Welcome to Black Stories Matter, a new series of guest posts written by Black women, bloggers, and influencers. I’ve asked them to share their stories with us, a safe place for us to listen to and learn from them. I truly believe that stories have power to change our hearts & our lives, so this is where I wanted to start. So let’s take a moment to listen.
Author, speaker, educational consultant and ministry leader–Katherine Hutchinson-Hayes, Ed. D., has had her hand in leadership and supervision for many years. Katherine is also a counselor, and owns an event-planning business. Her work in art/writing is distinguished by awards including the New York Mayor’s Contribution to the Arts, Outstanding Resident Artist of Arizona and the Foundations Awards at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference (2016, 2019). Katherine loves speaking to groups, delivering messages with quick wit and real-life stories. Check out her blog here.
In Her Words
Mixed Without A Blender
During this current time in American history where we are seeing a disturbing resurgence of racial division, I’m forced to confront the reality and ramifications of prejudice. While I’m not a member of a Black Lives Matter organization, I’m supportive of the message that Black lives and Black stories DO matter because for so long they haven’t. I also believe division and prejudice are fueled by fear, ignorance, and misinformation. Therefore, I’d like to help set the record straight by sharing a few pages from my life and my story.
The facts of my personal experiences are not debatable. I matter.
There’s a popular erroneous belief that it’s acceptable for white families to adopt children of color since these children are often seen as charity cases. In other words, adoptees of color should be “indebted” for being rescued by white saviors. These inaccuracies regarding what’s perceived as the transracial adoption norm are untrue, unhealthy, and support harmful stereotypes.
My Family Story
I come from a family who transcended the trans-racial adoption norm. My parents are black with a mixed-race background from Jamaica and Portugal. They thought they’d encountered enough bias to confront anything race related as they neither seemed to look black enough or white enough to fit into any particular category. But they were in for a surprise when they began their adoption journey.
My parents chose to expand their family of a son and two daughters through adoption. The first son they adopted is of Black and Italian heritage. The second son they adopted is Jewish and white. My parents had no preference to race or ethnicity when they became adoptive parents. Their primary goal was to provide a loving, God-fearing home to children who needed a family. They liked to consider our family as mixed. Yet, they sought to recognize and honor our unique differences while not blending everyone together into an indistinct people. They thought of our family as “mixed without a blender.”
Interrogation, Unsolicited Advice, & Rejection
Let me preface this section by sharing that not every interaction with others regarding our family was negative. Sometimes conversations opened the door for people to share their adoption stories. Other times people would comment on what a beautiful family we were. My favorite was hearing from others that our family represented God’s family; which I took to mean eclectic, diverse and beloved.
But there’s a distinctive difference between conversing to establish a connection opposed to conducting an interrogation. The experience of being interrogated happened to each of us children including my adopted siblings; this practice is a form of entitlement that is offensive and destructive.
Unfortunately, my parents were interrogated and given unsolicited input often. Here are a few of the most memorable lines:
- How much did you pay to get a white kid?
- Is this your step-kid?
- Are you the nanny?
- So, how does it feel to be a foster parent?
- Why didn’t you adopt a child from your own race?
- I adopted a puppy once so I know how you feel.
- Is it legal for blacks to adopt whites?
- How is your kid going to learn about his white history with black parents?
- You’re going to mess up this child because people will pick on him knowing he’s adopted by blacks.
- If this doesn’t work out for you, will you return him?
- You should’ve allowed a white family to adopt him since white babies are more in demand.
- Do you feel like a real family even though all of you aren’t related?
- Why didn’t you just have another real baby like before?
- What’s up with your family? Everyone looks so different.
- Mixed race kids are so cute.
One of the most disturbing experiences has been the rejection of our family’s adoption story by fellow Christians. My father liked to respond to the religious naysayers with his infamous line:
“Love IS NOT colorblind because love IS colorful. God made us all different and seeks to see how we look past the exterior to the heart.”
Our Blended Family
Remembering how my parents handled racial injustice as it related to their appearance and their adopted children helped me deal with the backlash faced in the early years of marriage and union of our blended family; after my husband and I adopted our teenage Nigerian daughter. It also helps me better handle the biases I face in public with my grandson.
My grandson is 100% biracial. However, he looks 100% white. He has blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin, even fairer than his white father. Ironically, these traits do run in my family’s mixed-heritage bloodline. Yet, time after time my husband and I have gotten impolite looks, heard unsolicited comments, and endured interrogations regarding him being in our custody. Our biological daughter, the mom of our grandson, has experienced similar treatment.
Our family is multiracial with a foundation of dedication, commitment, godliness, and love. I feel sorry for people who believe sharing the same skin color or DNA is the only way to establish familial relationship and for true love to exist.
As a family, we’ve faced a plethora of challenges and obstacles, based on racial and cultural differences and from pushback from outsiders. But we are better for it. We are mixed without a blender. We are God’s family of colorful love.