Loving across the color line : a white adoptive mother learns about race /
Sharon E. Rush.
Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, c2000.
x, 190 p. ; 24 cm.
0847699129 (cloth : alk. paper)
More Details
Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, c2000.
0847699129 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
First Chapter

Chapter One


The Quandary of Race


My daughter started making comments at a very young age that told me she noticed color differences among people. For example, when she was five years old, I was a visiting professor at another school hundreds of miles from home. We had just moved into the neighborhood, and a colleague, a single mother with a son the same age as my daughter, planned to visit on a Saturday afternoon. When I told my daughter they were coming, she immediately asked, "What color are they?" I remember thinking that her question seemed odd. Weren't there other things she wanted to know about them--their names? Whether the son liked to ride bikes? Play basketball? Clearly, this type of information was less important to my daughter than knowing their color. I told her she would have to wait and see, but I knew she would be pleased that they were also Black. Sure enough, my daughter saw them walking up the driveway and jumped up and down, exclaiming, "They're Black!"

    The glee I heard in my daughter's voice when she realized there were other Blacks in the community told me she was happy she was not going to be the only Black child in town. The joy in her voice also told me something else: perhaps she was beginning to feel some pride in her Blackness. Although she was only five when this occurred, she has not always been so confident and openly happy about being Black. When she was about three years old, I was reading a bedtime story to her--Sleeping Beauty, a version in which all the characters are Black. She stopped me in the middle of the story and asked, "Mom, if black is so special, then why isn't it in the rainbow?" I was not sure how to respond to her. Were we talking strictly about colors or about race? I considered telling her the rainbow did not reflect colors of people. "How many purple people have you seen?" I'd ask her, and she would wrinkle up her nose and giggle and that would be that. A perfect response to an innocent three-year-old's question. But her question was not innocent because she is Black. The rainbow was her metaphor; she was asking me why Blacks do not seem to be as special as people of other colors, especially Whites. When I pointed out that white is not in the rainbow either, I could see her taking in this information, processing it, and reaching some conclusion about whether the rainbow's colors had anything to do with understanding why some skin colors are more valued than others. I could tell that the absence of white in the rainbow was an unsatisfactory response to her, and she still wondered why black was not so special.

    We continued with our story of Sleeping Beauty. She liked the part where the prince kissed Sleeping Beauty and woke her up from a deep, deep sleep. This is also my favorite part because it usually occurs right about the time my daughter is falling into a deep, deep sleep, which allows me to kiss her as she peacefully sleeps, much to my weary delight. On this particular evening, though, I knew that race and colors were still on her mind because we did not get much beyond the kiss and Sleeping Beauty's awakening when she popped up from under her Pooh Bear covers, wide awake, and enthusiastically exclaimed, "I have a good idea. Why don't I go and kiss Marfin Lufer King so he can wake up, too!" She literally was smiling from ear to ear, delighted with her idea.

    I was amazed by my daughter's insight and her ability to extrapolate from Sleeping Beauty into her own life. We had just celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday, and she had learned he was a famous Black leader who helped other Blacks before he died. The circumstances surrounding his death were best kept for another day when she was older. She watched the news with me and was mesmerized by the television footage of King giving his famous speeches. He clearly made a positive impression on her even at such a young age. She was so proud of her idea to kiss him and awaken him from his deep sleep that I had to keep her from heading out the door to look for him. It took a while longer to get her to sleep that night as I tried to explain the difference between sleep and death, fairy tales and reality to my daughter, who could ask adult questions and had incredible insights but who nevertheless was only three. Just as my response to her rainbow question left her wondering, so, too, did my superficial explanations of death and reality (and I'm not even sure what the latter is). But my explanations were sufficiently boring that she eventually fell asleep. As I kissed her goodnight, I told myself there is time for her to understand race and Martin Luther King's death. What I worried about, however, was whether I would ever be able to stay just one step ahead of her inquisitive and fascinating mind.

    After the Martin Luther King incident with my daughter, I asked my friends who are also mothers and fathers if their children were making similar comments about racial color differences. Did they ask why they are White? Hispanic? Asian? Why my daughter is Black? Did they say anything to indicate that they noticed color differences among people? What I learned from my informal poll was that children of color--Blacks, Hispanics, Asians--begin to talk earlier than White children about color differences among people. At least, this was the case for the children in my predominantly White circle. For a short period in their development, then, my daughter and other children of color expressed their awareness of color differences even though the White children were not expressing any awareness they also had of the differences.

