only people of your child’s race or ethnicity working in service jobs? Or
    does your child see professionals of his race or ethnicity on a regular basis?
  • Who
    will your child date and/or go to Prom with? How will you prepare your child if
    he or she is only considered “friend” material because of his or her race?
  • Does
    your child think that all “brown” or Asian kids are adopted?
  • How
    will you feel about your child dating or marrying /partnering a person of his
    or her same race?
  • Do
    you expect your child will come to you with questions about race and racism?
  • Do
    you expect your child will tell you about his or her experiences with racism?
    Especially at school? And what if it involves teachers?
  • Do
    you have a difficult time believing that your child/family will be impacted by
    race? Do you believe things are “different now?”
  • Does
    your child know what to do if he is pulled over by the police for DWB (Driving
    While Black)?
  • What
    part of being a transracially adoptive family concerns you the most?
  • What
    relationships are you willing to give up if needed to support your child? Are
    you willing to give up membership in the dominant culture?
  • How
    will you react if someone you love makes racist statements about your child’s
    racial/cultural/ethnic community?

    • Suffer
      in silence?
    • Speak
  • How
    would you handle your child declaring that she thinks she’s white or refuses to
    accept her race/culture? What if they no longer want to participate in
    “cultural camps” or “heritage events?”

    • Would
      you feel terrible?
    • Would
      you force your child to go?
    • Would
      you sigh in relief?
  • What
    are your thoughts about affirmative action? Does it change when you realize
    that it will affect your child?
  • Negative
    statements or feelings about a birth parent may translate into your child’s
    belief that people like “him” are bad. If you feel or express negativity about
    your child’s birth parents or his birth parent’s race, you are also telling
    your child that a part of him is bad.

© 2008 by Jae Ran Kim. Links to this post are permitted but this post
may not be copied and re-posted without permission. For reprint
permission, contact Jae Ran Kim at harlowmonkey at gmail.com.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

4 thoughts

  1. Those are all really good questions. When my wife and I adopted trans-racially that was a very important factor. We rejected and African adoption because we live in a region of Canada with very few people with African ancestry. We didn’t think we could offer appropriate cultural and racial role models or experiences. I wonder how Asian children grow up in parts of the US and Canada where that would be the only Asian child. That has to be hard. I hope PAPs take that into consideration.

  2. I’m glad I found your blog. I am a mom to four, three through international adoption. I agree with what you’ve posted and these are VERY IMPORTANT questions that PAP’s need to visit – with great care. These are questions we asked ourselves and discussed before adopting.

  3. All valid questions. Only time and parental overseeing can answer these????? My husband and I are “white.” Labels Labels Labels. We have a biol daughter age 5. We adopted our son when he was a week old. Very blessed. He is African American and Puerto Rican. We will have double duty to preserve his culture and are looking forward to it! He will be 2 in June. We had a prom conversation the other night, wondering who he will be attracted to and who he will identify with as peers and friends…Just watched an ABC news segment on race and adopton 3/4/10. Questioning should race matter in adoptions? One talking head said, to para phrase “Look around your table, if you don’t have friends of color, you should have no business adopting children of color.” This made my blood boil!!! We feel our son’s cultural id is very important to him. It is and should be his birthright!!!!! Why can’t it be as easy as not seeing color and seeing the need for families for so many children?

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