My brain is jam packed with imaginations of our future life with kids. Mainly, I imagine the happy moments – that first day when the crawl becomes a walk; trips to the park; clunky, awkward but fun school performances; pancakes and cartoons on a rainy Saturday morning – stuff like that. Other times, my mind conjures up less pleasant, but nevertheless very real images. I imagine the first tearful moment when some snot-nosed kid at school calls us or our child a fag. I can see that first and scary trip to the hospital because of a fever or broken bone or allergic reaction. I remember some of my days as a sulky teenager, and I foresee a little bit of payback as our child approaches the teen years.
Though the images are all very different, there is one thing they have in common. I’ve never pictured our child being white. Never. Black, yes. Latino, yes. Biracial, yes. White? Nope. Never.
Well, let me correct that “never”.
A few weeks ago, Juan and I were talking after work and Juan said to me “Suppose there is a child…” This child meets our criteria for age, gender, physical and cognitive development, physical health and emotional and behavioral issues. The twist (my word, not his) is that the child – a boy – is white. I don’t remember Juan’s exact words. I think he said something like “what do you think?” or “would you be interested?”
What I do remember clearly is the sensation that my brain’s functions had suddenly come to a standstill. I couldn’t think. The engine had stalled and no amount of knitting my brow or squeezing my eyes tightly shut was going to easily restart it.
The idea of a white child wasn’t something I was against. It was something I had never thought of. It – a black father and a white son – was not in the realm of my imagination. I had been moving along through the adoption process with the assumption that our child would not be white and I hadn’t given any thought to why I had that assumption…until the night Juan said “So suppose there was a child…”.
So, what drives the assumption? Societal norms? Cultural expectations? Personal world views? Selfishness? Maybe the answer is “All of the Above”.
The transracial adoptions that I know of do not reflect this particular scenario – a black parent adopting a white child, but there’s lots of examples in society of whites adopting black, latino, and asian children. While I’m sure that not everyone sees this as “normal”, it is certainly more of a norm than situations where blacks adopt whites.
So I’m faced with a whole bunch of questions…Why is it this way? How does power, class, and social position contribute to adoption decisions regarding race? Is there something about a black man being “in charge of” a white child that stirs something negative in us that we don’t articulate? Is it hard to picture love and care between a white child and a black parental figure? Sure, white families have used black caregivers to help raise their children since the days of slavery, but that’s a little different than being the parent to a white child. How do the notions of “rescue” and “child in need” contribute? Is it harder to imagine a black family rescuing a white child in need?
I’m also faced with questions of a more personal nature. Is it selfish of me to assume that Juan will bear the brunt of the stares and comments as he gets around town with our child-of-color in tow? How did we get so far in the process without me considering the possibility that I be the brunt of the stares? If he’s open to a black child, shouldn’t I be open to a white one? How far am I willing to go to be unselfish? Progress for black people – success for black people – helping black people – are all important things to me. They are a part of my world view. Adopting a black child is an important extension of that world view. How do I remain authentic to that view while also considering the needs, desires, and experiences of my partner?
Questions questions questions. I have few answers and feel only a little closer to knowing how I would respond to Juan’s “suppose…” scenario. I would at least consider the idea. I would at least consider the issues that relate to the idea. That’s further than I was three weeks ago and when it comes to issues of race, maybe that is what matters.