    I recall when I first flew on an airplane with my daughter. She was only two months old and we were seated next to a young, nine-year-old White girl who was traveling alone. The young girl was fascinated with the baby. When the baby started fidgeting and crying, I told the young girl that she was hungry. The girl got very excited and asked me if I was going to breast-feed her. I'm sure the young girl momentarily thought she had the best seat on the plane. I explained that I couldn't breast-feed my daughter because she was adopted and asked the young girl if she knew what that meant. She immediately smiled and remarked, "So that explains it!" I thought her next comment would have something to do with the racial differences between my daughter and me, but I was mistaken. The young girl continued, "She has straight hair and yours is curly."

    The young girl's response was endearing, in many ways, especially since my hair is curly from being permed and my daughter's hair has since become naturally curly. On the other hand, I was not sure what to make of my general observation, consistent with the young girl's comment, that many White children do not talk about color differences among people. Initially, I wondered if White children possess an innocent color-blindness. But my subsequent research taught me something quite different. Social science studies reveal that, in fact, children of all races as young as three are aware of color in people. Moreover, by that young age, White children begin to express negative comments about children of color. Dishearteningly, even children of color who are only three and four years old internalize some of the negativity surrounding their color. This helped me to understand--at least a little bit--why my daughter's perception and the perception of other children of color about their colorfulness generally was negative at such a young age. It is not uncommon for children of color to express their wishes to be White; my daughter would make these comments, as many of the stories in this book reveal. What I wondered is how such negativity came to be associated with her Blackness at such a young age? When a child is three, he or she does not even fully understand the concept of "badness." How could it be that children of color feel "bad" about their color?

    I am not surprised that some young White children are oblivious to and even confused about color differences among people and what those differences mean. Generally, many adults do not know where race fits into social ordering. Some White adults still espouse White supremacy theories and other White adults promote the color-blind philosophy, suggesting we all act as if everyone is the same color. Naturally, there are many adults between these polar views. Not to be forgotten, of course, are the many goodwill White adults who believe in racial equality but who unintentionally send negative messages about Blacks. These variances among White adults' views on the meaning of race indicate at least one thing: our children receive mixed messages about the value of color differences among people. More important, the general confusion translates into a negative color-consciousness that results in a devaluation of children of color. A recurring theme in this book is that children of color pick up on the negativity and internalize it, and that White children also understand the message to mean that being White is better than being Black. At a very young age, children incorporate adults' ambivalence and, in some cases, adults' negativity about racial minorities, which ultimately lay the foundation for feelings of racial inferiority by children of color and the concomitant feelings of racial superiority by White children.

    Naturally, race means much more than color, but color differences seem to be our current social snag. As a society, we do not seem to know what to do with color. Should we value it? Ignore it? Hate it? The ambivalence is highlighted when someone's race does not fit into a specific, definite category. For example, since the adoption of my daughter, I have been constantly presented with this question: Is she a golden-brown Black or a golden-brown White? I could not decide whether to check "African American" or "Caucasian" on her application form for the university's developmental research laboratory school for students in grades prekindergarten through twelfth grade. I hesitated to identify her as only African American because I was uncomfortable defining her solely by the link to her biological father. After all, her biological mother is White, which makes my daughter genetically as White as she is Black. In this way, she and I have a bond that we do not have when it comes to color. It is enormously comforting to my daughter to know that her biological mother and I are both White and we both love her. This information is important because it eliminates, in her young mind, the possibility that her birth mother did not want her because she is Black. Stated alternatively, because I love my daughter's Blackness as a White mother, my daughter has deduced that her White birth mother also must have loved her Blackness. My love is proof positive to a young, adopted child who needs to feel loved by both moms that race had nothing to do with her being placed for adoption.

    Additional factors also weighed on my mind as I tried to identify my daughter's race when she was still a baby. Given what I had learned from my studies as a lawyer and professor, I did not want genetics and biology defining my daughter because the genetic definition of race historically was designed for the purpose of making it easier legally to discriminate against Blacks to preserve the purity of the White race; a person who appeared white in color was nevertheless legally classified as Black if there was any "Black blood" in the person's family. In my daughter's case, being "half-Black" during the days of slavery and Jim Crow segregation would surely count as being "Black," regardless of her color. Accordingly, at one time in our history, the government would have required White society to discriminate against her. Thus, even at the genetic juncture where the browns, blacks, and golden skin colors seem to fade into whiteness, historically, the law reminded everyone that racial identity is not solely dependent on the visibility of the colorful colors of people. Rather than inviting a deeper inquiry into the meaning of race, the absence of brown, black, or golden skin color quickly focuses attention on biology to provide an easy legal answer to the complex question "What is race?"

