An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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We babysat a white girl for a weekend. Everyone thought we adopted her.

March 3, 2015

The little girl’s name was Lily. Sasmita formerly nannied for the family and they asked us if we could watch her one weekend this past January at their D.C. house.

That Saturday we went to a trendy place a few blocks from their house called Union Market. It has a few restaurants and some specialty food stores, but it’s popular for its delicious and unique open-air freshly prepared food.

Located in a gentrifying neighborhood, Union Market is full of young professionals and families. Sasmita and I decided to lunch there, bringing Lily in a stroller.

I had not thought about it, until we were in a crowd, but the three of us together looked out-of-place. Two brown ‘parents’ with a white baby. I realized how rare mixed race adoptions are by minority parents.

In fact, I cannot think of any family I know or have interacted with personally that was made up of minority parents with adopted white children.

As I pushed Lily through the crowded gourmet food hall, Sasmi walked in front of us. We were both affectionate towards Lily, picking her up, holding her close and if you looked at us, you might easily think we had adopted her ourselves.

I think that’s what most people thought. I caught glances of mothers to fathers, unspoken words that said ‘look at that couple, they adopted a white girl,’ or ‘hmm interesting.’ It was strange. I could hear people murmur about us, as I pushed the stroller, could feel their eyes on my back.

Sasmita was oblivious to the public’s fascination with us, walking a few steps ahead of me. I recognized the interesting social dynamics immediately, I was raised in a  transracial family, sometimes feeling ‘out of place’ with my brown skin and white parents.

Due to my upbringing, my radar is piqued for racial situations and I’ve felt the burning eyes of onlookers evaluating what they see in front of them too many times to count, so I know the feelings well.

In public, I always notice a child that doesn’t ‘match’ their parents. Maybe the child was adopted, perhaps the parental figures are babysitting or something similar, as Sasmi and I were doing. I never judge or say anything, but I see it. 

That weekend I never heard any negative comments about us. I think our presence caught people by surprise. I did not think the three of us looked out of the ordinary together until we were in public and then I was a bit self-conscious.

Later that day I relayed to Sasmita the feelings and the comments about walking around with Lily. As I suspected she had no idea that people had whispered about us. She thought it was funny.

White adoptive parents adopting minority children is normal enough to generally go unnoticed by most. But, flipping the skin-tones, with a minority couple adopting a white child remains uncommon.

 What do you think readers? Do you know minority parents who have adopted white children?

6 Comments
Anisa
March 3, 2015 at 8:28 am

This is fascinating. I know when I see the many Latina women pushing strollers of white children, I assume they are their nannies. I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact they’re Latina versus the fact that a place like Union Market caters to a more affluent demographic than Target.

    A.J. Bryant
    March 7, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Hey Anisa, that’s an interesting thought. I think one of the reasons people didn’t see Sasmita as a nanny was because there were two of us. Rarely do you see both a man and a woman with a child not of their skin tone. The demographic disparity between Target and Union Market is one I hadn’t thought about.

Anisa
March 3, 2015 at 8:29 am

(And, apparently, my inherent assumption that you have to be affluent to adopt.)

Elizabeth
March 3, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Definitely interesting! Anisa, your assumption that you have to be wealthy to adopt isn’t super far off – to have a child in this city (e.g. pay all the housing and childcare costs) + adoption fees in the tens of thousands, you probably do have to be fairly well off. It is maybe different in other parts of the country where housing isn’t as expensive and stay-at-home parents mean an additional kid isn’t as much of a burden.

While in high school, my parents and I viewed a house that was for sale. The parents in the pictures were white and the kids were not white. I commented to my mom that “look, they adopted!” and the seller’s realtor commented that it was a blended family with non-white divorced parents who were not included in the picture.

I guess this assumption rests on the fact that mix-race kids get classified as “non-white.” (At least in my head at the time.)

    A.J. Bryant
    March 7, 2015 at 9:02 am

    I would call a mixed-race child ‘non-white,’ too I think. That’s an interesting thought, what would the parents say and how would the child him/herself identity their own skin color? Adoption internationally at least is something I assume is done mainly by more educated and wealthy parents, because of the many steps involved and the massive amount of money.

Arjun
March 19, 2017 at 1:07 am

Oh yeah, if Sasmita had been by herself she would’ve been ‘the nanny’. Definitely.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!