‘How I got the memo to move ~ and lived to tell about it’

UPDATE: This is a re-Post that appeared in April 2010. I am adding it to the permanent Pages section because it got so many wonderful responses, which I have included. They are worth reading! Click here to read the original post. (It may be easier to read in its original formatting, especially the Comments section at the end.)

I actually feel optimistic when I hear from adoptive parents about moving their families to live in more diverse areas. The topic of moving comes up a lot when transracial adoptees describe growing up in “Whitesville” under conditions of extreme racial and cultural isolation.

Yet APs sometimes appear resistant to the suggestion that relocating their family would be a good idea, or even possible. Some of their reasons are flat out racist, and betray their lack of familiarity with actual communities of color, which they view from a position of superiority. (“Why would I want to move to some ghetto? I saved my child from that hell-hole!”)

Other reasons sound more sentimental, and have to do with what parents would be giving up. Such a perspective comes off as extremely selfish, because it prioritizes the parent’s sense of comfort, while overlooking completely the fact that their adopted child has already given up so much, starting with the act of abandonment/relinquishment, and then leaving her community of origin or his native homeland, only to be plunked down in alien territory and expected to simply adjust (and be grateful for the experience). Transracially adopted kids who find themselves treading water in Whitesville make further sacrifices, including the loss of familiar languages, sounds, and even smells,, not to mention cultural and racial mirrors. Too often they lose the safety and security of bias-free environments, free from racial jokes, teasing, bullying, and harassment, and much more.

I have listened as parents declared passionately what they would have to sacrifice if they relocated their family– e.g., the ancestral family homestead, the community they have called home for years, a tight-knit circle of friends who are chosen family, an intimate support network, an LGBT-friendly environment, or a cherished religious community. Et cetera. Some reasons for not moving even sound, at least superficially, as if parents have their child’s best interests in mind. But upon closer examination, they are often just another smokescreen to mask ignorance or fear, or to preserve class- and race-based privilege. Examples of this category of reasons include sacrificing “good” schools  (good for which kinds of students?) and a “safe” neighborhood (safe from whom? From people who look like your kid?). Or they couldn’t bear to leave behind those  peaceful morning runs through dew-laden meadows on the way to pick sun-warmed strawberries for breakfast. (I didn’t make that up. If you don’t believe me, go watch Living on the Fault Line: Transracial Adoption in Vermont.)

But back to feeling optimistic. I love to hear from parents who have moved to more cosmopolitan areas. 99 times out of 100, they sound overwhelmingly positive. Sorry, that might be misleading. I don’t think I have actually heard from 100 parents who have relocated. More like 8. Which brings me to the point of today’s post.

Now I’d like to hear from at least eight more! Adoptive parents, here’s your chance to boost my numbers, be an Ally, and even better, help out some lonely exiles stuck out there in Whitesville–stuck perhaps because their parents didn’t get the memo about the real benefits of moving–and the costs of staying put.

I’ve come to the conclusion that APs need to hear from other white APs who took the plunge and lived to tell about it. It’s not enough for adult adoptees to repeat over and over the refrain of “Move, move, MOVE.” I get it: a parent who cannot imagine pulling up roots and setting out for new and alien territory, with kids in tow, may be understandably wary of such a message from adult adoptees–even adoptees who did it on their own–and not only lived to tell about it, but flourished for having done so.

So, here’s a chance to practice being an Ally. Instead of me sharing APs’ stories with you, I want to hear from adoptive parent Allies out there. If YOU have a story about moving to a more diverse neighborhood, won’t you please share it in the Comments section of this post? Or you can email it to me, if it’s long and detailed or if you want to remain anonymous. I may collect some of the stories and weave them into a future post.


I’m interested in the experience of families with teenagers – is it too late to move? We have 2 teenage daughters from India. All the arguments here are very persuasive, if the kids were younger. But now? One will graduate next year, and the younger is in 7th grade.

I’m interested in the experience of families with teenagers – is it too late to move? We have 2 teenage daughters from India. All the arguments here are very persuasive, if the kids were younger. But now? One will graduate next year, and the younger is in 7th grade.
Ok, reading John’s blog and all the comments from others has convinced my partner and I that we have to stop talking about “when we move” and start making it happen. It could be too easy to keep saying, “yes, we will move” and then discover years have gone by.So, we sat down last night and decided that our house will go on the market next April. That gives us one year to pay off the money we owe from T’s adoption, fix up the house for sale, and find a new job for my partner in the town where we will live. It’s a timeline that should have us living in the environment we want for our family by the time T is 18-20 months old.

Thanks everyone for the kick in the pants!

