Thursday, August 7, 2008

Trans Racial Adoption

I followed a link to an interesting article, which got me thinking. I am white. Daughter is biracial. B-mom was white; b-father was African American. For the first six years of her life with me, Daughter and I lived in an inner city African American community. I was a definite minority. There were challenges: at the school I was seen as an evil woman who was robbing this child of her cultural heritage. Daughter was having psychotic episodes in the classroom, but because she shut down rather than acting out, her teacher was convinced that Daughter was fine and I was the problem. As this battle was going on, we were getting ready to move, so I comforted myself that if we moved to a predominantly white community, I would be seen as a heroine rescuing Daughter rather than a villain stealing her cultural heritage.

While I was in that first community, I had many conversations with a close friend about the issues. She was bi-racial, though she self-identified as African-American. She asked me what was Daughter’s culture, and pointed out that she wasn’t either white or African-American, she was both, and both cultures needed to be recognized and honored. I have always taught Daughter she is more, not less, because of the richness of her heritage.

One day after Daughter’s bath, I was putting some powder on her. “Look, Mom, now you’ll have a white baby!”

I responded quickly, “I love my black baby.” She threw her arms around me and gave me a big hug.

After we integrated Tiny Village, Daughter gradually began to share with me some of the things that she had experienced in the inner city. Her classmates made fun of her because I was white. They knew she was bi-racial, and called her skunk, among other things.

Tiny Village has been very accepting of Daughter, though our presence did cause a bit of a stir initially. A colleague in the next county said some of her women came to her and said, “Why didn’t you tell us the new pastor in Tiny Village has a black daughter?”

Her response, “I didn’t think it mattered.”

There have been some problems; a boy at school began calling her “black girl.” When she told me about it, I suggested she look him in the eye and say, “Thank you. I’m very proud of all my heritage.” She loved that response. There was a song by John McCutcheon that talked about the need to “keep on walking until they understand” and celebrated the accomplishments of a number of African American pioneers. We listened to that song quite a bit, and I told Daughter that the problem wasn’t hers; it belonged to the people who didn’t understand and were showing their ignorance. I explained that she couldn’t change them; she just had to “keep on walking.”

We’ve now lived in Tiny Village for well over 10 years. People seem to have forgotten that Daughter isn’t white. One young man who grew up around Daughter argued with me, insisting that Daughter isn’t African American (though actually he said “colored.”) People no longer seem to notice her race. On the one hand, this is good; she has been able to date without problems. I also worry, though. We are not going to live in Tiny Village forever. What will happen when we go back into the world and Daughter has to deal with people who haven’t forgotten her race? Have I given her the tools she needs to cope with the racism she is bound to encounter? When she reconnects with African Americans, will she feel that she has been deprived? Have I deprived her?

Tiny Village has been a wonderful, safe, healing place for her. When I walked her to school in the inner city, people tried to sell us drugs. I would never have been comfortable giving her the kind of freedom she has here to just go out and explore. Of course, I’m not real thrilled with the fact that she’s gone native and fallen in love with country music. My hope is that our next community will be integrated, and Daughter will have the opportunity to experience all of her heritage and make her own choices.

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