8 Responses

  1. Marc Schelske
    Marc Schelske February 25, 2013 at 12:19 PM |

    Christina, I really appreciate your post today. My wife and I, both white and middle class culturally, have adopted a hispanic boy. We have an older daughter (she’s 6, he’s 5) who is about as nordic looking as you can get. So, the differences are definitely apparent.

    I’ve stumbled over this topic and wondered how to handle it. I want my kids to be inclusive, and to be thoughtful and aware of the embedded was our culture marginalizes people so that they can stand for something different. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that our differences are brought together under the cross, and that we’re called to create a community where people aren’t side-lined or treated as less-than because of their race.

    But I feel tension around how I raise my son. My family is definitely not hispanic in culture. I live in a pretty homogenous place (Portland, OR). I’ve seen families who adopt inter-racially who go all out in trying to integrate the child’s cultural background into their family life. I’ve seem families who go the other way, never mentioning it.

    We’ve talked a little about the differences, but I’m very unclear and in some ways uncomfortable about how to proceed.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts, and be pointed toward any resources you think would be helpful.

    Thanks for your thoughtful work.

    1. Sarah
      Sarah February 25, 2013 at 6:18 PM |

      Marc – My name is Sarah and Christena asked me to share some thoughts from my experiences in a family that has adopted. I’m the oldest of eight children. My parents are white and had three biological children, myself included. The next children to join the family were adopted, five all together. Two of my siblings are African-American, one is bi-racial (African American and Dutch American) and two are from Ethiopia. (Which means that we are a crazy family of eight.)

      I believe the subject of race is complex. I believe families who that have come together through adoption are complex. Each time you add to the family there are added layers of complexity. It’s messy. Beautiful, but so often messy. I’m grateful that you see the hardness and the wrestling.

      I have been in the midst of adoption stories for the last 20 years. It has been a journey of wrestling and questions and not always easy answers.

      I can’t speak to your family or your specific situation. But this is what I can share. Kids see things as Christena stated. And they need tools to wade through complicated issues.

      I’m grateful that my parents have never shied away from questions of race or talking about race. We have grown and learned as a family. But I needed a safe place to talk about the subject because going to school or as I grew older in work situations I needed to know how to deal with issues of race as it came up. What I have learned is how little white people generally have to think about race unless we want to or are forced to it. My family has helped me see that I need to hear others stories and be wiling to listen to those who have to think about race on a daily basis. As a family member I believe I need to think about these things to walk alongside my siblings and love them.

      I’m an actor. Stories are incredibly important to me. Growing up I didn’t hear stories of families like mine. And so at times I didn’t even know what questions to ask about race or how to process the complicated things I was seeing in the communities around me. In time I have found more and more work by adoptees and their families sharing their stories. But I think finding the collective work and stories of those who are wading through similar situations so helpful. I need those moments of laughter with those who get asked strange questions about their family. I need those hard stories to know that I’m not alone in the complexity and at times isolation of what it means to be a part of family that doesn’t fit in with the groups around me. I need the courage of those who ask the hard questions to help me know that it is ok to dive deeper. And I need the reminder of love and willingness to see how I may not understand everything.

      Much of my family doesn’t look like me. So when I end up in groups where there are a majority of white people I feel strange. Finding ways to acknowledge and see those moments are, I think important. I remember a recent trip through the DC airport and this strange moment and as I walked into the airport. I felt at home. This sense of home had to do with what I saw. Because of the large Ethiopian communities in DC there are many people who work in the airport who look like my brother and sister. How do I explain that to someone – to say that home for me is people who look nothing like me.

      I think you are at the right place – asking questions, being willing to wrestle. To think through the hard questions. Because by doing that you are modeling for your children an example of openness and a willingness to grow yourself.

      I also look for help. I look for people who are different than me to share their stories with me. I’m grateful for my friends and people who have shared with me their lives and helped me see through the eyes of someone who is of a different race.

      My sisters and I have been working on collecting stories, artwork, and photos of families who are in the midst of living in mixed race families. If it helps you can check out some of the things we have been working on. And please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. (Email on my web site http://adoptiongallery.net/contact.htm).

      A series of books that I found incredibly helpful in my journey has been the work of Rhonda Roorda who is a transracially adoptee herself and co-authored a series of books containing interviews of adoptees, their parents, and their non-adopted siblings. Even though the stories may be different than your families experience I found them to be a comfort to know that there were others out there wrestling through the same pieces. Thanks for being a Dad that cares! – Sarah

      Rhonda Roorda link:

  2. PM
    PM February 25, 2013 at 12:41 PM |

    This is paramount to raising children in today’s culture. As a relatively new father, it is refreshing and encouraging to know that I am not off base regarding this subject.

  3. Amy in MN
    Amy in MN February 25, 2013 at 5:52 PM |

    Thank you for this article. My husband and I don’t have children but we live in a racially diverse neighborhood and attend a racially diverse church. One day one of my friend’s sons came up to me and asked if I were Korean just like him. I am from Norwegian/Danish/Dutch heritage but have dark eyes and hair though my skin is light but on the sallow side. My friend’s son said he thought I might be Korean because I have brown hair, brown eyes, and my skin matched his. At this, he put his bare arm next to mine for comparison. At the time, he was 4 or 5. Yes, children notice. Another of my friends is African American and her son of the same said he wished he were white because black is bad. He was 3 when he said this.My friend is an activist and was surprised this came from her confident and beautiful boy. Especially when she and her husband DO talk about race. Finally, another one of my friends is white as is her husband and as are their children. They are taking a pro-active approach and discussing race with their son because they don’t want him to take his privilege for granted. We all live in the same neighborhood and go to the same church and though our conversational approach is different, we are having the discussions. I think the kids are better for it.

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