Ok, reading John’s blog and all the comments from others has convinced my partner and I that we have to stop talking about “when we move” and start making it happen. It could be too easy to keep saying, “yes, we will move” and then discover years have gone by. So, we sat down last night and decided that our house will go on the market next April. That gives us one year to pay off the money we owe from T’s adoption, fix up the house for sale, and find a new job for my partner in the town where we will live. It’s a timeline that should have us living in the environment we want for our family by the time T is 18-20 months old. Thanks everyone for the kick in the pan

1. What made you decide to move?At our first KAAN conference, there was a session on…gee I don’t remember what exactly. But there was the now familiar ‘panel of adult adoptees’ talking and discussing an issue of identity. Every single adoptee of color stood and before they answered and no matter their age (18ish-40ish?) they said how many other kids of color were in their high school. After that session it dawned on us how important it was for our kids. Before then, we thought it would be NICE some day if we found the perfect house, location, etc…but not necessary. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning plotting our next moves. Our house was on the market within a month of our return from KAAN.

3. What were your initial concerns about moving?
The adoption therapist we were seeing at the time (not a triad member, nor a person of color, no surprise here) said that she DID NOT suggest we move, even after explaining to her WHY were were moving. Moving is another loss for children and for adopted kids, it is much harder to say goodbye and make transitions, she argued. We had to weigh that point – OK, valid – with our children’s need to grow up even a little less visible at school and our families need for better access to Asian American communities and all the stuff that brings.

And we had to buy a smaller house which I’ve actually grown to LOVE for it’s ‘easy to clean’ and fun to decorate size :)

4. How did your child(ren) react to the move?

Not well initially. Took our one, somewhat more reserved child, maybe 5 full years to totally adjust and be comfortable (with increased comfort every year and with every new friendship). The other child was younger and made friends very easily, but I wouldn’t say it is perfect for either of them, of course, no place is… I did employ some transition ideas, hoping to help them cope, especially early on.

5. How has it been for your kid(s)?

Great, we’ve discussed it a bit, not a ton, and explained why we thought this was the right thing for our family – it is hard for kids to decide on what COULD have been their lives. Right?! Parents need to make decisions for their kids without knowing how for sure it will effect them. It is hard, but informed decisions are the only thing we got going for us.

Maybe THEY will tell YOU someday :)

6. How has it been for you personally?

The absolute best thing that ever happened to me personally. Once we made the decision, I/we did not look back. I love where we live.

7. What would you tell other good citizens of Whitesville, who are raising transracially adopted kids, about moving for the sake of their transracial family?

Do it. And really do it. Don’t just check it off ‘the list’. And then once you are in the diverse environment, you need to interact, get involved, use the gift that you’ve given your family. If not, you might as well stay in Whitesville, in fact, if you are going to carry the same exact mind set, it may cause more confusion for your kids and fracture in your family than if you just stay there

1. What made you decide to move? At our first KAAN conference, there was a session on…gee I don’t remember what exactly. But there was the now familiar ‘panel of adult adoptees’ talking and discussing an issue of identity. Every single adoptee of color stood and before they answered and no matter their age (18ish-40ish?) they said how many other kids of color were in their high school. After that session it dawned on us how important it was for our kids. Before then, we thought it would be NICE some day if we found the perfect house, location, etc…but not necessary. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning plotting our next moves. Our house was on the market within a month of our return from KAAN. 3. What were your initial concerns about moving? The adoption therapist we were seeing at the time (not a triad member, nor a person of color, no surprise here) said that she DID NOT suggest we move, even after explaining to her WHY were were moving. Moving is another loss for children and for adopted kids, it is much harder to say goodbye and make transitions, she argued. We had to weigh that point – OK, valid – with our children’s need to grow up even a little less visible at school and our families need for better access to Asian American communities and all the stuff that brings. And we had to buy a smaller house which I’ve actually grown to LOVE for it’s ‘easy to clean’ and fun to decorate size 🙂 4. How did your child(ren) react to the move? Not well initially. Took our one, somewhat more reserved child, maybe 5 full years to totally adjust and be comfortable (with increased comfort every year and with every new friendship). The other child was younger and made friends very easily, but I wouldn’t say it is perfect for either of them, of course, no place is… I did employ some transition ideas, hoping to help them cope, especially early on. 5. How has it been for your kid(s)? Great, we’ve discussed it a bit, not a ton, and explained why we thought this was the right thing for our family – it is hard for kids to decide on what COULD have been their lives. Right?! Parents need to make decisions for their kids without knowing how for sure it will effect them. It is hard, but informed decisions are the only thing we got going for us. Maybe THEY will tell YOU someday 🙂 6. How has it been for you personally? The absolute best thing that ever happened to me personally. Once we made the decision, I/we did not look back. I love where we live. 7. What would you tell other good citizens of Whitesville, who are raising transracially adopted kids, about moving for the sake of their transracial family? Do it. And really do it. Don’t just check it off ‘the list’. And then once you are in the diverse environment, you need to interact, get involved, use the gift that you’ve given your family. If not, you might as well stay in Whitesville, in fact, if you are going to carry the same exact mind set, it may cause more confusion for your kids and fracture in your family than if you just stay there.

