Color Us Family
When I was little it was hard to find Fisher Price families that were black. I had a lot of little white families for my school house, trailer, and garage. I played with them all the time up to the age of seven. I think a year before I was tired of playing with them I finally got a black father (or was it a mother) so my family was complete with a Mom, Dad and son –but no sister. But by the age of eight I was tired of playing with them and they were handed down to my little sister. When my daughter was little the families came in a set. You have white familes, black families, and I think there was an Asian family. There were no mix and match families unless you wanted to buy a few sets and mix on your own. For the most part that is the way America is anyway, with families of the same hues all together.
Except when it isn’t. And although it’s still the exception and not the rule, rainbow families are growing especially in adoption. Usually its a transracial adoptions the parents are white and the children can be of any shade, ethnicity or culture. It’s a rarity that someone will see this:
And no, she’s not cafe au lait, she’s white. And I can see how some people might have a problem with a black family adopting a white child, throwing out the usual arguments (there are too many black kids in need of a home, black people should take care of their own) but when the hard to place toddler kept getting shuffled from home to home it was the family matriarch Phyllis Smith, who took the child in. She gets help from her daughter Terri and son-in-law Mark who help to raise Katie O’Dea-Smith as their own, along with their sons. To the Riding’s credit, they teach Katie about her Irish American heritage but by no means would Mark Riding paint things as easy. When it’s just been him and his daughter out in public he has gotten looks from whites and Katie is given a hard time in school for having a black family.
“All else being equal, I think she should be with people who look like her,” says Mark. “It’s not fair that she’s got to grow up feeling different when she’s going to feel different anyway. She wears glasses, her voice is a bit squeaky, and on top of that she has to deal with the fact that her mother is 70 and black.”
Even though he expresses his apprehension I applaud the Riding family to step out of their comfort zone and opening up their hearts to a non-black child. If you thought the Madonna’s failed adoption of Mercy divided people on into two lines, check out the comments to the Riding family’s story. Even in my own family, my husband and I are on different sides of the spectrum on this. He, a product of transracial adoption, is vehemently against it while I feel otherwise. The world is changing faster than our minds can conceive it. It would be easier if we stayed in the Fisher Price family pack but then, just like when I was a kid, when you didn’t have the pieces that you needed others had to make do.