Ten Things Adult Transracial Adoptees Want You to Know

Dawn Davenport


Ten Things Adult Transracial Adoptees Want Adoptive Parents to Know

  1. Love your kids with your whole heart. Love may not be everything, but it is a great step in the right direction.
  2. Let your children know that you are always open to talking about adoption and race by bringing these topics up periodically. Look for opportunities in your everyday life where race or genetics or adoption comes up naturally.
  3. Every so often, check in with your child to see what they are experiencing with adoption and with transracial adoption. Don’t assume they will tell you on their own even if you are receptive to the conversation.
  4. It is easier if you adopt more than one child of color. Having someone else in the family of your race makes life easier.
  5. Hang out with other mixed race families. Your children need to see that there are other families that look like theirs. It is all the better if some of these families are also adoptive families.
  6. Especially for girls, seek out ways to show them that beautiful women come in all colors. Be aware of the media bias towards Caucasian beauty.
  7. Read books to and with your children with black characters and with characters that have been adopted transracially. Books of African, Haitian, etc. folktales are a good idea as well. Creating a Family has a list of the Best of the Best Transracial Adoption Books.
  8. Baby dolls of your child’s race are a good idea. At the very least it shows that you cared enough to try.
  9. Living in a diverse neighborhood does not solve all the racial problems. Your family will still stand out, but it may make it easier to find black role models and friends.
  10. Don’t pretend:
    1. that differences don’t exist.
    2. that race doesn’t matter.
    3. that everything is OK.

These suggestions came from a panel discussion of black young adults that were adopted by white families on a Creating a Family Radio show. I strongly recommend that you listen to this show. (1 hour)

Image credit: rafael-castillo

28/01/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Other Adoption Resources | 20 Comments

20 Responses to Ten Things Adult Transracial Adoptees Want You to Know

  1. Pingback: George Floyd – A tragic ending | Carolina Adoption Services

  2. Avatar Anne says:

    I would like to hear about the experiences of white adoptees adopted by black parents.

  3. Avatar Nan says:

    I adopted 4 Puerto Rican brothers,20 years ago I am a white widow. The oldest (adopted at 12) grew to dislike all Spanish speaking people and wants nothing to do with Puerto Rico. The next (adopted at 8) considers himself white, but likes Spanish people and loves Puerto Rico,has vacationed there several times. The next (adopted at 5) wants to be black, has all black friends, wears his pants hanging and loves to rap. The youngest (adopted at 2) has embraced his heritage full on. Has a tattoo of a coqui and the PR flag, wears the flag on his clothes, etc. and dates Spanish girls. I raised them all the same, spoke often of their heritage, cooked ethnic food and celebrated special days with them. Incidentally they light brown skinned, much darker in summer. So how do you explain this?

  4. Avatar JAMES says:

    one point that wasn’t discussed. would our 1/2 african, 1/2 latino 2 year old son be better served in a mixed raced public school in the neighborhood or in a whites only private school 30 minutes away from home. he’s now in a white only preschool. my wife and i are having some strong discussions on all this. thank you.
    wonderfull interview by the way

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      James, only you know the specifics of your situation, but almost every adult transracial adoptee I have spoken with, and I’ve talked to a lot, has stressed the importance of being in diverse environments with people of color and especially environments that allow interactions and friendships. The most common examples given are schools and churches.

    • Avatar Nan says:

      Public school would make him feel less like an odd man out.

  5. Avatar Emily says:

    I disagree with John Curtis, we should not erase race because it perpetuates a color blind society. Race, color, ethnic background, national origin are factors in people’s lives that affect them each and every day. To erase race means we are not acknowledging that people are different and sadly treated differently due to the color of their skin. I am a transracial adoptee and struggled with the issues of realizing that I’m a person of color due to people being color blind. Though it’s a great idea in theory to ignore race and think everyone is the same, that is not reality. We live in an institutional racist society. People that raise children through transracial adoption should acknowledge this and make effort to understand their child in full capacity to assist them with racism that’ll occur in these children’s lives.

  6. Avatar John Curtis says:

    I suggest you erase all references to “race”. We are all the same race- the human race. Genetics studies conclusively demonstrate this is true. The main issue is external differences, with skin “color” dominating the discussion. Here again, I suggest you erase references to color because genetics has proven we all have the same color – melanin – the only difference is how much or little of it you have; therefore the truth of the matter is that we have different TONES of the same color,
    Since it is a genetics issue, I prefer to point out that one’s genetic makeup is all related to who one’s parents were; since no one gets to choose who their parents were, no one can be held responsible for the TONE of their skin. Therefore the tone of one’s skin should be an irrelevant issue. I know it isn’t YET an irrelevant issue, but in our discussions and involvement with people on this issue we can start down that path.
    One race- the same race- tones of the same skin color based on genetics: that is how I suggest we speak about the issue such that we correctly frame the discussion.

