5 “Facts” Transracial Adoptive Parents Must Teach Their Kids

Dawn Davenport


5 Facts to Teach Black Kids to Keep Them Safe

The real experts on adoption are the people who have lived the experience—adoptees. What do young adult transracial adoptees say are the most important things white parents must teach their black kids to keep them safe in this racial world we live in?

Whenever we hear a case such as the killing of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown (or the local cases of police violence against young black men that never make the national news) every parent of a black son wonders what they can do to make certain that their child doesn’t become a statistic. White parents of African American children have the added disadvantage of teaching their children about a situation they likely haven’t experienced.

For example, on a recent Creating a Family radio show on Interracial Adoptive Parenting: White Parents with Brown Children, the guest said many black parents know that in order to get their driver’s license their children, especially their sons, must not only know the basics of how to drive a car, change a tire, and avoid other crazy drivers, they must also understand what it means to DWB (Drive While Black). As parents they have the added responsibility of making sure their sons can control their temper and stay respectful and safe even in situations that seem/are very unfair.

On a Creating a Family show with a panel of young adult African American and Haitian American adoptees, I asked what their parents did to prepare them to live safely in today’s world and what they would recommend for this current generation of transracial adoptive parents and children. They gave the following five suggestions.

What White Adoptive Parents Must Teach Their Black Kids to Keep Them Safe

  1. Teach your children that they will be judged by the color of their skin. This is a hard subject for many white transracial adoptive parents because they want to believe it isn’t so, but avoiding this harsh reality can set your children up for harm.
  2. Teach your children that racism is ignorance. Don’t close your eyes to the existence of racism—notice it and name it.
  3. Teach your children to always be respectful with authority. They can rant and rave over the injustice once home, and you will listen and not downplay it, but in the moment, don’t give authorities a reason to over react.
  4. Teach your children to not fear authority. It’s a fine line between respect and fear, but you want your children to know that authority figures can and should be available to help them.
  5. Teach your children that they will always have to be better than white kids to be considered as good. Yes, it’s a double standard. Yes, it is unfair. Accept it, and make sure your kids know it.


Would you add anything to the list?

P.S. You might also enjoy this wisdom from the same panel: Ten Things Adult Transracial Adoptees Want Adoptive Parents to Know.

18/02/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Other Adoption Resources | 18 Comments

18 Responses to 5 “Facts” Transracial Adoptive Parents Must Teach Their Kids

  1. Avatar Brooke says:

    I am a foster mother to a black baby girl and a biological mother to 4 Caucasian/Indian children. #5 broke my heart. I can’t even come to grips with that statement, let alone know how to teach her (and my other children) that. How do you even say that?! How damaging is that to look into all 10 of those beautiful brown eyes and explain that one of them, because her skin is darker, will be treated this way?! I can’t even begin to comprehend that conversation. What a sad, broken world.

