Having an African American Sister

Emma Gerstenzang

An advantage is that I feel like I know more people that I wouldn’t have known before, because of racial differences. I also feel like I understand more about black culture. For example, before we received Lily, I didn’t know anything about care of African-American hair. I feel like I am part of a bigger community.

A disadvantage is having to deal with other people’s lack of awareness. When Lily was a baby, people would often ask, even with her right there, if we were babysitting her. I think because she looks different than us people are always asking intrusive questions, which I think they wouldn’t have if she was white.

I was only six and a half when Lily arrived, and so I barely even noticed the difference in color. My parents did not “prepare” me, and the color difference didn’t bother me in the least. I think even today when I am much older, if we adopted a child of different color, it wouldn’t affect or unnerve me.

At first my parents uneasily answered rude questions when they were asked, but after awhile they informed these busy-bodys that it was none of their business. My mom has told me stories of people who act as if Lily is so lucky to be placed with us, when in fact it is us who are lucky.

At school sometimes it is hard when people first meet my family. If my sister is across the room, I will point her out, “That one, over there.”

“The one with the red shirt.”
“Oh,” in a surprised way. But now that I’m older, they don’t say anything like, “That’s your sister?” What really annoys me is when people say, “Is your sister adopted?” Sometimes I reply sarcastically, “No, both my parents are white, but somehow they had a black child.”

Adopting has been a great experience, and I got a great sister out of it, and it has opened up my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t realize before and now, I want to adopt an African-American child when I grow up.

Source: This article was written when Emma was almost 13 years old, she lives with her family in Brooklyn, NY

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