Would This Happen If My Child Was White?

One thing that I have learned is that when you adopt transracially, it’s going to be different.  There are things that I have learned about being black and things that I’ve learned about being the mother of a black child.  I’ve learned that even the most well intentioned person will make a prejudiced statement and that there are preconcieved notions in most people.  But, I’ve also learned that people, in mass, just don’t care. 

I’ve learned, but really should’ve already realized that it won’t be obvious to everyone that we are, in fact, related; even though to some it will be clear.  As I go around town, I assume everyone knows, but that’s not always the case.  It’s easy to forget.

I was reading an interesting blog post, the other day, http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/blogs/post/teaching-children-about-racism-racial-profiling-transracial-adoption/  and it got me thinking.  It reminded me that this is my reality and it isn’t and will never be typical.  And, it reminded me of an experience that we had about two years ago.

It was spring break and we were heading to Orlando.  The children were much younger. 

William was awesome, but prone to tantrums and still struggling with not wetting his pants.

Antwan was adorable and very busy.

And, Lizzie wasn’t technically “Lizzie.”  She wasn’t officially ours, had a different legal name and we had to get permission from the birth parents to take her on the trip at all.  And she was amazing.

So, after two days of theme parks, we decided to check out downtown Disney.  We were taking a day off from the big theme parks and were trying to have a day to recuperate before the Magic Kingdom, the next day.  It didn’t work out that way. 

We rode a boat across the little lake and when we got off the boat, I looked at William and saw that he had wet his pants.  He was totally soaked.  I was just beside myself.  See, William was going back and forth between legitimate accidents and deliberately wetting his pants to regain control of a situation.  But, he was hanging out on a cool boat, had gone potty recently, and had not mentioned needing to go!?!  We couldn’t fathom why it was happening.  He pretended that he didn’t know he was wet.  And, I pretended that I wasn’t furious.  Oh, wait, no I didn’t.  I was really frustrated.  Whether or not I should’ve been doesn’t really matter now, no one really remembers my reaction.  It was soon the least interesting thing happening.  Anyway, I told him that we had to leave since he now needed dry clothes and he promptly started to scream.

That’s when Brian stepped in, took William’s hand, and said “let’s go.”  One of my all-time regrets will always be that I misunderstood what his intentions were.  I thought he was taking William aside to lecture him and get him under control.  But, what he was doing was trying to get us out of the park and William into clean clothes as quickly as possible.  This would take awhile as we were basically as far away from our parked car as we could be.  So, I stopped walking and gave him the space that he didn’t want.

As they walked off, I stopped and let the babies play with Legos.  I chatted with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who had taken the trip with us.  I tried to make the best out of a bad situation.  And, just waited for Brian to call.  Well, he called.

When he did, I found out that things were anything but the best out of bad situation.  While I was clapping for Antwan who had built a lego tower, Brian was going through hell.

As Brian tried to walk William out of the park, Willam started to officially tantrum.  He refused to walk, so Brian had to carry him.  He kicked and screamed and yelled “I want my Mommy!”  People started to look.  People started to stare.  People started to chase him.  Then a large man who could’ve easily hurt Brian…a lot; stepped forward and said.  “Stop right there.  I believe you are abducting this child.”  That’s when Brian turned around and saw an angry mob of about 30 people following behind and ready to intervene and he realized that things could quickly get out of control.

That’s when Downtown Disney security took over.      

When Brian called me, he was with both the Orange County police and the Disney police and he said he needed me to come immediately.  I left the kids with the in-laws and rushed to the other side of downtown Disney.  In hind-sight, I should’ve brought them because it would’ve quickly made it obvious that William was with us.  But, I didn’t. 

ID’s were run, William, Brian, and I were all questioned separately, and Brian and I quietly panicked.  We didn’t have any proof that William was our son.  Why would we?  But, we found ourselves having to prove it, anyway.

Luckily, Brian was able to keep calm and explain that he was his father and his son was simply having a tantrum. Extremely luckily, William was able to calm down and confirm that he was having a tantrum and Brian was his dad. .

When I was taken aside, I told them the same thing that Brian and William had already told them.

In the end, it was pretty obvious to everyone that nothing was going on.  And, they let us all go.

The police were just doing their job and, thankfully, they did it well.

I’m sure it’s not surprising to anyone that the Magic Kingdom didn’t seem so magical with the emotions of the day before still with us. 

This was the first time that I really realized how having black children when you are white could affect things.  And, it hurt my heart.  It was also when I realized that people as a mass will step in and try to help, as unnecessary as it was.  It took me a long time to see the good in that.  But, it is good.

