Transracial Adoption: White Mom’s Experience Raising Black Boys

Dawn Davenport


Transracial adoption

We’ve been having a number of thought provoking discussions the last several weeks in the Creating a Family Online Support Group about race in the US. I suspect and hope that these types of discussions are happening in groups online and in person throughout our country because we have to talk in order to grow and learn.

In order to talk about race in America, we must first listen to the experience of those who know what it is like to be black in America. There have been lots of great articles and books from blacks explaining their experience because, after all, they are the real experts on what it’s like, but today I want to share the voice of Kate Roper, a mom who adopted transracially-two black boys adopted as babies. She is also the mom to white children, so is able to compare her experience of raising black kids and white kids. She adds a unique perspective to our ongoing discussion about race.

If you are raising children of color (African American, Hispanic, Asian, mixed, etc.) please share your experiences in the comments.

A White Mom’s Experience Raising Black Boys

As a white mother of two black children, three white children, who all have a white father, I have something to say.

Racism exists. It is real and tangible. And it is everywhere, all the time.

When I brought my boys home they were the cutest, sweetest babies ever. Wherever we went, people greeted us with charm and enthusiasm. Well, not all people and not everywhere. But, to me, they were the “wacko” exceptions. I thought to myself, “Get over it.”

Now my boys look like teenagers. Black teenagers. They are 13. Let me ask you these questions.

Do store personnel follow your children when they are picking out their Gatorade flavors? They didn’t follow my white kids.

Do coffee shop employees interrogate your children about the credit card they are using to pay while you are in the bathroom? They didn’t interrogate my white kids.

When your kids trick-or-treat dressed as a Ninja and a Clown, do they get asked who they are with and where they live, door after door? My white kids didn’t get asked.

Do your kids get pulled out of the TSA line time and again for additional screening? My white kids didn’t.

Do your kids get treated one way when they are standing alone, but a completely different way when you walk up? I mean a completely different way. My white kids didn’t.

Do shoe sales people ask if your kids’ feet are clean before sizing them for shoes? No one asked me that with my white kids.

Do complete strangers ask to touch your child’s hair? Or ask about their penis size? Or ask if they are “from druggies”? No one did this with my white kids.

Did you tell your kids not to fight back because they will seen as aggressive if they stand up for themselves? Have you had to honestly discuss with your husband whether you should take your children to the police station to introduce them to the officers so they would know your children are legitimate members of your community? Have you had to talk to your children about EXACTLY what to say and not to say to an officer? Have you had to tell your children that the objective of any encounter with police, or security in any form, is to stay alive? It never occurred to me to have these conversations with my white children. In fact, it never occurred to me for myself either.

There is no question that my boys have been cloaked in my protection when they were small. What I did not realize until now is that the cloak I was offering them was identification with my whiteness. As they grow independent, they step out from my cloak and lose that protection. The world sees “them” differently.

It is sweet when they are adopted little black boys so graciously taken in by this nice white family. But when they are real people? Well, it is not the same. And they still look like little boys. What happens to them when they look like the strong, proud black men I am raising?

The reason why the phrase All Lives Matter is offensive to black people is because it isn’t true. Right now, in America, my black children are treated differently than my white children. So when you say All Lives Matter as a response to the phrase Black Lives Matter you are completely dismissing the near daily experience of racism for those with pigment in their skin, curl in their hair and broadness of their nose.

I am posting this so you can see the reality I have witnessed and experienced, because, frankly, I didn’t believe it was true until I saw it up close, directed at two souls I love, over and over again. So, please, use this post as a pair of glasses to see the racism that surrounds you. Then we can actually make progress toward all lives being valued and cherished.

Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:

Image credit: Martijn.Munneke

27/07/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 9 Comments

9 Responses to Transracial Adoption: White Mom’s Experience Raising Black Boys

  1. Avatar Theresa says:

    Thank you for this article. I lost my first born son to cancer when he was in high school. The pain is incredible and it now has me extremely worried about my 14 son who is half black and living in a lily white, somewhat conservative area. We have met some nice people and my son has friends. But I am petrified of losing my son to a cop. He is big for his age and gets mistaken for a college aged kid at times. I have thought of taking him to the police station so they can recognize him and know him. But I am afraid it might draw the ire of a racist cop if there is one there. Did you take your sons to the station? And if so, how did it go? Any pointers?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      I have heard of several moms who have said that they were going to take their sons and introduce them to the police. I don’t know whether they followed through. I think one of the best things you can do is talk with your son about what to do if he is approached by a policeman. I also think your son needs black male role models who can help him understand what it means to be a black man in America.

  2. Avatar Emily says:

    A good, thought-provoking article! But I did have a few thoughts about one of the points the mom had about her black children and the police.

    Would it really be such a bad thing if we all (parents I mean) introduced our children – as young adults – to the local police? Frankly, as a mother, I would feel better knowing that my child would not have their first interaction with the police be a high tension situation where both the police and my child could feel threatened. Wouldn’t it be BETTER for EVERYONE if your child was known as “Tyler Johnson, 15, who lives in the white house on the corner of 5th and Main” rather than “white (or black, Hispanic, Asian), male suspect?”

    One of the root causes of this violence, as I understand it, is that the police and the communities that they are sworn to protect do not know each other any more. Frankly, we, as adult members of the community are at fault in this. We allow our busy lives to come between us and WORKING towards better communities. I cannot see how it would hurt anything to make the time to invite your local police officers over for dinner, and it may just save lives.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Emily, perhaps, but the author’s point was that it never occurred to her that she would have to do that for her white children. And I would say the same for me.

  3. Avatar Addie says:

    Thank you thank you a million times thank you. I’m currently raising one black son and one white son and even at their young ages we are experiencing this. It’s so important as parents we are armed with calm and productive language to educate those around us.

  4. Avatar Terri says:

    I say All Lives Matter because that is the goal. No, things are not perfect but the goal is to make All Lives Matter. Using Black Lives Matters segregates blacks and many seem to want to be segregated from the rest of us in many ways. All Lives Matters means we want all lives to matter equally and have the goal of making it so. It isn’t dismissing anyone’s problems but including them all and making them all our concern.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      Terri, we’ll have to agree to disagree. If you cut up a cake and gave a piece to all the kids in the group except one, and that child comes up to you and says, “Hey, I deserve cake”, your response of “Everyone deserves cake” would kind of miss the point. Oh course everyone deserves cake–that was his point. He is part of “everyone” and he deserves cake.

  5. Avatar Elizabeth L. says:

    Thank you for sharing your first-hand experiences, as well as those of your children. This is a very important piece which I must share with others.

  6. Avatar Lori says:

    Thank you! This is the truth in the US today. Please do not be fooled, and teach your black children that all lives are equal, and the fallacy that is colorblindness. This is real life and happening now. Educate yourself and be prepared to stand up for your children and all black people. For any change to happen we must stand up to the insidiousness of systemic racism, and confront it head on. Black AND white alike.


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