Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Candid Discussion

As a mom of multiracial kids, I have thought a lot about race. When we adopted, we took a bunch of training on transracial adoption, and listened to adults talk about being adopted into a family who were of another race. We listened to biracial adults talk about how they didn't feel a part of either world, one race or the other.

I've been accused of thinking from a position of "white privilege" and that I'll never truly get it. While this may be true, I find it ironic that it was a white person who told me that. I may not have wrestled with race in the past, but I have certainly wrestled with identity, and the need to fit in, to be accepted, to belong or feel like I don't belong. In discussions within the adoption community, I've been told to acknowledge race, and I've been told not to acknowledge race. I've been told that my black kids will grow up to be "Oreos" (black outside, white inside) and that they will struggle with their own racial identity. What parent likes to be told that their children will struggle, and it's going to be their fault?

I've wondered how best to give my kids a sense of their own race, of their place in our culture. One is biracial. He's descended from the proud race of black people who have lived here for hundreds of years and who have incredible spirit and identity. He's also a part of the white people who came from Europe and pushed westward across our continent. My other is African. She isn't descended from American slaves at all. She may feel even more misplaced, growing up on the "wrong" continent. How do I teach them? How can I even understand?

I remember watching "Roots" for the first time last year, holding my black baby on my chest and weeping as I imagined him in the life of the historic slaves, and feeling oh, so grateful for the civil rights movement that allowed us to adopt him in the first place, and allowed him to grow up with unlimited opportunities, as is his due. For a moment, I felt the emotions I imagine a black parent feels, a mixture of love and pride and fear and hope, the same as every parent feels, but affected by the attitudes and culture of those surrounding them. I am sorry if that sounds cliché, watching "Roots," but, hey, just telling it like it happened.

I know I will not be able to instill a sense of racial pride as well as a black parent would be able to do. A sense of being there and belonging, and knowing what it feels like. But, as an adoptive parent, I am not totally helpless. I can acknowledge their races and cultures and the fantastic creations that they are. I can give them a safe, stable, loving home where they are fed well, clothed well, educated well, and given every future opportunity that our nation offers. I can give them the knowledge that God created them perfectly wonderful exactly how they are and that I think they are absolutely beautiful.

I was reading on Twitter (yes, Twitter) the other day some funny one-liners on "BlackParents" and what they say. (It was a top hashtag, okay? LOL) It occurred to me that yes, my black son is missing things within the black culture. I have a huge respect for black people and black culture, and a lot of the one-liners made me chuckle. Some are not so different after all, especially regarding church, respect, and not having any McDonald's money! At the same time, I am not going to try to imitate it or cheapen it. I'll do my best to teach my black children to love who God made them in the same way I'll teach my white children to love who God made them. Some of my kids are pink, and some are brown, but they are all my kids, and they are all perfect and beautiful.

Just as they should not have to apologize for who they are or what color they are, I should not have to apologize for being white. I am the color that I am, and I have been given the task of raising kids the color that they are too. In a way, our family will have its own unique racial identity, just like the United States, where all colors live and work together. I don't want to pretend it doesn't exist, thank-you-very-much. I want to enjoy it and celebrate it. Race doesn't have to be a shameful topic, it can be a wonderful one! That's one of the strengths I think black culture brings to our nation, is a willingness to talk plainly about race, and their feelings on it. I know it's not very PC for a white person to do so, but I don't really care. It's something I need to sort out for myself and my children, so it's something I will write about and talk about. Hopefully, when the time comes to help my children form their own ideas about race and identity, I will be a little closer to being able to relate with their need to wrestle with it, too.

I can imagine someone saying, "You are already doing it wrong, writing this about your black children, when you don't write the same thing about your white children. You are already separating them out, treating them differently." Well, you know what? If our country was perfect and discrimination did not exist, then I would not need to do that. I would not need to think about the fact that I need to write this about my black children. But, I don't think ignoring the issue is going to heal the deep wounds in our country. And asking white people to walk on eggshells around the issue is not going to make it go away, either (and the PC Police in my experience are usually white). It's a part of my family, a part of these little people, and I love them, and it's part of their culture to talk about it. The differences in my family are good differences, beautiful differences. We are not a black family, it's true. Neither are we a white family. But we are a family!

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