Thursday, July 28, 2011

Guest Blogger Anne Simon: How Race Helped Two Families Understand Each Other

Anne's beautiful, blended family loves to play and grow together.
Pictured are Anne's grandchildren, children, and husband.
Anne is on the left of the bottom picture.
She created her mixed-race family through
adoption and marriage.
My first husband and I were a white, Ivy League educated family who decided to adopt a black baby. It was the 1970s and the adoption of my son fulfilled a life-long dream of mine to adopt a baby who was a different race than our family.

When my blue eyed, blond haired biological daughter was just a year old, my first husband and I began the process of adopting our second child, expecting that the journey would probably take 1 - 2 years. My then husband had been fully informed of my "life list" before our marriage, and he seemed to embrace it. To our great surprise, four months later the agency called us and said they had a baby boy for us. We brought home my son, an adorable 4 month-old dark skinned African American baby boy. I had two babies under the age of 2, and my mother thought I had lost my mind - which was partially accurate.

We were Upper West Side New York City dwellers; my husband was just starting on Wall Street, and I was in graduate school at Columbia. We knew that we would not stay in NYC to raise our children and were very mindful of the importance, for our children (and our family), of finding a community of like-minded people and diverse families. We landed back in CA where I was raised. In the Berkeley Hills we discovered a cooperative nursery school where our close friends and neighbors included four other families with interracially adopted children.

This idyllic picture shattered a few years later. As was part of living in the 70s, we pushed boundaries in developing our families, and then we pushed them in our relationships. Four of the five couples ended up divorced, including us. I fled to a rural area 100 miles north of San Francisco to recoup my lost identity and raise my children.

Eight years later, I met a man who I would marry. He had lost his wife to cancer and was raising his two teenage daughters alone. His former wife was African American and he is white. Once we married, our family consisted of children (emerging adults really) who ran the entire spectrum of color. My biological daughter has fair skin and blue eyes. My son has dark skin. Merging two families is never easy, but I think the fact that we were (and are) mixed-race families is what helped us navigate the potentially tumultuous waters of step-parenting and merging two families; families in which one had suffered the loss of their wife/mother and mine, and the other had dealt with a bruising divorce and custody battle.

I actually believe that the issue of race was one of the most unifying elements in this successful merger of our families. My step-daughters could not dismiss me as just another white woman who didn’t understand their racial identity. Given the profound decision I had made when adopting my African American son - one that I knew was to change the complexion of my family forever (pun fully intended) - I was extremely relieved and gratified, privileged even, to grow my family by embracing my two mixed-race stepdaughters. 

Far too often, issues of race divide families, break apart relationships and destroy lives. In our case, I’m pleased to tell you, the complex issue of race made the blending of our two families easier. Our kids instinctively understood each other. Each of them also understood their future step-parent because I had adopted an African American son and my husband had married an African American woman. Both my kids and my husband’s daughters knew they would be accepted by their new step-parent and step-siblings.

Racism was one issue they would not have to confront within the new family. In that way, race helped our family bond in a unique and invaluable way. My husband and I have been married for 25 years and our families continue to love and accept each other. Issues of race brought our mixed-race family together, which is where we’ve remained.

Anne Simon is recently retired after 36 years as an independent school administrator and teacher. She also co-authored a book, Beyond the Brochure: An Insiders Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. She lives with her husband and cares for her mother on their small horse farm in Virginia. She is a both a biological and adoptive mother, step-mother, grandmother, and foster mother. She enjoys driving her carriage with her horses, spending time with all of her grandchildren, gardening, swimming, and cooking, and she hopes to travel and write in the years to come. For more information about Anne, visit,


  1. Anne, I absolutely love this piece. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great start Anne! Sounds interesting and we both read it! Is this going to be a personal account mixed(no pun attended) with a historical account of the broadening racial acceptance of the 1970's?