Transracial Adoption: When the Adorable Babies Become Teens

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When we first adopted our son as a newborn, complete strangers would come up to us to say he was the cutest baby they had ever seen. Many also choose, without asking permission, to ruffle and feel his hair. This latest throughout his toddlerhood and stopped abruptly when he was in the early school grades.

My daughter came along 16 months after my son, and she also got a lot of attention for her cuteness and later her burgeoning beauty. People often mistook them for twins even though my son was 3 times the size of my daughter due to the difference in age. I sold children’s designer clothes on EBay for a time and my daughter was often my model. People would write to me about my adorable model although they wouldn’t necessarily purchase the clothes.

Children grow up and although I think they are both exceptionally good looking (adoptive Moms can get away with bragging about their children’s good looks as we had nothing to do with them), they have reached young teenhood. For my son in particular, he is no longer the cute adorable baby and toddler he once was. He is now 15, 6′ tall, and 225 lbs. He is dressed like other teens his age, which includies hoodies on occasion. He has now become the “other”, at least in the adult world, someone to be feared and followed around in stores.

My daughter at almost 14 has an easier time at 5’2″, with a great fashion sense. Yet she too has been followed around in stores as though her skin color marks her as an automatic shoplifter. I have seen this in action with both children in stores. When I come up to them and greet them, my white skin seems to validate them in the shopkeeper’s minds and they quickly back off. It breaks my heart every time things like this happen as I will not always be around with my white skin and white privilege to protect them.

Do I get scared whenever there is a police or security guard shooting of an unarmed black teen, particularly when the shooter goes unpunished? You bet I do. I picture my own children laying in a pool of blood, the only crime being the color of their skin.

It is long past time to put the old prejudices to rest once and for all. If you adored them as babies and toddlers, why can’t you live and let live as they grow older, particularly if they have done nothing to arouse your suspicion that they are up to no good, other than the color of their skin. Yes #blacklivesmatter.

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Sharon Greene February 14, 2015

Posted from WordPress for Android

33 comments

  1. Sharon,
    The outer trapping of individuals, whether mobility aids, skin color, etc., unfairly as it may seem, often forms another’s first impression. We are unfortunately not educated enough otherwise. Not holding quick judgement is one of those things that we know is right, yet so hard to do.

    That being said; it is important for us to put before all, who the true persons we are. That is not so difficult a task. For our truth is in our demeanor, and will be informed clearly to all whom we come in contact. Those children who come from homes based on sound family fundamentals will exude that fact.

    For as one thinks, so one acts. And as one acts so one thinks. May parents make the sacrifice to implement virtues that will be evident in acts and thoughts of their children.
    -Alan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those are words to live by Alan. Very wise words. It is unfortunate that we reduce people to their lowest common denominator based on physical appearance, body size, skin color, and beauty. I try my best to instill good values in my children and it shows – once you know them as more than a black teen in a store. If you talked to them, they would be polite. If you smiled at them, they would smile back. They are good kids. And it breaks my heart to see them labelled as potential criminals just by the color of their skin. Thanks for your very thought provoking comments.

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  2. Thank you for sharing and enlightening others about the pain and anxiety parents face when their children are perceived as “the negative other.” Passing judgment and taking action based solely on skin color, in my mind, is based on racism and unfounded fear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree completely that it is racism usually from fear or lack of empathy that we are all the same inside, no matter how we look on the outside. Being a transracial parent has really opened my eyes to things I would only have read about before. When its your kid being stereotyped, it hits home really fast and really hard. Thanks for your perceptive comments.

