“This is Us” has returned for season five. The fourth season of “This is Us” left fans yearning for more. The show, like many others, was forced to wrap early due to the outbreak of COVID-19. It still, however, managed to pack in plenty of drama and take the Pearson family (and fans!) through another leap in their timeline. As always, there were plenty of twists and turns along the way, and many more adoption themes were explored this season. Now that the hit series is back with new episodes, Adoptions With Love has decided to recap the emotional and heartfelt storylines of season 4, to refresh your memory and share the lessons we can learn about adoption. To find our recap of prior seasons, check out the below links:
- What “This is Us” Can Teach Us About Adoption (season 1)
- A Recap of the Adoption Storyline in “This is Us,” Season 2
- Adoption in “This is Us”: Season 3 Recap
On Transracial Adoption
Season 4 of “This is Us” dove even deeper into Randall’s past and upbringing, and viewers got to see a bit more of how growing up “different” from his family. This was a time when transracial adoption was uncommon, and how it impacted his identity.
In episode 2, the Pearson family returns to the town pool during flashback scenes. The “big three” are about to begin grade 7, and they are less-than-enthused about going to the pool as a family. Embarrassed by their parents, the kids immediately scatter upon arrival, finding friends.. Kevin and Randall meet up with some Black friends of Randall’s who are soon charmed by Kevin and his rap skills. During Kevin’s performance of Wrecks-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker,” Kevin challenges Randall to spit a few lines, knowing full-well that his brother does not know the lyrics. Even though Randall tries to muddle through it, his friends start to laugh and ask, “How is your brother Blacker than you, Randall?” They also call Randall an “Oreo,” which is an offensive term to describe a Black person. Later, Randall calls out Kevin for embarrassing him in front of his friends. As Randall says, “You’re supposed to be my brother.”
This episode gives a realistic look at the struggles that Black children often face as they grow up in a white community. As we have seen before, Randall is left feeling like he is “not Black enough,” but clearly not white enough, either. It is an identity dilemma that many adopted children face in childhood.
This topic comes up again later, in episode 6, when we see grown-up Randall take some fellow councilmen to play a round of golf. His colleagues tease Randall for his privilege, since he has access to a highly exclusive golf club, but Randall insists he has only played golf once before. Throughout this episode we get another glimpse at the past, with a younger Randall and Jack. Their story starts out with Randall asking to be driven to school early so he can chat with his favorite teacher, Mr. Lawrence – who also happens to be the only Black teacher at this prestigious institution. Jack is clearly jealous of the connection that Randall has with Mr. Lawrence. That night, Jack finds Randall watching Tiger Woods on TV. Mr. Lawrence has told Randall that Woods will change the game of golf. This inspires Jack to take Randall to play.
While the father and son are playing golf, Randall starts talking about the fact that, because he is Black, things will always be a little bit harder for him. Jack tries to connect, sharing a story about how he, too, never fit in at country clubs. Randall seems to get upset and asks to stop playing. He tells his dad, “You don’t get it” and goes on to explain, “You felt uncomfortable at a golf course. I probably wouldn’t have even been allowed on it.”
This is a powerful moment. Jack realizes he was wrong to compare their experiences and, with his apology, says, “I don’t look at you and see color. I see my son.” Randall gives another simple but powerful response, “Then you don’t see me, Dad.” Randall walks away and this, perhaps, may be the first time that Jack realizes that he cannot – and should not – ignore his son’s race.
As many white, adoptive parents are learning today, it is important not to ignore a child’s skin color. This “color-blind” mentality, while it may be well-intentioned (as Jack intended), can be harmful for children of a different race than their family members. A person’s race is a part of their identity, and pretending that it does exist is essentially discounting their experience. Your adopted child needs to feel loved and respected for all that they are, including their skin tone.
In typical Jack fashion, he decides to do better. In the next episode, Jack and Rebecca invite Mr. Lawrence over for dinner, to get to know him more and open their home to another Black family. Jack and Rebecca know they have not done a great job at exposing Randall to the Black community. It is not, however, enough to become friendly with your son’s only Black teacher. As the Pearson’s experience teaches us, Black adopted children of white families should feel immersed in Black culture. Adoptive parents should get their child involved in activities with other Black children and continue learning about the Black experience. There are many helpful books and resources that can help in this area.
On Choosing Adoption
Later in the season, Kate and Toby make a big life decision. Throughout the season, they have experienced their first year of parenting. Their sweet son, Jack (honorably named after the family’s late patriarch), was born very prematurely, and after barely surviving birth and NICU, is now blind. After many months of coming to terms with this diagnosis and learning how to adjust to life with a child with a disability, Kate and Toby decide they would love to give little Jack a sibling. Pregnancy and childbirth were incredibly difficult for Kate the first time around, so a second, biological child is out of the question.
As they discuss their desire to have another child, the two decide to pursue adoption. Adoption is a very positive choice for families experiencing infertility, or who cannot have children biologically. At the end of the season, “This is Us” viewers get a glimpse at Kate and Toby’s grown-up adoptive daughter in a flash-forward scene, when little Jack himself becomes a father.
“This is Us” continues to serve us teachable moments in adoption and love. With the fifth season already underway, we know there are many more incredible storylines to look forward to, and many more topics on adoption to enjoy.
Meanwhile, you can learn more about adoption – whether you are looking to grow your family, or place your own child for adoption – by contacting Adoptions With Love. We are available any time of day, any day of the week. Reach out to us by calling 1-800-722-7731, texting confidentially at 1-617-777-0072, or contacting us online.