People often ask me if I remember the first moment that I met my white adoptive mom. Although the memories are vague, I do know that the first time we connected was at an event to connect black foster care youth to potential adoptive families and my mother and I were drawn to each other. Although it was difficult adjusting to a new home after experiencing trauma in my prior foster placement, the education and tools that my mom provided for us eased that early transition and continued to be foundational in my journey of growing up in an interracial family. Listed below are some ways our family navigated conversations about and around racism, racial identity, and what to do when we found ourselves facing racial injustice.
1.) EDUCATION: My mom immersed herself in education about transracial adoption, child trauma, and the history of the connection between adoption and racism before beginning her adoption journey. Gleaning from research, historians, and the stories of transracial families gave her the insight into the possibilities of our family dynamic and the dialogue that we would find ourselves in. My mom knew that race education in particular would help us embrace difficult conversations about my own journey in the future. Education provided both of us accurate language on the issue of racism and the vocabulary to keep ongoing conversations at the forefront.
2.) THERAPY: As a family, we dove in and out of therapy depending on the season we found ourselves in. We also sat in the offices of therapists individually as trauma arose or when it was imperative to the values of our family for professionals to hold space for our emotions and thoughts.
3.) REPRESENTATION: Growing up I had literature and toys that not only represented my ethnicities, but also the stories of other cultures and peoples around the world. The stories in my library reflected the age and season I was in and my mom would ask what I was learning within the pages I was reading. These racial mirrors not only allowed me space to process the intersectionality of my own experience and that of the main character, but also gave my mom a better understanding and insight into my world.
4.) RELATIONSHIPS: Growing up in a multicultural city provided diversity at the periphery of our wider community. We decided to step into different cultural settings and experiences that were rich in storytelling and expanded our knowledge about the traditions of other people outside of our white spaces. Attending cross cultural events is a great first step but it is important to continue on the journey to investing and building cross cultural relationships. It is of high importance for transracial adoptees to find those in their close community who mirror their likeness through race, providing a much needed cultural reference, insight, and connection.
As I listen to adoptive parents question how to navigate racism within an interracial family dynamic, it’s important to remember to raise children from a place of awareness of what is shifting in our culture verses being afraid of those shifts. These transracial adoptees are to be given the tools to be their full selves in the world around them which should be forming in the brave space their parents have nurtured. We hold the privilege of honoring our children by trusting and allowing them to rise within their own unfolding stories. Brave spaces are not easy but necessary: the hard and holy work is found there.
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