Sunday, February 28, 2010
I ordered this book on a whim when my husband told me that we only needed to spend $5 more on bn.com in order to get free shipping (an $8 value). So as I was book browsing, up popped this book. I briefly read the description and then added it to his cart.
Little did I know that I had found a treasure, at least in my daughter's eyes.
Now that E is a little older, we've started a nightly routine. Around 7:45 or 8:00 at night, we change her diaper, put on her pjs, brush her teeth, say a prayer for her birth mom and birth family, and then allow her to pick one story. She toddles to her closet and chooses, every night, the same book.
So my husband decided to change things up a big and put the book underneath several others. Last night she, as usual, went to her closet, picked up the book on top of the pile, and then looked at it with confusion. Instead of I Love My Hair, she had We're All Different, We're All the Same in her hands. So my husband, when E wasn't looking, pulled I Love My Hair out just a tad. E immediately spotted it, snatched it up, and walked purposefully toward my husband with the book in her outstretched arms. She sat quietly and patiently on his lap, as my husband read her the book.
Her love of books warms my heart. When she learned to sit up on her own, E would sit quietly on the floor and gently flip through her board books. Her contentment in a simple pleasure like reading (well, looking, really) is beautiful.
So I give myself permission to grow her book collection, never knowing which title she'll latch onto next, but looking forward to the possibilities.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
When I was told this by another very close family member, we launched into a conversation about prejudice and age. My relative argues that it's "generational" and that, because of age, a comment like this should essentially be excused/respectfully tolerated. Basically, older folks grew up in a different time, a time where people of color were not accepted. Of course, the whole "respect your elders" comes into play, but personally I don't equate standing up to racism as an act of disrespect.
My argument is that the woman who made this comment is a Christian, and Christians are held accountable for all their actions. I personally believe that the age of a person, where one grew up, how one was raised, etc. is not an excuse that gives them a free pass to make racist comments.
Take, for example, Ephesians 4:29,
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for
necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
And Matthew 15:7,
Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man: but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.
And Proverbs 15:3, emphasis mine,
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
And Proverbs 21:2,
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord looks at the heart.
And most powerfully, Matthew 12:36-37, spoken by Jesus,
But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak they will give account of it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.
I do not want my daughter, my spouse, or myself making prejudice comments against anyone based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, age, disease, disability, etc. It's not that I do not have firm moral beliefs. It's just that I see, as a pastor once said, that every person we meet is a person for whom Christ died. And when the people passing judgements are supposed to be mirrors of Jesus, then God help us.
It is each person's responsibility to stand up for what is right, because, I believe, not saying something to a person who makes a prejudice remark is equally as sinful as the offender's prejudice comment. Silence, as we have all heard, speaks volumes.
Is it easy to stand up to a relative? An "elder"? Someone else? Not always. But the easy road is often the road to destruction.
I grew up in a small town, the area in which many of my relatives, including the offender, reside. There's diversity, but there's not integration. Blacks are with blacks, and some, yes, in the projects (which brings up another issue of class and race), whites are with whites, and occasionally, there's what the white people deem a "cool black person, not like the others." Some of the boys in my high school had Southern flags in the windows of their jacked-up trucks (funny thing is, Illinois was part of the North....but anyway...). Interracial couples get looks, stares, and comments. Biracial kids are called "mixed." (A term that greatly bothers me, but that's another post). When I was in grade school, there was a young black male shot a young while male; it was speculated that their argument was race-related.
But is any of this an excuse to make an inappropriate comment?
My point is this. The baby is innocent. She is just a few days old. She didn't choose to be born into the situation she is in. She didn't choose her race. And she sure didn't choose to be part of a family that includes judgemental, racist relatives.
Her value in this world and in God has nothing to do with her skin color, though that is a beautiful part of her.
And how dare someone who claims Jesus as her Savior decide that the precious baby girl is worth less than a white person? Or that hopefully, she'll stay more white than black, because that is better? And how dare those around her not respond to her words in the name of that baby girl who is too young to speak for herself?
White parents with black kids combat this sort of infuriating nonsense all the time. A friend of mine recently posted on an adoption message board that a few of her relatives made a racist comment about our President, even though my friend (who is white) has five kids, two of whom are black. My friend was asking how to confront her relatives. Some posters suggested ignoring them, some said a face-to-face talk, and others, myself included, suggested writing a letter.
Is my friend's situation easy? No. When you are facing people you love, people whom you are connected to, and people who often get a "pass" for being older, it's sometimes like David facing Goliath. It's a big job. Do it wrong, and you'll end up hurting relationships and perhaps making the racism worse. Do it right, and you might make a difference, or you may not.
It's a risk to stand up for a people who perhaps don't look like you, or don't share your culture/beliefs, or don't act like you, or heck, that you don't know personally. But it's a risk worth taking. Allowing any type of prejudice to become "ok" is a slippery slope. If you keep your mouth shut friends, you not only allow the comment to stay "out there," floating around from person to person, uncontested, but you also let your silence speak loudly. Do you know what message that silence sends?
Furthermore, you allow that comment to resonate in your own heart. And perhaps it finds a little crack in you, a little place where you once had something negative done or said to you from a person of color, and those words widen that crack. Just a little.
And with each comment or joke or stereotype, that crack widens more and more. And slowly, without much threat individually, those comments congregate and create something in your heart. Something ugly, something sinful, something hurtful.
