I’m White, you’re not. Where do I start? Race/Ethincity Place Pt I: follow up

Roy and Uncle as Easy as a Sunday morning/ Mama C and the

From reading the responses on our first vignette here on the topic it is clear that-if you are asking yourself how do I start a conversation with a stranger/aquaintance/freind of a friend  of color and not come across as a complete dork/stalker/or uptight White person you are not alone. (Or non White person, but I’m not imagining that is who I am speaking to here.)

  • Being a dork is OK. Being a dork might even be some what charming in this case.  Worst case scenario–the person you are approaching says; “Uh. No thanks, I really have enough dorky friends, thanks.”
  • Start SMALL. Your name on a piece of paper–with your phone number or email or both. (Like I said before I have a little business card printed up with a picture of me and the boys on one side. My blog address -if you have one- so people can learn a little about me before saying yes.)  I don’t ask for their info–that feels presumptuous to me–unless they offer. After a sweet little playground connect between you and the kids you might say something like; “Hi I’m Catherine. I’m really pleased we met. I’d be happy to meet here again sometime as our kids seem to be hitting it off so nicely.” Then I hand them a card. “If that works out for you, please give us a call!” Chances are the conversation will go in a nice direction from there. Be yourself, and be inviting. This is often a win win combination!
  • If it is someone you already do see a lot (the neighbor, someone at church, the farmer’s market, the library, the barbershop, the bus stop, work, the gym, etc) and you have some albeit mild ease try something super open and easy like; “Hi. This may sound odd, but I’d very much like to invite you and your wife/husband/daughter/son/kids  to join us at the outdoor concert next week. We’d bring snacks to share. Is that something you might consider?” Again-keep it light, simple and easy. Meeting at a park, beach, public space or venue allows kids to run around, and adults something to do while connecting.
  • Another approach-be super direct! “I’m really in need of some help. I am 43, and I have a really limited circle of friends who don’t look like me/or me and my partner. As you know my son is ___________, and I’m eager to create a larger community for all of us to learn more about his/her heritage/culture. Making new friends seems like a great and necessary place to start.”  Hand them that little card, and wait for the call!

Ah-has I’ve had in the last few days:

I was watching Uncle and our new friend Roy talking over pancakes at the camp out the other day. It’s taken six years, but here we were in community with adults and children who looked as much like Sam and Marcel as Uncle and I. It’s not enough. It was one overnight. And this, like many of our friendships are new. But when Roy’s wife Erika and I hang out, and talk about parenting issues, race, racism, anti racist work, I don’t have to start from a place of explanation, back story, or discomfort in wondering if she’ll get it.  I have that feeling that absolutely everything I am saying is completely on the grid of shared experienced. But as starts go, this one feels like our new normal. Furthermore, as Kevin alluded to in his comment earlier, having adult people of color naturally in your lives gives your children the message that friendship with people who are like them is something that is valued, normal, and sought after by the people they love-starting with- their parent(s). 

Were off in a little bit for our next adventure on an island of the coast of Maine. Thankfully for my family there is no internet coverage there. This means full on MOMMY TIME. Since I can’t moderate comments, I’ll just leave you with a few interesting articles I’ve read this week. In terms of the talk about race, ethnicity and place this feels like critical background knowledge information from the Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/AP3e863a0c371348ed9e3bd2dcd63b4a65.html

And in terms of important demographic shifts that mean the world our children are going to grow up in is very different than the one we (or most of us I assume–unless you were foreign born in predominantly non Caucasian countries) did: http://newsone.com/nation/associatedpress1/2010-census-minorities-us-babies/

Finally here are a list of topics I’m trying to piece together bigger blog thoughts on. Some have been suggested by you, others are on my mind. If one really strikes you as important, or as something you yourself feel like taking on let me know! (mamacandtheboys@gmail.com).  I’m very open to guest posts!

