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My Child Doesn’t Want To Be Brown Anymore – The Challenges Of Mixed Race Adoption

I want to share something deeply personal and highly sensitive. I’ve wanted to share it for more than a week now, but to be honest, it’s a topic that is highly sensitive and emotive and so I feel like I’m walking a tight rope of political correctness and potentially teetering towards offensiveness. As a white person, I am humbling learning through my children, but my point of reference is still one of a white, privileged, blonde, blue eyed woman. 

That is not my intention.

But I want to talk about race and racism.

I was inspired by Nikki’s post about whether or not she’s raising a racist. I want to add my voice, our stories are completely different but there are similarities in the situations.

Something Nikki wrote in her post has stuck with me:

All my life, growing up, I felt like I was less, uglier, different. My sisters are fair with light eyes.

A couple of week’s ago, after a fun day out, we got home and everyone settled down for a little bit of chill time. The next thing I knew, Hannah was crying her eyes out. Like sobbing. Heartbroken, inconsolable sobs. After lots of cuddles and comfort she told us that she’s sad because she doesn’t want to be brown. She wants to be “peach” coloured like the rest of us.

It broke my heart.

I feel like I have failed her on some level that already, at the tender age of 4, she has picked up on some unwritten, universally accepted “rule” that light/fair/white skin is better, more attractive, more desirable. 

In my eyes, she is so beautiful, so perfect, with her super dark eyes and her gorgeous, rich coloured skin. 

But if there is one thing that has happened since becoming a mother via adoption and through cross racial adoption…

I’ve learned that we are all racially biased. If you say you are not, you’re lying to yourself. It has been a hard and at times uncomfortable journey. I’ve learned so much about my own white privilege through my children and my children’s birth parents. I’ve faced down the ugly side of racial stereotypes, not just from white people but from people of colour too. In fact, some of the rudest, most hateful and racist comments I’ve received about my children and our choice to adopt cross racially have come from people of colour. 

I’ve tried not to raise my children in a racial vacuum. 

By encouraging diversity. But it’s not easy, having grown up in my own racial vacuum. It’s been tough and at times down right uncomfortable. It’s also difficult to explain and encourage diversity to a 4 and 7 year old. They don’t quite grasp it.

We’ve had lots of conversations about skin colour. And about what it means to be mixed race. But it’s difficult for them to understand at this stage. Ava, like Nikki’s Sophie, has often pointed out that she is peach coloured but Hannah is brown. I’ve tried to explain to her that looks can be deceiving that because of diversity and mixed cultures, they are actually both “brown” in terms of their heritage and racial make up. I”m just not sure they get it yet.

I’ve also picked up an interesting phenomenon when discussing my children’s racial heritage. Ava’s birth mother is white, she receives a lot of kind comments from people when I talk about her. Hannah’s birth other is coloured, there is a lot of tsking and judgement that goes along with conversations about her, the double standard makes me sick to my stomach. It infuriates me. 

It makes me sad that my daughter wishes she wasn’t brown, but I won’t shy away from it either. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me. Or how difficult the conversation is. I won’t deny who she is or what makes up part of who she is. We are open and we are honest and we try to deal with each scenario as and when they arise. 

It’s not always easy and mostly I’m rambling now and unclear of what the point was that I wanted to make except to say that it’s difficult. Being a cross racial family has it’s own unique set of challenges and given mine and my husbands whiteness it’s sometimes tough to deal with having no personal point of reference ourselves. 

I’m going to talk more about the challenges of raising adopted, mixed race children in a blog post next week, keep an eye out for it. I’ll be talking about some of the most horrendous assumptions and statements people have made. 

But Hannah, my sweet girl, know this, you are beautiful in ways beyond words, you are more than the colour of your skin. You are everything my heart desired and my soul yearned for. You completed our family and you are so very precious exactly as you are. 

