I Had a Black Child and Was a Racist
The last month has been full of heartbreak over racial issues in our nation, and I can’t help but reflect on what all this means for my family and so many of our families that represent a unit of love with racial mixing.
And I need to begin by confessing that I have had two very profound experiences that showed me I held racist beliefs.
In 1985, I was a young hospital intern sent to retrieve a file from a physician on the fifth floor. I sat in the nurse’s station waiting for him to show up, all the while sitting right next to him while he wrote notes in charts. Why? Because the physician was Black and I was looking for a White man. This experience opened my eyes that growing up in an all-white context had created a belief in me that those of high-regard would be White, even though I had been taught to “love everyone.” I had no experience with diversity and had internalized racist paradigms. After this, I made a point to examine my bias, make my life intentionally diverse and educate myself about racial issues.
But ten years later, an even more devastating experience happened after adopting my daughter, who is multi-racial. I was driving in our neighborhood when a little Black boy ran in front of my car after a ball and I had to slam on my breaks to keep from hitting him. It’s hard to explain everything that God did in that moment, but He showed me that I placed full value on that child’s life because of my love for my new daughter and that prior to her adoption, I would have somehow diminished his value because of his race. It was a split-second revelation, but it shook me to my core and I sat in my car and wept.
I had to face the fact that committing to a diverse life and even adopting a child of color was not enough to root every racial bias from my heart.
I confess these things to affirm that we adoptive families are not the saints of race relations. I have heard racial remarks from the mouth of adoptive parents with children of color. We may be the world’s best witness of what love beyond ethnicity and culture can create, but we must hold this position with the utmost humility and a continuous searching of our hearts in a spirit of repentance.
In these recent days, we’ve seen a lot of noise on social media from White adoptive parents decrying these racial incidents. But I notice my Black friends are quiet. As White parents, it’s easy for us to post about our feelings, as we do so from a place of privilege. But I wonder if my Black friends feel a grief that is so much deeper than a social media post. I want to hear about this and listen to their hearts. I can’t begin to imagine their feelings.
In the meantime, I am left with two burning questions for you. And I really want your answers.
First, is there some bias you also need to confess? Because in our sinful nature, we all have them. I have been all over the world and in every culture, I have seen the scourge of hatred of one group for another. In Uganda, two tribes hate each other. In the Philippines, there is a sub-culture that is hated by the greater society. In Eastern Europe, those of “gypsy” decent are despised and shunned. Mayans are seen as less than those of Spanish heritage in Guatemala. I could go on. You get the picture. We are fallen humans and we need the love of God to root out this hatred from our hearts.
Second, amidst this dividing work of the devil, how can adoptive families be a beacon of love and transparency about this struggle? Is there something we can do together as a witness? The radical love of reconciliation shines in our families. How can we bring healing through our collective witness?
I love you and I am standing with you in these hard times.