Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dear Sugar: Burning Transracial Adoption Questions

Dear Sugar:

Today we're focusing our burning adoption questions session on transracial adoption.  Here's what I'm asked most often.  Let's get at it.  

Q: I've always wanted to adopt, and transracial adoption appeals to me.  Yet I'm not sure it's the right decision.  How do you know that transracial adoption is the right choice for you?  

A:  Last year I wrote an extensive response to this very question.  You can check out the popular post here

Q:  Can we clear up the clothing debate?  Is it OK for a Black child, who was adopted transracially, to wear clothing (which seems popular in clothing lines) that feature monkeys or watermelons?   

A:  This has been a hotly debated topic in the transracial adoption community for some time.  So let me just say, as a white mama, I tend to "err on the side of caution" on this one.  Yes, I do know Black mamas of Black children who allow their kids to wear monkey and watermelon prints and don't think twice about it.  However, I think parents who don't racially match their children need to consider the possible implications and weigh those heavily.   To me, it simply isn't worth putting these prints on my children.  There are SO many other options.   So my answer?  Don't do it.   

Q:  Hairstyles.  What's appropriate?  What's not?   (Because I'm not that great at doing hair). It's really discouraging to feel that I can't ever get hair-doing right, and I don't want to impact my child negatively (socially) or harm my relationship with her.     

A:  Another important topic:  hair!   The simple answer is this:  if you struggle, you need help.  And even if you can cornrow beautifully, you might need other kinds of help (with raising your child).  It is OK to pay someone to braid your daughter's hair.  It's OK to take your son to a Black barber to have his hair cut.  In fact, I look at these experiences as opportunities for a child to partake in his or her racial culture and be part of his or her racial community.   Being able to discuss not just hair, but many topics (police brutality, appropriate clothing choices-see question #2, etc.) with my children's hair braider and barber has been incredibly helpful.   You are NOT a failure for not being the perfect hair braider or hair cutter for your child.   In fact, you're a GOOD parent for stepping up, asking for help, and learning from those who are part of your child's racial community. 

Q:  We're approached so often by strangers who ask intimate questions about my child's adoption story.  I'm certain it's because her adoption is obvious:  I'm white and my child is Black.   The thing is, I don't want to be rude, but I also don't think random people should know my child's story. Furthermore, the questions are often racially motivated (or hint at being so).   It's frustrating.  What do I do the next time someone asks another weird/rude/random question?       

A:  I know EXACTLY what you're talking about.  My family is big, multiracial, and built by adoption, and therefore, we tend to attract a lot of attention, whether it be a second-glance, a lingering stare, or an approach followed by an interrogation.   How you respond depends on what your child wants (if he/she is old enough), but ultimately, it's important, as you already know, to hold your child's story sacred.   Therefore, a simple, "That's private" is a perfectly appropriate respond.   I know many parents like to respond with a question, "Why do you ask?"  But to me, I don't really care WHY the stranger is asking, because I want the conversation's focus to change.  It's not that we have anything to hide.   But as our child's parents, we have the responsibility to respect and protect our children, as well as teach them that it's never OK for an adult to use their age, size, or status (as an adult) to bully answers out of our family.   

What are your burning questions about transracial adoption?  Let's chat on Facebook

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