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25 Comments

  • Reply moonstormer

    *biggest hugs for Hannah*
    You have the most beautiful family! And you’re doing such a great job as a mom. It’s our crazy society that has these horrible prejudices. What a terrible shame that Hannah has already been made to feel lesser because of the color of her skin. 🙁

    April 5, 2017 at 7:36 am
  • Reply Jeannette

    Being part of a mixed race couple is not always easy. My husband is so called ‘coloured’ and I am white. We call it mixed cultural family. There is 1 race, the human race. Our daughter is a mix between us. His dark skin, my straight hair. She does not realize that dad and me are not ‘the same’. We don’t talk about colour at all. When we do talk about colour, we describe it as chocolate colours. All chocolate is delicious. All chocolate is chocolate, but they sometimes looks different. Good luck with your challenges. Keep on talking about the challenges. In SA, due to our history, we talk too little about challenges across the cultures. If we talked more, there might be a wider and better understanding and more love and compassion from all sides.

    April 5, 2017 at 8:37 am
  • Reply catjuggles

    Oh gosh Sharon I have no idea what to say and how to deal with this. But Hannah is so so beautiful and gorgeous and just perfect the way she is.

    April 5, 2017 at 8:54 am
  • Reply Luchae Williams

    Well done to you for tackling the issue head on, instead of shying away from it, hoping that your baby girl will move on and forget. I pray that you will have the right words and wisdom needed for this season, as they start asking questions. I think you’re doing a great job already! 🙂

    April 5, 2017 at 9:21 am
  • Reply Olerato

    Thank you so much for being open and sharing this post. I can’t really say much on how to deal with this but from reading this, I know you have it under control. Your vulnerability has actually helped me a ton. My Daughter’s best friend is white and recently she came home and told me that her friend is white and she’s black and didn’t really want to play with her anymore. It threw me off balance that I had no idea how to respond. But when I did eventually find words, I had the uncomfortable talk. I love that you address the questions as and when they come up – something i’d love to do. Hannah is a beautiful little girl and big hugs and cuddles to her…xoxo

    April 5, 2017 at 9:46 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Thanks for the vote of confidence Olerato!
      The talks are uncomfortable, but I think that has to do with our own viewpoints. I don’t think our children necessarily see the race talk as a bad thing because their point of reference is different and God, please may that last for their entire lifetime and generations to come. My biggest thing is I don’t want Hannah to EVER believe that her race is something less than/or to be ashamed of. I will do whatever I can to avoid that. She is beautiful and she is perfect exactly as she is.

      April 5, 2017 at 1:26 pm
  • Reply Desert Missus

    I thank you for sharing. Being brown isn’t easy and I’m glad you are the white priviledge and don’t insulate yourself from what will be the coloured girl struggle all her life. Big hugs to your LBG. And thanks for being there to help her accept herself.

    April 5, 2017 at 10:54 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Thanks! Not insulating myself and trying to always be humble, listen and learn from friends of colour has become extremely important to me. Those conversations I’ve had with coloured, black and mixed race friends have opened my eyes to so many things I never knew or even considered before. They are fascinating conversations with people I feel safe asking a lot of questions and listening, really listening to their answers and then trying to relate that into parenting my children.

      April 5, 2017 at 1:24 pm
  • Reply edouglasmeyers

    I think in wanting to do something you are already doing something and that you are an amazing mom 🙂 Race is so tricky, like the post I did when kids didn’t want to play with my son because he is white and he isn’t even white, but what if he was, why should it matter. It’s tough and I think the best thing to do is to never play colour blind… people are different, they look different they have different talents and characteristics and all we can do is celebrate our differences – also I recon it helps to go ooooh how beautiful to characters such as Moana as much as you do Elsa.
    (I say this as a coloured woman whose nieces and nephews go from long locks and green eyes to dark eyes and afros – so our experiences are different but I LOVE what you are doing)

    April 5, 2017 at 11:25 am
    • Reply Sharon

      I agree 100%! I don’t like it when people try to play down the race thing either, I get that it comes from a place of misunderstanding and also fear, given SA’s turbulent history, but talking about race and the colour of a person, does not need to be derogatory.

      April 5, 2017 at 1:22 pm
  • Reply Lea White

    I think this is what I love about New Zealand, that it doesn’t seem to be such a “big” thing here. At least two of Caitlyn’s friends come from inter-racial relationships. It is a hard thing for kids to really get. But I suppose even when people are of the same race, people can have different complexions making some look lighter and others darker. Some of us get major sunburn and others can tan for hours… I don’t know how I would have dealt with this particular situation, but know you are doing a good job.