    The school application exemplifies the difficulty in defining race and it also illustrates how difficult it is to understand what race means. Was the form asking me whether she was biologically or legally Caucasian or African American? At the time (and she was only a baby), I thought that a "Biracial" box would have solved my dilemma. Even then, I still was not sure what being "biracial" meant outside of genetics, but this was the definition I wanted to avoid because it oversimplified the question. Simultaneously, I also wanted to fill out the form and get her on the list. Because there was no biracial box, I decided at the time that the most accurate way to answer the question of my daughter's race seemed to be to check off both boxes, which was akin to making my own biracial box. Surely, the school officials would know what I meant and might even realize their form needed to be amended to give people more options for racial identification.

    Wrong. As insightful as my decision seemed at the time, the school disagreed with it and returned the form with explicit instructions to check off only one square: she is either "African American" or she is "Caucasian." Her application could not be processed until the form was completed, correctly . I called the admissions officer and explained my views on trying to identify my daughter's race, expressing my belief that she is both Black and White but the form did not give me this option. Furthermore, I explained that she would develop her own racial identity as she got older and I did not see the need to categorize her at this point in her life. The admissions officer, however, was unpersuaded and suggested that my daughter had a better chance of being admitted into the program as a Black child because they admit children according to percentages based on their race as reflected in the general population in the county.

    Although I support affirmative action, I was somewhat uncomfortable accepting the hint to identify her as Black to increase her chances of admission to the program. Her racial identity is important and more enduring than the decision I was facing. More important, I did not want her to be admitted or feel like she had been admitted to the school in an unfair way. If she were going to be admitted to the school solely because of her race, then I wanted to have a meeting with the appropriate personnel to discuss any possible ramifications. I struggled for a few days with how to fill out the silly application form, unhappy with either a biological or legal definition of my daughter's racial identity. It was ambiguous from both perspectives and deeper reflection on the meaning of race provided me with even more issues to consider.

    As I write this book and look back over the years since I filled out the form, my understanding of the complexities of race make me realize how limited my views were when my daughter was a baby. I have reflected many years on the meaning of race. One of the most difficult aspects of race focuses on political identity. Sometimes a person's color is interpreted by others as a reflection of the person's ideology. On a particular issue, for example, many people are tempted to think that Black people think a certain way about an issue; that Hispanics see it another way; and that White folks see it yet a third way. In its simplest form, this translates into a general belief that there is such as thing as a Black point of view, a Hispanic point of view, a White point of view, and so forth. On some issues, the attachment of a particular viewpoint to a particular race is so strong that when someone violates the settled expectations and expresses a viewpoint inconsistent with the person's racial identity, we tend to realign them with the correct attachment by changing their racial identity. For example, some people, particularly Black people, refer to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as White because his political positions more closely reflect an ideology associated with White men.

    The notion that an individual's political ideology can define the individual's racial identity is problematic. First, most people appreciate being free to have opinions about social and political issues without being prejudged, especially based on characteristics like race. Moreover, the assumption that a person thinks a particular way because of his or her race often leads to other assumptions about the person that have nothing to do with ideology. Such additional assumptions can have quite damaging effects on the individual and members of the individual's group and, generally, such assumptions attach only to non-Whites. For example, many people think lots of Black men are criminals and lots of Black women are on welfare. Generally, such assumptions do not attach to White men and women.

    In this way, individual and group identity are related and important, especially for racial minorities . For example, it is but a short leap from assuming all members of a particular group think a certain way to a further assumption that they also all lack or possess a particular ability. Some of the stories in later chapters illustrate how my daughter has suffered from certain generalized assumptions many Whites have about Blacks. Stereotypical labeling of people--usually racial and ethnic minorities--does little to foster healthy relationships based on actual knowledge about, or respect for and appreciation of, individuals as individuals and as members of groups.

