My daughter and I are different colors. I am a Western European descendant white. She is a beautiful Pacific Islander bronze. I’m here to tell you it is alright to notice. And more than notice, it is alright to ask me about it.
While I can appreciate the worry people may have about saying something offensive or much worse, seeming racist, I believe this worry keeps us from asking perfectly natural questions – the answers to which could lead to a wonderful new understanding of people, cultures, ethnicities, and mixed race adoption that enrich our view of the world.
When my husband (also white) and I are out with our daughter there’s no doubt she’s not our biological daughter and as she grows so will our physical differences. Relax! Noticing we’re different doesn’t make you a bad person. Being curious about that difference just means you’re human. The problem, I think, is that we don’t always know how to express that curiosity.
I’ll give you two examples.
I’ve actually been asked the question, “So what is she?” That question made me bristle. I know the person asking meant perfectly well, but the way it was framed made it sound like my daughter was some kind of weird creature in need of identification. I’ve had the same curiosity about her race expressed in a wonderful way. “She’s beautiful. What is her ethnic background?” In this case the person asking was open, direct and simply asked what she really wanted to know. Well done!
Families, both biological and adoptive, are going to continue to diversify. My great hope is that we can all embrace the fact that talking and asking questions about our differences is the only way we can learn more about each other and that trying to avoid our differences only serves to diminish the unique aspects of our world’s races, ethnicities and cultures. I believe what we’ll find is a much richer understanding of life, love and family. And these are the things that connect us all no matter what our differences.