The World's Reaction When Queer White Moms Raise Adopted Black Kids

BlogHer Original Post

Scene One:

My daughters have recently gotten old enough and independent enough that I don’t need to hover over them on the playground. I sit down on a bench to read a book. They run for a swing.

The younger one climbs on. Her big sister is poised to start pushing her. A white woman they’ve never met approaches holding her white toddler by the hand and begins to cajole them to give up their swing for her son.

I see my younger daughter shake her head defiantly. I see my older daughter look almost anxious—worried she has done something wrong.

They are the only Black children on the playground. I am white. The woman thinks no one is looking out for them.

I decide to see how my kids will handle the situation. My younger daughter refuses to give up her swing. She got there first. I chalk it up as a victory.

A few minutes later I am sure to interact with my children in a way that lets the other woman know I am their mother. I give her a long, look. I hope she is ashamed of herself, but I say nothing.

Scene Two:

My partner is half-watching our school-aged, strong swimming daughters at the pool. She notices an altercation with a lifeguard. She approaches.

“Is there a problem?” she asks.

The lifeguard looks confused. He can’t figure out why this white butch lesbian is interfering in his reprimand of the little Black girls.

“Intersectionality” may be a new term, but it isn’t a new idea. It is the very thing Sojourner Truth was getting at in her “Aren’t I a Woman” speech in 1851.

Black women in the United States have always known that “woman” was a complicated idea—their own “womanhood” often sacrificed to the “ideal” of white womanhood.

Even though we are both white, as a queer couple, my partner and I always had our own complicated relationship to womanhood, even before we decided to adopt Black daughters. When asked what it’s like to be a queer parent, I have trouble staying on the topic.

In my day-to-day life I find myself more concerned about being the mother of “baby Black women,” as I sometimes think of my daughters, than I am about what the woman in the check-out line at the grocery store thinks of the gay marriage issue.

Sure, homophobia affects our family every day in little ways we carry without even thinking, most of the time. (Every time I am asked by a stranger about my “husband,” I have the anxious coming-out moment, unsure of the reaction I will get.)

But the racial identity written on my children’s bodies puts them at immediate risk for the harms of white supremacy every moment, in every way. And whatever my own complicated relationship to the culture, I will never fully understand theirs.

And as their mother, it is their “complications” that concern me most. I watch the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement against racialized police brutality and hope that by the time my girls go into the world without me, they will be a little safer because of the sacrifices activists are making today.

I collect Black women as friends and acquaintances to give my girls people to whom they might aspire to be like someday. I try to teach my daughters to negotiate white supremacy in the real world of their daily lives without harming their self-esteem or resorting to simplistic stereotypes.

I strive to give them a sense of their incredible beauty though girls who look like them rarely appear in the popular culture as icons of glamour.

I let go of my concern with queer issues and focus on race issues, even as I know these things are far from mutually exclusive. And yet, as they grow, being queer by proxy because of their parents affects my daughters, too.

Throw in their status as adoptees—and obvious ones in this interracial family—and we spend a lot of energy talking about difference. In what ways are the families we know all different from each other? What do we like about our own differences from the typical U.S. family (whatever that is) and what makes us roll our eyes or wish we could just “pass” as average sometimes?

Sometimes our girls wish their parents were Black, too. They wish they weren’t adopted. They wish they had a dad.

We let them wish these things as vehemently as they need to in any given moment and don’t take any of it personally. It’s one small way of dealing with the weight of a world that isn’t equal, isn’t just, isn’t even friendly so much of the time.

And in the end, it all comes back to us realizing how much we love each other for exactly who we are, whether the rest of the world “gets it” or not.

Like any parent, I wish I could remove the burdens from my children. I wish I could make life easy—or at least fair—for them. But I can’t. No one can.

All their other mom and I can do is teach them the truth of the real world and back them up with as much support as we can to negotiate it for themselves when the time comes.


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