Considering a Transracial Adoption?

You are waiting to adopt a child and your heart is soaring like an eagle. If you are a white person and if you are living in a predominately white community, the moment you make the decision to adopt a child of color it's time to build a multi racial family lifestyle.

While it’s important to till a love of the ethnicity and the people our children are born from, we don’t always have local access, and a lot of living gets postponed. Any ethnic community you feel drawn towards is the right place to begin.

Get off your beaten path. Become the minority. Locate the ethnic neighborhood you most want to absorb. Find the city library. Go back week after week. Keep an eye on the bulletin boards. Attend community events in the area on a regular basis, and allow yourself to soak up images and impressions. 

Is there a barber, and a market nearby you could begin to frequent? If you are ignored, show kindness. Being ignored is sometimes what it feels like to be a person of color.

How then do we go deeper? By participating regularly and steadily. The difference between embracing and exploiting a culture and its people is that when we are authentic we feel ethnicity in our bones; it feels calm, safe, centering. It’s listening process, more about seeing and feeling, than it is about thinking. Let the changes take place inside of you. Don’t look for success and don’t quit. That’s how a multi racial lifestyle is built. Some of the best things in life take a long time to achieve.

You might: begin attending a racially mixed church. Or a Sunday Intertribal Powwow. Surround yourself with Native families as they exchange news, ideas, song and dance, and reflect on traditions.

How do I know? My earliest memories encircle me; watching Grandma sew beads on Uncle Elmer’s deer skin leggings. Realizing I’m white and Indian and what that meant. Listen to my mother and you’ll hear stories about me in diapers moving to the heartbeat of the drum.

Talk to me and I’ll tell you that fusing a multiracial way of feeling and being does not happen with a few social outings; it’s a life process, a series of small steps gained over years. It is challenging at times, and requires us to use the same perseverance we needed in the adoption process that brought our children to us.

I believe the single most significant thing we’ve done is the comment to racial diversity my husband and I made early on in our relationship. The moment we decided to become parents we began working towards building the kind of multiracial lifestyle we wanted our children to be surrounded with. This along with the prep work and preparing we began the moment we realized that it wasn’t going to be easy. 

My husband remembers how uncomfortable he felt when he first met me and found himself the only white man among American Indians. I spent my growing up years in a mixed race area of Los Angeles, and my husband had grown up in an all-white community. Blending our lives allowed us to realize we each needed to give ourselves the opportunity to be in frequent situations where we would be in the minority race and culture.

We built new friendships within our local Korean community around a campfire, maintained them by hosting gatherings in our home. These relationships grew over late night bowls of naengmyon noodles and were strengthened when we let down our guard and allowed ourselves to be absorbed, supported when our teenaged son was diagnosed, then died from a brain tumor. Anglers of every race, in every culture, will always find each other, thus my husband continues to find his connecting point on the ocean, fishing, grieving, and making friends in the process.

We had three kids, two adopted transracially. Our children’s childhood ran through our fingers like water as we lifted our hand to capture a moment with the camera. Turn around; they are adults, miles and miles on their own. Will the foundation we built support them on their journey in an integrated world?

Our culture comes first from the family and community we are raised in. It is not our children’s job to piece it together. We must begin the process. And while those who are white cannot ever know what it feels like to be a person of color, the choice can be made to live diversely, with the freedom to ingest the beliefs that shape the perceptions of groups of people whose racial heritage is not the same as our own.

But is ethnicity important only for people of color, or for those who have adopted transracially? I believe ALL families benefit from a wide scope of ethnic diversity. When we spend most of our time in wholly white enclaves with little or no access to mingle within ethnic communities, or are too threatened by its values to explore it further, we are coached to feel safest within the confines of a Caucasian boundary, and then we develop all sorts of silly notions that will keep us locked even further away.

Life is not orderly. It’s a bit scary at first to traverse into unexplored racially diverse territory, but it’s not impossible. Wherever we are is a good place to begin, starting in this moment— stretch.

First published in Adoption Today. Reprinted by Tapestry Books and in a number of other venues. 
© 2004 Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.