Let’s face it: Whether it’s right or wrong, whether it’s racism or just naivete, whether it’s appropriate or unacceptable, it’s GOING to happen. If you are the adoptive mother of a biracial child, unfortunately, at some point, some insensitive adult is going to say something that may be hurtful, shocking, or just plain confusing. Women can be especially vulnerable and protective of their wee ones, so even a disapproving look can be upsetting.
But there are ways that you can cope when faced with society’s ever-changing racial stigmas and politics.
Take a deep breath
Okay, so someone’s just said it. She looks nothing like you!, Where does he come from? or the dreaded, Are you the nanny? Comments like these can cut you to the core. Can’t they see the strong mother/child bond between the two of you?
Try not to be reactionary. Don’t engage in a hostile manner. Try to understand where the person might be coming from. Cultural anthropologists assert that people like to place others into neatly bounded categories and that they prefer the status quo. This person may have grown up in a homogeneous area. A quick, informative, She’s my daughter, isn’t she beautiful? will suffice.
Or, you can diffuse the situation with humor. Try buying T-shirts that read either, I’m not the Nanny! or Same Family, Different Colors and wear them proudly on the playground.
Give these strangers the tools to understand that their viewpoints stem from outdated bigotry. Start with a question that will provoke thought. I’m curious, why did you ask me that? What is she? She’s a beautiful girl. Will you be more comfortable knowing her genetic background?
Most of the time, these statements will make the person realize very quickly that their question was presumptuous. But it will also foster a more thoughtful approach that may help them move beyond their shallow definition of what seems “right.”
Shield your children
Of course, it is difficult to completely shield your children from people’s audacious assumptions. But you can help your child form healthy attitudes about race and ethnicity. Boost your child’s confidence by providing ongoing support, and engage them in multi-racial classes and activities so they don’t feel alone or out of place. Also, point out people of color or multi-racial people who are successful in our society…..such as the President of the United States!
With these tips and tools, you’ll be sure to raise a healthy, well-adjusted child—and you’ll be doing your part to further evolve societal perceptions of race, identity, and culture.