Ask AF: How Do We Find Role Models Who Share Our Child's Race?

Adoptive parents asked our expert how to befriend people of the same race as their son, without being offensive.

Q: We’re white and our son is black. I’m ashamed to admit that we do not have any black relatives or friends. Will it seem offensive and shallow if I try to befriend someone simply because they are black?

A: The quick answer is yes. You don’t want to go up to someone and say, “I adopted a black son. You’re black. Can we be friends?” A better strategy is to make yourself visible in places that people of color frequent, where you have a shared interest. Is there a film festival in town celebrating your child’s birth culture? Is there an African-American barbershop where you can take your son?

It’s important for your son to have connections in the African-American community, and it’s equally important that he sees the world as a diverse place, that it’s not literally black and white. Many adoptees say to me, “It’s not all about finding the exact ethnic connection, but finding people who are different.” Years ago, I was working with a 13-year-old Korean adoptee, who was being teased at school. There were no Korean-American-adoptee therapists in his town, but I did find a therapist who seemed to understand adoption. After the first session, I asked the boy, “Well, how did it go?” He said, “You know, we had a lot in common.” I said, “Oh, really?” He said, “Yeah, that guy has red hair and freckles, and we talked about how people tease you because of the way you look.” They had made a connection because they both knew what it was like to feel different..

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