  2. Avatar Cherlyn says:

    As I read Terri’s post I was not so sure that she is a racist. Her position could be coming from a place of total ignorance. If she has not been exposed to racism how can she know that this world is full of racism and injustice? There was a time in my life that I wanted to believe that it didn’t exist, but sadly I have learned that simply isn’t true. Terri to you I want to say if only it was about clothing and who someone hangs with this insidious problem would be so easy to correct. But it isn’t about the things you mentioned, it is about preconceived notions of someone based on the color of their skin. I have two stepsons that are black. My husband is black. Our 2 children (adopted) together are white. One day I was at the park with my 11 year old step sons and our 12 month old son. The older boys were playing in a different part of the park and I was watching my toddler play near some other children while their mother was on her cell phone. At some point, my very young looking (black) 11 year old came running over and picked up his little (brother) and started running around with him. While I stood back reveling in this display of brotherly affection, this woman on her cell phone started chasing my sons and screaming at the top of her lungs for him to “put that baby down.” I was shocked! I ran over to her and said, “These are my sons!” to which she promptly went back to her cell phone conversation without so much as a word to my son. To this day, I kick myself to this day that I did not demand an apology for him. I need to add that my step son was wearing a collared shirt with plaid shorts. Nothing about his young little self screamed thug. She assumed one child had ill intentions to another child based solely on the color of his skin. I am sure if you were to ask her if she thought she was a racist, she would say no. I bet that she would never ACT in a racist manner. BUT she certainly did REACT in a racist way. Racism exists even where we don’t think that it does. My stepson was very very hurt by that and it took some getting over. There have been a few other similar situations where I have been worried about letting my stepsons go play basketball in the neighborhood since we only have them on weekends and they wouldn’t be recognized as belonging here. I hope that instead of looking for reasons why racism doesn’t exist, you look at the places that it truly does. It is all around you and not hard to find. The racism that we fight today is almost harder to fight than the racism pre-civil rights. Today most people deny racist feelings, but REACT in a racist or frightened way with people of color that they do not know. These are the feelings that people need to acknowledge but are afraid to do so. If you acknowledge how you feel you can fight it. If you don’t, your reactions will hurt someone emotionally or physically. Open your eyes and your heart to the truth about it. Oh, and I am just totally ignoring your statement about avoiding black culture! I am so proud of my husband, his family, and their culture.

  3. Avatar Sharon says:


    Thank you for a great post.

    And Terri, I sincerely hope you are not parenting black children. You need to pull your own pants up, because your ignorance is fully exposed in that comment.

  4. Avatar Maura says:

    Dawn, Thank you for this post. We are hoping to adopt and are open to an inter-racial adoption. As a white couple, we debated quite a bit about whether we should adopt a black child. Our hesitance was not because we personally care about race, but because we were concerned that as white parents we could not provide a black child with the guidance they require. How would we explain to a child that the world sees them as different than us, even though we are his/her parents? Finally we determined that if a child were to be place trans-racially it would happen whether it was with us or with another white family. Since we would be as committed as any (non-black) family to addressing the unique needs of a black child we are open to adopting a black child. Blogs such as this are helpful in making us aware of what we must teach a black child.

    Unfortunately, the above comment by Terri shows exactly why it is necessary to teach black children lessons to keep them safe. Terri appears convinced that the only reason blacks are treated poorly is because their behavior calls for it. This racism is the reason for the advice given above, particularly #5- “Teach your children that they will always have to be better than white kids to be considered as good. Yes, it’s a double standard. Yes, it is unfair. Accept it, and make sure your kids know it.” There will always be people like Terri who assume black children are thugs and are asking for bad treatment and even violence against them. Parents (of any race) who have black children are responsible for preparing their children for this sad reality.

  5. Avatar Maureen says:

    I sincerely hope that Terri is not the adoptive parent of a Black child. Actually, I hope Terri has no children at all (given her racist attitudes), but especially not a Black child.

  6. Avatar The Gang's Momma says:

    Many of “Terri’s” comments taken in isolation, without reference to color or race, without the context we all know is currently such a huge problem in our country, are not wrong per se. BUT BUT BUT!!!! This post is about a particular frame of reference, a particular and terrible condition that exists in our country. And the context IS about race. It IS about color and it IS about ignorance. Her blanket statements across the board are ignorant and incomplete, at best! Perpetuating and exacerbating the division and anger at worst.

    Here’s an example of what I mean by “incomplete” or “not wrong” when taken in isolation: “Pull your pants up.” – My cousin is a high-ish ranking official in the state prison system. Regardless of race, the pants around the butt or lower, are perceived in that space as “up to no good” as Jill stated. First within the prison system and then into culture as it spread in popularity. Most kids don’t even know the culture it represents when they do it. Taken by itself, I look at most of it as an ignorance of context and youthful choices as you indicated, Dawn. However, that behavior, taken in context of the utter division and hate that is rampant regarding race issues right now in our culture, is bigger than that. Knowing what I know from my cousin’s career of coordinating services and therapy at this level of corrections definitely contributes to my irritation at the sight of an otherwise good kid, of any race! wearing his pants down like that. So in my opinion, putting off the pants issue to youthful indiscretions and bad fashion choices is indeed a valid response but to my mind, still only a partial response. The WHOLE context of her comments or “suggestions” are faulty at their core, screaming far more loudly of her ignorance of the true issues. None of those “suggestions” could possibly be real solutions.

