Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Transracial Family

Lately we've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a transracial family. As we said from the beginning of our adoption adventure, we are so excited about being intimately tied to the other side of the world, but we also have to be real that adopting a daughter who doesn't look like us brings its own issues and questions. For anyone considering transracial adoption, Dawn Davenport's July 2nd podcast is a great introduction to the topic.

There are a few categories of challenges that we'll face as a multicultural family:

1. Being the weird kid in a white family.
As we are learning, kids who don't look like their parents can identify themselves as belonging to one of two groups - either they're the weird kid in a white family or they're part of a transracial family. We Morningstars are dedicated to becoming the latter - a family that acknowledges that we don't all share the same ethnic heritage and is investing in a family identity that celebrates our German, Welsh, Scottish, Pennsylvania Dutch, Mid-Atlantic, Utahn, Kazakh Morningstarishness! That's one of the reasons we're so excited to spend around six weeks in Kazakhstan - we'll have enough time to explore at least a little of Kaz and get to know the culture and people that our daughter comes from.
   That's not to say, of course, that spending 6 weeks in Kazakhstan cements our status as a transracial family, but it's a heck of a start. It also means that we make purposeful relationships with other families facing similar struggles. It means that we find at least a few friends or acquaintances of central Asian ethnicity so that our little girl is aware that there are other folks in the world (and even in Utah!) who look like her and share a similar heritage. It means that we don't exclusively buy blue eyed blond haired dolls :)
   Sorry if I'm coming off as over zealous here - I'm just excited about growing into a transracial family!

2. Cultural stereotypes
Another challenge for multicultural families is facing cultural stereotypes that the birth parents have never personally faced. Asian girls are smart, or passive, or Kazakh girls are steppe warriors! (ok, we probably won't hear that one, I'm still being influenced by Mongol). We just have to be realistic that just because we know that cultural stereotypes aren't universally true, that doesn't mean that our daughter's peers and teachers will be similarly enlightened.

3. Insensitive comments
Being a more obvious adoptive family means that we'll be that much more susceptible to rude, insensitive, or ignorant questions or comments. We're definitely going to have to grow a thick skin!
   As a transracial family, we'll probably hear more than our fair share of "real" questions ("Are they real sister and brother?" "Are you her real parents?"), payment questions ("How much did you have to pay for her?"), and "You should have adopted kids here at home" comments. And we're not talking about heart-to-heart conversations with folks who genuinely want to understand the adoption experience, but rather in-line-at-the-grocery-store comments.
   It's going to be interesting differentiating between the questions worth answering and those better ignored. We're learning more and more that the way we answer those questions really isn't for the people we're talking to, it's about modeling the right opinions and loving attitudes for our eagerly observing children - equipping for the times when they will be faced with similar questions from peers or acquaintances and won't have parents around to answer for them!

So there's a preview of coming attractions for you! We are certainly embarking upon quite the adventure...


Scott Reinhart said...

Do they have dried corn in Қазақстан?

Jstar said...

Oh, yes, dried corn is the universal language!

marymary said...

Great post. You reminded me of a recent post from my cousin, who has three adopted kids, one of whom has a complexion significantly darker than hers or her husband's.

Jstar said...

Too funny! I really enjoyed reading your cousin's post, thanks for linking to it!


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