    Returning to the school application, because racial identity is so interrelated to group identity, defining my daughter's race was important. It determined how school personnel would relate to her and also how the entire public school system would view her with respect to all of their policies on race. Thus, to settle the question of her racial identity, I began to think about how other people perceive her. I cannot recount how many times people have remarked how beautiful her color is and asked about her ancestry. While some people ask if she is African American, most people ask if she is Hispanic, West Indian, Oriental, Hawaiian, or even White with a "really deep tan." Almost without exception, when I tell a White person that she is African American, the person responds, "Oh, but she doesn't look it," or "But you'd never know." Moreover, if the person is a woman, she inevitable grabs my arm as she makes her remarks, a typical behavior among women signifying sympathy (as in, "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that."). Other adoptive parents have even suggested that if they could have "gotten" a baby that looked like my daughter, then they would have been willing to adopt an African American child, too.

    I think these types of responses are offered to comfort me and are supposed to be part of the compliment about her beauty. I am supposed to be reassured that most Whites cannot tell the "real" race of my daughter by looking at her. In all honesty, these comments about my daughter's beauty are deeply offensive because they imply that being African American is something to be ashamed of and that if people knew the truth about my daughter, she would no longer be beautiful and people also would think less of her. Comments such as these clearly indicate that to be African American is to be the least beautiful in the eyes of many Whites.

    I am happy and proud my daughter is African American and I would not want her to think of trying to "pass" as someone of a different race. Indeed, my primary responsibility as her mother is to build her self-esteem and to make her confident in herself--all aspects of herself, including her racial identity. People can help build the self-esteem of Black children by offering genuine compliments about their beauty and their accomplishments. Remarks that compare one child to another, whether on the issue of race or any other issue, necessarily undermine the sincerity of the compliment and, concomitantly, undermine the child's confidence.

    Although it is difficult to identify her race by appearance, in her own eyes as well as the eyes of everyone around her, my daughter is clearly brown. Her color--her social race--then, and not her biological or legal race, seems more important in shaping her identity. This is somewhat understandable because her color is visible to everyone and people respond to her as a child of color. My daughter is not White--she is a child of color. All children of color experience life in America from a much different perspective than White children do. This is especially true for African American children, as evidenced by many people's desire to devalue my daughter's African American ancestry and identify her as belonging to a different (which they mean as "more attractive") race.

    Thinking about the meaning of race and the application form that literally reduced my daughter's racial identity to a simple black or white question, I decided to check off "African American." Little did I understand then how "right" my choice was. The answer to the question of race was as simple as Black or White but in a positive way. My daughter is Black. For those who are curious, she remained on the waiting list for admission to the school for another three years.

    The application form did not allow for the fact that race is complex. Recently, I read an interesting article that explained how the "drop of Black blood" rule has become an empowering bond among African Americans. Originally designed to promote White superiority and Black inferiority, the rule has functioned to reinforce the common history among African Americans and has unified them in their struggle against slavery, segregation, and subordination. To be African American is to be a part of the Black experience in America--an experience that daily causes Blacks to live the effects of their shared history and also provides daily strength in the persistent struggle to achieve racial equality with Whites. Nine years ago, I did not fully appreciate the "correctness" of my decision to check off "African American" on the application and the recent article reminded me that learning about race is an ongoing challenge.

    Written many years after I filled out the form, the article explained aspects of race that I did not understand at the time. My daughter's Blackness and African ancestry bond her to other African Americans in their group struggle for equality. Her shared history with them is not a matter of choice for her. Her ancestors' history, coupled with her color and genetic link to her African American father, make her African American.

    Over the years I have realized that many people, especially Whites, ignore the complexities of race. This becomes increasingly apparent to me as I try to explain race to my daughter. Explaining race to a young child is almost impossible because it involves so many factors, including biology, law, culture, history, psychology, politics, and social reality. But these are extremely complex concepts, beyond a young child's comprehension. Children's initial understanding of race centers on color--what they see is what they know. To a certain extent this is true for adults as well, although not always. I want to tell a story that adds a whole different dimension to the meaning of race.

    My daughter and I were on vacation recently and as we were finishing dinner, a local artist was set up outside the restaurant to draw caricatures of people for a modest fee. The artist had displayed examples of her work and these caught my daughter's eye. Before I knew it, my daughter was sitting to have her portrait sketched by the artist. The artist was very attentive to detail and carefully colored in the intricate patterns on my daughter's shirt and hat. I was impressed with how much time she was willing to take to reflect what my daughter was wearing. When it came time to "color" my daughter's face, the artist turned to me and asked if I was her mother. When I said yes, with much motherly pride, the artist turned to her chalk box, picked out the pink piece, and colored in my daughter's face.

