As Black Parents Raising a White Child, We Face Racism Every Day
When the Baldwins decided to adopt three children, including a white baby, they never imagined the racism and ignorance they'd face. Now they are advocating for families like their own.
Eight years ago, Keia Jones-Baldwin and her husband, Richardro Baldwin, were eager to expand their family. The Kernersville, North Carolina-based couple were already parents to then 9-year-old Zariyah, Jones-Baldwin's daughter from a previous relationship, who was asking for a sibling. But what transpired was a heartbreaking string of multiple miscarriages and failed rounds of in vitro fertilization.
"We went through this whole gamut of testing to try to figure out what the problem was, and they just could not figure it out," says Jones-Baldwin, who is now 36. "Finally, I was just like, 'OK, I just don't think I can do this anymore.' My body was tired, and spiritually, I was tired."
A while later, Zariyah's best friend Karleigh—whose mom had fallen on hard times and was homeless—organically became a part of the Jones-Baldwin family. "My love grew for her, and I then felt it was possible for me to love another child as I did my biological child," notes Jones-Baldwin.
The turn of events inspired the Jones-Baldwins to become foster parents. "My husband was on board, as he was trying to get some boys out of the deal," jokes Jones-Baldwin.
The couple took foster parenting classes, and within eight months, became certified. "We started fostering, and it was such a rewarding experience," says Jones-Baldwin. "Then, we decided to become foster-to-adopt parents."
In 2016, the Jones-Baldwins became legal guardians of Karleigh, who is biracial. Then, a year later, they adopted Ayden, 9, who is also biracial and who they had been fostering since 2015.
Fast forward to July 2017 when Jones-Baldwin got a call from the foster care supervisor about doing skin-to-skin for a white baby boy named Princeton born to teen parents. She quickly formed a bond with him and it wasn't long before the father asked if Jones-Baldwins would take Princeton home. "His dad said, 'If I decided to give up my rights, would you be Princeton's mom?'" recalls Jones-Baldwin. "He was kind of worried, asking, 'Would you want to adopt a white baby?'" Her response: "100 percent yes."
Backlash of Raising a Multiracial Family
Growing up, it wouldn't have been uncommon for Jones-Baldwin to hear comments like, "You can't trust white people." But raising a white son and two biracial children has made the foster mom more conscious of statements like that. "Would I have not had a biracial child or a white child, I would have still stayed in my bubble," she says.
At the same time, the devoted mom has faced negativity and ignorance from outsiders. "I never thought I would experience so much hatred and racism," says Jones-Baldwin. She's been asked, "Why would you open your foster home to a white child? Black kids need love too," or "Why would you take a white baby out of his white privilege and a situation where he'd be able to have a good life?" Others will blatantly say, "You shouldn't have that white child."
Even worse: Jones-Baldwin often has interactions with strangers who go further than just spewing insensitive comments. "We were once in a department store, and this guy started taking pictures of my son to report to security that I had kidnapped my son," she recalls.
She's also realized the double standards that exist between Black and white foster parents. As the only Black foster parent of a white child in a foster care training class, she began chatting with some of the white parents who were present with their Black children. The white parents were lamenting over experiences like being told they couldn't do their child's hair or being asked where their child was from, implying they are not American.
But when Jones-Baldwin asked if those parents are stopped in restaurants or accused of kidnapping their child, the mothers replied, "No, we get more like, 'you're saving this child.'" That's when Jones-Baldwin realized her experience was different than other foster parents.
From that point on, she was determined to raise awareness for families like her own. "There are families that are in transracial adoption situations, and we want to be treated fairly," she says. "We want the opportunity to not have to defend our families every time we’re out in public."
How This Mom Started a Movement
"I've started seeing in the media Black families who have adopted white children," says Jones-Baldwin.
Not only has the proud mom been connecting with these families, but she also started a blog called Raising Cultures in 2018. It soon grew across multiple social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, and serves as a resource and supportive community for all parents.
The reason it has become so popular and the family's posts have gone viral? "People really want to see positivity and are needing to see happiness," says Jones-Baldwin. "It's one love; just one race—the human race."
She also hopes to spread the message to people that while parenting is a universally shared experience, everyone should feel empowered to "make it their own."
"Everybody's family is different," says Jones-Baldwin. "Don't put stipulations on love, on the possibility of helping a kid of another culture. You're going to bring something to that kid that they need, and they’ll bring something to you that you need. Families don't have to match. We don’t have to look alike to love alike."