lately i have been contemplating all things race and adoption. we adopted our son harper (2.5 years) when he was 10 days old. my husband and i are white, and we had two biological daughters at the time we brought harper home. harper (whose birthparents are both african-american) is very obviously an adoptive addition to our family. i have done unbelievable amounts of research on the topic of adoption, specifically trans-racial adoption. this what i have discovered: you can't do the right thing. well, at least not in everyone's eyes.
first, you've got the people who are overly-sensitive about race. (i can say this, because i am probably more on this end of the spectrum. i think that racism is still a huge issue and i think it is negligent and naive to pretend that it's not.) but, i think some people take it over board. people don't know if you are supposed to say black or african-american, hispanic or latino, person of color or person of colour. i mean... it is terrifying to be in front of someone of a different ethnicity, use the wrong language and look like an ignorant butthole. there are people who will be offended no matter what you say. when i recently described harper as a minority in our family, one woman said she found my use of the word minority disturbing. i mean... if you've got 5 pennies, 5 nickels and a quarter, i think we all know that the quarter is the minority. just means: not as many. doesn't mean not as valuable. in this case, the quarter is actually worth more... there just aren't as many of them. that's sort of how my family is too. harper's worth is not being described when i say he is a minority. in a family with three white sisters, his reality is being described.
next, you've got my personal favorite: the "colorblinders." these people are great. they just say "i don't see color," and that somehow solves the racism issue. i mean, you don't see color? with all the colorblindness happening, it's a wonder how these people get their socks into pairs. i just think it a bit naive to say you can't see differences. again, it is not about worth or value. it's about reality here, people. i can SEE the difference between blonde hair and brown hair, brown skin and cream skin, purple socks and red. to pretend we can't see our wonderful and unique differences, cheapens the experiences of people who have been discriminated against for those very differences. seriously people, stop saying that. saying you don't judge people based on color is different than saying you don't SEE color. it's foolish, and it's a lie. (*author would like to note that this does not apply to those who have an actual diagnosed colorblindness problem. she is sorry to hear that... she permits you to continue using the phrase "i don't see color." and, to make amends for her offensiveness... she will gladly fold your socks into pairs.)
in the early 90's nike launched an advertising campaign featuring michael jordan and spike lee saying phrases like "the mo' colors, the mo' better." (my brother was in high school at the time, and he wrote an award-winning essay about embracing racial diversity in which he quoted this spike lee original.) the point of the campaign was, of course, to sell shoes. but, the secondary issue was to spark some dialogue and some thought about embracing people of all colors... not to deny that we are all covered in skin of varying colors, or to intimidate each other with so much political correction that we can't speak openly about race and ethnicity.
i am a tall, brown-haired, heterosexual, white, christian woman. i'm a youngest child, a child of divorce. these things are not a matter of better or worse, they are a matter of my reality and if i'm honest they do define a lot of who i am. i cannot speak for what life is like as a man, a muslim, a homosexual, or as a small black boy in a white family. i raise the question: what might it be like for him, now and down the road. i ask, not because i love him differently than i love my daughters... but, because i love him so much i feel obligated to acknowledge that his life experience will be different than my daughters' and sometimes it will be harder. i think i would be doing him a disservice if i were to take people's advice and treat him the exact same as my biological kids. i tried using the same eczema cream and it fried off his tiny baby mustache. HE IS NOT THE SAME! nor should he be!
today, when playing a board game with harper and marlie, she gave him a gamepiece and said "here harper, you'll be blue." he pulled up his little pantleg and pointed to his skin and said "noooo, i be browwwn." then, he looked at me proudly, flashed a huge smile (showing just the bottom row of his teeth), he raised his eyebrows once and said "harper handsome." he's also proud to tell you that he is adopted, just like jesus was adopted by joseph, and that he has handsome brown skin, and that the bottom of his feet are pink. he'll tell you that i am his forever mama, but that he has a birthmama too. my girls can't say any of that. they. are. different. to pretend otherwise wouldn't only be ridiculous, it would be sad.
i'm glad we adopted, and we are going to do it again. (yes, that will make five kids in all.) i am glad harper is "browwwwn" and i'm glad he thinks that it's handsome. i don't care if people think that "black children belong in black families." i think that in a perfect world children belong in the home with BOTH of their biological parents... but until we live in a perfect world, i think children belong with whoever is willing to love them, believe in them, and take the time to make them feel good about who they are... similarities, and yes, differences.