I was and still am a minority in my own family.
I was the product of an affair between my white mother and black father and for obvious reasons, I was given up for adoption immediately after I was born. My biological mother transported me from the hospital to my foster home and that was the last time we saw each other, 43 years ago.
Three months later, I was adopted by a white minister, his wife, and their three biological children. It was the fall of 1967 in Detroit, just three explosive months after the riots that changed the city forever.
Growing up in Detroit at such a time was a mixture of childhood bliss and adult conflict. There were often times this powder keg of emotion was swirling around me and I was oblivious to it all. My parents shouldered a large majority of the racism and struggle that our colorful family faced. This is not to say that I didn’t see any of it because I did and I was very aware of my color and the negative attention that can come with the additional melanin in my skin.
Fortunately, in the early 70’s and 80’s, Detroit became the perfect storm for me. Because of the riots, the whites were leaving the city rapidly and the city, its neighborhoods, and schools were quickly becoming predominately black. This assured that I would always see another face that looked like mine on a daily basis. Because of that, I became very comfortable with who I was as a black child and learned about a culture in a way that my parents couldn’t teach me. My racial identity and pride came through osmosis. I sucked it in from the black children around me.
As I stated, my childhood was not without struggle. When I was eight, we moved to a new neighborhood in Detroit; a neighborhood that hadn’t felt the color shift, just yet. I was the first child of color on our block and immediately the white children I played with let me know I was different. This was an alarming change for me because the neighborhood I came from was all black. Now I had to deal with being the different child. It was tough and uncomfortable but the pride that was injected into me by my black friends from the old neighborhood and at school everyday gave me a solid foundation to weather this storm.
Growing up as a transracial adoptee has been a unique experience. In the end, I consider it a positive one and I spend my professional time speaking to adoption professionals and adoptive parents to share what my parents got right and what they could have done better.
It is not an easy lifestyle and because of that I am a conditional supporter of transracial adoption. It is not something for everybody. So I am very passionate about letting anyone interested in transracial adoption know the challenges, the struggles, and also the joy that can come from growing up black in a family of whites.
Kevin Hofmann is the author of Growing Up Black In White. http://www.kevinhofmann.com