The Race We are Losing

I  was reading this article in Brain, Child.  Wonderful magazine.  It was written by a woman who is raising two black boys – and she is white.  She was talking about all the things she agonizes about: how to teach them about their culture, whether or not she should live in a black area of town, etc. etc.

The article itself didn’t really touch me.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine article and it hit on some key worries, etc.  What got me was one of the comments in the next issue of Brain, Child in response to this woman.

The one response told her that she was doing a great thing and in the same breath told her that she was doing her children a disservice by not living in a black area, not raising her children in a black environment…etc.

And it got me thinking.

Race is a color of skin.

Not a culture.

This is not necessarily true.  But in most cases, who you are raised by decides your culture.  And shouldn’t that always be the case, even if your skin tones don’t match?

I am thinking out loud here.  But there are a few things I know.

I am very light skinned.  And I am adopted.

My brother is not.

When people see me, they think I am white.

When they see my brother, they think he is black.

We are family – we are siblings who love each other.

We both identify ourselves as the children of the children of slaves from the south.  We both like soul food.  We have the same cousins and traditions.  We have the same cultural identity.

We were also both raised in a very white environment.  This means that neither of us has many black friends.  We both married white spouses.  And our children are very light skinned.

Is this a bad thing?

Is this anything other than what it is?

I am loved by my parents for who I am.  So is my brother.

But in raising us in a culture that had very few black people in it.  Didn’t they create children who were not very “black”?  At least culturally?

And is that a bad  thing?

I am asking.  Truly.

I was raised by parents who love me in a culture that was vastly different than the one they were raised in – and is that a bad thing?

Is it actually culture and not race that makes this obstacle to cross-racial adoption?

Because if so, I say bullshit.

Do white couples who adopt children from China and Russia agonize over raising their children to understand their culture?  Do they think about whether or not they should live in China town to make sure their child understands their heritage?

If they do, I don’t see it.  I also don’t hear about it.

Why is this different?

How can we change it?

Why should these children here at home sit in foster care when they are just as adoptable, just as lovable, and yes, just as physically different as some of those children abroad?

I am asking.



6 thoughts on “The Race We are Losing

  1. It’s tangled, isn’t it? And it is actually an issue in the Chinese-adoption community. Many families enroll (often together, though sometimes just the child) in Chinese language/culture classes so the child will have some cultural understanding, in effect.
    In the town where I grew up, the vast majority (I would say over 90%) were white. Almost every “black” family (many of the families were mixed race) chose the community deliberately, with the hope of raising children who were comfortable with both their own cultural identity and making their way successfully in a majority-white world. There have been some interesting results. And I am with you that it should not make a difference. And yet somehow it apparently does.

  2. I was fortunate enough to be raised to appreciate other cultures. I say fortunate enough because the older I get the more I realize that isn’t the case for so many people.

    I am white, but I work in a field that puts me in a very small minority. Such a small minority that I get weirded out when I see another white person. When I do, it makes the hairs on my neck stand up and I wonder what the heck they are doing where ever it is that we are standing.

    I work with people who have never had a white person in their home, children who have never touched white skin, young adults who have never had a conversation with a white person.
    Invariably, I get the “your one of the good ones” or “you’re different than the other ones”. And I say, yes, I am. Typically in “my” culture we are raised to not understand “your” culture. And vice versa.

    But we are all (hopefully) taught to love and respect and get by on what we’ve got. That should define culture. Not neighborhood, not skin color, not food preferences (insider secret: white people LOVE fried chicken. and watermelon. and fruity soda. and sometimes we feed chips to our kids for breakfast too. It’s a PEOPLE thing, not a COLOR thing!), not ancestral heritage.
    I feel like I’m turning this comment into a blog post!

    Point is, the whole “culture” thing baffles me. We all want the same things, why do we have to segregate ourselves from one another and try to own things and customs and values? I’m trying my darnest to raise my boy to be aware of all the amazing beautiful differences in us all while respecting that deep down, we are all the same.
    The world makes that hard to do.

    Can’t we all just get along!?

    • I knew about the watermelon.
      Thanks for your comments. I get frustrated by this issue all the time. And most of the time I try and let is slide right off.
      And other times –
      I blog.

  3. I don’t think it is a bad thing.

    I wouldn’t expect a minority family who adopted a white child to immerse them in “white culture.” I have family members who have adopted children of different races and religions (sometimes Jews adopting Irish catholic Babies, sometimes Irish catholics adopting protestants, sometimes mixed-race adopting white babies) and I don’t expect any of them to raise their children any differently than they are raised. In other words, My irish cousins who adopted a korean baby, while they celebrate with their child and raise him to be aware of his heritage, they aren’t raising him in a Korean Neighborhood. And I think this is ok. I also have a Jewish Friend who was adopted by a Jewish Family but her birth mother was Catholic. And I have a Catholic Friend adopted by a Catholic Family but was born to a Jewish girl. She doesn’t study Hebrew. No one expects her to.

    I dunno. This is a tough one. I know that this is a touchy subject. Just saying what I think.

  4. Interestingly enough, I know of several families that have adopted internationally and they do work really hard to make sure their children know about their culture, whether by enrolling in classes, attending cultural specific celebrations (ex. Chinese New Year in Chinatown), and planning trips to visit the country where they were born.

    That being said, I also do not see color = a specific culture.

    THAT being said, I know my sister (in an inter-racial marriage with two bi-racial children) chose where she lives based on the fact that she found a good mix of black and white people, as well as a few other families with bi-racial children.

    I think if a family wants to adopt a child and there is a child who needs to be adopted, why should color play a factor?

  5. I don’t have your email to respond to your comment, but it was beautiful! Like a love letter! And I’m glad you were focused on the process, not the product. I’ve been in too many conversations lately where a friend talks all about how she endures the process despite not really wanting to all for the end result. Ugh.

    I like the way you put it SO much better!

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