Navigating White Privilege as a Foster or Adoptive Parent
by Diane Kindler, MSW, LCSW
These are difficult times for everyone. There is so much pain and discord around racial inequality in our country. It feels to me as if new wounds open up every day. I wonder how we will ever heal as individuals, communities, and as a country.
As a white woman who adopted a child of color, I am very tuned into discussions of white privilege. I think about how it has impacted me as a mother to my son. I worry that despite my attempts, I have not prepared my son for the reality of the world he lives in. I ask myself, “Did my being white keep me from really understanding his experience and the experience of other people of color? Did it keep me from being a good enough parent to my son?”
I know from talking with other foster/adoptive parents that I am not alone in my concerns. So, here are some of my thoughts on white privilege:
- White privilege is a fact of life. It impacts everyone. It’s not something you choose to have. It is a birth right, if you are born white you have it and if you are not, you don’t. How I handle it as a white woman is up to me. But I need to get that I have always, and mostly unconsciously, lived a life that provided me with certain advantages simply because of the color of my skin. That doesn’t mean that life has always been easy for me. Or, that white people’s lives are trouble-free. Obviously, that is not true.
- The color of my skin has provided me with lots of advantages. My skin color has sheltered me from the discrimination and disadvantages routinely experienced by people of color in both small and big ways. As a white parent, that has likely meant that I have not had an acute awareness of the racial dynamics that are always present for people of color, including my son. I have the luxury of walking into a store or an office or any other place without having to anticipate that my color may impact how people will treat me. It is simply something that I don’t have to worry about.
- As a white parent of a child of color, I don’t have all the answers. But I have learned to be much more aware that my beautiful, intelligent son faces challenges every day that have not been part of my life. I hope that awareness will make me more sensitive to his experiences as a young man and to be better at helping him navigate his world. He’ll need more than my unconditional love in order to do that.
- It is my job as a parent to be more aware of my white privilege and the privilege enjoyed by my other white friends and family.
- I have to listen more to the voices of people who do not look like me. I need to speak up when I see others, including people I love, are acting in ways that take advantage of their white privilege. I need to say something when I white friend says something racist, regardless of what I believe their intentions were.
- I need to understand that my view of “the real world” is limited by the experiences I have had as a white person. So, I need to do a better job of appreciating the perspective of others whose “real world” is quite different from mine.
Will any of this make a difference? As a parent I can only do my best and hope that it will. Much like everything else we do as parents.