Today on the blog, I’m privileged to have Rachel Garlinghouse share her experience on transracial adoption. Family Life
I grew up in a racially diverse, but segregated town. My family: all white. My circle of friends: white. My neighbors: white. Most of my bosses, all of my teachers, and most of my co-workers: white. I married a white man, and we planned on starting a family several years after I graduated college.
But that changed when, after a year-and-a-half battle with an undiagnosed illness, I was told by an ER doctor why I’d been so sick: Type 1 diabetes. A chronic, autoimmune, (currently) incurable disease was my new reality. I would furthermore be reliant on injecting insulin into my body in order to live.
It was during my five-day hospital stay that hope presented itself in the midst of the valley. A diabetes nurse educator asked if we planned on having children, we said yes, and she proceeded to tell us about the risks of pregnancy in a Type 1 diabetic patient. It was then, instantaneously and without a hint of doubt, that I knew we would adopt.
It’s been eleven years since my diagnosis, and today my husband and I have four children, all of whom are Black.
We were open to adopting children of any race, but each time we were ready to add to our family, we were chosen by Black birth parents.
Since becoming a multiracial family formed by transracial adoption, I went from ignorant to woke.
We did as much preparation as one could before adopting. We read the books, talked to experienced people in the adoption community, participated in online discussions, and talked at great length about our life experiences. We understood that transracial adoption meant we’d encounter challenges that same-race families would not. But of course, nothing teaches quite like experience.
There was the time my then two-year-old (oldest) child started dance lessons. She loved to shake it. And a white acquaintance said, “Of course she likes to dance. It’s in her!”
There were the curious white strangers who tried to stroke my girls’ beaded cornrows, interrogate the girls on how long it took to get their hair done (followed by, “I could never sit for that long!”), or overly compliment them on their looks to the point it was incredibly uncomfortable and intrusive.
There were people who assumed things about my children because they were adopted and Black: their birth parents were probably young, sexually promiscuous, and drug users. We were asked if our children were in foster care (no—and in fact, most children in foster care are white). We often received the “God bless you for adopting children who needed a good home” as if we were white saviors swooping to scoop up babies out of heartbreaking and horrifying situations.
There was the time a white woman called my then two-year-old son, who has always been big for his age, a “cute little thug.” This happened just a few months after the nearby town of Ferguson had been rocked by the death of Michael Brown, and the Black Lives Matter movement was picking up steam. A few months after that, a young white man drove by our house and yelled the n-word at my daughters, then six and four, who were riding bikes in our driveway.
I’ve had to come face-to-face with my whiteness thousands of times when it collides with the ignorance of a society that still values less melanin and insists that “colorblindness” is real.
I’m honored to be my children’s mother. I am committed to never letting the lessons end. I relish in humility. I embrace empathy & I listen more than I talk.
And I take every single thing I learn and recommit to raising racially confident, proud, strong, smart Black children.
Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of five books and hundreds of articles. She’s shared her family’s experiences on CNN, CBS, NPR, and MSNBC. Rachel, her husband, and their four children live in the St. Louis area. Read more on Rachel’s blog, White Sugar Brown Sugar, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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