Posted by: Carl Magruder | November 26, 2008






                About this time in the year of 1969, Joe and Joanne Magruder started to make arrangements to adopt a child.  They had a healthy, brilliant and beautiful daughter, and they wanted her to have a sibling.  Because they were very socially conscious people, somewhat idealistic, staunch members of a faith community, and also partly because Joe was a social worker, they decided that they could provide a loving home to a kid who might otherwise be raised by the state of California.  Since they had a girl, they were disposed to adopt a boy, but neither one of them had thought much at all about adopting a non-white child.  That was the adoption case worker’s idea.

                When she sprung it on them, they were immediately amenable.  Their faith life and their commitment to social justice and racial equality had prepared them, despite their privileged white backgrounds, to be open to this idea.  Interracial adoption had been unthinkable just a few years before, and was still plenty unthinkable for lots of Americans.  Two years after my adoption, the historic statement by the National Association of Black Social Workers was published in 1972, which took a “vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason.”  (  Interracial adoptions again became very uncommon for a number of years, until more adoptions were handled by private agencies.

                I was blissfully ignorant of all this, of course.  I liked our collie dog, Missy, and I hadn’t learned to complain about the vegetarian diet yet.  I loved to wear overalls (nothing has changed), and my big sister, Marie, taught me all kinds of useful stuff.  In 1971 we got a little red haired addition to the family, Ann, (who married a Norwegian bachelor programmer two years ago), and we were five.

                Over the years we learned to ride bicycles, and to cut swiss chard in the garden for stir fry.  My dad experimented with computers (card sorters!) and solar water heating projects.  My mom taught piano and allowed us to fast for a day with her in solidarity with Cesar Chavez and the migrant farm workers.  We were SERVAS hosts ( and had frequent international house guests the whole time I was growing up.  We loved to swim, and camp, and visit our grandparents, aunts, and uncles. 

My maternal grandfather was an Iowa farm boy of Danish descent who was too dyslexic to have gotten very much education.  He couldn’t really accept me as a member of his family, and I felt his ambivalence, but didn’t associate it with race.  I found out years later that my maternal grandmother, who was an Iowa farm girl and a devout Christian had told him, “That child is your grandson.  Jesus said to suffer the little children, and YOU WILL SUFFER!”  So, that was that.  We all got along splendidly.  All of my aunts were pretty and professional.  All of my uncles knew everything there was to know about all kinds of things from how to plumb a toilet to how to make a killing in real estate, train a dog, or sharpen a knife with a whetstone.

                School was odd sometimes.  In 1997, when I was 28 years old, I was interviewed by Parade Magazine for an article on transracial adoption.  The reporter asked me if being transracially adopted had made things odd for me socially when I was in school.  I responded that it was a little hard to say.  I had by then found that being double jointed, having a lazy eye, being Quaker, being bi-racial, being a good speller, eating a vegetarian diet, playing the violin and not being good at sports were also contributing factors to my unique social status in the school.  Not having a TV was the topper!  Kids were curious about my being adopted, but I had always heard it spoken of positively, and so didn’t have any hang-ups about it.  In fact, adoption was spoken of so positively in our faith community and the family that my older sister once demanded, “What’s wrong with ME?   Why couldn’t I have been adopted?”

                Now I am grateful for all of the challenges that I had growing up, because they made me who I am and I like who I am.  Without any grand plan or political agenda, my adoption was part of the movement of this country towards greater equality, inclusiveness, and living up to Christ’s directive to love one another.

Shift the Paradigm!

                We have another paradigm shift ahead of us.  We must move to a mutually beneficial relationship with the biosphere, the Creation.  Not mere sustainability, or doing less harm, but a relationship that has humans and the non-human world thriving.  That has never been done in a post-industrial reality.  It is a new thing.  And yet, I am confident that we can extend rights even to the Earth.

Martin Luther King, Jr. often said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.”  I am grateful today that paradigms do shift.  I am grateful for an arc of history that bends towards justice.  I am confident that despite its foibles and failings God still loves this great nation and is always accompanying us as we stumble towards righteousness.  I am grateful that my kids will have the example of a bi-racial man (like their Papa!) as president, and before too long, a woman.  I am hopeful that the Earth they inherit will be a healthy and harmonious one.  Mostly, I am just grateful for these:


Ready For School!

Ready For School!






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