Over on Erin's blog, she posted a link to this article. It's about an African American woman who was adopted as a small child into a white family. It's not a feel-good, warm, fuzzy sort of adoption story. But it is her story, of finding her racial identity and the struggles she faced. Adult adoptees definitely have a story to tell, and by telling their stories--even (or especially) the sad ones--they offer adoptive parents a glimpse into the sorts of things to guard against and to do. This story was mostly "what not to do."
After I read the article I felt really sad. Sad that not all that long ago adoption was clouded in secrecy, things (like race and birth family) were considered too "taboo" to talk about, and that many people suffered as a result.
I am not naive enough to believe that our sons won't face challenges during their lifetime because of the fact that they were adopted transracially. There are inherent challenges in our country for minorities as it is; our sons will have two "worlds" that they are essentially a part of. I don't know what it's like to be black (or any other minority) in the United States first-hand. SO, it's important for me to do what I can to gain an understanding so I can best equip my kids.
Here are some things that Kevin and I are committed to, being that we are now a multi-racial family.
--Relocating to an area in the next few years that is more racially diverse (specifically a higher percentage of African Americans.) The town we live in is actually mostly Hispanic, and the town we attend church in and do most of our hanging out in is almost all Caucasian. We hope to move for other reasons as well (Kevin's tired of commuting!), but one of our prerequisites is a place where our boys won't always be "odd man out." We'd also love to live in somewhat close proximity to a city with an Ethiopian population so that our sons (and we) can be part of cultural events, eat Ethiopian food, etc.
--This goes along with the first one but we also hope to eventually be part of a church that is more racially mixed than our current one.
--Being open and honest with our sons about their beginning, their birth family, and their background. It's their story, they have a right to it, and it's beautiful because it's theirs.
--Educating ourselves about their birth country, and in turn educating them. This includes reading books/watching movies related to Ethiopia. Also, educating ourselves about African American culture as well. For example, it's important for our kids to see that we value so-and-so's music, because so-and-so looks like them.
--Being open and honest about race and racism. While I don't plan to scare my kids or set them up to always expect to be treated differently, I'm also not planning to sugarcoat anything. I've seen racism with my own eyes (both directed at them and not); they'll eventually see it too.
--Bringing them up to value their identity, which is made up of many things. We love the fact that they are Ethiopian, that they're black, that they're our sons, just like we love Anna's identity as our daughter. I hope that they grow to see that the core of their identity is that God loves them and created them to be the exact people they are today. That they're valuable because they're them.
--Kind of scary but I'm gearing up to learn how to cook Ethiopian food. I hope to incorporate it into our regular meals. My goal is to eat it twice a week. Eventually they'll go to Ethiopia and realize Mommy wasn't very good at it, but hey at least they can say I tried!
I don't know how each of our sons will view their race, heritage, or identity as they grow. It is intimidating in certain ways because I love Yosef and Biniam so much and want to give them a good, solid foundation--life's tough enough as it is! I pray every day that God will give me the right words and actions to love these precious boys.
Finally, for adoptive parents of black children, someone gave us as a gift a WONDERFUL children's book called Colors Come from God...Just Like Me! Also, my favorite book on transracial issues is I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race Conscious World. Read it!