I don't know what triggered it, but all of a sudden last week, I was back on the "let's research trans-racial adoption" bandwagon.
I really haven't touched the idea since January or February. For a variety of reasons: Late-winter malaise, frustration with how complicated and expensive it is, and mental exhaustion. I think I needed more time to fully process the fact that life is not going to exactly be easy whether we choose to live childless or to adopt. No matter what we do, all of our choices are firmly outside the circle of "normal" (I'm gonna play fast and loose with a lot of loaded words, but please know that if I put them in quotes, I mean the word is supposed by society at large, not by me in particular). I think that was the hardest for me. No matter how hard I tried to be "normal", it just did not happen. And I never asked to be in this position! I don't want to stick out. But here I am, through no fault of my own, choosing in which way do I want to appear "odd" to others.
You might notice I am fixating on what other people will think. I don't know why I do that. My husband pointed it out on Friday when I told him I was researching again. He is...interesting. Ever since we started kicking around the notion of adoption, he just seemed to accept it very simply and move on. I don't know how he does it. I worried that it meant he wasn't truly considering the ramifications of that choice. That he was not soul searching to find out if he felt comfortable raising "someone else's" child - a child that will not resemble us. But after talking to him more, it seems he just truly doesn't care. "There will be problems we have to face no matter what way we have a child. You can't prepare for everything. I know that we will figure things out as they come." Maybe it is different for men because even with a bio-baby, they aren't getting the early physical bonding that the mother is through gestation.
And we aren't just talking about adoption, here. We're talking *trans-racial* adoption. A means of family building that is weighed down with judgments from so many groups. There is an organization of African American social workers who have published their beliefs that being raised by white parents is so damaging to a black child, that they should *only* be placed with an African American family. How is that not supposed to freak the shit out of me??
I mean, I get it, I'm white, so what do I *really* know about racism and prejudice, having always lived in my white-privilege protected world. I can see institutional racism, but I can't experience it, not in this country. At the same time, does that mean I am completely incapable of understanding my limitations and working to overcome them in order to prepare my AA child for the racism and prejudice that they will face? That's not rhetorical, I am honestly asking because I honestly don't know, never having had to consider it before.
And I feel like I can't accept "permission" to adopt trans-racially from another white person, even if they are an adoptive parent or an adoption agency employee. I feel like I need to talk to an adult adoptee who was raised by parents of a different race who can tell me they did *not* get screwed up. And then maybe tell me what the parents did that kept the kid from being completely ill-prepared to face a racist and prejudiced society. I need to hear, from someone who knows, that it *can* be done so I can wear that affirmation as armor when someone inevitably verbally assaults me for raising a black child in a white household.
It's one thing to honor a child's culture of origin. That, honestly, sounds easy to me. Buy health and beauty products meant for their skin and hair type, provide books and toys that reflect their heritage, skin color, historical experiences, expose them to art, music, TV, and movies that are created by people of that culture, etc. That might be difficult if we were adopting internationally, but it's not like African Americans don't have a deep and thriving culture here in the U.S. And it's not hard to find, you just have to step outside of your white-bread world. I can do that!
It is quite another thing to be aware of the unique difficulties a person of color (any color other than white, really) faces in their daily life. Do I have enough black friends? Am I culturally aware enough? Do I know the limitations of my own experiences? Is there a way to discuss race and racism in a meaningful, helpful way when I am one of the privileged majority? If not, what do I do? Do I have to let someone else, someone of the same ethnicity, be a mentor to my child, to teach them how to handle institutional racism that I may not even be able to see at times?
When I was in college, I had friends who were African American, Middle Eastern, Asian, all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds. College is an easy place to have a diverse group of friends, I think because people mix and mingle more than happens in the "adult world". But since graduating, we've all spread out and moved away. It doesn't mean the same thing to be friends on Facebook as to be friends who actually see each other from time to time. What resources do I tap to give me support and guidance on an aspect of parenting I am completely unprepared to face? Sure, I'll join adoption groups, but if it's a bunch of other white parents I will always question if their advice is right or if we are all convincing ourselves that our interpretation of race and prejudice is enough for our kids, cloistered in our white experience, with no outside perspective to validate what we are doing. Can I do right by my hypothetical, African American, adopted child? Wanting to and hoping to just aren't enough. I need to *know* that I will do the right thing.
Does this all circle back around to fixating on what other people think? I guess it does, but in this instance, I think I do NEED an outsider's validation. It is the only way I would know I am doing the right thing because I'm lucky enough to not deal with people being racist AT me. Does that make sense? I don't want to be the blind leading the blind - I want someone who can SEE to give me guidance, and that means relying on an outsider's judgment and opinion. So what do I do?
None of this is going to keep me from moving forward with information gathering. I'm even prepared to start narrowing down our agency choices. But it is something that is permanently housed in the back of my mind. I would hope that by being aware of this issue, that it makes me fit to parent trans-racially - that it means I'm not blind to the unique challenges and I will do my best. But I also worry that my best is not enough.
I'm in an extremely vulnerable place right now, emotionally and mentally, so please be kind in the comments.