Book Review: GROWING UP BLACK IN WHITE by Kevin D Hofmann
As a South African who grew up in the Apartheid era, from the first page of Kevin’s book I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between his description of America’s racial discrimination during the 1960s, and that which existed in my own country prior to April 1994.
Kevin was born in 1967 in Detroit, at a time when racial segregation was the norm in the US. The Ku Klux Klan, for example, was demonstrative in the extreme in expressing its hatred of the black minority. Meanwhile, here in South Africa, our non-white population living under the then government’s Apartheid legislation was dealing with pass book laws, the Group Areas Act and disenfranchisement, among numerous other so-called legal discriminatory practices.
Born to a white mother and a black father, Kevin is adopted by a white Lutheran couple at a time when, as he puts it, “different pigments can’t get along”. Indeed, while most babies are lavished with beautiful gifts to welcome them into a community, Kevin’s reception takes the form of a burning cross planted on his parents’ front lawn.
How Kevin and his family choose to deal with this incident and others which follow makes for insightful reading and gives all parents, especially those who choose to adopt across the colour and culture line, much to think about. As a white parent, while reading Kevin’s story I found myself constantly asking: if he was my child, what would I have done?
Kevin’s book is not about adoption. It’s about racial discrimination. He simply relates the experiences of his transracial upbringing, and the subtle and blatant discrimination he often had to endure, even from members of his own extended adoptive family. He tells his story candidly and objectively, allowing the reader to form his/her own opinions. Towards the end of the book he does touch lightly on the personal emotional issues he deals with as an adoptee, but the primary theme of his story is contained in the book’s title.
For readers who are, or on their way to becoming the adoptive parents of a child of a different race, Kevin’s journey will provide valuable insight on what being part of a transracial family entails – from the most important perspective of all – the child’s. Because when all is said and done, Kevin is no different from any other child – all he wants is to fit in.