Humility and Honor: The Beauty of Transracial Adoption
“I choose you.”
These are words that everyone wants to hear. Every person wants to know that they are valued and wanted and loved.
Adoption says just that: I choose you.
Eight years ago, Fort Worth parents Monica and Chuck Carpenter chose to welcome two additional children into their family of six. Not just any children, though. Two spunky children. Two fragile children. Two smart children. Two inquisitive children. Two funny children. Two Black children.
Why are we bringing race into this? Adoption should never be about race; it should simply be about giving loving homes to children, right? Yes. And no.
Imagine not knowing your biological family. Imagine having little, if any connection, to your cultural or racial heritage. Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing yourself, then seeing the rest of your family, and things are different. Very different. While we fantasize about living in a post-racial or colorblind society, we don’t. So helping children from minoritized backgrounds develop a strong and positive racial and cultural identity must absolutely matter to their adoptive parents.
“How do I comb her hair?” “How do I teach him to be proud of himself?” “Do they need sunscreen?” “What kind of music should we listen to?” “What kinds of foods should I offer?” These are seemingly innocuous and maybe even silly questions, but to a conscious transracial adoptive parent, even the simplest questions can keep you up at night. And they should.
Monica’s reflections on raising Black children:
“When Chaz and Cara entered my home, what I thought might just be a learning curve turned into a learning rollercoaster. Emotional ups and downs. Feelings of being upside down in my understanding of how my children would navigate their world. I was struck that they would probably never navigate their world like my other children do. I quickly learned that they weren’t just children, they were Black children. I quickly realized that I had so much to learn. I was overwhelmed because I wanted to love them the right and best way. So I started with honor. How could I honor them? Their culture? The historical representations of their people. In order to honor them, I would have to spend the rest of my life engaging in conversations that would continue to challenge the deeply rooted mindsets I grew up with. I would have to listen more than I spoke and learn more than I try to teach. If I were to honor them, I would need to resign to the way I saw life and do my best to pick up a different lens through which to parent them. From hair products to conversations about language and law enforcement, I knew that honor was the starting place. If I could figure out how to honor them, I would likely love them well.”
Adoption is a choice. It is a beautiful gift to the world. Transracial adoption is no exception. When you choose to raise a child from a different racial or cultural background, you are also choosing to parent, love, and minister to that child in a way that affirms them fully and completely. You are choosing all of them. That’s what Monica realized the day she and Chuck chose to say yes to Cara and Chaz.
Monica suggests these six considerations for non-Black parents adopting or raising Black children:
- Consider that other voices, opinions, and experiences are just as important as yours.
- Invite humility to the degree that you assume you know nothing of the culture.
- Set aside time for conversations with Black friends and be their student.
- Start with the understanding that you are in infant stages of growth within a culture that may be entirely different from your own. Don’t expect to change them. Don’t judge. Listen to their judgements instead.
- Consider how white your life is: church, places you shop, places you eat, the friends you hang out with, things you read and listen to, places you go on vacation, etc. Perhaps it’s time to diversify.
- Pay attention to the tendency to make your Black children white. Learn what that even means.
When asked how life has changed, Monica said, “Chaz and Cara have impacted me by making my world larger to include a culture that exists almost separately yet right alongside me. They broadened my secluded and limited understanding of how to love in ways that reflect the humility, servanthood and ministry of Jesus.”
Transracial adoption is a choice – a beautiful choice.
Choose humility for yourself. Choose honor for them.
Dr. Sharla Horton-Williams has a 20-year career in early childhood and pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. She is committed to achieving educational excellence and equity for all students – especially Black and Hispanic students who have historically been underserved in education. She has served as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal in private, public charter, and traditional public schools. Sharla earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Texas A&M University, where her research focused on the role of school leadership in closing the opportunity-achievement gap.