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Two Women — One Brown, One White — Adopt A Black Son In 'Post-Racial' America

Nishta and Jill have experienced their share of awkward, and sometimes tense, moments raising their adopted son, Shiv, in Houston.
Courtesy of Guernica Magazine
Nishta and Jill have experienced their share of awkward, and sometimes tense, moments raising their adopted son, Shiv, in Houston.

Over at Guernica magazine, writer Nishta Mehra, whose parents were born in India, shares the story of adopting her son Shiv, who is black, with her partner, Jill, who is white. Adoption can be a challenge for any family. But when you're an interracial family with two moms living in Texas, things get even more interesting.

Guernica has shared this excerpt of Mehra's story with Code Switch readers:

Today, the black, male cashier at Whole Foods asked, skeptically, "You're his mom?" and I was reminded that what people see when they look at us really has more to do with them than us, a Rorschach Test of sorts.

When Jill is out with Shiv, it's fairly obvious to most people that she is a white woman with an adopted son. We've noticed that people tend to be particularly affirmative of that pairing, in a way that expresses, "How great of you for doing that!" More than once, Jill has been thanked—by black women exclusively—for adopting Shiv. I wear a ring and am dark-skinned enough that Shiv could presumably be my biological son if my husband were black; I've never been thanked.

As is well documented, children of color are considered "difficult to place" by the adoption industry and "difficult to place" children come with a slightly lower price tag. Do I want to use this kind of language to discuss how my beloved son came into my life? Of course not. But, beautiful as it can be, adoption is an industry, with not a small amount of money at stake. My son cost less to adopt because he is black.

The "one drop" rule is alive and well. Children with any African-­American heritage are automatically considered "mixed race" by the industry; most, but not all, families who apply to adopt are white, and most, but not all, white adoptive families want white babies. And if they are up for mixed babies, they want babies who are a mix of white and something-other-than-black.

When Jill, Shiv, and I are all out together, the opportunity for presumption increases exponentially. People do not naturally assume that my family is a family and that Jill and I are his moms. "Who is she?" a fellow parent, also of Indian descent, in Shiv's music class asked me when Jill accompanied us for the first time. "She's his mom," I said. I received a puzzled look before adding, "He has two moms."

Read the rest of Nishta, Jill, and Shiv's journey over at Guernica Magazine.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 6, 2015 at 9:00 PM PST
An earlier version of this post misidentified Nishta Mehra's partner as Lisa. Her name is Jill.
NPR Staff