Saturday, February 21, 2009

Parenting Tips for White Parents with Adopted Children of Color

With gratitude for Sun Yung Shin of the website Harlow's Monkey:

"Parenting Tips for White Parents with Adopted Children of Color
by Sun Yung Shin, in the Summer 2007 issue of MN ASAP Family Voices newsletter.

1. Live in or move to, if you have to, a multicultural, racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood. Make sure your child regularly interacts with people of color in a variety of ways.

2. Study and learn about whiteness and white privilege. Don't waste time and energy in feeling guilty. Guilt is a luxury of those with privilege. Embrace the opportunity to work for social justice. Study and learn how to be an active anti-racist, and then do it.

3. Understand that even if your child is, for example, ethnically Chinese, she or he will be perceived as "Asian American" or simply "Asian" (or worse, Oriental). Understand the complex and interrelated history of various groups of color in America. Don't overemphasize traditions from the culture of origin at the expense of dealing with race in America.

4. Be prepared to teach your child how to directly respond to racist comments, questions and incidents. (You'll have to learn this from adults of color). Never make excuses for others. Never brush off these incidents as insignificant or isolated.

5. Be prepared for friends and family to be confused or even offended by your anti-racist work. Be patient with them and let them know about your new priorities. Continue to make friends of all races who are interested in making America a truly equitable nation.

6. Avoid saying or thinking that, "I'm ___________ too now that I have a child from __________." That's simply offensive and insulting to all the people who are really __________ and don't get to "choose." Understand the difference between nationality, race, ethnicity and culture -- and how they overlap (or don't overlap) for your child and your family.

7. Study and learn about your child's culture(s) of origin, not from North American and/or white writers but from writers and historians from within that (those) culture(s).

8. Understand how gender and sexuality operate in your child's culture(s) of origin.

9. Understand that even if your child is disinterested in her or his culture of origin, she or he will be impacted by how the American mainstream perceives that culture.

10. Support the artistic expression and adoption-related professional work of adult adoptees -- if only because your child will eventually be an adult adoptee.

11. Study the history of inequalities in terms of reproductive rights (who gets to have a safe abortion, who gets to keep their children, who is considered a socially accepted mother) in this country before criticizing the sexism or patriarchy in other cultures (or communities). Consider how you can invest in your child's home community so that women and families . . . people who look like your child . . . will not "have to" send their children away.

Sun Yung Shin is the author of the poetry collection, "Skirt Full of Black" (Coffee House Press); co-editor of "Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption" (South End Press); and author of "Coopers Lesson" (Children's Book Press) a bilingual (Korean/English) illustrated children's book for children. She is a 2007 Bush Fellow for Literature for Literature. For more articles and essays about transracial adoption from MN ASAP (Minnesota Adoption Support and Preservation) you can download their newsletter or visit their website. "

As far as #2 above, a starting point is reading Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" which I first read in my MSW program years ago. It's still one of the best articles on white priviledge I've ever read. The list "Daily Effects of White Priviledge"is such an eye opener, if you don't read any other part of the essay, please read the list.


missy said...

thank you for this post! i have to admit that i am somewhat ignorant. but i don't have to stay that way!

lynn in SD said...

I apologize for coming late to the party, but I just happened on your blog recently & am slowly catching up. We are seriously considering an Ethiopian adoption and I am enjoying your experiences so much. Like you, we will be white parents of a black child, and we also wonder how the issue of race is going to affect our family, and how best to prepare ourselves and our child for dealing with the issue. I appreciated most of the "parenting tips" with one huge exception - move to a racially diverse area? I don't see how that is necessary - we live in South Dakota, not a very ethnically diverse state, but I don't believe that moving will make us a better family. Did that strike anyone else as a surprising recommendation?