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“Why is your mommy White?”

by Dan Cruver Published Jun 20, 2012

She asked my son an honest question, and he gave her a surprising answer: ”Noah, why is your mommy White?”

As I’ve written about before on this blog, my family is multi-ethnic. Melissa and I are White, our daughter is White, and our two sons are Black. We live in a fairly racially diverse neighborhood (Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics), and our children attend racially diverse schools.

My youngest (pictured below) was asked the above question a year ago when he was in 2nd grade. He was just 7 years old.  My wife happened to be volunteering in the classroom that day. One of my son’s Black classmates heard him call this visiting White woman “Mommy.” So, this classmate quite understandably asked him what she had been wondering, “Noah, why is your mommy White?”

Noah’s answer was immediate and matter-of-fact. He simply replied (actually, not so simply), “That’s not a question that Martin Luther King, Jr. would ask. It’s the content of your character that matters, not the color of your skin.” Wow.

Where’d that come from?

My 7 year old son could have simply answered, “Well, I was adopted by a White family. My parents are White, my sister is White, and my brother and I are Black.” That’s basically what Noah’s teacher was expecting him to say. What he did say, though, revealed that he was living within a much larger narrative—within the same basic narrative in which Martin Luther King, Jr. had lived.

The month before, Noah’s class had studied Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. Martin Luther King’s story so gripped Noah that he began to think about life differently, more deeply.

My son reminded me of something profound that day.

We have been given larger narratives in which to live, narratives that have the power to transform the way we think, talk, and live. Unknown to me (and his classmate), Noah had begun living within a larger narrative that was changing the way he viewed the world and how we are to live within it. Martin Luther King’s story was changing the way Noah thought about race relations on a very practical level. That day Noah reminded me that the narratives we live by really matter—a lot. He was the teacher and I was the student.

Since that day a little over a year ago, I have thought a good bit about how the meta-narrative of God’s Gospel-work of adoption within human history should change the way we think and live each day. “There is,” after all, as J. R. R. Tolkien writes, “no [story] ever told that men would rather find was true” (“On Fairy Stories”). Thank you, Noah, for reminding me of the importance of living within the right narrative.

  • Andrew Brunk

    Super! You have a brave son, and I’m glad he had to courage to speak up and take a moment to teach! I’ve said it for a while now, that we as adoptive families can get up in arms about personal, adoption related questions or we can educate! We are going to pass the batton to the next generation, we can either do our part NOW or we can leave it to them to do.

  • Dan Cruver

    Well said, Andrew! Very well said.

  • Djordan3940

    Love it!

  • Bekafox9

    I cried reading this! amazing!

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  • Furrong

    Such A lovely story! I was just thinking about how to equip my girl for the day she gets asked that question. It’s nice to not fear what our kids might face but give them tools to face life’s little complexities! Thanks;)

  • Dan Cruver

    Thank you, Furrong. I may do a series of blog posts that share what other parents are doing/have done to prepare their different ethnicity/race children. I think it would be really helpful.

    How old is your daughter?

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  • StealMyStyle

    As a “white mommy” of two brown children, I can appreciate your son’s response so very much. I have just learned about Together for Adoption, and am fascinated and eager to jump in. Looking into the conference in ATL. Thank you for sharing.

  • Dan Cruver

    Great to meet you! Always enjoy meeting other families that have adopted transracially. Let us know if there is anything we can do to serve you all.

    Glad you discovered Together for Adoption! Make sure you introduce yourself to me at the conference if you end up attending. Thanks!

    Dan Cruver
    Co-Founder of Together for Adoption

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  • Susan

    Thats so beautiful! He is such a smart little boy. I placed my son in a family with white parents and they had already adopted a black son , (my son is mixed with black and white), its so amazing what a 7 year old can come up with!

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  • Lance brown

    Please ,please in love take this in the right context….God has one begotten son….his name is Jesus..everyone ,I mean everyone that has accepted Christ into their life and calls God almighty their Father and more importantly is called by God as his child is …………adopted!!! It sounds warm and fuzzyto interject martin Luther king into the sound bite . The confusion comes because we start with civil rights and not the right to be human. Teach our children in the beginning ,to start at the beginning and the content of the questions will be of character.

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