Carolyn Salisbury Deyoe
When I was 5 my family who is white, adopted my baby sister, who is black. The year was 1971. My parents immediately joined the Open Door Society, a group of diverse families of all sizes and nationalities. We attended camping trips and parties with this group for many years. While we only had 4 kids (2 white, 2 black) many of these families had 6, 8, even 12 kids that ranged in race from Caucasian to Vietnamese and anywhere in between. We spent so much time with these people that it never occurred to me that our family was anything but normal.
I had a school friend who had an all white family. I met Laura when I was 7 but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned one of her brothers was adopted. When my mom mentioned it my response was “Michael can’t be adopted, he’s white”. Interracial adoption was commonplace in my world. I thought I new what adoption looked like. I guess I wasn’t as worldly as I believed!
I don’t remember being prepared for the addition of my sister. When my brother was adopted I was 12 and he was 3 so we had pictures of him ahead of time. I remember taking his picture to school and bragging that this was my new brother.
Other than people not believing these were my siblings or the occasional comment about my parents bringing the whole neighborhood to a restaurant, I don’t remember any negative comments or incidents. My parents always told us that what we looked like was not important, how we acted was what mattered.
My siblings had every advantage I had. The only advantage they had that I didn’t was eligibility for college funding that I was not eligible for as a white person. My parents made sure that we always lived in very diverse areas so that none of us kids were the only white or black kids in school.
The thing that has always bothered me the most is when people tell us how lucky my brother and sister are to have us. Or how lucky they are that we took them in. It has always made me feel uncomfortable to hear this. No one in our immediate family ever felt that we were doing anyone a favor. This was just another way to add to our family. I never say “my adopted brother” or “my biological brother” or “my real brother”. Both my brothers are real. I’ve never introduced my sister by following it up with “she’s adopted”. If people ask why she’s black, I tell them, but it never occurs to me to clarify how she got into our family or why we look nothing alike. We’ve never made a distinction and when I read or hear that someone is the adopted child, it makes me cringe. I just don’t think it needs to be mentioned.
I grew up to be a very open minded and tolerant individual. I don’t make blanket statements about any races. I don’t judge someone by their nationality or color of their skin. I don’t use race as a way to describe someone. I know that being raised in an interracial family and being exposed to so much diversity had a lot to do with shaping me into the person I am today.
Source: Carolyn Salisbury Deyoe grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles County and presently lives in the San Fernando Valley. She is very close to her parents and siblings. Although she and her husband have no children, they raised her sister’s son for 11 of his 15 years. Carolyn is co-owner of a business and works with her dad and one of her brothers