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Why Race Doesn’t Matter.

In 2006, when we first pursued adoption, we were presented with a piece of paper that listed every possible ethnic group you could imagine.  Next to each group’s name was a small line…the task was to place a check box next to the races that we would be open to adopting.

To be honest, there were more groups than I knew existed

Sitting there in the coffee shop, pouring over this sheet of paper, I realized that I didn’t carry prejudice, but I did worry about interracial adoption.   I wasn’t worried about what people would think; I was concerned that I might not be able provide a child of a different race with a balanced expression of their birth culture.    Would I need to teach an African American child what it was like to be African American?  What do I know about that?  Did it matter?

img_5905_2Of course, Zoe arrived and fear gave way to love.   This is the way of God.   This little African-American/Latino girl positioned herself in our life in a way that made those questions seem very, very small.

img_2722_2Two years later, two Asian/Caucasian babies, Anna and Mercy,  did the same thing.   We suddenly went from being the poster children for Wonder Bread to looking rather international (even if we were all Americans!).

I’ve come to be a vocal proponent for interracial adoption.  I’m not just saying it’s an ok thing….I’m calling it good, and here’s why.

If you’re adopting to help a child, statistically, that child is probably another race.

For reasons too vast to go into in this post (but I’ll get there!) most adoptive families are Caucasian.  The number of non-Caucasian children in need of adoption is statistically higher than you would expect.  In other words, we have a lot of white families and fewer white babies.

The idea that these non-Caucasian babies would be better off in families with a similar ethnic makeup is one that some people argue (although I don’t agree…), but even if it were a proven fact, there are not enough non-Caucasian families ready to take them.

In other words, while we’re having our ethereal, academic, theoretical debate about where they would be better off, real children are being shuffled into state systems, often bouncing from foster home to foster home.  Some live their entire lives in a system meant to be a worst-case backup.  Oh yea…those foster homes are generally multiracial, so in your arguing against something, you’re causing it anyway.

If you’re in the game to help a child, then how far are you willing to extend that hand?  All the way across the spectrum?

The issue of race will play a smaller part in our children’s lives than it did in ours.

I grew up in uber-white North Dakota.  Born in 1967, all my childhood friends were caucasian, with the exception of one Korean kid who came to our school in the fourth grade and left before summer break was over.  I was white by default.   In all seriousness, I was 19 before I ate Chinese food.

This is not my children’s world.

In the media-saturated world we live in, they are exposed to more cultures in a day than I might have bumped up against in a year.  They listen to hip-hop while eating tacos.  They have the benefit of political, business, sports, music and film heroes of every hue.  Our culture is conglomerating, and the good part of that is they’re gaining the best of all worlds.   Race relations are not perfect, but there is certainly a melding of influence that did not exist in my childhood.

The original idea of adopting a child of another race was one I had to think about.  Instinctively, I knew I’d land there, but I did a lot of mental gymnastics before pressing go.  I wanted to say yes, but I wanted to say yes with a right spirit.  That involved a lot of self examiniation.

It turns out that adopting interracially is a little like getting a tattoo or  a piercing. The first one takes some thinking.  The second comes easier, and the third, it’s not even a question….suddenly all your worry and fret seems so distant that you’re hard pressed to remember what all the concern was about.

You’re marked forever and can’t imagine life any other way.

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17 Responses

  1. I like your points. To elaborate on the first, the foster care system is probably a worse place for a child when compared to living in a multi-racial family. In a culture that emphasizes diversity- the family unit is still apprehensive. I guess you have to experience it before you can begin to understand it intellectually.

  2. Great post. It’s funny…as Melody and I jump into the adoption process (again), all of those initial questions and fears, though valid, seem to pale in comparison to the opportunity to rescue and love a child. We don’t take the responsibility lightly, but we are eager for the opportunity to grow into our own little league of nations. :>) Thanks for all the encouragement in the journey. We are blessed to have great friends old & new (you can figure out which one you are) to walk beside of us and go ahead of us in this adventure.

  3. Thanks Randy…my wife and I are going through the adoption process for the first time and this post really inspires us to go forward!! both of us are white and have had visions of adopting african american children for years.

    we’ve studied, contemplated, prayed, discussed, etc….all of the ‘dynamics’ of interracial adoption for a while now and your post just helps to confirm God’s leading in our lives. Thanks.

  4. Good points. I agree wholeheartedly that the race of our children does not matter in my reality (my husband and I are white as they come). I have faith in our ability to research and connect our children with enough of their backgrounds/heritage to leave them with at least a route to discovering whatever they need to know.

    However, I have to ask, when, in your opinion does interracial adoption become unfair to the kids? A foster mom I know (who’s white) described to me taking her two African-American foster daughters to Burger King here in upper East Tennessee. She was born and raised here and it never occurred to her that others might object when she sat on the terrace with the girls. Within 15 minutes, over ten people had driven by the restaurant and screamed racial epithets and other insults at both her and these two young children. This occurred three years ago.