Brian has said that the only thing missing from the mob scene were pitchforks and torches.  He had nightmares for weeks.  I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be chased, confronted, and questioned.  All because he was removing his child from a situation while ignoring a tantrum, just like you are supposed to do.  Well, we can add it to the list of things that wouldn’t have happened if our children were white.  It’s just not fair.  But, it’s life.  Ours, anyway.

It’s not as simple when you are transracial.  There are issues that we have encountered and will, in the future.  As I’ve said before, I try to have a sense of humor about it.  (Although, this memory will probably never be funny and will always haunt us.)  But, I try to prepare myself for the future, whatever it may bring.

With all the issues, preconceived notions, unusualness, and drama; do I regret adopting them?  I think we all know the answer to that.  Just look at them!


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41 thoughts on “Would This Happen If My Child Was White?

  1. Hi. I came over from your comment on Adoptive Families Circle. What a nightmare! We almost had that happened at Walmart once. Thankfully we live in a small town where most people know us at least by sigh. One thing we do, which seems obvious really, is carry pictures of ourselves and the kids in our wallets. Pictures at different ages and in different settings. We find this helpful if ever we have to \”prove\” they are ours. The thing is, if your child was being truly abducted you would want people to respond zealously so it's hard to blame them even though we would feel so violated!


  2. Like the previous replies, I followed your posting from Adopted Family Circle. Your experience is evidence that as adoptive families we are frequently challenged to deal with the circumstances as they are rather than the ideal which we wish them to be. That being said, I think the suggestion of carrying 'proof' feels like a wise, pro-active thing to do because it could avert a situation from blowing out of control into a full blown disaster. As others have pointed out, part of your story is heartwarming–people attempted to help the child. Bottom line–that's what I always want. In an emergency situation, everyone operates on information-short-hand. That means they operate on \”typical\” assumptions, e.g.,that families look alike. As adoptive families, we know that the norm does not always hold true.Many of us look like a rainbow of humanity. But, sometimes, in a crisis, when a child's safety is at stake, it is better for rapid action to occur. Thanks for this post. It opens important dialogue and awareness


  3. I came over from Adopted Family Circle as well and wanted to relate a similar story. After a couple of hours at a nearby playground, my wife and I had to coax our tuckered-out 5-year old into the car (he is Ethiopian, we are not). We had just arrived home when the police came knocking at the door saying they were following up on a possible abduction, telling us that there was a report of a child \”reluctantly\” getting in our car. After they saw our son – now completely asleep still in his car seat – the police were on their way, and kudos to them for following up on the report and being extremely polite, but we were asking ourselves the same question as the title of this post for quite some time after that…


  4. That's all too familiar. That has happened to me twice. 1 time the police came, the second time the school recognized it was our family. Glad you can keep calm. I just recognize that it comes with the territory now.


  5. Oh, that's a good idea about the pictures. 🙂 Everyone knows us in our area, too. I guess that's why I was so unprepared for the reaction when out of town. I agree, it really is good that people will react, although it would be the worst abduction attempt ever. Publicly carrying a screaming child through Downtown Disney… ;)Thanks for reading!


  6. I agree, it is a good idea to have some type of proof. It doesn't seem fair, but it's definitely the smart move. 🙂 I definitely would want people to intervene if there ever was an actual abduction. I didn't mention it in the blog, but it happened to be about a week after the Casey Anthony stuff started. So, people were hyper-aware of any potential danger to children. I'm just grateful that it didn't get out of control, no one got hurt, and the police got there as quickly as they did.Thanks for reading!


  7. I don't know any local transracial families and it's so interesting (and a little depressing) to learn that this kind of thing has happened to others. Yes, definitely comes with the territory. Thanks for reading!


  8. Just to let you know that as a soon to be transracial adoptive parent I totally sympathize with you. Also I have worked at Disney and I wouldn't hesitate to forward them this post to help them increase their training on how to treat different families. They also should have taken the opportunity at the time to make it right. I hate to say it but the louder the complaint the larger the reward. I had someone that was so upset over something relatively minor that they just comped their entire stay. They really dropped the ball on fixing the event for you and they would want to know how to improve experiences in the future. I know that I always carry my cell phone with me and picture my son in his current outfit whenever we are traveling somewhere so I have a photo of what he is wearing in case he gets lost or kidnapped. I suppose it would also prove useful in this type of situation to prove that he was not.


  9. Thank you. Feel free to forward the post, if nothing else, it raises awareness. That's a really good idea about having a picture in current outfits! Thanks for reading!


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