I have been reading this book about how to deal with being a transracial family. For those of you who don’t know what the word transracial means, it’s simply a family who has members from different races. So, our family is transracial in that we our white and our son is African-American and we are about to have an Asian daughter. These types of families can be formed through adoption or marriage. They are becoming more and more popular these days. This book gives practical ways to incorporate the different cultures of your family together into one family unit. It is something we have spent a lot of time thinking about for our son and now for our daughter.
One interesting point this book brings is illustrated in a little story the author tells. She is an adoptive mom who is white and has adopted an asian child. She frequently speaks on the topic of adoption and transracial families. The first thing she does when she speaks is asks a show of hands of the audience asking the question, “Are you prejudice?”. Of course, no one raises their hand. Then after some time she raises hers. She makes the point that all of us, no matter how modern we think we are hold some prejudices. You might not even think about it, but you do have some preconceived notions about other races. We all have to confront those ideas in order to be better people. We, as transracial parents, really have to confront out prejudices in order to parent effectively. The fact is, prejudice is everywhere and race is an underlying topic of almost every conversation in our society. We are an extremely diverse population, the most of any other country.
I thought about this idea and I had to admit that I have prejudices. I make assumptions based on people’s race and ethnicity all the time, even if they are not conscious thoughts. I was really faced with this reality in becoming Joshua’s mom. I really didn’t think I had prejudice until I spent time being his mother. The very first time I met Joshua, it was a surreal experience. Here was this tiny child in the NICU and he look NOTHING like me, and yet he was my son. I felt odd about it all. When you meet your children, who are birth children, for the first time you start saying, “he has my nose or his dad’s chin,” or whatever. You don’t do that with an adopted child, for obvious reasons. In fact, with Joshua it was really hard to think of his as our son because he looked so different. I don’t think it would have been as stark of a difference if he were of our same race. I had to finally admit that to myself in order to get past it. I got to know Joshua for who he was and loved him as my son, but it took time. Now that he is older and we have gotten over the shock of going into public with him where people stare and make comments, we can see the prejudice of the world. It’s hard for us as white parents to understand what he will go through as a black young man. Unfortunately, we know that the world will see him differently than they see our other sons, not matter who he is on the inside. We have to come to grips with that reality and try help him deal with the world.
Are you prejudice? I would say that all of us are to some degree or another. I think it’s heathy to admit it. We have all had different experiences that lead us to make assumptions about people groups. It happens with race and also with special needs, I have found. Joshua does not have a “special needs” look about him. You would not know by looking at him that he has some challenges. I am thankful for that, honestly. The world will treat him differently than they would if he looked different. I went to the doctor with Joshua recently and saw a new doctor in a practice I had been to before. The doctor walked in and had the whole “doctor” outfit on. Other than that, what I saw was a man with CP. He walked different and was a bit spastic in his movements. I automatically make a judgement and asked myself how this guy was a doctor. It was wrong of me to do, but I did. I automatically thought that because he looked different he was mentally impaired in some way. I would have thought myself more enlightened than that, but I am not.
It really does us all well to think about the prejudices we have and work to try to see the world differently. Remember that just because we see someone and have an automatic thought about that person, doesn’t mean that is really how that person is. We have to look past the physical and see the heart.