Parenting Tips: “What Color Person Will You Date?”
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“…taking hold of the hope set before us…” – Hebrews 6:18
“What Color Person Will You Date?”
Interactions and relationships between people of different races is an ongoing point of conversation in our society today. Generally, I am encouraged as we vulnerably explore our thoughts and feelings through open discussion with the end goal of overcoming our prejudices. But I wanted to share a personal story today about where I think this went too far, and perhaps where I have fallen short as a parent, with hopes that this post will help others grow in their understanding of this issue. I certainly don’t have it all figured out and I continue to wrestle with these issues as well.
Twice in the recent past, well-meaning people whom I love have asked my child (age 15) and my nephew (age 8), both adopted from abroad and who are of a different race than their parents, what “color” people they will date. Both kids were taken aback by this question, and both managed it well enough, but neither will likely forget the conversation anytime soon. Nor will I. I wish I had engaged in more direct conversations with my child to help her prepare for this situation, but I was proud that she was able to voice the fact that she hopes to eventually date those whose personality is appealing to her and that the color of their skin was not a determining factor. My elementary-age nephew just took off to play elsewhere, feeling uncomfortable with the question for many reasons. (What 8-year-old boy is thinking about dating?)
So, my first point is this: talk to your kids about race relations in various contexts and prepare them to deal with uncomfortable questions that come from an insensitive world. (Look for more information on this topic later this week in our ACT Resource Spotlight blog post!)
But my second point is this: don’t ask insensitive or personal questions, especially outside of the context of a close relationship. (This is the part of the blog post to share on your Facebook with your extended circle of friends. ) Though I applaud efforts to talk openly about race, asking a child what color person they want to date is a very personal question. It should not be asked by people whom the child sees only rarely and has no deep relationship with. It also takes a very shallow look at one of the most important aspects of our lives—intimate relationships. It questions the experience of the child and the parents in a transracial relationship. The motivation behind the question seems selfishly curious, rather than genuinely invested in creating a deeper relationship with the child.
I fear it will be a long time before we all work through our race-related prejudices and issues, but I am confident we are making steps as more and more people are open to transracial friendships, adoptions, and marriages. Let’s continue to talk, and let’s be smart about it, valuing the relationship and the person above all, knowing that “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b).
This article was written by Amber Lewis, Clinical Supervisor with America World Adoption, and the Director of Social Services in our Oklahoma office. Amber has more than 20 years experience as a professional counselor and over 12 years in the adoption field. She is a parent by birth and by adoption.
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website here, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.