News & Politics

White Mother Raising Three Black Children Talks Black Lives Matter

By: Rachel Boardinghouse for  | 

Rachel Boardinghouse is the author One of of Come Rain or Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children and writes about adoption and motherhood over at She recently wrote about What Black Lives Matters to her as white mother of 3 young black children for

Here’s my once upon a time: I’m a white woman, born and raised by a white family, who grew up to marry a white man. When my husband and I married, we decided we wanted to achieve a few life goals before having kids. And so, together we designed our future: I graduated college and then went on to grad school, while my husband began climbing the corporate ladder in the financial industry. Then the magical plan came to a halt. I got sick — really, really sick — and ended up at death’s door. Just in the nick of time, I was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease, and I knew within days of my diagnosis that we would adopt.

Two years later, our first child arrived. Two years after that came our second child. And like clockwork, in another two years, we welcomed baby No. 3.

I understand that many people aren’t in our position: the white parents of black children. So please allow me to explain it to you. If you’ve never experienced being gawked at by patrons at a restaurant or ignored by a cashier — only to have her politely greet the white man standing behind you — I get it. If you’ve never had someone whisper your race in a conversation, as if it’s a curse word that cannot be overheard by nearby children, I get it. And if you’ve never had your ethnicity be the subject of a joke or the center of a stereotype, I get it.

Because for 27 years of my life, I unknowingly basked in privilege. I was never pulled over for no apparent reason or offense, my driver’s license and registration demanded of me. I was never passed over for a job because of my name or my skin tone. I was never questioned or followed by a security officer while goofing around with my friends at the mall. I have always been believed, trusted, and respected by most people I meet, simply because I have peachy colored skin.

But this has not been my children’s experience — and since becoming a transracial family, it hasn’t been the experience of my husband and I, either. When my daughters were 4 and 6, they were riding their bikes in our driveway when a young white man hurled the N-word at them while driving by. We later discovered that the perpetrator was the father of a child who attended school with my oldest daughter. On another occasion, my 2-year-old son was called a “cute little thug” by an acquaintance. This was shortly after Michael Brown died in nearby Ferguson. My children are now almost 8, 6, and 3-and-a-half. And as they get older, we know that there will only be more situations like these that arise. More suspicions and more stereotypes; more frequent and more troubling.

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