“Color-Blindness” In Adoption

I cannot count the number of times I have heard from adoptive parents the phrases, “I don’t see color,” or “I’m color-blind.”

Let me just say that neither of those traits are good things. In my experience, I have seen those phrases mean that the white parents of children of color do not acknowledge their children’s ethnic backgrounds.  The children grow up without connection to their heritage, and in fact, learn to adamantly deny that they care about their heritage.

In my case, it was easy enough. My phenotype is very light. Why acknowledge any other background I might have? It would just bring up messy questions.

In my siblings’ case,  it was a little harder to pretend they were not something other than white. My parents tried valiantly, though.  I never tasted real rice until I moved out of my parents’ house at 18. My sister was forbidden from wearing her sari. We never met other Indians.  My parents never even tried to make Indian food, or educate us about India whatsoever.

I remember a couple half-assed attempts at “cultural food”. It consisted of “chop-suey” mix from a can dumped over Minute Rice.

Blech. No wonder my brother hates rice!

My brother and sister were often told that they were “practically white,” as if that was something to reach for! Me? My parents laughed in my face when I found out about my Native heritage. “Look at you! You’re no Indian! Ahahahaha”

Hmm. For someone who is supposedly color-blind, that is certainly a color-based judgement.

It is not all my parents’ fault, this idea they have of color-blindness.  Trans-national and trans-racial adoptive parents in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s were often told to raise their children “like you would if they were white.” It was considered harmful to the child to be “too focused” on their heritage. Hmm. That sounds familiar! I have been criticized for being “too sensitive” and “too focused” about my own heritage. Hell will no doubt break loose when my brother starts questioning his own identity.

Generations of adoptees are just now reclaiming their heritages. They are reclaiming the colors of their skins!

My parents will be the confused adoptive parents commenting about how their children “have changed,” how they “never used to care about that stuff.”

Now for a little entertainment to lighten up this post.

To the right is a photo of a figurine my parents gave to my sister and her husband for their wedding, and a photo of my sister. Do you notice anything…funny about the color of the figurine woman’s skin and hair? (Those of you who are not color-blind, of course!

The same thing happened around my wedding. I got a figurine for my cake that portrayed two white, blond people. I complained about it, and made loud comments about how I was going to have to repaint the groom to resemble my husband. My mom eventually got me a different cake topper :).

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