The Importance of Representation for Children of Color


The first thing many of us learn at transracial adoption training is the importance of representation in the lives of our children. My daughter is black and my husband and I are white, so it was a priority for us to find diverse schools with students and educators who looked like my daughter, I make sure she sees people that look like her in various careers, she has dolls in her room (Mattel has done a wonderful job of producing dolls of color) and looking for doctors, dentists, churches, etc. where she can see people that look like her. However, it’s important to note that representation isn’t something that applies only to those that have been adopted, but for all children to see themselves in places they might not have pictured themselves due to their often limited lived experiences. 


We know this is important because what children see in the media and around them is what shapes them and how they learn and feel about themselves. In an article for Edutopia, Laura Thomas further describes the importance of representation for all children. She explains that it’s important to know the community you live in, talk with your children about media and stereotypes, and to learn about culture and talk about it. 


I’ll add that it is important to seek out media that doesn’t include stereotypes of your children, but instead, positively reinforces who they are. Television and film have increasingly gotten more diverse and networks like Disney, PBS, and Nickelodeon have clearly made this a priority in children’s and teen’s programming. Diversity and inclusion have also taken a forefront in children’s literature, which is crucial in all stages of development.


We also know that psychologically, representation is important to mental health. Some children and adults prefer to go to therapists and doctors that look like them for not only safety, but peace of mind. Tragically, suicide rates in younger children are on the rise. Representation can help children feel understood and have a positive reflection of themselves instead of negative connotations from bullying and other outside influences. 


Despite representation and inclusion being a priority for many, this past year, Disney announced that they were making a live action version of their beloved animated film, The Little Mermaid. They cast black actress and singer Halle Bailey as Ariel. Young black girls around the world rejoiced. However, the backlash was shocking to many, but to those who have seen people react to things like this before, they knew it was coming and had to have conversations with their family members and even children about racism you wouldn’t think would have to happen with the release of a fictional children’s story.


Hateful remarks and internet trolls didn’t stop Disney and they announced a live action Peter Pan and Wendy with Yari Shahidi of Blackish and Grownish  fame as the first Tinkerbell of color. As a parent of a child of color, I am so excited about this and my daughter is counting down the days until she gets to see The Little Mermaid when it comes to theaters on May 26th. 


To learn more about the importance of representation in transracial adoption, reach out to Adoption Choice, Inc.