Does the adoption of my daughter, Clementine, make us a transracial family? I really don’t know. The more I research the more I’m not sure it’s even possible to figure out. My newly adopted daughter was identified by the foster agency as half Puerto Rican and half Jewish. I too am adopted and my birth mother identifies as white and my birth father identifies as Mexican and Irish. Do I break out a calculator? Surely we’re multicultural and I’ve already begun to incorporate Jewish and Puerto Rican traditions into Clementine’s life- but are we transracial?
Here’s what I’ve figured out thus far. Puerto Rican and Hispanic individuals can be of any race. Literally, it’s not a race at all despite the most common categories “Black, white, Hispanic, or other” that still exist (just as a police officer). So, there’s goes 25% of my racial identity and 50% of my daughter’s.
Identifying the Jewish half of Clementine into a racial category is even more difficult. I know from dating a slew of Jewish guys here in New York City that they tend to divide themselves as either Ashkenazic or Sephardic. Essentially, white (or European) or brown. In fact, even more confusing, Sephardic means ‘Hispanic’ in Hebrew. From what I can gather, Clementine’s mom is Ashkenazic. Does that make her white? I was thinking so until I remembered that Ashkenazic Jewish women receive an extra round of prenatal screening due to the number of genetic diseases specific to them. Does genetics define race?
Even identifying cultural identify can be confusing. My [adoptive] dad is white and first generation Dutch American. My [adoptive] mom described herself as a ‘mutt’ of whiteness resulting from many generations in the U.S. I was raised being told only that my culture and racial background was “white”. However, as a child, and even in my teenage years, I would point to my newborn photos hanging on the living room walls and adamantly argued that I was a ‘Chinese baby’ (now evident that I was picking up on my mixed Hispanic background). While growing up my hair had changed from black, to tow head blond to dark brown. My eyes changed from blue to green to hazel. Why couldn’t I have changed from Asian to Caucasian? It made sense to me.
If race is a social construct, must I sort out who is what? Does it matter less if Clementine and I appear to have the same skin color? And, if we are speaking specifically of culture, should I identify more as the Dutch Southerner that I was raised rather that my biological European and Hispanic background? Also, how many Jewish and Puerto Rican traditions to pass along to Clementine. Do I have any of my own racial or cultural traditions to pass on? If so, what are they? Any thoughts or ideas as I continue to sort this out?
May is National Foster Care Month! You may also like 21 People Who Have Done 21 Different Things to Help My Foster Kids and Fosterhood’s First Day at Babble!
Read more of Rebecca’s writing at her Blog Here.