Topics in the works:

  • Making friends of color  in school. How do our kids go about it? Is it harder for TRA children? How does place impact that? Where do other TRA friends fit into that equation? How do ethnicity and race play out in this arena?
  • So where are all the people of color? You live in a diverse area, and you still are not making the connections. What suggestions do people have to offer? What are the benefits you may not be taking advantage of, or noticing?
  • My support network, my family, my job all are here. If I lose all that, are the gains for my kid(s) enough to outweigh the disruption from all of this good we have in place? How do I decide?
  • People in positions of power. You have great friends of color,  maybe even the minister and the babysitter. Don’t forget the President! If you are like me, maybe even the occasional teacher. But what about the doctors, electricians, nurses, dentists, decision makers in the community, politicians, and police officers. How does not having these people out and about in your everyday life impact your kids, today and in the long run?
  • Is there a scale? How do I measure the world we do have, with the world we don’t? Can you be at peace with a semi ideal vision of the race/ethnicity/place decision? What has more weight, and what has less? Is there such a thing as an ideal?
  • The Biracial bonus or bind: One member of the family is one race, one is another, and a third is yet another. Now what? Does one child need more or less as far as role modeling and community? How does colorism play into the TRA parenting/family dynamic?

Look forward to reading more ideas, or reading emails letting me know what you want to share! Have a great week–and when you make some new friends, stop by your Mama C’s house and tell us all about it!


  1. This is a wonderful topic! Does the direct approach work? I just wouldn’t want to offend anyone…I have several good friends and family members who are POC but live far from us so I can only get their input by phone and love the idea of making new friends who look like baby girl so I am looking forward to more posts on this topic 🙂 Thanks!!!!!

  2. Thanks for the tips. My kids and I are the same race, so we don’t face the same issue, but I would like it to be different for my kids than it was for me. When I was growing up, everyone looked like us, and I’d like my kids to grow up a differently. I hope we’ll be able to expand our horizons a little bit.

    • Indeed–and hugely important for all of our kids that all of us do–transracial parents or not right? That is how the world will change–one intentional friendship at a time. YES YES YES. Let us know how this goes. Success is so gratifying in this arena!

  3. This is really great. I would add that sometimes if you can make friends with other trans-racial families, this can be an added bonus for you and for your children. We were a trans-racial family even before we adopted our daughter. A black dad, a white mom, 3 mixed daughters, and one white daughter, and then after adoption, one black daughter. I think in my experience, it is pretty easy to make friends with families that are also trans-racial. I have many “white mom” friends, who have black husbands, and mixed children, and/or who have adopted children of different races.

    • Kelly-

      Yes that is what I was trying to speak to above, but you put it better. Most of my new friends are also non mono racial–or bi racial couples. I think of transracial in terms of one who adopts “across race” but I realize that term implies “white” as the one race that is being crossed…. Ah semantics.

      Thank you for clarifying.

  4. As you know we are a tricultural family but reality is my culture and my husband’s cultures are well represented in our extended families. I am fortunate to know a black woman with a white husband who adopted hersame-aged little guy. She’s a GREAT source of how things are for black people in my neck of the woods and we share the open adoption experience as well. That happened by fluke. I think it’s important to meet other TRA families because your children were adopted and that’s an important fact. Those kids share something really important. It’s also important to widen the circle and make reasonable overtures to black families without being a KNOB about it (haha)…

    Ultimately, however, I stand firm in my belief that a strong, loving, open-minded family unit it the single most important thing for a child. None of us know what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes. We just need to allow them to walk in theirs.

    • Well said Mama, well said. When I began this entire series I was really coming from a starting place of a very White state. So that is where the increased intention emerges from. Where you are, beginning with your own family and extended family is already very multi-racial/ethnic/cultural. So I agree and I also feel the need to push myself for my fam to have a similar “normal”.

  5. Great topics by the way! I have noticed that Theo meets lots of little people of colour but the reality is most of my friends (for demographic reasons) are white or Asian. There is work to be done.

  6. Excellent questions Catherine. I appreciate your putting them out there. As you already know, I’m all for the reach out and connect, connect, connect method of community building with intention. (I think we trailed you for a few months before getting down to the business of becoming friends and look how nicely that turned out.) And when it comes to reaching out to people of color I try to remember, it’s as much for me (a white adoptive parent) as it is for my children (all of whom are Black). Perhaps they’re the push that inspire me to do what’s in my value set anyway: live in an a meaningfully integrated community. It benefits us all!

  7. I created an interracial families playgroup when my son was one. He is now almost 8. It helped us to make friends of all different races and also to meet a lot of other adoptive families. This was great when we brought our first daughter home.

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