Sunday, March 18, 2012

Interracial adoption: What Can I Teach My Child About Being Black?

Yes, this title is (partially) stolen. There is a poignant poem of the same name on a blog I read.

This is something I think most white moms of brown children think worry about. How do I teach my child what it means to live in their skin in a culture that is still so affected by skin tone?  I wonder if it goes the other way too, (brown moms of___ kids….)?

At the Attach conference in 2010, I attended a great session on interracial adoption entitled Transracial Families: Nurture Attachment by Attuning to Race taught by Judy Stigger, LCSW (and transracial adoptive mom of two). In this well attended and integrated session we looked at varied ethnic stereotypes. We also discussed ‘white privilege’ and how we can never really experience life in someone else’s skin color, sex, etc. How do we teach our children who spend their childhoods under a 'white umbrella' what to expect from society when they are older and alone or out with friends of color?  An example given was the different experience the have when dining out as a part of a family with white parents. That is their childhood. Does that prepare them for the world they will encounter as older teens or adults on their own? Beyond that, how do I really teach my beautiful, teenage African American daughter what stereotypes she may encounter when socializing more widely (parties!?!)? Especially when she fights me even teaching her how to care for her hair or skin.

Then again, I believe I read a book not too long ago regarding transracial adoption of traumatized kids. The author expressed the opinion that our children need to learn the basics of human relationships and trust and family.  That it is not our primary job in parenting children with trauma histories to teach them how they fit into a larger culture. (I would love to have this reference again if anyone has it.)

I am just one mom among many. I guess I think that both responsibilities are mine. As is the responsibility to be the one who keeps these conversations open in our family.

In the poem I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one verse strikes me deeply. After reflecting on the fact that white moms can teach our children what it means to be human, she ends with the following.
And in the end,
I can release you into your destiny,
And wait for you to come home,
With a fuller understanding of who you are
and what you are to be in your life.
Then I can listen as you teach me,
What it means to be Black.


Read the whole poem at Urban Servant.

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