Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to train a group of transracial parents in New York City. I had flew in early and had time to kill before the event so I decided to enjoy the city. I left my hotel to go for a walk around Time Square, which was only 3 blocks away. As I floated through the busy streets dodging tourists who were in awe of what New York has to offer and determined New Yorkers two thing really struck me.
Now I have been to New York several times and been to this area several times so the amount of people and the flow of New York didn’t surprise me. I grew up in Detroit so I am well versed on how to navigate my way through large cities. I knew to drag out of storage my big city armor. I knew I would have to don my “act like you’ve been there’ attitude to blend in. I have learned those that stick out are easy targets.
The first thing that struck me was that it was very safe there. Amidst the busyness and the crowds, I walked aware of my surroundings but also comfortable and felt very safe. The second thing I noticed was that I didn’t stick out. Growing up as a transracial adoptee and Black man I have gotten an accelerated level of training on being a conspicuous person. The weight of moving through life with a family that doesn’t match is often taken for granted. Everywhere you go you are “odd” and not the norm. People stare sometimes innocently and some times not trying to figure out how your family is a family. I’m sure when I was with my white mother and my Dad wasn’t present many assumed my white mother spent at least a few moments with a man of color. When our entire family was together I’m sure many assumed I was the foster kid or as one person put it, “the welfare baby.” You get used to those stares and you can actually see people trying to connect the dots as the wheels in their heads are turning trying to figure out how this family works.
As a Black man I again have been trained in the subtleties of racism and microaggressions. I am very aware when people notice me and then make sure to keep an eye on me. I notice the slights by the cashier who is less friendly to me than she was to the kind old white woman before me. I notice the extra stares while shopping or the Walmart employee who sees me standing at the counter in the electronics department and then goes back to their report without acknowledging my presence. I know my skin has the ability to make me very noticeable or invisible.
These daily experiences of a TRA(transracial adoptee) become my accepted way of life and although frustrating beyond measure at times, they are the roles I walk through life with and I can’t change them nor do I want to; simply put this is my normal.
Then I walked through Time Square and I just blended in with all the beautiful diversity that walks, strolls, or runs by me. I just “am” and it feels good. The weight of being the one that stands out is instantly lifted off my shoulders and my lungs are able to take in extra air. I walk through the 25 degree air and I’m warmed by this experience to just exist without the weight of my skin.
As transracial parents don’t assume your child doesn’t feel that same weight especially if they are typically in environments where they are the only one or one of a few. What are you doing to put them in environment where they can “just be?”
Lastly, don’t assume that a child will be able to verbalize the weight they carry. Don’t fall prey to the assumption that if you ask them if they notice this or are uncomfortable and they say no that you don’t have to address it. They may be use to the roles they walk in to the point that they don’t even notice it.
BE PURPOSEFUL! Design strategies where you create ways for them to be part of a majority. For those of you who have done this please share what has worked or not worked and what you have noticed when your child is in this environment. .
Let’s support each other to create children of color POWERFUL BEYOND MEASURE
If you haven’t already, follow me on twitter @k8967. I post daily thoughts, ideas, articles, etc. about adoption and the TRA life.