How to be an Ally 101 Relationships/Family Identity

Practical Advice for White Families Adopting Cross-Racially

Jarvis Williams

Adoption is a great thing. As a child, I was practically adopted and raised by my aunt and uncle. As a result, I personally understand the importance of giving children a good home. An increasing amount of white evangelical families are adopting black and brown babies. As a black man with a multi-racial heritage, married to a Hispanic woman, and raising a multi-racial son, I must confess that I wonder whether certain white families understand raising their adopted black or brown baby will be more culturally difficult in the U.S. for them than raising a white child. I also want to offer some practical advice to white parents who have adopted, plan to adopt, or are raising black or brown babies.

Black and Brown Babies Grow to become Racialized Black and Brown Adults
White parents adopting black and brown babies need to understand that black and brown babies grow into racialized black and brown adults. As they grow, they will gain a racial conscious, become racialized by society because of their skin color, and they will suffer the negative effects of racialization (racism, stereotypes, etc.).

While these black and brown babies are the children of white parents, they will not, on every occasion, share the same cultural or racial experiences as their white parents. These parents, therefore, need to learn from and listen to seasoned black and brown parents, and they must listen to fellow white parents who have adopted or who are raising black or brown children, so that they can learn about the challenges of raising black and brown children in a racialized context as white parents.

Black and Brown Babies are not White
White parents adopting black or brown babies need to understand that black and brown babies are not white. Perhaps their friends, family members, and cultural upbringing will be predominately white. But black and brown babies will never be perceived as white by those living in a racialized society. As a result, white parents should not raise black or brown babies to believe the color blind theory of race, which teaches no one sees color.

Rather, they should educate them about the complexity of race in this country and help them to understand that although they are equal to white babies, they might not always be treated as such by some in society simply because of their skin color.

Privilege Goes Only So Far with Adopted Black and Brown Babies
Privilege can go only so far with adopted black and brown babies. The concept of privilege is complex. It basically means that certain people have certain privileges granted to them simply because of their race, class, or gender. However, this does not suggest those with privilege are undeserving of this privilege. Privilege neither tells the whole story about why certain people have certain advantages over others. A white person, for example, might have certain advantages over black and brown people, because he or she works harder to earn those advantages. Yet, the concept of privilege suggests some white people may experience certain advantages in certain parts of society both because of their skin color and the access their skin color might give them to certain advantages. Likewise, certain black and brown folks might have access to privileges simply because of their skin color—privileges that are unavailable to white folks.

Black and brown babies adopted by white parents can directly benefit from white privilege by virtue of their relationship with their white parents. But at some point in the lives of those black and brown babies, the benefits of inherited white privilege will not be accessible to them. That is, the first thing that those living in a racialized society may likely see when they look at black and brown children adopted by white parents is their black and brown skin — not their adopted white privilege, nor their individual accomplishments and abilities. White parents adopting and raising black and brown babies need to educate themselves and their children about these harsh but true realities.

Read Black and Brown Authors to Your Children and Expose them to Positive Black and Brown Images
I continue to be amazed by how few evangelicals read books written by black and brown authors. White parents adopting or raising black and brown babies should read books to them written by black and brown authors and constantly expose them to positive black and brown images, beyond athletes and entertainers. In essence, white parents adopting black and brown babies should expose their children to white and to the many great black and brown intellectuals who have made tremendous contributions to the good of mankind. Black and brown children also need to see black and brown doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, scholars, business people, public safety workers, accountants, etc. to show them that black and brown people make many different contributions to the good of society, and to encourage them that they can do the same as well.

Live Multi-Ethnic Lives
White parents adopting black and brown babies should live multi-ethnic lives. The option of mono-ethnicity is forfeited when white parents voluntarily choose to adopt black or brown skinned babies. Instead, they have a responsibility to expose their children to the beautiful diversity and multi-ethnicity that exists in their communities, or at least in the world. Thus, white parents who adopt black and brown babies should look intentionally for ways to live the kind of multi-ethnic lives in their social relationships and in their church fellowships for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of the kingdom, and for the sake of their adopted children.