I wish I had the money to move from mostly Whitesville to more integrated or mostly Asianville. In my state, the Chinese and Korean neighborhoods are in the suburbs and they are really expensive. (Also, unfortunately, some of my friends who have adopted children from Korea and live in neighborhoods with significant Korean populations have been ostracized by their Korean neighbors—kids not allowed to play together, etc.) But our experience attending Korean school on Saturdays in a neighborhhod about 20 miles from our house has been very good. Sure, we attract some stares because we are the only adoptive family in the school. But the teachers and teaching assistants have been great. Still, I have to admit, I really wish there were more Asian kids in our neighborhood. If I could afford to move, I would.

I wish I had the money to move from mostly Whitesville to more integrated or mostly Asianville. In my state, the Chinese and Korean neighborhoods are in the suburbs and they are really expensive. (Also, unfortunately, some of my friends who have adopted children from Korea and live in neighborhoods with significant Korean populations have been ostracized by their Korean neighbors—kids not allowed to play together, etc.) But our experience attending Korean school on Saturdays in a neighborhhod about 20 miles from our house has been very good. Sure, we attract some stares because we are the only adoptive family in the school. But the teachers and teaching assistants have been great. Still, I have to admit, I really wish there were more Asian kids in our neighborhood. If I could afford to move, I wou


   
  My husband and I are both white and just began the process of adopting a child or sibling pair from the Philippines. We live in a city of over 100,000 (think slightly more diverse than Whitesville with a definite majority Whitesville attitude) in one of said city’s more diverse neighbornhoods. However, my husband is finishin graduate school and we are lucky that we will be able to winnow out Whitesvilles in our upcoming (and daunting–given the job market) move on to our next career. We’ve already decided to not look in areas where our kids will feel culturally isolated. This most certainly means passing up good job prospects, but as Terri said, we are already forcing extreme sacrifice upon our kids by adopting transracially and internationally, the least we can do is limit our job searches to areas that are diverse.On a slightly different note, another thing we are talking through as we prepare to adopt is names. Currently, my husband and I have different last names (those we were given at birth.) We have thought about changing our names so that we have a “family name” at the same time we finalize our adoption. I would be curious to hear how other adoptive families have handled a similar name situation. Have any adoptive parents had experience changing names to include their child’s birth surname?

Oh, and just wanted to add:
Besides the possible issue of schools, I can’t think of a single “downside” to living where we do.To respond to what *might* be stereotypical fears:
It is not more dangerous
There is not more crime
There are not more drugs
There is not more noise
It is not less friendly
It is not less safe

Oh, and just wanted to add: Besides the possible issue of schools, I can’t think of a single “downside” to living where we do. To respond to what *might* be stereotypical fears: It is not more dangerous There is not more crime There are not more drugs There is not more noise It is not less friendly It is not less s
Hi John,
thanks so much for this post and for all of the work you do.I really appreciate what Heidi said, here: “Our basic thinking is “Why should our kids be the ones in the minority? We are the adults.” Our lives are much richer when we participate in diverse communities. Now I find it downright strange to be around ONLY white people.” I completely agree.

I don’t quite fit the parameters you were seeking, because we already lived in a diverse neighborhood before we adopted. I can tell you, though, that we are fast outgrowing where we live now and when we move, we will be looking for a new house in the same neighborhood or an equally/more diverse one. I would like to live in a neighborhood where there is less economic division by race–that is, where we live now, probably more white people than black people own their homes, and probably more black people than white people rent. There is a neighborhood very close to us where this is not the case, and it’s certainly one we will consider when we have the financial wherewithal to move.

I will try to describe what it has been like for us, in hopes of convincing other APs to move out of Whitesville.

3. If I think of moving to a new neighborhood, I admit to having concerns about being accepted as the White neighbor. As in, will the black people who live in the neighborhood negatively judge my decision to adopt a black child? But, I know this is JUST a fear. Nothing in my experience so far suggests that this would happen. In fact, in our current neighborhood, exactly the opposite has been true.

5. & 6. It is, by far, our black neighbors who have been most welcoming and interested in supporting my son. And I have felt SO happy to watch him develop close relationships with black adults in our neighborhood, and to see how happy that makes him. It means, too, that I have been able to get to know many of our neighbors better, which has been lovely.

