“But He’s Black!” (A Day in the Life of a Transracial Family)

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My triplets

I took all three of my sons to the mall today for “mall-walking” (i.e., trail walking when it’s cold). They were actually wearing matching outfits, as pictured above. I try to dress them alike in public places simply so I can spot them quickly. (It’s not easy to dress them alike when I thrift-shop, so sometimes I just put them in fluorescent orange safety vests.)

I am accustomed to getting more stares when I dress my “triplets” alike. If they are not dressed alike, I think people assume I am the nanny or something. Or a mom who babysits. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t really care. Usually. When I do dress them alike, people get puzzled and stare, trying to figure us out. I don’t mind too much. Usually.

After we did our four-mile circuit through the mall, we stopped at the indoor play place. A nice woman stopped me. Here’s our conversation:

Her: “Are they twins?”
Me: “Yes.”
Her: [Pleasant banter about twin cuteness]
My oldest son: [runs up to me in his matching outfit] “Momma?”
Her: “He is yours too?!”
Me: “Yes.”
Her: “But he’s black!”
Me: “Yes.”

I walked away. That was the end of that.

Then I took all three into the bathroom. My oldest was trailing directly behind me. A woman, walking behind him, said in a loud voice, “Who does this boy belong to?!”

What? He’s mine! He’s standing right behind me, following me, probably even touching my butt, and is dressed identically to his brothers!

I didn’t say all that. I just said, “He’s mine!”

She stammered, “I just wanted to be sure a man didn’t send him in here alone or something….”

Would she have said that if he was towheaded like I am? Lots of mothers look different than their children, so maybe this happens to you too, even with biological children.

When he was a baby, people would often say, “He’s going to grow up to be a basketball player!” I had to wonder why on earth people would say that. I wanted to ask, “Are you saying that because he’s black? Because I really can’t think of any other reason you would say that when his height is in the 7th percentile.” Instead, I would usually reply, “Actually, I was thinking he could be a doctor.” (I don’t think anyone has ever told me that my white sons are going to grow up to be basketball players, despite their heights being in the 90th percentile.)

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I understood when people asked me constantly, “Is he yours?” when he was an infant. We had different skin color; I get it. But I’m so tired of answering, “yes, he’s mine,” when he is holding my hand and calling me “momma.” I once made myself a T-shirt that said, “Yes, he’s mine.” Funny or not? I’m not sure.

But this is not about me. Besides, I’m used to it. He isn’t. He is only starting to notice race, adoption, and commentary from strangers. I have had four and a half years to get used to these comments, but he is only now cluing in to what is happening. I am happy to answer questions and perhaps even educate people about transracial adoption, but I don’t necessarily want to be forced to do so in front of my son. The best I can do is teach him the appropriate answers to these kinds of questions… and when it is appropriate to just walk away.

 

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This post was originally posted on Beyond Infertility as members-only content. I am a regular contributor to their website.

 

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13 thoughts on ““But He’s Black!” (A Day in the Life of a Transracial Family)

  1. Wow I so appreciate this, I have encountered much of the same. We have 3 biological children and have adopted 2 children that are six months apart, the question that kills me is “Are they brother and sister?” And my my sweet reply is “Well they are now ” as I smile. They are both five so they are starting to notice these kinds of questions. God bless!

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  2. Pingback: White Parents, Black Child: People Ask Us the Tough Questions about Race | Okayest Mom

  3. Our Son is black and we are white. I don’t know if anyone has ever asked “is he yours’? BUT, we get A LOT of “God bless you for saving his life”….”where would he be if you didn’t adopt him”. It makes my skin crawl. We use the same response every time which is “we are the ones who are blessed” or “I would hate to think of where we would be at if he didn’t come into our lives”. But, I wish there was a way to answer and educate at the same time. It is so uncomfortable as my Son was not a charity case or a starving baby on the street. His birth Mother jumped through flaming hoops to ensure he would be ‘adoptable’ by a loving family. And, he was lovingly cared for at an orphanage until he was two. I realize these comments come from people who ‘think’ they are being supportive or compassionate….but, my Son is getting old enough to understand what these comments mean and I never want him to feel like he was “saved”. It’s funny….some days when people make ‘uneducated’ comments…you can laugh it off. But, other days it is really infuriating that people think they can just invade your privacy when they are complete and utter strangers. It’s nice to see / hear other people dealing with it and we are not alone in our frustration at times. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I think I could have written almost every single word in your comment myself! All rings true for us too (except the orphanage part). Adoptive mommas unite!!! Thanks for reading.

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  4. Your sense of humor is refreshing. We have the same family dynamic. Luke, our adopted son, is transracial. He is two. Last year we welcomed biological twin boys. We only started receiving the questions about who Luke belongs too after we brought home the twins. I understand where you are coming from and feel the same way when people approach me about Luke. It is my hope that families like ours become the new normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I get this all the time too. My son is caramel and I am very light peach. The worst is the woman who asked me, “what is he mixed with?” Mixed? No, Lady, he’s pure human.

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  6. I need that shirt. Our son is adopted, and some part of me is thankful that he looks just like my wife who is Haitian, but it hurts when we go out and people speak directly to her, telling her how beautiful her son is. I’m assumed to be the friend of the mother. When we go out alone people stare. Do I care? No. But my son might one day. Right now he’s two, and yeah, he’s really freaking cute. I know. But the follow up questions about “where is he from?” “Are you his foster mom?” and “Oh, he’s so lucky to have you!” are completely unnecessary.

    I also had family members tell me he’ll grow up to be a basketball player and I looked right at them with a puzzled expression and said “Why? Because he’s black?” They were quick to correct themselves and they say it now, but only because my son DOES love to play and watch basketball for now.

    I love this post so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: My Top Ten Posts of 2016, My Least Prolific Year | Okayest Mom

  8. Pingback: The “Where’s Your Mom?” Microaggressions | Okayest Mom

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