One day, out of the blue, my seven-year-old son said to me and my partner, “White people shouldn’t adopt tan babies like me.” We were stunned by our son’s comment, partly because it seemed so uncharacteristic of him, but mostly because my “tan” son is Asian, like me, while my partner, my son’s other father, is white. Our son is adopted and we are the only parents he has ever known, and although we live in a diverse community and are surrounded by multicultural, multiethnic friends and family, our son is already acutely aware of what race means in America.
We asked our son why he thought white people shouldn’t adopt tan babies, and he deflected the question and dropped the subject. As an Asian man and as an immigrant, my experience as a minority in America is complicated, and I am very sympathetic with my son’s experiences, perhaps more so that my son’s white father. But it was still surprising that our son would express this idea to us.
I wish I knew what was really behind my son’s statement, but I don’t. I imagine that as he grows older, he will have the capacity to explain what he was thinking when he said what he said.