By Ann Tatko-Peterson
Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 at 6:02 am in Adoption.
NFL linebacker DeMarcus Ware and wife Taniqua opened up to the New York Times this past weekend about the adoption of their 3-month-old daugther, Marley. If you read just the article, you’d come away thinking it was no more than an incredibly moving story. The Wares had endured two miscarriages and the stillbirth of a son, Omar, before deciding to adopt. The father of Ware’s business manager helped introduce the couple to the child’s birthmother. The love the Wares have for their baby shined in every word of the article. And in the pictures.
It’s the pictures that drew the notice of MediaTakeOut.com. As the site points out, “What was odd about the article is – the writer never even mentioned the fact that their adoption was a cross-racial adoption.” The Wares are black. Their daughter is white. MediaTakeOut.com went on to write, “Guess in today’s world of political correctness, you’re better off pretending that there’s no elephant in the room….” It is more common for white parents to adopt children of mixed races. But even with that uniqueness aside, should the NY Times writer have noted that the couple adopted across racial lines?
For starters, quite a few things didn’t sit right with me regarding the MediaTakeOut.com article. But the underlying question was an interesting one. When my husband and I sat down to discuss adoption, race was a topic we refused to gloss over. Anyone who tells you it doesn’t matter is doing a disservice to their child. Culture and race are key to a child’s identity. Promoting socialization within their culture and race can help all adopted children understand themselves better and in turn help them build self-esteem. Racial stereotypes also exist, whether we want them to or not. Multicultural relationships are far more accepted today than in the past, and we are fortunate to live in the diverse Bay Area, but narrow perceptions still persist in some circles.
With that in mind, my husband and I learned early on to embrace and not shy away from whatever differences may exist. What others may see as an “elephant” in the room, we will see as an everyday part of our lives. Transracial adoptions is a much-debated subject. A recent study by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that transracial adoptees face greater challenges than other children, prompting leading welfare groups to call for changes in how adoption of children from foster care is handled. With critics and judgments on all sides, it’s easy to see why many people avoid discussing race in adoption.
But as most adopted parents, and those going through the process, will tell you: It’s too important a matter to ignore. There are no easy answers. Do you not mention it in order to convey that it’s no big deal or do you acknowlege it to show you have pride in your child’s race, culture and heritage? It’s too bad that there isn’t a choice that allows for pride and acceptance with or without acknowledgement. But perhaps we miss the real point. Take another look at the picture of the Wares. What do you see? Ah yes, the smiles, the love. One day, when Marley looks back at that picture, it’s a safe bet that’s what she will see, too.