    Momentarily, I didn't know what to do. Couldn't the artist see my daughter is brown? The artist had a sketch of Whoopi Goldberg on display, so I knew she was able to draw Black people accurately. I wanted to pull the artist aside and tell her to please color my daughter brown because she is brown and it's important to affirm this part of her identity. Unfortunately, before I could gather my wits to say something, the picture was rolled up and put into its carrying case. I was left with a new definition of race--White mother is pink, Black daughter is pink. The artist defined race by our mother-daughter relationship--even though we are not biologically related, something the artist didn't know. This was the artist's way of coping with the racial differences; she ignored my daughter's Blackness and actually painted her White simply because I was her mother.

    Understandably, when my daughter was very young, talks about race focused on color differences. I preferred to discuss color because color is somewhat understandable while race is fairly incomprehensible, especially given the infinite variations of racial identity as a matter of biology alone. For example, one of my daughter's camp counselors was curious about my daughter's background and so I explained it. She quickly blurted out that she, too, has a father who is African American and a White mother. My daughter's eyes nearly popped right out of her head in disbelief and joy. Their shared racial background created an instant bond between them.

    One day, my daughter was talking to her grandmother (my mother) on the phone and told her about the camp counselor. I overheard my daughter explain to my mother over the phone, "And Kathy's dad is Black and her mom is White. Can you believe it, Granny? And we're the same color." I had to stop what I was doing because my daughter's perception that she and Kathy are the same color did not comport with reality: Kathy is as white as I am and has blondish hair and hazel eyes. It was not even a close call. How likely is it, I asked myself, that my daughter really meant she and Kathy are the same race? Do six-year-olds know about biology and race? Could she know that? Impossible, I thought, but she did understand something about race and that color had something to do with it. Sadly, my daughter's willingness to adopt Kathy's color--White--and claim it as her color, too, reminds me that the battle is constantly on to instill a positive self-image in her as a Black child.

    As my daughter matures and gets older, she is gradually moving our discussions about race beyond color and into some of the more abstract aspects of the meaning of race. But only gradually. One especially humorous story illustrates just how gradual the process of understanding race can be. As my daughter and I were driving around town finishing our Saturday morning errands, she asked from the backseat, "So, Mom. If my biological dad had been White, then I would have been White, too. Right?" I answered, "Yes, chances are you would have been White if both of your biological parents were White." I continued, "But remember Kathy, the camp counselor? She appeared white even though her biological dad was Black. If she were to have a baby, her baby might be the same color you are." I thought we were ready to discuss genetics, but her next question took us in a different direction. "So, Mom. How come you care so much about Black people? Why does racial equality matter so much to you?" I reflected a moment, "It just does. You know that I've always been concerned about racial equality. Even when I was your age, I knew it wasn't right to mistreat Black people. I guess you could say I'm Black in my heart. That's it, I have a Black heart."

    Immediately, my daughter's head popped between the two front seats, startling me. She exclaimed emphatically, "You're kidding, right, Mom? I mean, I mean, how could you? You don't even smoke!" Before I knew it, the conversation level had reverted to the "literal" world of a nine-year-old and she was telling me all about her science teacher's poster of a pair of black lungs, damaged from smoking, and on and on she went. I chuckled to myself. So much for abstract thoughts about race.

    I suspect my daughter's brownness will enhance her growing understanding of what race means just as my whiteness limits mine. My observations are based more on my growing understanding of racism, which is one of the places where the concepts of color and race intersect. For example, a growing number of Whites think society is or should be color-blind. Simultaneously, people of color are constantly coping with racism. One reason my daughter and other young children of color are so acutely aware of their color is because their color is devalued by most of White society--even by people of goodwill, as I explore in Part II. It bears repeating that a general devaluation of children's colors is interpreted by them as a devaluation of them. Racism persists because people are different colors, which is some evidence of how superficially the issue of race is treated. Acting as a proxy for race, color often obviates the need to discuss history, politics, cultural heritage, economic class, social perception, family, or self-identity in trying to understand what race means. Significantly, when a person's color fails to match the person's proclaimed race, like in Kathy's instance where she identified as Black but appeared White, the inquiry into the meaning of race is exposed as the profound quandary that it is.