10 thoughts on “Practical Advice for White Families Adopting Cross-Racially

  1. Katie Gerard

    I am writing this review to tell the entire world how i adopted a child from a Center known as that i met Online, I was directed to this Adoptive Center by a friend of mine that claimed she adopted a child from them, When i contacted this Center, I was given all the requirements in adopting a baby and after following the due process, The baby in question that i need to adopt was given out to me to mother. I am so happy that i finally had a baby girl that i can call My daughter and she can call me Mother. I adopted this baby because i am suffering from Cancer and My Doctor told me i can’t give birth.
    I will continuing sharing this testimony of mine and let the world know that there is a legit baby center out here where you can adopt a child. For contact and counselling, You can contact the adoptive Center on:


  2. Sam


    I’d love for my kids to not have to worry about color. But when my kindergartner daughter came home and told us she was called a “nigger” by a classmate (thankfully the school handled it very well), we knew that it likely won’t happen with this generation, though it’s close. Can you even imagine that happening to you, or your kids? We “had a dream” that this generation could escape the evil of the past. But now we realize that we have to explain the color and cultural differences from a survival perspective, what she might be confronted with, how she needs to handle it, etc. The same lessons our parents taught us (lessons on survival) are the same lessons we’ll now have to teach her.

    To your last question on ways to solve this racial problem, the way I see it is that I treat black/white relations like a marriage. For example, let’s say hypothetically (I’d never do this) that I was verbally and physically abusive to my wife during our entire 20 years we’ve been married. I don’t listen to her, or treat her with any respect. I literally treat her like dirt. Naturally, she doesn’t trust me. She becomes bitter, angry, closed off, and she’s pretty much shut down in the relationship.

    A couple weeks ago, let’s say I start to realize I’ve been wrong all these 20 years. I start trying to apologize and ask forgiveness for some of what I’ve put her through, but she’s resistant to it. So then I ask her, “why haven’t you gotten over it yet?!!?” What I don’t get is that the many years of damage requires a great deal of trust and respect to be gained. She needs to forgive me eventually, but I also can’t rush the process.

    That’s what this scenario sounds like to me. It’s been a 400+ year marriage between Blacks and Whites, AND DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION as it would be in most marriages. It’s been only in the last 50 years of this 400+year marriage that there’s been meaningful change. There should certainly be more forgiving. Forgiveness others releases their control over us. There should also be more acknowledgment of all evil actions done to cause such a bitter divide within the relationship. And the actions need to all stop if forgiveness is to be sought.

    When both forgiveness and acknowledgement start fully happening, then I think we’ll start to see progress.

  3. Liz

    I was really excited about reading this article, however half way through I got thrown off. I have come to understand that many African American people define themselves as black. Rather than being African American.

    I applaud what these families are doing by adopting children from all races. As a white colour parent apart from love , the number one important thing that must be taught to their adopted children is history. If the children are African/Asian or Es-panic it is imperative they are raised to know their history and understand cultural roots. Which goes far beyond African history. That plays a large role in allowing these babies to grow with a wider perspective of their heritage.

    I thank God for all the Christian families willing to adopt children, it is so needed in society. The journey can be challenging and seem perplexed, however continue to ask the Lord for wisdom and intentionally seek out things to help your children’s growth. So many things available online.

    God Bless

  4. Matthew Werner

    Dr Williams, you refer to “black and brown babies” but don’t you more precisely mean babies of African descent? Some Eastern European adopted children are as brown as African children, but presumably they would not have the same experiences you are describing. Also, does skin shade make a difference? Do lighter skinned children of African descent have it easier, so to speak? One more question, do African-American adopted children have it harder than African (eg Ethiopian, Ugandan, etc) adopted children?

  5. Therese

    Yes, I am the sister. 🙂 I would also appreciate some book recommendations.

  6. Melissa V

    Thank you for the article. While I appreciate the content, I would love some recommended books. My white sister and BIL recently adopted 2 lovely children of an African descent. Educating ourselves is always a good thing.

  7. Jason

    “As a result, white parents should not raise black or brown babies to believe the color blind theory of race, which teaches no one sees color.”

    Just because the world will not perceive people as white, does not mean that you should teach people that they should make distinctions based upon color. This is bogus! I get understand to some degree the plight and the historical underpinnings of race of the african american community but when will the african community forgive the white community? When will they get to stop paying pennance? Is it over is racism gone? No but it now flows both ways instead of their being an eraser of race, now there is racism on both sides. How do you solve for this?

  8. Katherine Broadway

    Thank you for this very thoughtful article and advice. I have yearned for this type of input since day one of our transracial adoptions. Although we did not go into adoption lightly, I was (am) so unaware and unprepared about the complexities of race, privilege, and even hair. This article has renewed my prayers for a more diverse community and the commitment to actively seek it out for my children, and for me.

  9. Amy Medina

    Wow! I just subscribed to this blog yesterday because I am a white mom raising 4 Tanzanian kids (in Tanzania), and I am trying hard to see the world through their eyes. So I am pretty excited that this is the first article that came up! Thank you so much for this great advice.

  10. Sam

    Thank you for sharing this. We have several friends that have adopted cross-racially, and some come to us for insight on lots of things, like hair management! LOL

    I’m sharing this with them as well. Thank you!

Leave A Comment