(Proverbs 18:5 says, It is not good to show partiality to the wicked...).
The comment and those that follow will impact you, just as your silence, your response, will. To choose silence is to choose sin. I stand firm in this belief.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
His mom said, "Yes, honey. She will always be brown."
He nodded and went on to something else.
I love a child's innocence and ability to observe and report those observations without reserve. What a precious, beautiful gift from God our children are!
This conversation reminded me of another friend's two-and-a-half-year-old who said to his mom (again, regarding Miss E), "Why her brown?"
His mom said, "That's how Jesus made her."
My heart melts.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I won't get on a rant again about the domination of white skin in children's books, toys, games, ads, etc., and to combat my previous complaints, I called on some online friends to help me find websites selling dolls that look like my daughter and perhaps your kids, too.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
• Tell me the names, ages, and races of your children and spouse.
Husband is Shelby, 38 Caucasian. Children, Gregory 14, African-American Eric 13, African American, Tanner 12 Caucasian Caden 8 Caucasian Miss Curious 17 months First Nations (Native American) Miss Tiny 7 months First Nations (Native American)
• Share with me how you became a transracial family (and/or parts of your adoption story if applicable). Feel free to share if you plan to add to your family in the future.
Shelby and I could have biological children, but adopting was always in our plans. When our first biological son was 4 months old we began the adoption process. Initially Haiti was our first choice and we began the process to adopt a sibling group of two from an orphanage there. Near the start of our home study process Haitian adoption closed (temporarily it turned out) and we had to make another country choice. Shelby is American born and raised and we then turned our sites to adopt from foster care in the USA. Because we had prepared ourselves and our families for a Haitian adoption, and because we felt we had the skills to adopt transracially, our first choice was adopting African American children. 18 months after starting, we were matched with our sons who were then living in St. Louis, Missouri and joined our family in BC, Canada in September of 1999. Greg and Eric were then 4 and 3 years of age. 18 months after that our second biological son was born. 10 years later we were very, very unexpectedly asked to foster our two daughters who happen to be of Deni Heritage. We are now a tri-racial family.
• Share with me a joy or two that you’ve experienced as a transracial family.
The greatest joy of being part of a transracial or multiracial family is that our lives have been opened into entire worlds we would have not otherwise understood or been a part of. We have been greatly enriched by the time and efforts we have to open our lives and family to educate ourselves. We are far richer for it.
• Share with me a hardship or two that you’ve experienced as a transracial family.
There were the typical issues that we had expected and prepared for - the inappropriate questions, the odd, odd look, the comments from strangers that at times might be ignorant, hurtful or downright mean. What has been the hardest for me as a parent to watch is the struggles my sons face as teenagers with the comments from their friends combined with their own struggle for identity.
• State your favorite quote, Bible verse, motto, etc. that might help my readers understand your philosophy on parenting, on being a transracial family, on what inspires you, etc. And/Or talk about this: Do you have a favorite book, song, etc. that might inspire my readers on family living or specifically, being a transracial family?
The very best thing that anyone ever told me before our sons came into our family by another transracial adoptive mom was that I would not be simply the white mother of black kids, but rather I would become part of a minority family. This completely changed my outlook - my FAMILY is a minority. THIS - African American Caucasian American Canadian and now First Nations is who WE are. Therefore all parts of us are valuable and worthy of respect, honor and understanding.
• Add anything else that might benefit my readers.
I would challenge anyone who is considering transracial adoption to look past the first few months and years with an adorable infant and toddler and think about what life will be like for your child as a teenager. What are you willing to do to have the best living arrangement for your child? What will it take for you to realize that it is our choice to be part of a transracial family, but it is not our child's choice? Are you prepared to advocate endlessly for your child? Are you prepared to deal with the fact that being part of a transracial family might mean significant hardship for your child? Are you prepared to consciously put yourself in a position of being uncomfortable in order to learn about what life is like for your child?
Thanks to Jen for the interview!
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
Now, on a more serious note, I have often heard (usually white, older men say) these words: "Why do (the) blacks need a whole month to themselves?"
Chew on this:
- White people have privilege and oftentimes preference every day, week, month, and year in this country.
- We dominate the merchandise that is sold, the media, and the real world.
- As a nation, we only embrace one black person's birthday, MLK's, and that is optional for schools. President's Day (up until 2008), Lincoln's birthday, Washington's birthday, St. Patrick's Day, St. Valentine's Day, etc. are for people who are white or have white skin.
- Off topic, but there are NO national holidays celebrating a woman. :(
- History books were, in the past, and possibly still now, supportive of a white person's view of history.
- Why not celebrate black history which is AMERICAN history?
- Why not learn about another culture/race?
- Why discount the value of a month focusing our nation's attention on people who live and work in our country?
- Why are you so angry?
Of course, in real life my answer would be a jumbled mess of nonsense that makes me appear as if my highest level of education was fifth grade. I'm not quick to respond to such abrasive questions....but I'm getting better.
How will we celebrate Black History Month in our home?
I have a few ideas. First, find some children's books on black icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. to read but more likely just view the pictures (she's only fifteen months old). Second, have a soul food meal (or two, or three). (At a recent diabetes conference, I picked up an American Diabetes Association Soul Food cookbook). Third, watch Tyler Perry movies. :)
I hope that no matter the racial makeup of your family that you will consider celebrating Black History Month.
I look forward to your comments and the ideas you have for me to instill BHM traditions in my home!