    Race is much more than color, but color is important to racial identity. In this way, the artist was wrong to color my daughter pink, but she was right to think race is more than color. Logically, then, rejecting a color-blind theory is essential to developing a deeper understanding of race. I have studied the theory of the social construction of race, but it is as a White mother of a Black daughter that I have learned how important and beneficial it would be for everyone to understand the dynamics of the social construction of race and its relationship to color. Pursuing this level of understanding about race might alleviate some of the ambivalence many White adults feel about racial issues. If nothing else, it enables us, as a society, to at least talk about race and begin to think about race in positive, constructive ways.

Copyright © 2000 Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2000-11-01:
Readers will find much of value in this slender volume, especially those interested in better understanding American race relations and transracial adoptive families. Rush's analysis primarily concerns her own experiences as a white single adoptive mother trying to raise her African American daughter from ages 6 through 10 while the family lived in three different locations: a community in the Deep South, a small city in upstate New York, and metropolitan Washington, DC. The book reviews many of the small daily insults minority members usually encounter in their dealings with the white majority. Fortunately Rush's daughter, a beneficiary of her mother's legal talent and advocacy, was able to use the public school systems in their various communities without many of the psychic and academic damages that often befall minority members in present-day racist America. Having an attorney parent is obviously not recommended as a universal solution for America's deficiencies of racism, but Rush does offer sound reflection on the kinds of changes whites need to make before it could be claimed they are treating blacks more fairly. General or undergraduate readers. W. Feigelman; Nassau Community College
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-05-01:
With her background as a civil rights lawyer and a professor of law at the University of Florida, Rush believed she had seen the ugliness of racism and understood the depth of the issue. However, it wasn't until she adopted an African-American girl that she fully recognized the pervasiveness of discrimination and racial injustice in America. Combining academic theory with poignant personal examples, Rush contends that, as far as we've journeyed toward understanding race relations, we have much further to go. She writes, "In my opinion, race relations in America are at an impasse because White society denies racism is a continuing problem, which causes Black society to question America's commitment to equality." Backing up her statement with specific examples, Rush describes how her daughter had to fight to get into gifted classes although her I.Q. should have secured her placement. In one particularly heart-wrenching story, her daughter is exiled to the back of the classroom during a special "Dinosaur Day" presentation, although there is room available in the front next to her white classmates. Although the incident seems minor at first, the author uses it to show the unrelentingly poor treatment of her daughter, and her own struggles to overcome disbelief and frustration over myriad occurrences of a similar nature. Eschewing bitterness and condemnation, Rush instead ends the book with a lengthy and articulate prescription for improving race relations, including the creation of safe places for children to talk about race and the encouragement of dialogue between whites and African-Americans. This multilayered memoir, written with honesty and passion, is a much-needed and powerful addition to the literature on race. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Library Journal on 2000-10-01:
The success of the transracial adoption memoir depends on its ability to transcend a simple narrative and delve into serious issues. The question becomes, "Can the author step away from her situation and analyze prejudice, sexuality, class, etc.?" In the case of Loving Across the Color Line, the answer is yes. Rush, a civil rights lawyer, not only takes readers into the world of a white mother and her adopted African American daughter but also uses her parenting experiences to re-examine her beliefs on race relations in America. Her conclusion: racism is very prevalent and more debilitating than she first thought. In Mothering Without a Compass, Thompson (sociology, Simmons Coll.; Names We Call Home) covers the same issues but on a more personal level. Written in essay form and from a lesbian standpoint, the story of Thompson and her adopted African American son is less an attempt to obtain answers than to express her feeling that the racial and cultural differences between her and her child cannot be ignored. Both authors present honest, personal, and sometimes painful views of transracial adoption; both works are strongly recommended for public and academic libraries. Readers are urged to see Marguerite A Wright's I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World (Jossey-Bass, 1998).DMee-Len Hom, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review Quotes
The book adds another dimension to our thinking about race in part because of the personal nature of the story and in part because many of the incidents of racism are seen through the eyes of a young girl. The innocence of the little girl's questions and her significant dismay at other's behavior is by far the most powerful aspect of the book and stays with the reader long after it is placed aside.
This multilayered memoir, written with honesty and passion, is a much needed and a powerful addition to the literature on race.
I have read many books on race relations but none provides a more moving and penetrating portrayal of the racial divide and its adverse effects on interpersonal relations and human empathy than Sharon Rush's Loving across the Color Line. . . . Important for any serious discussion of the problems of race in America.
