Honoring Diversity in Transracial Adoption

Honoring Diversity in Transracial Adoption

Continuing our conversation about transracial adoption, we are chatting with Kelly Lang, adoptive mama, teacher, and advocate for understanding and fostering diversity in our homes and communities. Kelly talks about the choices they’ve made and the lessons they’ve learned as a transracial family.

For some of our community who don’t know you, could you tell us about the “big picture” of your adoption story?

Our story is a story of grace, heartache, and love.  For us, it began in 2011 when we set foot on the adoption journey.  We didn’t have any children at home, but cared for them as teachers at our jobs everyday, longing for the chance to be called ‘Mommy‘ and ‘Daddy.‘ In 2013 we were matched with our son Taye, in Uganda.  In 2014, we became a family.

Taye is the youngest of eleven children from his First Mommy and First Daddy.  Sadly, Taye’s birth parents have passed on, but when God connected us with Taye, He connected us with his family too.  In 2016, we began the process of adopting Taye’s next two older siblings.  There are no words to express the deep level of pain that settled in our hearts when new information came to light and we realized it would not be in all of the childrens’ best interests to move forward with the adoption.

Through pain, there is also hope, as we shift into a sponsor role for both of Taye’s siblings.  As we seek to patch together our broken hearts over what could have been, we continue to put our faith in love.

How does your family acknowledge and celebrate its diversity? 

All families have their own unique diversities among them.  It just so happens, for our family, that we wear a part of our diversity on our skin.  In education, it is best practice to follow the lead of the child.  It is not so different in parenting.  We are open and honest with our son and answer his questions or respond to his comments the best we know how.   We teach our son to be proud of his beautiful brown skin and relish the differences that make our family unique.  Perhaps it’s the teacher in me, but we approach many topics through children’s literature.  Our son’s library is a microcosm of our world, featuring a wide array of characters, religions, topics, etc…  His toy box is full of dolls and action figures of all skin tones and hair types.  His small world is filled with variety and choices, much like the world he will face when he steps out of our front door.

Our world is not fair and there is pain and suffering.  The injustices, particularly to people of color, from our neighborhood to a global scale, are real.  As two white people, raising a black boy, we have an immense responsibility to love him unconditionally, and prepare him for being a black man in this world.  A large part of acknowledging diversity is knowing your limits.  We know that our own experiences will not prepare our son and so we look outward to build connections and cultural bridges for our son any chance we can.

You’ve written about how becoming a transracial family has changed your community – can you expand on this? 

It’s natural as humans that over time, our community shifts and changes.  The people we choose to be around and choose to have around our children will evolve over time.  As a transracial family, we have an additional responsibility to be purposeful about that change.  We live in an area with opportunity for diverse experiences and draw on that every chance we get.  From specifically choosing a church family that not only aligned with our beliefs as Christians, but that presented a racially diverse staff and congregation to where our son takes Karate lessons, it’s all relevant and will shape his perception of the world.

What kind of conversations do you have with Taye about where he is from and being a part of a transracial family?

We have been open and honest with Taye since we became a family.  Uganda is in our daily conversation as well as represented in our home as art, books, photos, etc..  Before we were connected with Taye, I imagined having to have these profound talks with him regarding our racial differences.  As it turns out, those conversations are interlaced into every aspect of our relationship with him.

How do you think these conversations will change as Taye grows up? 

Children want adults to be honest with them.  I remember having a conversation with Taye in the car one day about a family member.  I said to him, “I will tell you more when you grow up and can understand better.”  He responded, “I understand right now.”

Parents want to protect our children from things we believe they cannot understand.  However, I truly believe we don’t give our children enough credit.  They are more resilient than we want to believe.  As a mom of a black boy, I believe it is not my job to just protect my son, but give him the skills and tools to handle what he will inevitably face as he grows.   A dear friend, colleague, and cultural bridge once told me that it is not my job to only protect, but arm him for the world as well.

Who are the writers and thinkers that inspire and teach you as an adoptive parent? 

Perhaps being an adoptive parent, particularly a white parent raising a black boy, provides you with a need to go beyond what you are comfortable with.  However, I firmly stand that ALL people should diversify where they take in information whether that be in books, friends, television, etc.

Michelle Alexander
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Jane Elliot
Tim Wise
Gloria Ladson-Billings
Maya Angelou
Beverly Daniel Tatum
Ta-Nehisi Coates

Is there anything else you want to share with our readers during Celebrate Diversity Month?

Diversity faces all of us every day.  It may seem more relevant to the transracial, biracial, or families of color, but it is absolutely true for us all.   Children’s books that feature black boys are not just for black boys to read.    If you have children, I urge you to look around your home and inventory the level of choice your child has in regards to various racial representations.  Teaching children to love themselves, the skin they are in, the skin others are in, and the beauty of a diverse global community is quite possibly the most loving thing we can do for the littles entrusted to our care.

Written By
Kelly Lang

Kelly lives in Minnesota with her husband Tony and their son, Taye. A teacher, adoptive mama, and advocate for fostering and understanding diversity, Kelly believes that, “teaching children to love themselves, the skin they are in, the skin others are in, and the beauty of a diverse global community is quite possibly the most loving thing we can do for the littles entrusted to our care.” In a quiet moment, you might find Kelly reading and working in her urban garden.