A Mother who Looks Like Me

In recent years, some in the adoption community have been rethinking the ideal of "colorblind" adoption.  Deborah Johnson, an adoptee from South Korea who works with adoptive families, says

Years ago, we were taught that the best way to handle racial differences was to ignore them altogether. “Color-blindness” was considered open-minded in many social circles, including the adoption community ... We have since learned that issues of race cannot and should not be ignored.

Race -- and obvious racial characteristics -- do matter, she says.  Hollee McGinnis, Policy and Operations Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute says the same in an interview with NPR

[W]e are not saying that transracial adoptions do not work, and in fact, the majority of the social science indicates that many transracial adoptees do very, very well.

But we are also seeing that there is a need to address the realities of our society, which include a race consciousness ... [W]e need to be cautious of race, we need to be able to, at least, talk about it.

Some adoption foundations recommend taking an adopted child on a journey to their country of origin -- so the child can explore his racial heritage, and also so that he can simply have that experience of being surrounded by people who look like him.

Children are, of course, very capable of understanding that their adoptive parents love and welcome them -- that the ones who adopted them are their true parents.  And yet non-Caucasian adoptees who feel adrift in a sea of white may feel a longing to experience something biological children take for granted: blending in.  Love may be colorblind; but for some children, there are itches that no amount of love scratch.

 Do you know who gets this?  Mother Mary.  That's why (among many reasons!) she appeared as an indigenous Mexican to the indigenous Mexican, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.  As Jimmy Akin tells us, Juan Diego was baptized at age 50 -- adopted into the family of the Church, grafted onto that tree.  But how did he feel when the bishop, and perhaps most of the priests he knew, were white?  Did he have a longing to be surrounded by brothers and sisters in the faith who not only believed like him, but looked like him?  This was the 16th century, but some human sensations are perennial.

Imagine how the indigenous Catholics -- and perhaps even the pagans -- felt when they saw people venerating an image of Mary who looked like them.  Dusky skin, dark hair, dressed like a native princess . . . and standing on the moon, with an angel bearing her up.  Love may be colorblind, but Mary thought it right to show herself as a "person of color," so that the indigenous people could see a mother who looked like them.

We sometimes speak of Mary as our adoptive mother -- as if she is the one who will step in when our biological mothers fall short or can't help.  But think about this:  if Mary shows herself to people around the world, and thinks it fit to look like them -- doesn't that turn things on their head?  Isn't she, in some way, revealing herself as our biological mother?  She is "mother of all the living," and all human mothers (whether biological or adoptive) are the ones who step in.  It's like the most genial, successful open adoption ever:  the child knows in his heart that he is loved entirely, and that his parents -- all of them -- want only to work together to raise him in the best possible way.

As parents, we should try hard to acquaint our children with their eternal birthright and heritage -- and to send them, one day, to their country of origin: "And they shall come from the east and west, and from the north and south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." (Luke 13:29)