    • Avatar katataksrainbow says:

      Unfortunately although biological race has been disproven, race is still a social construct that is widely embraced by society. Ignoring it is essentially ignoring the pink elephant in the room. Often times white adoptive parents will take this color blind stance because its easier to pretend that since biological race doesn’t exist, racism isn’t that big of a deal because people should know better.. which is definitely not the case. This leaves the transracial adoptee unable to confide and express themselves fully to their white adoptive parents which can lead to issues with identity, sense of belonging, and resentment towards their white adoptive parents. WAPs need to realize that it is a privilege to chose to be color blind, a privilege not afforded to people of color who constantly are confronted by a society which is inherently racist. Differences should never be erased or ignored. If a child is dealing with racism (which most transracially adoptees do at a very young age) pretending race is “irrelevant” translates to racism being “irrelevant” and when you have people of color being locked up and murdered by the state, pretending race is irrelevant or that as a society we are ready to move towards post-racial conversations about racism is not only absurd, but very dangerous for the child because its not teaching them the tools they need to maneuver through this unjust world.

    • Avatar Marshella says:

      i totally agree. But I think that those of a darker skin tone, in particular, are not ready to accept that the world can one day be as peaceful and accepting as you describe. I like to think of myself as blind to skin tones, but worry that others cannot really truly believe that I am such a non biased non particular person. I honestly grew up being taught that people are people, we are all humans, but unfortunately, somehow i must have also been blind to the way people of darker skin tones were still to this day being treated differently and in humanely by people of lighter skin tones.

      Then again, I suppose that’s just my view – I don’t differentiate when I see things happen (which, in my real life I hear of happening – I can’t recall ever actually being present during such maltreatments) because at first I just don’t automatically think it’s a case of racism. Rather, I tend to think it’s an isolated incidence where people involved with the anger and maltreatment are again, people who are angry, hurt, and abusive/rude and the people involved just happen to be of various skin tones.

      “Imagine” some of us do truly see the world this way. ” Imagine” we may be dreamers, ahead of everyone else in regards to a future free of race hatred, victims, and differences….. Humans matter. All of us, equally. We are all created equal, with equal rights to a loving, peaceful world and happy, productive lives. Just like we no longer say, for instance, “that paraplegic person” or ” that autistic/Paranoid/dumb/person” it is now politically correct to not label people – instead we say, “that person with paralysis”, or, “that person with autism/anxiety/paranoia/intellectually challenged” or whatever.

      We need to, and I think honestly only where it is absolutely imperative – such as in a missing p/police wanted person report where a picture cannot be provided – only then say, ” person is described as having light/medium/dark skin tones,” etc. if on the playground and I want to tell my kids something about someone – like ask them what someone said to them, or reprimand them for forgetting their manners, I will describe the unknown person by the color of their clothing, or say, ” the person using the wheelchair”, or similar way to point out the person I’m referring to in a polite manner – and disregarding the tone of their skin. “Imagine”

      • Avatar katataksrainbow says:

        Marshella, to say the ones being discriminated against don’t want peace and than claim that racism is only isolated incidents is backwards and offensive. No one wishes to be oppressed darling, certainly not BLACK people (and I put that in capitals for a reason as I am not “dark” I am black and proud). A huge issue I have with statements like yours is that it puts the blame on the victim instead of the abuser. Until white people are able to take an honest look at race and racism (both overt and structural), and listen to people of color instead of telling them how they should feel about being treated like subhumans, we will never reach the point where peace is possible. When ones voice is silenced they can never be free and essentially, thats what ur asking when u ask black/brown/whatever folks to stop talking about their experiences with racism and “just get along”. Really, its actually extremely offensive to be honest.

  7. Avatar LookingForAnswers says:

    I find this article helpful and enlightening, but I also I find the title to be misleading and biased. The title is called 10 Things Adult Transracial Adoptees Want You to Know. The suggestions came from a panel of black adults adopted by white families. The title misrepresents the advice given by, who I don’t doubt are, amazing children who grew to be outstanding adults raised at the hands of compassionate parents (even if the parents weren’t always sure how to handle tough situations). Transracial adoptions aren’t entirely comprised of African American children being raised by White parents (even if it is the more common scenario at this point in time) and shouldn’t be represented biasedly as such. The article should be represented for what is actually is: 10 Things Adult African Ameican Transracial Adoptees Want You to Know.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      LookingforAnswers: Point well taken. We should not forget that white parents adopting black kids is only one form of transracial adoption. There are plenty of other example of white parents adopting brown kids of different ethnicities. Much of the advice given by these adoptees is still relevant to other types of transracial adoption.

      • Avatar Rachel says:

        Yes all of these comments are helpful to adoptive parents. Thinking of transracial adoption as only white parents adopting children of color is limiting. Many parents of color adopt children of other races. Biracial couples adopt children of color etc. etc.

        • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

          Very very true. The adult adoptees on the panel were all black and had been adopted by white families so their advice was focused on that situation, but you are definitely right that families of color adopt kids of all races too.

  8. Avatar TAO says:

    That was a great radio show Dawn, hope people take the time to listen.

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