My Family, In Black and White
In the photograph, a little girl—5 years old, her blonde hair in two braids—sits between a man and a woman who look markedly different from her. And that's where the trouble started.
A few weeks ago, CNN reported, "Authorities asked questions about Maria because she has fair skin and blonde hair while her parents have darker complexions typical of Roma, also known as gypsies." Eventually, the girl's biological parents came forward and her adoptive parents were cleared of abduction, but while the news of this little girl (and two others in Ireland) played out across my screen, I couldn't help but see my own family's reflection.
When I step out in public with my two black sons and one white son, we turn heads. Like those European families, mine is subject to scrutiny because the color of our skin does not match.
Strangers suggest skin and hair-care products. They ask if I'm babysitting. They ask if my kids are triplets. I've been told I'm an angel. I've been told I'm a racist. Everywhere we go, people of all colors make judgments about me simply because of how we look.
This is especially common for white parents of black children. When I posted a question about families' experiences on an adoption Facebook page, the stories poured in. "An AA [African-American] woman stopped me at the local library," wrote one mother, "wanting to know where we got our daughter. She then looked my daughter right ...1