As a result of living in this neighborhood, we have met two black families with sons who are roughly the same age as my son. We have become particularly close to one family, and our children play together almost every night. This is especially important to me because my son’s daycare is not very diverse in its student body (finding a good and diverse daycare where we live is another story…), so I like that he has friends who look like him in our neighborhood. Also, by being so close to this one friend and his family, it’s almost like he gets to be, just a little, an honorary member of that family. Since that’s not an experience I can give him, I am grateful that he is able to find that sort of comfort there.

I love, too, that my son gets to be in a place where there isn’t any obvious pigeonholing. It’s true that there are some economic differences, but I think to a kid of his age, these are largely invisible. There are white kids riding bikes, and brown kids riding bikes. There are white daddies with briefcases going to work; there are brown daddies with briefcases going to work. etc., etc.

I also like that, by and large, I don’t have to worry about racist crap coming from our neighbors when we are out biking, walking, playing at the playground, etc. This is a huge relief, frankly.

Another benefit, I think, is that if you live in a diverse neighborhood, the institutions around you are more likely to be diverse: the library, the grocery store, the local restaurants. My son stands out because his mom is white, but doesn’t stand out because he is black–if that makes any sense. I’d rather it that way than the other way around, although I get that the standing out is hard no matter what.

The hardest part of living where we live is–and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true for many–that we will eventually face the problem of schools. The city schools where we live are notoriously bad. I have heard that there are some good magnet schools, etc., so we will be investigating. I always remember, though, that I went to a school (different state) that was considered an “inner-city school” by those in the ‘burbs and there were all kinds of crazy stories about how dangerous it was, etc. But my parents were committed to public education so I went there anyway, and I didn’t get a great education, but I turned out okay (and I didn’t get knifed or shot or mugged or hit etc etc). For my son, of course, it will be trickier, because he has no white privilege to coast on and I’ll have more concerns, consequently, about the quality of his education. But I want to know for myself what the city schools are actually like and not jump to conclusions based on horror stories. If we can make them work, that’s what we’ll do.

Hi John, thanks so much for this post and for all of the work you do. I really appreciate what Heidi said, here: “Our basic thinking is “Why should our kids be the ones in the minority? We are the adults.” Our lives are much richer when we participate in diverse communities. Now I find it downright strange to be around ONLY white people.” I completely agree. I don’t quite fit the parameters you were seeking, because we already lived in a diverse neighborhood before we adopted. I can tell you, though, that we are fast outgrowing where we live now and when we move, we will be looking for a new house in the same neighborhood or an equally/more diverse one. I would like to live in a neighborhood where there is less economic division by race–that is, where we live now, probably more white people than black people own their homes, and probably more black people than white people rent. There is a neighborhood very close to us where this is not the case, and it’s certainly one we will consider when we have the financial wherewithal to move. I will try to describe what it has been like for us, in hopes of convincing other APs to move out of Whitesville. 3. If I think of moving to a new neighborhood, I admit to having concerns about being accepted as the White neighbor. As in, will the black people who live in the neighborhood negatively judge my decision to adopt a black child? But, I know this is JUST a fear. Nothing in my experience so far suggests that this would happen. In fact, in our current neighborhood, exactly the opposite has been true. 5. & 6. It is, by far, our black neighbors who have been most welcoming and interested in supporting my son. And I have felt SO happy to watch him develop close relationships with black adults in our neighborhood, and to see how happy that makes him. It means, too, that I have been able to get to know many of our neighbors better, which has been lovely. As a result of living in this neighborhood, we have met two black families with sons who are roughly the same age as my son. We have become particularly close to one family, and our children play together almost every night. This is especially important to me because my son’s daycare is not very diverse in its student body (finding a good and diverse daycare where we live is another story…), so I like that he has friends who look like him in our neighborhood. Also, by being so close to this one friend and his family, it’s almost like he gets to be, just a little, an honorary member of that family. Since that’s not an experience I can give him, I am grateful that he is able to find that sort of comfort there. I love, too, that my son gets to be in a place where there isn’t any obvious pigeonholing. It’s true that there are some economic differences, but I think to a kid of his age, these are largely invisible. There are white kids riding bikes, and brown kids riding bikes. There are white daddies with briefcases going to work; there are brown daddies with briefcases going to work. etc., etc. I also like that, by and large, I don’t have to worry about racist crap coming from our neighbors when we are out biking, walking, playing at the playground, etc. This is a huge relief, frankly. Another benefit, I think, is that if you live in a diverse neighborhood, the institutions around you are more likely to be diverse: the library, the grocery store, the local restaurants. My son stands out because his mom is white, but doesn’t stand out because he is black–if that makes any sense. I’d rather it that way than the other way around, although I get that the standing out is hard no matter what. The hardest part of living where we live is–and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true for many–that we will eventually face the problem of schools. The city schools where we live are notoriously bad. I have heard that there are some good magnet schools, etc., so we will be investigating. I always remember, though, that I went to a school (different state) that was considered an “inner-city school” by those in the ‘burbs and there were all kinds of crazy stories about how dangerous it was, etc. But my parents were committed to public education so I went there anyway, and I didn’t get a great education, but I turned out okay (and I didn’t get knifed or shot or mugged or hit etc etc). For my son, of course, it will be trickier, because he has no white privilege to coast on and I’ll have more concerns, consequently, about the quality of his education. But I want to know for myself what the city schools are actually like and not jump to conclusions based on horror stories. If we can make them work, that’s what we’ll do.