    So my husband and I, who never would have believed such a thing were even possible till she told us about it, are now left wrestling with the question of whether it’s even a fair shake to raise a child of any ethnicity besides white in this area. If we adopt a child of a different racial background, will we find ourselves moving just to make sure that s/he has a fighting chance? Or is it possible to surround your family with enough like-minded friends and family that your children can be sheltered from the fallout of racial injustice until they’re old enough to handle it a little better?

    Long response–sorry for thinking “out loud” here but it’s worrisome!

  5. Randy, I really appreciate how you bring adoption to us everyday people. 🙂
    You de-mystify the process and make it real to us all.
    So many ideas that lay upon our heart (like adoption) are good ones, great ones, absolutely right ones, but then they are put on the shelf f until there is time to really think them thru and process how to make them a reality.
    You are consistently processing for us therefore making us that much closer to putting legs to the matter.
    Thank you Bohlenders 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Randy. We were just in a situation of possibly taking in 3 AA girls. While that did not transpire, it has caused us to really take a look at this possible reality. While we have no ‘issues’ in general with taking in a child of a different race – it was ‘interesting’ to find out that our extended family did, and became a huge topic of conversation that needed to happen. It also caused us to really process how we would raise them with the AA culture and heritage. And, in this process I was talking to a friend and she, who has adopted an AA child, said, “Ya’ know — we’re not raising them as an African American — we’re raising them as a (their last name). They’re part of OUR family now, and they’ll be raised the same as our other children and their identity will be in God and as a member of our family, not as an AA child in our family.” And, that stuck with me and has caused us to further process this whole situation now that we are foster parents and potential adoptive parents. Anyway — I really, really appreciate when you and Kelsey share parts of your story — it REALLY helps us as we begin this new journey. Thanks for being ‘real’ — it means more to us than you know!

  7. Good post Randy. My family is interracial and there are real challenges that this causes and we would be fooling ourselves to think that “love is all you need” in dealing with these things. As parents, we have to recognize that our children of color will experience a racism most white people have never dealt with. To think that is not going to happen is fantasy.

    What schoolofmom said is a reality today. I have natural children who do not have the same skin tone as me and this is an extra burden for them.

    But if a child is going to be exposed to racism, I would rather them come home to a loving family of a different race yielded to the Comforter than to a warehouse waiting for a similar race family. It is not even a close call.

    We can’t be ignorant of the issues involving race, but we can’t be ignorant of the issues involving adoption either. And just like the families know they are going to have to deal with adoption related questions from the child and the world yet forge ahead, they also should prepare for the race questions and forge ahead.

  8. Thanks for post. My husband and are waiting for our first (of many Lord willing) child to come home from Ethiopia. I really appreciate your thoughts and loved the comparison to getting a tattoo.

  9. Favortie quote of the year!!

    “It turns out that adopting interracially is a little like getting a tattoo or a piercing. The first one takes some thinking. The second comes easier, and the third, it’s not even a question….suddenly all your worry and fret seems so distant that you’re hard pressed to remember what all the concern was about.

    You’re marked forever and can’t imagine life any other way.” –Randy Bohlender

    i may use this somewhere soon…

  10. You know when you’re in school and you’re getting ready to respond and someone else says exactly what you were thinking?

    Carl took my answer.

  11. LOL And I’m sure you had your hand raised and everything. Thanks, Carl!

  12. I love this post. So much.

  13. Very, very good. Thank you!

  14. BEAUTIFUL! Can I link this post on our blog?!?! We’re praying for you guys & the Zoe Foundation…….

  15. My husband had the same thought process when adopting our little girl. I never cared about race but he was worried how our child would feel as he/she grew up in a Caucasian family or be perceived in the community. Now, a few months after adopting our daughter, my heart lights up as my husband enthusiastically encourages others to consider adopting a child of another race (particularly African American). As you said, he looks at her now and the idea of race seems like such a small and distant issue. All he can see is his beautiful daughter who melts his heart with every glance!

    It’s interesting. In this whole process, we’ve run across a number of couples who will go to great lengths to adopt a child “who looks like them”. I can’t say it doesn’t anger me that more people will not consider adopting children of a different race – especially African American. I am encouraged though to find more and more people who are open to any race child in their adoption – we need more couples out there who will open their heart to a child regardless of skin color.

  16. Last week I realized that the level 2 ballet class that I teach has MORE adopted children in it than children who are not adopted. How cool is that!

  17. […] type foster care system are non-caucasian. I came across a post today Randy Bohlender wrote about Why Race Doesn’t Matter that I found to be very insightful and wanted to share it with the rest of you. […]

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