What Adopting a Child from Africa Taught Me about America
About a year and a half ago, my wife and I flew to Ethiopia and returned to America with our newly adopted son, Amare -- the only black member of our now family of five. We expected his new brothers and extended family, our friends, church, and neighbors to embrace and love him, and they didn't disappoint us. We did not know what to expect, however, from the general American public.
We were optimistic that it would go well, but in our educational sessions about adopting internationally, some focused on the prejudices we would encounter upon our return. We were told to expect inappropriate questions, rude stares, and downright racist comments when in public with our new son. We reviewed fictional scenarios and determined how we would respond when faced with those types of challenging situations.
We prepared ourselves for the worst.
So how have we fared? Well, over the course of the eighteen months Amare has been a black American living in an 80% white family, our grand total of negative incidents is...zero. Not a single one. No rude comments or questions, no judgmental looks -- or even confused ones.
In fact, it's been the opposite. Strangers -- of all races -- have consistently gone out of their way to show us kindness. Any questions or comments have been of genuine support or interest in our family.
It's been phenomenal.
I don't say this to minimize the racial prejudices -- some quite severe -- that do still persist in America. Those are real and need to be called out. I know that other adoptive parents have encountered these issues and that we surely will as well at some point in the future. But our experience with Amare so far demonstrates just how much America has progressed on this issue and affirms our country's enormous capacity for growth.
Our nation was founded 238 years ago with the slave trade alive and well. But many of our Founders vehemently opposed the horrific practice and committed themselves to its abolition. And the following generations continued their quest for justice, fighting the evils of slavery and racial discrimination, many paying with their own lives.
The incredible results of their efforts are that the same country where citizens used to pay for Africans to become their slaves now is populated with citizens who pay for Africans to become their children. This same country, only five decades after the Civil Rights Movement, elected a black man to the highest office in the land.
As someone who has long had a heart for racial reconciliation, I rejoice in the progress we have made and am thrilled to see it powerfully manifested in my own life through the amazing experience with my son. Especially considering that when we brought him home from Ethiopia, we lived in Richmond, Virginia -- the capital of the Confederacy. This city, which holds a uniquely dark historical relationship with slavery and racial division, welcomed him with open arms and an open heart.
Furthermore, my family moved deeper south last summer, where the perception is that widespread racial prejudices still exist. Having lived in the South for the majority of my life, I always knew that was false, but I'm ecstatic to report that even I had underestimated just how much America -- and the South in particular -- has grown since the days of shackles, lynch mobs, and separate drinking fountains.
Despite this, the news today is filled with racially charged stories, featuring journalists slinging reckless accusations toward people they don't even know -- some probably true, some surely untrue. But while you can find plenty of examples of despicable racial prejudices in America if you look hard enough (and the media certainly will), those stories in no way reflect the core of who America now is. Amare has proven that in his countless positive interactions with ordinary Americans over the past eighteen months -- the same Americans who elected a black man president. Twice.
It grieves my heart to see the media disproportionately report (and often exaggerate) stories of racial tension that create inaccurate stereotypes of my fellow Americans -- stereotypes my son has spent much of his time disproving. That is not the America I know and love. America is certainly flawed, but overall we are decent and accepting land with a remarkable capacity for self-reflection and rapid growth.
By contrast, my wife and I did not experience the same cultural embrace when traveling overseas with Amare. In other nations, we did receive many disapproving stares and felt quite unwelcome in our chosen familial course. I'm proud that I live instead in a nation whose people now reject that type of small-minded thinking and can watch me stroll down the sidewalk, holding my son's hand, and smile.
There is no other country where I would rather raise my black son than America.
Jonathan Wakefield is a Tea Party leader and the author of Saving America: A Christian Perspective of the Tea Party Movement. Visit his website teapartyforchristians.com.