Our family’s story is a little different. Hubby and I had been living in a majority AA county for several years before our children arrived. We have one daughter by birth and two children adopted as infants from Korea. As soon as our younger children started school, I realized while there were many AA and some white kids, there were very few – very few – Asian kids. It quickly became apparent to us we had to make a move where everyone in our family could see themselves reflected in our neighborhood and public school system. We moved about 5 years ago to a new community that has a much larger Asian population. My younger kids see faces like theirs everywhere. (My eldest daughter does, as well.)

It’s made a world of difference to my younger kids and they’ve told me that.j

Was it a big change? Yes, as I loved my house and my old community. (It was loads more convenient to everything compared to where we are now.) Would I make the change again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

Our family’s story is a little different. Hubby and I had been living in a majority AA county for several years before our children arrived. We have one daughter by birth and two children adopted as infants from Korea. As soon as our younger children started school, I realized while there were many AA and some white kids, there were very few – very few – Asian kids. It quickly became apparent to us we had to make a move where everyone in our family could see themselves reflected in our neighborhood and public school system. We moved about 5 years ago to a new community that has a much larger Asian population. My younger kids see faces like theirs everywhere. (My eldest daughter does, as well.) It’s made a world of difference to my younger kids and they’ve told me that.j Was it a big change? Yes, as I loved my house and my old community. (It was loads more convenient to everything compared to where we are now.) Would I make the change again? Yes, in a heartbeat.
Hi there,We adopted our son from Uganda when he was nearly 7, five years ago. He is due to go to high school in September and for the last few years we have been having lots of discussions on where to move because we wanted to live in a more diverse community, for his sake and ours but also for him to attend a school with a lot of other black kids. So we have decided to move to Ugandan in August, and our children will be going to a school which is made up of 70% Ugandan students and 30% international students. We will be working with an NGO which is encouraging domestic fostering and adoption, and also working with the children in institutions to express themselves and their lives through video/photography/drama and music.

Hi there, We adopted our son from Uganda when he was nearly 7, five years ago. He is due to go to high school in September and for the last few years we have been having lots of discussions on where to move because we wanted to live in a more diverse community, for his sake and ours but also for him to attend a school with a lot of other black kids. So we have decided to move to Ugandan in August, and our children will be going to a school which is made up of 70% Ugandan students and 30% international students. We will be working with an NGO which is encouraging domestic fostering and adoption, and also working with the children in institutions to express themselves and their lives through video/photography/drama and music.

We do live in Whitesville; and we have our house on the market. Like the other commenter, we are not comfortable in a community with such a lack of diversity – and often wonder how we ended up here in the first place? We will be making the trek across the state to the Seattle area ASAP.

Our daughter is 2 years old, and Chinese. Every time we go to the Seattle area with her, I personally breath a sigh of relief to see Asian faces – I can only imagine what this will mean to her as she gets older. I don’t profess to know as much about Chinese culture as I’d like; but our minds & hearts are wide open, and hope that we can in some small way give our daughter what she lost – since she was removed from the country of her birth.
I had a very small glimpse of this being a red-haired child, adopted by brunette parents. It was quite obvious that I was not the biological product. I am still haunted by the comments and remarks I heard growing up – so I can only imagine….

We do live in Whitesville; and we have our house on the market. Like the other commenter, we are not comfortable in a community with such a lack of diversity – and often wonder how we ended up here in the first place? We will be making the trek across the state to the Seattle area ASAP. Our daughter is 2 years old, and Chinese. Every time we go to the Seattle area with her, I personally breath a sigh of relief to see Asian faces – I can only imagine what this will mean to her as she gets older. I don’t profess to know as much about Chinese culture as I’d like; but our minds & hearts are wide open, and hope that we can in some small way give our daughter what she lost – since she was removed from the country of her birth. I had a very small glimpse of this being a red-haired child, adopted by brunette parents. It was quite obvious that I was not the biological product. I am still haunted by the comments and remarks I heard growing up – so I can only imagine….

