Growing up I was never curious about what it would be like to be adopted by White parents. One, because I had great parents and two, all the White parents I knew from school were mostly mean to me. But as an adult, I wonder what it would be like to be adopted by a White person. Like, if people were going to throw a racial slur at me, would they call me a, “cracker.” Or would I still be considered an apple? Would I still get followed around in WalMart? Would I wear polo shirts? Honestly, I would probably still get followed in WalMart. And honestly, I couldn’t imagine being adopted by a White family because of my childhood experiences with my classmates’ parents in school.
I remember the first time hearing a White Mom tell her daughter not to talk to me. I was walking out of class near the student pick up area with my friend. I overheard her Mom say, “he doesn’t look friendly, you shouldn’t hang out with him.” Almost like that Mom was fearing I was a big Brown monster or something. I didn’t understand. But my neighborhood and childhood experiences were filled with White Moms like that.
Middle class working White Moms. The Moms who came to pick up their kids in pant suits driving an SUV. The ones who told their daughters not to talk to me. They locked their car doors when I was on the corner of a street light. They moved their purses to the opposite arm securely tightening it under their armpits when I walked by. I intentionally avoided middle-class White Moms, not because of hate or disdain, but because they made me feel like I didn’t belong talking to them. Unless they approached me, then I was friendly. It was hard for me to trust them, but as I grew up, I realized they’re not all like that. And especially while in graduate school.
I had a very intelligent and classy professor who fit the profile, and I thought she might be like those moms of my childhood. I wasn’t sure how the professor would treat me, mostly because I’m this Native guy who grew up eating fried bologna sandwiches from empty happy meal boxes. But the professor was nice to me, helped me with my writing, helped me get into a conference, and publish a paper. The professor didn’t want or ask to get recognition or exploit the relationship for credit. When she was kind to me, all I could think was, “this must be how Angelina Jolie’s adopted kids feel.”
But then again, I’m definitely glad I wasn’t adopted by a White family. Mostly because it’s been done in Native communities for a long time. And especially In 1958, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs created the Indian adoption project to take Native kids from their parents. This was an attempt to continually assimilate Native kids into mainstream culture and many of the kids from this era, now adults, suffer with traumatic childhoods of being raised in abusive non-Native homes. Those kids raised by non-Native parents are still trying to figure out their identity as Natives in White communities and Natives in Native communities. I’m glad I had two awesome Brown parents, and I wasn’t put up for adoption, or else I may be wearing polo shirts.