Words by Alicia Jeffers
“So your wife is Latino? Your children are very beautiful.” My Dad would smile softly and quickly correct the stranger that would ask this from time to time. Walking around the supermarket with two, sometimes three, dark-haired, complected children, following a very red-haired English-Irish white male. It was rural Ohio after all, it wasn’t a scene you saw too often. My parents made the decision to adopt way before they had even been married. Often my mother would tell me, she felt God’s calling on their lives to adopt. There are four of us total, three of whom were adopted all from the same region of Colombia but completely non-blood related in any form, with different birth-mom’s and backgrounds preceding our adoptions.
Being adopted into an otherwise all Caucasian family and community had it’s stipulations from time to time, but also the divine uniqueness and love God has always intended for all of us. Growing up, I felt completely unique in my story. I knew no one else who was a racial minority who went to my school. I felt special to say the least. I had never felt as though I was a threat or different to the extent of it being offensive in my school environment in the early years. My friends and I would make jokes in passing about my race. Looking back, I think it only fueled some of the racism that would later contribute to the experiences I had in my later years in high school.
My friends for the most part treated me the same. I was a social butterfly in school and any regards to the difference in skin color really made no difference in their eyes on the basis of treatment I received. I was fortunate to grow up in a community with educators who saw no difference either, and there was never any mistreatment or subtle racism towards being Hispanic. This, I fee,l is a rare occurrence, especially in a conservative rural middle-America, but I was blessed by this. The only subtle racism I received in my later years as teenager was from a few select peers in high school. Had I been black, I think the harassment would have been more blatant. The community I grew up in seemed to have individuals who had more animosity towards African-Americans than Hispanics. I handled any rough patches with the issue of my race the best way I think most teenagers initially do. I often ignored it because it gradually disappeared from being a recurrence.
I had an isolated experience recently that triggered a new perspective for me. My mom has been searching endlessly for family history through one of the many sources of ancestry trying to track her family tree and genealogy. She was rather excited when she discovered a distant relative of her’s had served under Napoleon Bonaparte and another had bought land from William Penn. She was ecstatic, but it was in that moment that I realized I felt no part of that family tree. Don’t get me wrong, I have always felt that the parents who adopted me are my real parents. I have no connection to my birth parents and never personally struggled with attachment or relating to my adopted parents, but I did to some degree feel entirely excluded because the culture my mother’s birth family has is nothing of my culture. My sister, who also adopted, looked at me and shared the same concern. “They aren’t our family though.” she said. In that moment I realized though this is the God-given family I was destined to be with, the culture they have had through genealogy and past relatives is in no relation to my family, and my “by family” I mean my flesh and blood.
Up until now, I had never felt “isolated” growing up with white parents. The issue of race ironically was never discussed within my household as a means for us to deal with any type of harassment or bullying. In fact, I think there was more subtle racism that our family had towards stereotypes of darker complected people than ourselves, and that type of racism ran more rampant in such a subtle way in our community because there were no African-Americans. Our skin seemed to be “just light enough” that it wasn’t a severe difference. All in all, my experiences with being Hispanic with two parents who were white never seemed to breed any huge or complex issues within my life. It was synonymous as just another unique attribute of being within this family.