Okay, so we live in GASP…Vermont. And our beautiful 19 month old son is from Ethiopia. And we are moving. Soon. By the end of this summer. I promise.

Nothing unpleasant has happened here {yet}. Most people are wonderful toward our “conspicuous” family, and it doesn’t hurt that our son is just a beautiful boy. He gets a lot of attention. But I don’t want him to get attention b/c he is black in a white place. I want him to get attention b/c of what he does in life.

We had so many people say to us that Vt is so nice…everyone here is so liberal (not true). I don’t care. I don’t expect anyone to use a racial epithet toward him, if they did I would deal with it & hard. It’s something my mother said to us that made it clear–how can this boy, this wonderful boy, grow up with a strong, healthy racial identity when he sees so few faces of color? He cannot. No matter how nice everyone is to him (now) he cannot help but feel less than if he is consistently the only person of color in a school/restaurant/movie theater, etc. There are a lot of Somali immigrants here, but his experience will be so different, it’s not enough either. We’ve got to move! It’s just not like this in the rest of the country.

We are fortunate that my husband has two job offers–in Minneapolis & in Portland, OR. Public schools in Mpls are good & very diverse. I can hardly wait! I’ll post back when we move.

Okay, so we live in GASP…Vermont. And our beautiful 19 month old son is from Ethiopia. And we are moving. Soon. By the end of this summer. I promise. Nothing unpleasant has happened here {yet}. Most people are wonderful toward our “conspicuous” family, and it doesn’t hurt that our son is just a beautiful boy. He gets a lot of attention. But I don’t want him to get attention b/c he is black in a white place. I want him to get attention b/c of what he does in life. We had so many people say to us that Vt is so nice…everyone here is so liberal (not true). I don’t care. I don’t expect anyone to use a racial epithet toward him, if they did I would deal with it & hard. It’s something my mother said to us that made it clear–how can this boy, this wonderful boy, grow up with a strong, healthy racial identity when he sees so few faces of color? He cannot. No matter how nice everyone is to him (now) he cannot help but feel less than if he is consistently the only person of color in a school/restaurant/movie theater, etc. There are a lot of Somali immigrants here, but his experience will be so different, it’s not enough either. We’ve got to move! It’s just not like this in the rest of the country. We are fortunate that my husband has two job offers–in Minneapolis & in Portland, OR. Public schools in Mpls are good & very diverse. I can hardly wait! I’ll post back when we move.

Even if my children were white, why would I want to live in an area that would not accept children of color? What would my white kids have learned?

My daughter is African American, having been born in the U.S., while my son was born in Ethiopia. I grew up in Whitesville. No, actually I grew up in a small town that is known for its racism and presence of KKK leaders. My wife and I moved into an integrated city prior to having kids because the city had many positive attributes: beautiful architecture, strong local elementary schools, affordable homes and diversity among them.

I don’t want to pat myself on the back too hard. About the time we were going to upgrade the size of our house, the two elementary schools that were pillars of the neighborhood were closed. We then moved into a school district that is NOT majority black a few miles away. I looked at census data to make sure my daughter would have many classmates of color and at the local park and to make sure I wasn’t moving into Whitesville.

Our old house was located in a majority black school district, but the immediate neighborhood was largely white. Our new school district is not majority black, but maybe majority minority. While the schools are less African American, our new neighborhood is more so. Our street has many black, Asian, white and even an Ethiopian family, so I feel it is significantly diverse. It is a college town with many immigrants. Still, I often wonder if I made the correct decision. Having had open conversations with African American parents who raised their kids in the town we now live, I think (and hope) I made an OK choice.

Even if my children were white, why would I want to live in an area that would not accept children of color? What would my white kids have learned? My daughter is African American, having been born in the U.S., while my son was born in Ethiopia. I grew up in Whitesville. No, actually I grew up in a small town that is known for its racism and presence of KKK leaders. My wife and I moved into an integrated city prior to having kids because the city had many positive attributes: beautiful architecture, strong local elementary schools, affordable homes and diversity among them. I don’t want to pat myself on the back too hard. About the time we were going to upgrade the size of our house, the two elementary schools that were pillars of the neighborhood were closed. We then moved into a school district that is NOT majority black a few miles away. I looked at census data to make sure my daughter would have many classmates of color and at the local park and to make sure I wasn’t moving into Whitesville. Our old house was located in a majority black school district, but the immediate neighborhood was largely white. Our new school district is not majority black, but maybe majority minority. While the schools are less African American, our new neighborhood is more so. Our street has many black, Asian, white and even an Ethiopian family, so I feel it is significantly diverse. It is a college town with many immigrants. Still, I often wonder if I made the correct decision. Having had open conversations with African American parents who raised their kids in the town we now live, I think (and hope) I made an OK choice



John, thanks so much for this post. I read about this issue on another blog earlier today, and realized I’ve been waiting to share my story. We’re a white adoptive family that moved to a more diverse neighborhood, and it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

First, some context: my family was in a mostly white party of a somewhat integrated southern US town when we moved overseas, to Egypt. My kids are from Ethiopia, and in Egypt, I learned a whole lot about Egyptian racism towards dark-skinned Egyptians and Sub-Saharan Africans and indeed black Americans. This strengthened my resolve that, when we moved back to the US, we’d move not just to an integrated city, but to an integrated or black-majority neighborhood.

