Teaching my children about their racial identities

“How do you teach your children about their racial identity?” Can you hear my teeth grinding? As an adoptive mom to Black and Native American children I know that it is a legitimate question (and I am faced with it all the time), but it is too huge to be managed with a simple one-minute statement; so I get a little frustrated when I am expected to.

That said, people still need some sort of answer, and a 30-minute lecture on race in America really isn’t what they are asking for. So here is a summary: In our family we acknowledge and affirm our children’s racial diversity on a daily basis with open, God-honoring and sometimes painful honesty and actions which reflect our commitment to their individuality.

For us that 32-word answer covers the reality of what we are faced with as a multi-racial family. At the root of the answer, it’s not about having Black friends or living in the inner-city — it’s about having a relationship with our kids that teaches them to acknowledge and respect each facet of how God made them. They can’t change the color of their skin, the arrangements of their DNA or the facts of their birth, but they can learn to be a whole person who is created in the image of the God and loves them.

3 Comments

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  1. We have 3 sons from Ethiopia, 2 daughters from Portugese/African-American descent, and 2 bio kids (we are Scots/Irish) so we also face the transracial/multi-ethnicity question. I agree with your statement and think that is a very helpful way of putting it. We use a similar statement as that and we also often attach a few practical examples of ‘how’ we do it. People seem to get the philosophical approach when they can see how it plays out.

    Jerusalem – I think we are talking about what a Jewish Jesus would do – not ‘white’ and not ‘black’. I think Connie’s comment is a great one. Adopting transracially is a great illustration of what the Father through the Son has done. He has adopted transracially. Before I became a Christian I was infatuated with my heritage and I was a very proud Irishman. When I met Jesus I became a very proud son of God. I still identify myself as a Scots/Irish, but my hope, pleasure, and future is bound up in my new identity – Christian.

    Great post Dorothy.


  2. All people belongs to an etnicity what you in US love to call “race”. Start by acknowledging your own ethnicity which is WHITE (in your colour categories). Read the book “White” by Richard Dyer and understand the impact and how it works to make everything WHITE transparent and the Other diffrent.

    Then talk to you kids.
    That is what a black jesus would do!


  3. Even with our children–who aren’t ‘obviously’ adopted (ours are Russian-born)–the topic of heritage/culture is very often raised by them, by strangers, and sometimes close friends or family.

    To me it’s yet another ‘living illustration’ of what God does for his adopted children–they still look the same, their ‘history’ has not been changed or replaced, but oh how He changes their future! 🙂