Prioritizing your Child’s Life Over Your White Fragility.

I have been sitting on this blog post as the various events have unfolded over the last few days in regards to George Floyd and his horrific murder. It is hard to put into words the feelings I have felt and continue to process over another senseless murder of an unarmed black man, of my people. I am tired.

However, I feel it is my duty as a professional, as a social worker, as a mother to black children, as a wife to a black man and as a black woman myself to speak directly to the white adoptive and foster parents that follow and don’t follow my blog.

As a transracial adoptee I have felt the pang of not understanding where you fit in a sea of people who do not mirror you. I have felt the self-hate for not feeling like I belong and not being cultivated and lifted up by the people who should have shaped the way I understand my culture. I have felt the real and consistent micro-aggressions in the workplace, in the field, in school, in society and yes, even in my family. I was raised in a “colorblind” household and that was damaging. I did not fully embrace myself, learn about my culture and find people who uplifted me as a black woman until I went to college. That is FAR too late.

I have worked hard to build myself into who I am now as a woman of color and I did it on my own. I did not have guidance and I did not have consistent racial mirrors. THIS IS DAMAGING. However, one of the most detrimental and damaging things I have seen in my life and in the work I do as a social worker, is not the lack of willingness and wanting to change, but the lack of action and follow through from the white adoptive and foster parents I have interacted with. Follow through looks like pushing aside your own discomfort in order to create a safer space for your child within your circle of friends and family. It means truthfully, forcefully and passionately calling out those people both close to you and not when they speak and act with hate, ignorance and damaging rhetorics that will HURT and DAMAGE your child and their culture.

I see the damage that is affecting our foster youth and adoptees when they are surrounded by people who SAY they want to educate themselves, defend their children, speak out against covert/overt racism, generational and institutional trauma, implicit and explicit bias; but they don’t want to actually DO the work. I get it, it’s uncomfortable and its hard. It means you have to examine yourself in the context of the issues and it means you have to acknowledge that no matter how much privilege you have, how many times you correct the grammar, how much money you spend on private school or the best of the best. You can not change the fact that your black child is not born with the color of your skin and that will always mean they will be at a disadvantage due to the society and world we live in. You can not change that. What you can do is use your privilege to stand up and actually DO something.

I was talking to a co-worker (who is also a POC) and we were discussing how scared we have been and are for our children of color who have spent time in the system, who are currently in the system and who have been adopted out of the system to white families. She spoke to me about how she was transporting one of the children on her caseloads, an African American young man who is 13 years old and has faced a long life of trauma, to and from someplace. She stopped at a gas station and told him to pick out a bag of chips. He proceeded to walk around the store with his hood on and his hands in his pocket. She had to quickly ask him to take his hood off and then proceeded to tell him on the ride to their destination that he cannot do those things and that it can be dangerous. Why did he not know this? He spent the majority of his life in white foster homes and in institutional settings. These things that are engrained and taught through everyday interactions in a family of color has to be an intentional action/thought in a white family because they do not face the experiences of living while black. They do not fear for their lives in everyday situations as POC do. They do not face racism, generational and institutional, overt or covert. They do not have to worry about their children, husbands, family members or even themselves being the next black person showcased on the news for dying because they were living while black. However, if you have a child of color then you need to shift that mindset and you HAVE to teach them these things. It could be a matter of life and death.

Follow through looks like actually having open and frank conversations with your black adoptees and foster youth, without sugar coating it because sugar coating it can kill them. Follow through looks like explaining to your black son what may seem like a simple and ok thing for your white biological son/nephew/friend to do is unacceptable and dangerous for him to do. Follow through looks like talking to your black daughters about self-love in a society that deems the complete opposite of what they look like to be ideal and idolized.

I am SICK of the condolences, the thoughts and prayers and the convenient and timely tears. I am SICK of these events, these murders and the injustice of what has always been apart of our society and system resulting in a conversation but not resulting in action.

When my son was born and I looked at him, I felt joy and unconditional love. I also felt an intense fear and pain at what he will have to face. This is something I felt when he was born! This is part of my everyday life. As my son has grown, I have done my best to cultivate his characteristics, develop his skills and love him for everything he is. He is smart, stubborn, passionate, strong-willed and fierce. That scares me. Those traits would be great if he was born in a different body with different skin. We have already faced institutional racism and implicit bias with those in high positions during his time in PRESCHOOL. I fought and will continue to fight until the end. It never stops. I always think and assess and strategize. I face the same fears with my husband who is a nurse literally on the frontlines of this pandemic but is still consistently stereotyped; consistently deals with racism and micro-aggressions everyday.

I am sick by this and I am sick of this. I am hurt. I am in pain for my people. I am fighting the consistent flow of complex feelings. I am always processing and always thinking about this. It is apart of every POC’s reality.

I am tired of speaking the same things. I am tired of not having adoptive parents who I feel comfortable talking to about these racial issues. Who choose to understand what they want to understand but not what is my everyday reality. It is exhausting. When you adopt outside of your race, you are charged with providing a space for your child to thrive fully. That means getting uncomfortable, examining yourself and making a change.

That means when another senseless murder of an unarmed black man happens, you do not share a facebook post, a meme, quotes and ESPECIALLY not the video itself. In fact, sometimes its best not to even say something long and drawn out. Sometimes it is best to leave the floor to POC and the space for their reactions and their feelings before you jump in. Sometimes you just need to sit with POC in support and not dominate the conversation and narrative because you feel guilty. It does not mean that you somehow twist the event and turn it back on yourself, your feelings, and your story as a white adoptive parent.

It means you turn the love you have for your transracial child into action because you want your child to live in a world that is safe for them to walk into a store with their hood up and their hands in their pocket without the fear that they might lose their life. It means that you do not just do it for your child but for your child’s ancestors and for THEIR people.

What will you do? What will be your action? How are you initiating consistent and timely conversations with your black children? How are your preparing your child for this world that they are already experiencing and will continue to experience as a POC? How are going to enact and fight for a change?

The overarching anxiety that I have for myself, for my husband and for my children surpasses what can be explained through words. This is my reality, and this has always been my reality. Now it is your child’s reality and will be your child’s lived experience. How will you work dismantle the systematic ideology of racism and discrimination, in yourself, in your circle and in society? How will YOU do the WORK to save your transracial children?

Published by Stephanie Oyler

Stephanie is a Licensed MSW professional who specializes in the area of adoption and foster care. She is also an adoptee herself. Adoptee LIT is a space created for education, advocacy, personal insight/experience and guidance in the sphere of Adoption.

One thought on “Prioritizing your Child’s Life Over Your White Fragility.

  1. This is outstanding Stephanie. Please think about publications that could reach large audiences and consider submitting it to them. I’ll be sharing this with my friends who foster and adopt children of color.xo


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