    April 5, 2017 at 12:03 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      It’s really not the same thing though Lea, as having a light complexion or getting a sunburn. But thanks for your comment.

      April 5, 2017 at 12:33 pm
  • Reply MrsFF

    Hugs Hannah! Hugs mommy. We are all chocolate just different colours of chocolate. I am learning more and more that kids see colour no matter what we say or think because they are human after all! My 3 year old has been taking a lot about being brown these past few months and you can imagine my shock. I don’t know how to explain to a kid.

    April 5, 2017 at 1:01 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I think we make a terrible misjudgment when we assume kids don’t see colour. They do, they just don’t see it in a racial biased way that we do as adults. But for Hannah to have already realized that being brown is somehow less desirable, it broke my heart because we have never thought of her that way.

      April 5, 2017 at 1:19 pm
  • Reply chocolatehairsisters

    Hugs to you both!

    Both my girls see colour, have been seeing colour for ages. And this is one of the reason I started Chocolatehairsisters, I’ve always made it a point for my girls to love their skin colour, I make sure they are surrounded by people with their same skin\hair, I make sure they are represented in their clothing, cartoons, dolls etc. When I get colouring in pages I make sure they look like them. Every time I see a top with a black child\girl\boy I buy it, I buy books with people of colour. I know it seems like little things but with them its big things, if you need help please message me

    You may have not said to her that brown is less desirable but did you show her that brown people do achieve all things wonderful things and brown people are beautiful? Be deliberate about it and it should start improving.

    Good luck Sharon and I am glad you are facing this head on and thank you for your honesty.

    April 5, 2017 at 3:35 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      All the time! to your last question. And yes, we have focused on getting toys, clothes etc that reflect her. But we keep on trying.

      April 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm
  • Reply Di

    What a crazy world we live in. The irony is that we with white (or peachy) skin are so keen to tan/go brown. Your daughter is beautiful and skin colour really should not matter.

    April 5, 2017 at 6:47 pm
  • Reply High Heels And Fairy Tales

    Oh Sharon, how heartbreaking that your beautiful girl is feeling this way. 🙁 Fortunately she has you to listen, and hold her when she cries, and talk to. Sending hugs to you guys… and all the strength for the conversations ahead too. x

    April 6, 2017 at 10:31 am
  • Reply Taryn

    I admire how honest you are with us as well as your precious girls. Both of them are truly beautiful.

    April 6, 2017 at 4:57 pm
  • Reply belindamountain

    SO hard (and I don’t know how to help) but I know you are doing an amazing job and that your daughters are happy and beautiful and so loved. xxx

    April 6, 2017 at 7:47 pm
  • Reply Cassey Toi

    All the hugs and loves.

    April 7, 2017 at 1:12 pm
  • Reply stephanie

    Big hugs to your daughter, but shes lucky shes got a great mom and dad to make her see she is amazing and the color of her skin doesn’t make her less that, but yep its damn hard when she feels less then at her age is very heartbreaking, hang in there mom

    April 7, 2017 at 10:56 pm
  • Reply Lindsay Thomas

    Continue doing the amazing job you are doing with the girls, one day they’ll truly understand. Educate them on their heritage how it’s different but beautiful. They will appreciate it as they’re older. You should ask her what does colour mean or symbolize to her. She is beautiful, absolutely stunning and I hope one day she learns to love that what makes her different makes her perfect for your family.

    But Hannah, my sweet girl, know this, you are beautiful in ways beyond words, you are more than the colour of your skin. You are everything my heart desired and my soul yearned for. You completed our family and you are so very precious exactly as you are. – this just gets me, Sharon you are amazing and one day when she reads this it will melt her heart. You’re one hell of a Mommy!

    April 8, 2017 at 4:59 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Thank you for this Lindsay! I really appreciate your kind words and your advice.
      There is nothing more frustrating than when people down play how difficult this situation is. And I feel that that can only make it even worse for Hannah.

      April 9, 2017 at 1:49 pm

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