    Her comments make me want to disengage, to write her off as wholly ignorant and not worth my time. BUT, pointing out her ignorance and the faulty, incomplete logic of her points forces me to face my own thoughts and beliefs. And makes me find more complete actionable responses within my own life.

  7. Avatar TAO says:

    Dawn, I think you were correct in approving her comment if only to show that racism is alive and well even in the adoption community, specifically someone who reads a post on transracial adoption. Her comment was appalling and you were right to call her on it – the only thing I think you could have included was the #4 includes every kid, adopted or not, and to note that adopted kids who are female don’t generally go around impregnating other women (just to be snarky seeing as she included both genders using ‘tell your black adopted kids’) other than that I agreed with it…

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      TAO, that was one of the main reasons I finally settled on allowing it to post. How can you read that comment and say that racism is not alive and well.

  8. Avatar Anne Poulsen says:

    Dawn… THANK YOU!!!! That’s it…

  9. Avatar Terri says:

    What you need to keep in mind about the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases are this:
    * Trayvon Martin was staying with his dad because he had been permanently expelled by his high school after being suspended 3 times in the first 4 months of the school year for violence and drugs. He had a habit of attacking and beating up young men and posting their bloody faces on Facebook.
    * George Zimmerman saw Martin fully covered climbing over the fence instead of coming through the gate. He called police. When asked what race he was, Zimmerman didn’t know until the hoodie shifted. He was reporting a suspicious person whose race he did not know.
    * According to Rachel Jeantel (after the trial was over), Martin had gotten to the house but mistook Zimmerman as a gay and told her he was going go back and “whup ass” of that “fag Cracker.” Witnesses saw him on top of Zimmerman, pounding his head in the ground. Zimmerman passed a lie detector test given by police. The coroner said that the forensics verified what Zimmerman said. The FBI reported after an 18 month investigation at Eric Holder’s direction that Zimmerman was not motivated by race.
    * Michael Brown was 6’4″ and 285 lbs. He strong-arm robbed a store. He then tried to grab an officer’s gun and hit the cop repeatedly. This was a cop who had just come from helping a single mom whose black baby was not breathing. He kept charging at the cop who repeatedly told him to halt. This is why he was killed. It had nothing to do with him being black. Even the Department of Justice can’t find any racism there and the racist Eric Holder again moved heaven and earth looking for it.

    Here is what to tell your black adopted kids:

    (1) Pull your pants up. Having them down is disrespectful to the decent people who don’t want to see your trashy behind and is a symbol of affinity with blacks in prison (they take their belts away so their pants are saggy for a reason).
    (2) Don;t dress or act like a thug. Stay out of gangs.
    (3) Get an education and take it seriously. Use proper English. Make friends with others serious about education. Don’t run around with those who do improper things.
    (4) Don’t smoke, drink, use drugs, or impregnate women you are not married to.
    (5) Don’t commit crimes nor spend any time with those who do. Don’t riot, steal,loot, or aim a gun at police nor try to grab an officer’s gun. Avoid black culture like the plague.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Terri, I’ve debated long and hard about whether to approve this comment since I find many points to be racist, but have decided to approve it because I think your racist comments “show your true colors”. I haven’t studied the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown events closely enough, particularly what has come out after the fact, to state an opinion on the truthfulness of the “facts” you stated. I’ll leave that to others. However, I do have an opinion on your suggestions of what parents of any color should tell our black kids (adopted or born into the family). So, here’s my response to your suggestion.