Now Rush sees how when strangers pass each other whites will often greet other whites, but seldom does a greeting cross the color line. Unconscious racism shows up in many ways and she's not immune.
As Sharon Rush invites us into her world as the White mother of an adopted Black child, we share her delights in her smart and perceptive daughter and her shock and dismay during repeated encounters with racial prejudice. Only in this role did Professor Rush learn that even her civil rights commitments had not instructed her about the operations of daily mistreatments along racial lines. By sharing her painfully earned insights and her heart, Professor Rush shares the brute realities that we all must confront if we are ever to truly live together without a color line.
Loving Across the Color Line offers personal stories that relate the practical day-to-day meanings of race based on Rush's experiences with her daughter, as well as insights gleaned from her professional life as an activist and educator. The result is a book which is at turns, cultural criticism, touching memoir, and a guide to parenthood in the 21st century.
A magnificent book. You cannot read this marvelous book and remain the same. Any family who is even thinking about adopting transracially should be required to read every page before making their final decision.
The question becomes, 'Can the author step away from her situation and analyze prejudice, sexuality, class, etc.'' In the case of Loving Across the Color Line, the answer is yes. Rush, a civil rights lawyer, not only takes readers into the world of a white mother and her adopted African American daughter but also uses her parenting experiences to re-examine her beliefs on race relations in America. Her conclusion: racism is very prevalent and more debilitating than she first thought.
Extraordinary. . . . In a series of sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyful accounts of her daughter's growing up, Sharon Rush provides the reader with deep insights into how racism works its evil in U.S. society. Most striking is the level of understanding that Rush has honed as she has learned the hard way the tough lessons known by every Black American.
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, May 2000
Library Journal, October 2000
Choice, November 2000
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Long Description
What would a liberal, white, civil rights law professor have to learn about race? When Sharon Rush adopted an African American girl, she quickly discovered the need to throw out old assumptions and start learning over again. This is the moving, heartfelt memoir of a mother and daughter's loving relationship that opened the author's eyes to the harsh realities of the American racial divide. Only by living with her daughter through the day-to-day encounters and life passages did Rush learn that racism is far more devastating to blacks than most whites can ever imagine. Some of the stories are funny, others are sad, a few are almost unbelievable. But they all are poignant because they illustrate how insightful a little black girl of three can be about race and justice. Their stories also recount the author's struggle, as her daughter grew older, to come to grips with her own growing awareness of racism in America. With love and spirituality, Rush and her daughter live a deeply joyous life, just as they both have become increasingly active in working publicly and privately against racism. Readers who journey across the color line with the author and her daughter will come away with a real-life encounter with racism and a deeper understanding of it.
Main Description
In this memoir, the author relates how her loving,maternal relationship opened her eyes to the harsh realities of the Americal racial divide.
Publisher Fact Sheet
What could a liberal, civil rights law professor have to learn about race? When Sharon Rush adopted her African American daughter, she quickly realized just how much she had left to learn. In this heartfelt memoir, the author relates how her loving maternal relationship opened her eyes to the harsh realities of the American racial divide. By living with her daughter through day-to-day encounters, Rush learned that racism is far more devastating to blacks than most whites can ever imagine. Some of the stories are funny, others are sad: a few are almost unbelievable. But they all are poignant because they illustrate how insightful a little black girl can be about race & justice.
Unpaid Annotation
Sharon Rush is a white, liberal, civil rights lawyer who once imagined she understood the complexities of race in America. Once she adopted her black daughter, however, day to day encounters quickly taught her just how devastating and omnipresent racial bias is in the United States. This moving mother's memoir is as important to students of race as it will be to parents everywhere.
Unpaid Annotation
What would a liberal, white, civil rights law professor have to learn about race? When Sharon Rush adopted an African American girl, she quickly discovered the need to throw out old assumptions and start learning all over again. This is the moving, heartfelt memoir of a mother and daughter's loving relationship that opened the author's eyes to the harsh realities of the American racial divide. Only by living with her daughter through the day-to-day encounters and life passages did Rush learn that racism is far more devastating to blacks than most whites can ever imagine. Some of the stories are funny, others are sad, a few are almost unbelievable. But they all are poignant because they illustrate how insightful a little black girl of three can be about race and justice. With love and spirituality, Rush and her daughter live a deeply joyous life, just as they both have become increasingly active in working publicly and privately against racism. Dr. Sharon Rush lives in Gainesville, FL, where she is Professor of Law at the University of Florida.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem