Someone left a blog comment for me recently asking this very question. The comment was left on a post with some recommended questions to ask when considering a foster care or foster/adopt placement. I had made a pretty long list of suggested questions, one of which was asking the caseworker what race or ethnicity the potential foster placement was.
We’ll call the questioner Frank, mostly because that is what he called himself in the comment section. Frank said this: “Why in the world does the race/ethnicity of the child matter?” I responded on the spot. But I’ve continued to mull it over in my mind. I think Frank asked a good question, and I’ve got a lot more to say on the topic.
What has really gotten me thinking, is the way the question was asked, the “why in the world…” part. Stated as if race doesn’t matter, as if race shouldn’t matter, as if by asking the race of a child you’ve committed some kind of racist despicable act.
Race Does Matter to Your Potential Foster or Adoptive Child
It’s not fun to be stared at constantly. If you don’t believe me, ask my kids. No matter where you live, or what you do, if you are a transracial family, there are times when it’s going to be awkward for your child. You can and will love them with every fiber of your being, yet they will likely still go through moments of their life where they feel like they don’t fit in because they look different.
If you are parenting a child of another race there are things you can do to ease the discomfort a little. You will want books, toys, and movies that reflect the child in your care. You’ll want the right products to meet their hair and skincare needs. You’ll want to search out adults who are the same race as your child to make sure they are regularly seeing positive role models who are just like them.
Race Should Matter to You
As the potential parent of a child of color, be it long term or just for the weekend, race should matter to you. Teachers expect less from black and latino students. Police officers are 21 times more likely to shoot black teens. When there is a scuffle at the playground, you’ll find many other parents quick to point the finger at your kid.
If you plan to foster or adopt through foster care, race should matter to you. You need to be ready to stand up and fight for racial equality for your child as well as help them learn to navigate a world which still holds many biases toward them.
Talking About Race Doesn’t Make You Racist
There is often a fear (especially among white people) that somehow talking about race, or noticing a person’s race, makes you racist. It doesn’t.
When relevant to the conversation, it’s not an insult to mention someone’s race anymore than it’s an insult to mention their hair color, eye color, or how tall they are. Race is a descriptor, not an insult. (And if you are used to hearing it used as an insult, I question the company you keep).
If you aren’t used to talking about race, I know it can be uncomfortable at first. But if you can’t ask a caseworker what race a child is, especially one who may potentially live in your house for a good chunk or all of their life, how are you ever going to have the kind of conversations that are needed to help that child navigate the world?
What will you say when your 7 year old is one of the only kids in the class who doesn’t get invited to a birthday party because the other child’s parents are racist? What are you going to say when your 10 year old gets called the N word at school? Or your 15 year old gets thrown to the ground at a pool party while their white friends wander around freely?
If you are wondering why in the world the race or ethnicity of a potential foster or adoptive child matters, you probably aren’t ready to be part of a transracial family yet.