As a trans-racial adoptee, adopted in 1964, I think one of trickiest things I’ve had to navigate over my lifetime is holding on to my respect and love of self, family and others, while being bombarded by messages that overtime are really attempting to psychologically erase me and my family from being. It’s been done in so many ways;
‘would you have preferred to have a Black mother?’; ‘do you think you wouldn’t have struggled if you had a Black mother?’; ‘you’re just a White girl, you don’t have a Black girls body’; ‘do your parents really love you?’; ‘why are you hanging out with her?’; ‘how do you know her?’; ‘why is she here?’ etc. etc.
Negative comments and gestures about me and my connection to my White parents have played themselves out in so many ways for so long that quite frankly I’m so surprised I am left with strong self-esteem.
So, what are the things that helped me with my self-esteem? Although I was raised in a White environment, later to make friends with African Americans and other people of various racial backgrounds; my parents were incredible. A couple of lessons they taught me as a child and things they demonstrated that have stayed with me a lifetime…
1. Never apologize for who you are, for there is nothing wrong with you or this family.
2. Judge a person by actions not by what they say.
3. Choose your close friends by how they treat you not by what they look like.
4. My parents clearly and consistently demonstrated to me that if companies were known not to hire people based on race then we were not to spend money there.
5. There was not a piece of gold or a diamond in our home due to ‘blood’ money’. My parents led by example. They showed me what it meant to be respectful of myself and my Black adopted brothers who were all adopted from foster care.
6. As a young adult, I remember when my white sister began dating a man who would eventually become her husband/father of their two bi-racial children. Both my mother and father didn’t even blink at the racial difference. Powerful message!
I truly believe these ways of conducting self as parents really contributed to how I view myself and why I can be proud of my family, regardless of what others may think. And, when asked whether white people can raise children of color it’s pretty easy for me to say… ‘yes, I would not have traded my parents in for anyone.’
How are others attempting to instill a positive sense of self within their child(ren)?
Susan Harris O’Connor, MSW. Author, The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee all rights reserved by author of post 1/2014