      1) Get over your fixation about clothes, for goodness sakes. Have you no memory of how you dressed as a teen? If you were the least bit stylish with your peers, you no doubt looked ridiculous to your parent’s generation. Ummm, that’s part of the point of teen dressing. I will also point out that the baggy pant look crosses racial boundaries, so why state it specific to African American teens.
      2) I don’t know if there is a dress code for thugs, but I would agree with your advice that all kids, regardless of color or adoption status, should not act like a thug and should stay out of gangs.
      3) I agree that getting an education is important, and that who you are friends with can influence your behavior. As to “use proper English”–what is deemed “proper” depends on who you are and where you live and the environment in which it is being said. Also, some people confuse a regional accent with improper English. Surely Terri, you aren’t.
      4) Hard to argue with this advice.
      5) It seems pretty self-evident that we would advise all teens to not commit crimes or aim a gun at a policeman; however, your last statement to “avoid black culture like the plague” is beyond racist! You are clearly defining black culture as one that support rioting, stealing, looting, and gun carrying. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you truly believe this, you need to learn more about black culture and black families that are trying every single day, as are most parents of all colors, to raise their children to be good people who obey the laws of God and their country.

    • Avatar Addie says:

      I’m concerned by many of the statements you made to Dawn’s message. While there are many details I’d like to critique to your response, my main concern is your mass generalization. Especially as I’m coming from the perspective of having one child who is adopted and mixed race, and another child who is caucasion and my biological child. So, what you’re saying is that I should tell my “black adopted kid” that he shouldn’t smoke, drink, use drugs, or impregnate women you’re not married to” but I shouldn’t teach those ethics to my white son? I should tell both my children to “avoid black culture like the plague”? So I should make sure my children avoid learning about Dr. Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, read To Kill a Mockingbird, or perhaps stay out of a black barbershop to receive a proper haircut for your hairtype? You are also suggesting that I should tell my black son to not dress like a thug and stay out of gangs, but I shouldn’t mention that to my white son because he’ll just automatically not think to join (insert sarcastic tone here). Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and it is clear you most certainly have one. But as a mother of two remarkable boys, I’m concerned that peope like you make mass generalizations about people based on the color of their skin and making assumptions that are not fair nor true. As I said, you’re entitled to your opinion. But please try to read what you wrote, consider how your comments are unfair and offensive, and perhaps pray on it a little bit and maybe you can find some clarity on how you can change your way of thinking so that in the future you can think more positively about these “adopted black kids.”

    • Avatar Robyn C says:

      Thank you, Terri, for proving that racism is alive and kicking in the US.

      People like you are the reason I am afraid for my son:

      I have a message for you:

      I must admit, I always find it amusing when people comment that others need to learn to “use proper English,” but do not do it themselves. Always good for a laugh.

      1 – Wrong – as in, factually incorrect.
      2 – Good advice for anyone, though also grammatically incorrect.
      3 – Are we Puritans now? What are “improper things”? And why do only Black people do them?
      4 – Wrong – as in, oh so blatantly racist.
      5 – Even more blatantly racist than 4. Tell me, what is White culture? Is there only one? Of course not! There are many Black cultures around the world, and here in the US. Black people can be proud of many of their cultural achievements.

      Like other posters here, I truly hope you do not have any children. If you do, I pray they are a lot smarter and more compassionate than you are. I’d like my child to remain alive. People like you are the reason I fear he might not make it past childhood.

    • Avatar Greg says:

      Those two cases are not one in the same. Trayvon Martin was killed by a deeply disturbed man who thought he was a cop when he had no business following Trayvon. The fact that George Zimmerman has had run ins with the law since then proves how disturbed he is and how he is a danger to society.

      The Michael Brown case was completely different because it actually involved law enforcement not some nutjob who thought he was batman.

      And yes racism does exist in this country still though I think it gets exaggerated at times it still does exist.

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