When Transracial Adoptees are Used as Advertisements for Diversity

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Transracially adopted kids are often the minority in their schools, camps, and churches. Their pictures are proudly displayed in advertising materials to show diversity and often to attract more families of color.

I just read a really good essay in the New York Times (A Poster Family for Diversity) by a mom of three transracial adoptees about her discomfort when her children’s school, teams, and camps used pictures of her children in their advertising.

By virtue of their white parents, transracial adoptees often move in majority white spaces, inadvertently providing diversity for others. Although I’ve always tried to place my kids in environments where they encounter peers and role models of the same race, they inevitably end up in the minority at school, at camps, in enrichment classes and on sports teams.

Early on I noticed how schools and kids’ programs love to feature children of color in their marketing materials to highlight their commitment to diversity, just as the big corporations do.

At first she refused to sign the photo permission use forms, but that gets complicated, so eventually she gave up.

All I can do as a parent is maintain an ongoing dialogue with my children about the hidden messages in advertising, about the ways minorities are portrayed in the media, and about why I feel so protective of their likenesses.

Sometimes, when I find a picture of my daughter playing bass guitar on the girls’ rock camp Facebook page or discover a video of my son’s deft footwork being tweeted by his soccer club, I’m thrilled. To see my kids promoted for what they do, not what they look like, feels good. Finding them featured in a camp catalog or a school brochure doing nothing but looking “ethnic” alongside their white peers brings up less positive emotions.

As a mom through transracial adoption this article hit home. As a mom I tried to make sure my kids were not always in the minority, and giving them lots of opportunities to be with others of their race, but as with this mom, often they were in the minority. I strongly recommend popping over to NYT and reading this.

If you are a transracial adoptive parent, have you experienced this? What are your thoughts? 

Image credit: NYT (A Poster Family for Diversity)

24/06/2016 | by News | Categories: Adoption, Adoption News | 3 Comments



3 Responses to When Transracial Adoptees are Used as Advertisements for Diversity

  1. Italy says:

    Nope, because we choose to live in areas where my kids are not tokens. Every military transfer we research areas to live and my husband will commute if it means our daughters will live in a racially diverse area. Currently my white daughter is the token, our area is a mix of black and Hispanic so my other three are not tokens.

  2. Natalie says:

    My daughter’s photo hasn’t been used, but she certainly struggles being one of the few biracial (AA/Hispanic) girls in the school, the only one in cheer. As a result, despite trying constantly to integrate her in social opportunities with other AA or biracial children, she identifies and gravitates toward Caucasian friends. After a heated discussion recently about protecting her hair in braids, etc. She yelled that she wasn’t black, so stop forcing African girl hair on her. I was shocked; we celebrate her culture and heritage and teach her to embrace her natural hair, complexion, etc. But it’s Nature vs. Nurture and I think she just wants to fit in and can’t identify with urban apparel, vernacular and dialect. She says other AA children are “too aggressive ” and intense; that they don’t treat her with respect. Such is my continued struggle to teach her she is beautiful as God made her.

    We are both Caucasian and she doesn’t like when people ask if she’s adopted; it bothers her alot.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Poor kid! You don’t say how old she is, but she sounds like middle school or early high school. I wish I had a magic bullet to take away her pain and confusion, but all I can offer from a mom of kids who are past that stage is to say that racial and personal identity are a growing process, and especially in the early to middle teen years. What she feels like now is not how she will always feel. Hang in there mom! Continue to expose her to positive images and role models for her all aspects of her heritage. At some point she will choose to identify as she feels most comfortable. For a lot of transracial kids, college is the time they more fully embrace their racial identity because they are not seen within the “umbrella” of their family.

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