Literature on how to raise children who were adopted outside of their own race generally suggests that adoptive parents, on some level, expose the child to their birth parents’ heritage. Researchers disagree on how much exposure children need, but they all generally agree that they should be exposed on some level.
I am a Caucasian mother of two African American children. After researching transracial adoptive parenting, I started thinking about the way I have parented my other three much older children who are Caucasian and Hispanic. I began to wonder, about their views on race and other cultures. My husband and I have always been outspoken about our intolerance of racism, and it seems our children have followed suit. We also exposed them to other cultures and races at an early age. Many of the things researchers suggested parents do with transracial adoptees, we did with our older children!
I started asking, what would happen if all children were raised like they were transracial adoptees?
When children are little, they start to form a concept of who they are. They play with dolls or action figures that are white, black, or brown. They see characters on television and movies who they see as “like me” or “like sister/brother/mom/dad”. For minority transracial adoptees, it is important that they have toys and characters that look like them.
But isn’t that important for white children, too? Shouldn’t all children be exposed to all races? Little girls who are given dolls of many ethnicities have a better grasp of compassion for all races. And children who learn to identify with characters outside of their race do a better job as adults of identifying with adults of other races.
Children need role models who look like they do. For children whose parents are physically different, it is good to have adults around they can relate to. But how important is it to have people around of different races? When my oldest children were young, many of my friends were people of color and my children loved them. Being racists for them would mean being hateful to people they loved. It wasn’t even an option.
Parents of children adopted internationally typically go to great lengths to make sure their children are exposed to smells, sights, sounds, and tastes of the country of their birth family. If American children’s senses were stimulated in this way, would they be less likely to harbor ill feelings towards foreigners? Children who are familiar with the customs of other cultures have a better understanding of adults of that culture when they grow up.
So, what would happen to our world if we all raised our children like they were born of a different culture? Would we lose ourselves and our culture? Not likely. What we would gain is a world where people are more understanding of each other.
We can’t go wrong with that.