Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reader Thoughts Wanted: Is Race Really A Big Deal?

Recently, I called my daughter's preschool. I spoke with the director about our family situation. I explained that our daughters were both adopted and were both African American. I told her that diversity is important to our family, and thus, we found her preschool to be the best option for our oldest daughter. I then requested that when she divided kids into classes for the year, that she put my daughter with other children of her same race.

I then posted on Facebook, "Called my daugher's preschool to request that she be in a class with other kids of color. Being a transracial family is interesting!"

I got several comments. One of which was that I shouldn't have done what I did. That my daughter is only two and will thrive no matter the racial makeup of her class. Another friend posted that a good educator would divide kids up racially without a request.


I also heard from a friend, via e-mail, who, by the way, is in a transracial (biological) family. She said that by talking about race and emphasizing it, we keep racism alive. (Then I thought how my two-year-old knows she is "brown" and her parents are "pink"---and we talk about this often. Am I screwing her up?)

All interesting points.

So, I want to know from you:

Is talking about race and ensuring that our kids grow up in a racially diverse situation (be it school, neighborhood, church, etc.) keeping racism alive? Or, is doing this being realistic about the world we live in and providing our kids with opportunities?

Is race a "big deal" anymore?

I find that generally younger people (like my students, about age 18, 19, 20) don't make a big deal out of race. Twice while on vacation, we bumped into a group of college girls. They doted on both my girls (which they, of course, loved) but didn't make a single comment or ask a question about adoption, their hair, race. Younger generations, is seems, are either less experienced in racism (meaning, they didn't grow up during the Civil Rights Era), aren't bothered by transracial families (more used to it? after all, adoption is popular both in mainstream culture and among celebrities), or simply don't care to comment. I realize these are all assumptions on my part, could be geographically-linked, and are over-generalizations...but I'm just sharing my thoughts here.

I don't think colorblindness (or the idea of it) is cool. I celebrate my diverse, multi-racial family. Not only are my girls black, but they are adopted. They are unique on two levels. But is it really a big deal?

What I'm coming to realize is there is no single answer. To some adoptees, being adopted is a big deal. To some, transracial adoption is a big deal. Some grew up around lots of white people, and they weren't negatively impacted by that. Others (like in some books I've read) state that their white parents really screwed up by not exposing them to people of their same race on a frequent and intimate level.

Wow---this post is all over the place.

Just like many adoptive parents, I'm searching for answers. Shrug. Where I'll find these right answers, well, I don't know.


  1. Obviously I find your reader thoughts wanted posts relevant! :)

    I like the Transracially Adopted Child's bill of rights and this item on it is relevant:

    Every child is entitled to opportunities to make friends with people of her race or ethnicity

  2. I guess here's my 2-cents. If you live in a racially diverse community, teachers and school administrators will divide classes up equally, to provide proportional amounts of all races in each class.

    That being said, you can find other ways to expose them to children of their own race-- simply by watching what goes on in your community. Vacation Bible Schools, festivals, playgroups, church activities... there's so much out there.

  3. I don't think talking about race "is keeping racism alive." It's reality. Unfortunately, it does still exist. Sweeping it under the rug, won't make it go away.

    My family is transracial, and diverse. My husband is black, my 3 step-daughters are mixed, my oldest daughter and I are white, and our youngest daughter who was adopted is black.

    When were chosing which elementary school our youngest daughter would be attending this year, we chose one that was clearly more diverse then the school in our actual neighborhood. We didn't want our daughter to be the only brown girl in the school. It was important to us, that she wasn't singled out, and that she had some comfort level.

    My oldest daughter who is almost 19, is like the older kids you talked about, she just doesn't see the difference in much. People are people. I worked hard as a mom, to make sure she saw things that way. I actually wrote this post not to long ago about it.

  4. I think NOT talking about race is doing kids a disservice. Teaching your kids how to navigate the world while wearing brown skin is a popular subject on blogs by people of color. It's something they need to know in order to get by in the real world - pragmatic required knowledge. I would LOVE to live in a world where it was unnecessary, where I had the luxury of never talking about race, but I don't.

    Further, I want to make a correction. The way I see it, Racism is kept alive when RACIAL STEREOTYPES are promoted, are allowed to stand unchallenged, and are allowed to hurt people. Acknowledgment of a clear physical difference (brown vs. pink) is absolutely NOT propping up racism. Hiding from it or refusing to discuss it will convey secrecy and shame, just as refusing to discuss adoption does.

    I don't blame that mom for having that opinion: for a long time, it was the recommendation of experts on education that teaching kids "colorblindness" and ignoring race completely was the way to end racism. She's probably just resting on privilege she doesn't know she has and information that's grown outdated since she last read up on it.


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