Having Enough White Friends

Yesterday, in my review of A Gate at the Stairs, I wrote:

What stuck with me the most was an incident that occurred on a playground. Emmie and another (white) girl are playing nicely. The girl’s mother, mistaking Tassie for Emmie’s mother, suggests that the two girls get together for a playdate sometime. You see, the girl doesn’t have any black friends and – Tassie cuts her off, saying “Mary-Emma already has a lot of white friends.” She doesn’t want Mary-Emma to be a lesson for this girl, an example.

When I asked Max for his opinion, he said he’d probably side with Tassie. I’m not so sure.

In almost all literature for parents who have adopted transracially, we are encouraged to make friends with people of our children’s ethnicity, culture, and/or color. We are essentially told, “Go make friends with black people.”

How is what the other mother asks any different? She would like her white child to have non-white friends. She is actively seeking diversity in her child’s life. Maybe it would have ended badly, and Emmie would end up some sort of token friend. Or maybe, Emmie and this girl could have become true friends.

Without being inside the other mother’s head or seeing her body language, I don’t know if what she asks is unacceptable. The writer doesn’t provide us with any insight. She simply writes that the mother sees the two kids getting along and asks Tassie for a playdate.

I suspect that one of my white friends specifically wanted to be friends with us initially because Jackson is black. We also shared some ideology, so that probably helped, but I know this person values diversity and wants her children to be friends with people of different colors and backgrounds. No one ever made a big deal of Jackson being black, and I don’t think the parents pointed it out to their kids in any way. If we hadn’t had anything in common, it would have been very awkward, but we do, in fact, have a lot in common. We’ve since grown apart, because the kids go to different schools and play different sports. However, I don’t particularly mind how we “got together.” Again, this is just a suspicion, nothing that we ever talked explicitly about. I don’t know how I would have felt if she had said, “Hey, your kid’s black, let’s play!”

If she had said that, I can’t say I’d blame her. With so much emphasis on making friends with people who look like our child, there have been times when I’ve wanted to say, “Hey, your kid’s black, let’s play!” I also have said, “We need a playdate; Jackson needs more friends who are boys.” (He’s very popular with the ladies.) Does that mean the moms should be offended because if their kids were girls I wouldn’t want to play with them as badly? Maybe they should.

Frankly, I’ve never been good at making friends, so if anyone shows an interest in being friends with Jackson or me, I’ll take it. I’d rather accept the invite and see what happens then be offended and take some sort of squishy moral highground.


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