NBC's “This is Us” took America by storm when it hit the airwaves last year. The show follows twins Kevin and Kate, and their adopted African American brother Randall, who was incidentally born on the same day, as they navigate their adult lives and flashbacks of their parents. Randall (played magnificently by Sterling K. Brown as evidenced by his recent Emmy win), though successful with a beautiful family of his own, still wonders who his birth parents are. We see the pain he endured growing up with little-to-no African-Americans in his predominantly white community, and the questions. Was it worth it?
Giving a child a home is nothing short of amazing. The biggest mistake one can make by adopting transracially, however, is to go into it NOT seeing color and have “We are the world” thoughts of just loving the child and ignoring their cultural difference. Years ago, I was in a Chinese restaurant and witnessed a scene I will never forget. A table full of white teenagers and a sole Asian teenager were being very loud and disruptive. Just as the waiter was walking away from the table, the girls erupted in the loudest laughter and were pointing and making fun of the Asian waiter. I was heated, and especially annoyed that a girl was making fun of someone who looked exactly like her. Sadly, she’d been raised by a family who looked like the girls she was with and she clearly believed she was one of them!
Angelina Jolie has adopted transracially 3 times; Maddox from Cambodia, Pax from Vietnam and Zahara from Ethiopia. She has ensured that her adopted children know about their culture and has made sure her birth children know about the cultures as well. Back in 2011, she explained this to the Financial Times,
“They are all learning about each other’s cultures as well as being proud of their own. So it’s not like the boys get to do the Asian thing. They all have their flags over their beds and their individual pride.”
Randall received a lot of love from his adopted family growing up and found a way to proudly identify as an African-American male in his grown-up life. We are given glimpses of challenges faced by the family; there was the time another African-American mother at the pool had to teach his mom Rebecca about cutting Randall’s hair and applying the right lotion to prevent him from being ashy. Kevin and Randall had their own issues as Kevin felt some embarrassment with his friends by having a black brother. Through the series, we see that love can conquer all, and even if things aren't always perfect, everyone in the Pearson family has found their footing. My hope is that the show has us talking about transracial adoption and the importance of not only embracing the culture of the child adopted, but also reading them books about their history and heritage, attending social activities of the child’s race, getting a mentor of the child’s same racial background, and being very open about race and the known racial injustices with the child and the entire family.
Do you believe in transracial adoption?