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  3. Hi Sharon, great post. I live in England, where we have less aggressive racism, in general. It’s still there, and in places it is aggressive, but at least our police are not regularly armed (at this point). However, I know that minority teenagers are often the victims of “stop and search” here, even when they are acting normally, so it is commonplace here, too. One point, though – although racism adds an edge to your son’s predicament, there is an in-built male aggression thing happening here, it is across the board for all races, driven by testosterone. All males, once they reach puberty, start to jostle for territory like bulls in a field, and I believe this heightened awareness of your son as a threat stems from this. It happens to all boys, sadly. Of course, you have the added layer of race to deal with, within your society. I have a son myself, and I dread to think what will happen when he reaches puberty (he has autism and ADHD, so has his own problems that set him outside the accepted norm). All we can really do is teach them to be safe, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for telling me about the racial situation in England. I’m in Canada and the racial problems are not as routinely violent as we hear about in the US. But the racism still exists even if it is on a smaller scale. You make an interesting point about teenagers being perceived as more violent due to the male’s body being flooded with testosterone. I hadn’t looked at that aspect before. Thank you for your very insightful comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for the post. I think society is slowly waking up to the more obvious and destructive ways that white privilege plays out in our behaviors and laws. But there are so many subtle ways that white privilege works against people with browner skin than the majority. Privilege is so taken for granted that it’s often invisible to the majority culture. I honestly believe that White Privilege (by Rothenberg) should be part of every high school curriculum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that white privilege is invisible to many whites. We still hear about the unfairness of affirmative action, the need for a white history month (uh every month including February), and the need for all white tv stations and movies (other than the token person of color, don’t we already have those?). Thanks for your very thoughtful and insightful comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tell Mayor de Blasio of NYC to hold NYPD accountable when they shoot or choke an unarmed person to death. Tell him to not increase the militarization of the NYPD.

    NYPD has undergone training, right, to not kill people, right? If so, they should use their training. If not, they should have mandatory training. When they make a fatal mistake, they should be held responsible for it. The police shouldn’t be above the law, they should enforce the law. Killing innocent people isn’t enforcing the law.

    A criminal is held accountable and punished according to the judicial system. Police should be too.

    Do you love your children enough to stand up for them and advocate for them, or will you just “hope” that things will eventually improve, while other people’s children continue to get killed, harassed, profiled, threatened by excessive police brutality?

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    • I have long believed that the police need to be held accountable for criminal actions and wrongful deaths they cause. I worked in the criminal justice system as a prosecutor for over 25 years and have prosecuted police officers in the past. My voice would be ignored by the mayor of New York as I am not a citizen of either New York or the USA. I am Canadian. But there are injustices in every city and country and I try to do my part on a local level in my province and country. No, it takes more than hope for things to get better so that we stop seeing innocent young (and older) black men and women shot or choked to death for no good reason. Yes, I love my children enough that I do stand up for them and have advocated for them with the schools, medical system and with the police when my son was viewed as the “aggressor” against 6 white boys this summer.

      Thank you for raising these difficult issues in your comments.

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  6. Hi Sharon
    We are all masterpieces of our maker, we are all loved for the person we are. We all have to work at blocking any discrimination out of our thinking. I’m not the pretty popular girl in high school who hated myself. Pretty meant happy, not. I’m 51, much smarter, not the sexy model type, I’m know who I am and make decisions for myself. I grew up in a very racist home, I never understood why. I’m blessed God showed me who we are is in our heart and actions. I think your kids look very happy and love their mother. God blessed all three of you.
    Hugs
    M

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah this makes me so sad. My beautiful mixed race toddlers get ooed and ahed over wherever we go and yet I know my son will turn into that hoodie wearing teen that people are suspicious of and they’ll be asked for ID while innocently waiting for a bus. I don’t want them to grow up into that world – but will things really be that different in 15 years time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I first adopted, it seemed like it would be easy as everyone adored my kids when they were little. The change comes subtlely but by the time they were preteens, what had been looked on lovingly was starting to be viewed with suspicion. A few people have said to me my son looks 21. He turned 15 in November. If you look at his face, not his size, he clearly is still a young teen. I hope things improve by the time your children reach their teen years.

      Liked by 2 people

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