That opportunity came last fall, when I got a job in Portland, Oregon. Portland? Yup, Portland. Yes, this city is mostly white, and has a long history of racism. But north and northeast Portland (which used to be the only parts of town African Americans were allowed to live in) are full of incredibly diverse, vibrant neighborhoods–including with residents who are African immigrants and even Ethiopian immigrants. I didn’t really know all of that when we moved here, but I did know, from doing demographic research online, that there were neighborhoods that were primarily people of color.

So online, I tried to figure out which were the black neighborhoods with strong schools. Schools are important, but I wasn’t looking for what other white liberal parents in Portland probably regard as the best schools–instead, I was looking for someplace where my kids could feel comfortable in their skin. I narrowed in on a couple of good schools (I even had an excel sheet which listed high minority schools and broke it down by race–my goal was to find a school with a sizable percentage of black kids specifically) and then set out to find rental houses in those neighborhoods. We arrived in Portland from Egypt one day and visited and rented a house the next day, based pretty much only on what I had been able to learn online about the neighborhood and school, both of which are about 40% and 50% black, respectively.

And, it’s been a perfect fit. My older son, age 7, has, in particular, thrived at his new school in a way he never did at his prestigious, international school in Egypt. His classroom is incredibly diverse, racially and economically. His school has kids from straight and gay families, from dual-parent and single-parent households, from single-race and multiracial households. There are other immigrant and adopted children in his school. His reading and math skills are improving quickly. His teacher even suggested we get him assessed for entry in to the gifted program (a whole ‘nother can of worms–but really amazing considering this wasa kid who lost his first family at age 4 and didn’t really start speaking English full time til he was almost 5).

We like our neighborhood so much that we’ve bought a house nearby, in the same school zone. I was just looking at demographic information for the neighborhood around our new (to us) house, and the neighborhood is 50% white, 50% people of color, with most of those being African American.

We’re just a few blocks away from MLK, Jr Street. I remember someone telling me when I was younger that in almost any city, if you’re on MLK, you’re probably in “the wrong part of town.” Of course things have changed, but I’m quite certain there are plenty of white Portlanders who regard our neighborhood as the wrong part of town. But it’s perfect for us. We’re right around the corner from an Ethiopian restaurant. We can walk to a barber shop where my kids can get their hair cut by black men. We can can ride our bikes to the park and play with kids of all colors.

This has been an easy transition for us–in part because our neighborhood is close-in, with easy access to transportation, and it’s thriving. We think it’s a great neighborhood regardless of the demographics. But I really like that we live someplace where our family is normal and where we can all relax and where my kids can see people who look like them everywhere we go.

The only issue that’s come up happened a few weeks ago when my (white) husband was at the park with my kids, and my older son, who was playing basketball, was bullied a bit by some older kids, black, who grabbed his ball. I think they just wanted to play, but my son wanted his ball back, and my husband intervened, and got a string of profanities directed at him. This could definitely happen with white teenage boys, or any people of any race, but it definitely made my husband uncomfortable. (And really, so would any one swearing like that around our kids.) That was a big culture clash for him. But I share that only reluctantly, in the name of honesty, because I don’t want to deter anyone from moving to a more diverse neighborhood.

As for other white parents who adopt transracially and internationally, I have this to say: we ask our kids to move across the world for us; surely, we can move up the street.

