“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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