Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.
Rachel Garlinghouse and her husband, Steve are both white, and they've adopted three kids — two girls and a boy — who are African-American. "We get double takes everywhere we go," Garlinghouse tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "You have to look at discrimination in a whole new way" as a transracial family.
In addition to the stares, sometimes the family meets with more direct and offensive inquiries. "We have been asked, 'Were their parents on drugs?' " Garlinghouse says. "Those questions are very hurtful to our children, if not detrimental."
Garlinghouse and her husband are raising their children to understand race and heritage. "They need to know their history as African-Americans. They are not white and we should not pretend that they are white."
So the parents look for little ways to work history lessons in, taking advantages of opportunities in line with the kids' interests at the time. "My kids love transportation — the trash truck and the school bus and things like that," Garlinghouse says. "So we talked about Rosa Parks ... and what happened when she was discriminated against."
A lot of people like to tell us that kids don't notice race until they're much older. That's not true. My 2-year-old, when she had recently turned 2, had told us things like, 'I'm brown, and you're pink.' So maybe they don't notice race, but they definitely notice color. I mean, children learn their colors at very early ages, and they can see that we don't match.Rachel Garlinghouse
Garlinghouse says being humble and realistic are two essential elements to being a transracial adoptive parent. "I'm not black, I will never be black, and my children will never be raised with black parents. Therefore, there are certain things that we need to do to help supplement that." A retired African-American couple living nearby also has adopted children, and Garlinghouse sometimes turns to them for conversations about adoption and race.
They've also hired an African-American woman to mentor and serve as a role model for the children. "We wanted a successful black Christian female to have a close, tight-knit relationship with our girls," Garlinghouse says. She says both she and her children have formed close bonds with the woman. "Now I feel like I don't know what I would do without her."
Garlinghouse hopes her kids grow up "seeing themselves as a child of God who has a wonderful purpose for their life." But she knows they will face challenges, especially her son.
"He's going to be followed in a mall, where I've never had that experience. Or he's going to get pulled over, and we're going to have to teach him what to do in that situation," she says. "We're going to have to handle ourselves carefully, and we're going to have to educate our son in the best way that we can."
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