John, thanks so much for this post. I read about this issue on another blog earlier today, and realized I’ve been waiting to share my story. We’re a white adoptive family that moved to a more diverse neighborhood, and it’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. First, some context: my family was in a mostly white party of a somewhat integrated southern US town when we moved overseas, to Egypt. My kids are from Ethiopia, and in Egypt, I learned a whole lot about Egyptian racism towards dark-skinned Egyptians and Sub-Saharan Africans and indeed black Americans. This strengthened my resolve that, when we moved back to the US, we’d move not just to an integrated city, but to an integrated or black-majority neighborhood. That opportunity came last fall, when I got a job in Portland, Oregon. Portland? Yup, Portland. Yes, this city is mostly white, and has a long history of racism. But north and northeast Portland (which used to be the only parts of town African Americans were allowed to live in) are full of incredibly diverse, vibrant neighborhoods–including with residents who are African immigrants and even Ethiopian immigrants. I didn’t really know all of that when we moved here, but I did know, from doing demographic research online, that there were neighborhoods that were primarily people of color. So online, I tried to figure out which were the black neighborhoods with strong schools. Schools are important, but I wasn’t looking for what other white liberal parents in Portland probably regard as the best schools–instead, I was looking for someplace where my kids could feel comfortable in their skin. I narrowed in on a couple of good schools (I even had an excel sheet which listed high minority schools and broke it down by race–my goal was to find a school with a sizable percentage of black kids specifically) and then set out to find rental houses in those neighborhoods. We arrived in Portland from Egypt one day and visited and rented a house the next day, based pretty much only on what I had been able to learn online about the neighborhood and school, both of which are about 40% and 50% black, respectively. And, it’s been a perfect fit. My older son, age 7, has, in particular, thrived at his new school in a way he never did at his prestigious, international school in Egypt. His classroom is incredibly diverse, racially and economically. His school has kids from straight and gay families, from dual-parent and single-parent households, from single-race and multiracial households. There are other immigrant and adopted children in his school. His reading and math skills are improving quickly. His teacher even suggested we get him assessed for entry in to the gifted program (a whole ‘nother can of worms–but really amazing considering this wasa kid who lost his first family at age 4 and didn’t really start speaking English full time til he was almost 5). We like our neighborhood so much that we’ve bought a house nearby, in the same school zone. I was just looking at demographic information for the neighborhood around our new (to us) house, and the neighborhood is 50% white, 50% people of color, with most of those being African American. We’re just a few blocks away from MLK, Jr Street. I remember someone telling me when I was younger that in almost any city, if you’re on MLK, you’re probably in “the wrong part of town.” Of course things have changed, but I’m quite certain there are plenty of white Portlanders who regard our neighborhood as the wrong part of town. But it’s perfect for us. We’re right around the corner from an Ethiopian restaurant. We can walk to a barber shop where my kids can get their hair cut by black men. We can can ride our bikes to the park and play with kids of all colors. This has been an easy transition for us–in part because our neighborhood is close-in, with easy access to transportation, and it’s thriving. We think it’s a great neighborhood regardless of the demographics. But I really like that we live someplace where our family is normal and where we can all relax and where my kids can see people who look like them everywhere we go. The only issue that’s come up happened a few weeks ago when my (white) husband was at the park with my kids, and my older son, who was playing basketball, was bullied a bit by some older kids, black, who grabbed his ball. I think they just wanted to play, but my son wanted his ball back, and my husband intervened, and got a string of profanities directed at him. This could definitely happen with white teenage boys, or any people of any race, but it definitely made my husband uncomfortable. (And really, so would any one swearing like that around our kids.) That was a big culture clash for him. But I share that only reluctantly, in the name of honesty, because I don’t want to deter anyone from moving to a more diverse neighborhood. As for other white parents who adopt transracially and internationally, I have this to say: we ask our kids to move across the world for us; surely, we can move up the street.
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2 thoughts on “‘How I got the memo to move ~ and lived to tell about it’

  1. What a great idea! So here’s how we got the memo: We were traveling on an assignment for my work, 9 months post-adoption of a Khmer baby. She slowly stepped away from us at the local API community festival, wiggling into the group of toddlers up front, who were embraced by the crowd as the shortest members of the community. Suddenly my wife looked at me and whispered: Where’s the baby? I gestured toward the front row, 15 feet away, and we realized at the same moment that she was lost in a crowd. For the first time in her life, at 18 months, she was invisible in plain sight.

    We bought the house we still live in 3 weeks later, and went back to Whitesville (actually 37% AA, 60% white, 3% “other”) to pack everything and explain to my parents and sisters that being lost in a crowd is a human right.

    Yes, I’m trying to make it sound easy, and it wasn’t. For the white parents, or our white extended family. That’s because I’m afraid that some adoptive parents seem to hear the hard stuff more easily when it’s coming from another AP, someone who was in their shoes once or is now. Truthfully, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

  2. We have made the decision to leaves Whitesville with our beautiful 4yo son and 1yo daughter, both AA. Reading this has affirmed my conviction that this move is the right one for our family. We have found a lovely gem of an area that is 60% black, 30% white and 10% other in our largely racially segregated metropolitan area. The schools are notoriously bad, but I figure it is far more important that my kid have good self esteem than go to a school with high test scores. I also figure that as an involved parent I can help make a difference for my child and for the better of the school. I’ll post back here after we have made the move (within the year) with an update.

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