Dear Brad and Angelina,
Hello to one of the most influential couples in Hollywood. You two have created a legacy that, try as they may, gossip tabloids cannot break up. Your family has become the idealized portrait of a post-racial America. You’ve collected children like stamps in a passport, and no doubt the spike in interracial adoption can be credited in some part to your pioneering rainbow coalition. New data shows that some 40 percent of American adoptions involved kids who are a different race from their adopting parents.
I especially have to credit you two for mainstreaming the adoption of black children, with the welcoming of your beautiful and bubbly daughter Zahara to your eclectic family. After Zahara was added to the Jolie-Pitt brood, celebrities like Madonna, Sandra Bullock, and most recently Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay, have all added a little brown face to their family. The trend is a little jarring, because it seems exactly that — a trend. Just like Puggles or the Birkin bag, black babies seem to be the hottest (and likely, most self-righteous) accessory in Hollywood right now. It says “I support Obama and a post-racial America!”
But honestly that’s not what I think you two set out to do, especially considering the vastly diverse (and happy) herd of babes you now command: two tots hailing from Asia, three cherubic blonde babies, and one lone brown beauty. One. Which brings me to the reason I am writing you — I think you should adopt another black baby.
Now hear me out: I know people have been trying to tag you all with another adoption for years now. Just the other day, some gossip blog was speculating on whether a new baby (possibly Algerian) was joining the family. I hope that it is true. What Zahara really needs is another family member who looks like her.
I am sure that when you see Zahara, you don’t see a little black girl. You see your daughter, who is loved just as much as anyone else in your family. However Zahara is likely very aware that no one in her family has brown skin like her, or curly hair like her’s. Other people notice too, and will continue to notice for the rest of her life. Her differentness should by no means define her, but it does comprise a large part of who she is. She should be able to address her differences, and hopefully find refuge in the shared similarities of other people like her.
And please, please, please don’t say “but we don’t see race.” Unless you are legally and permanently blind to all the hues of the rainbow, I’m pretty sure you do. Some people overshoot the issue of addressing racism by eschewing the acknowledgment of skin color at all. If I don’t see race, then I can’t be racist, right? Wrong. What you can be is a liar, avoiding addressing a complicated and painful topic by refuting the basis by which it exists.
For a child of color in a multiracial family, this disregard of their physical and ethnic differences can cause deep damage. “Colorblindness actually creates discordance,” Gina Samuels, an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, recently told USA Today. She has researched multiracial adoptees, and found that “colorblindness” does more harm than good. Better to address what makes your child wonderful and unique, than pretending she’s no different.
Another black sibling would give Zahara a mirror in which to see her own beauty, and even be comforted by the sameness that they share. Though we are all taught to embrace the things that make us unique, there is a great deal of security in also knowing that you are not alone.
As she grows into a beautiful young girl, and becomes more aware of her self-image and the narrow-minded and unobtainable beauty standards set up for women in society, my hope is that Zahara will be able to cultivate a sense of confidence within herself about who she is and how she looks. Having a brown-skinned sibling could greatly contribute to that.
Of course, it’s not my place to determine who joins your family. And I have confidence in your ability as parents to raise a happy and healthy woman. But as a black woman who struggled with her own identity as a child, I know the isolation of growing up around people who are unlike you. My struggles were strictly in a school environment, but I can only imagine the complex and confusing isolation that Zahara may be facing in her home environment. If you two are considering adopting another child, I strongly hope you will give Zahara the opportunity to have a black sibling. I truly believe it will benefit both of you and your family in the long run.