Thursday, May 22, 2014
Angry White Woman
Recently, my article on professionals not being so professional when it comes to adoptive families spurred a lot of buzz. Are adoptive moms like me just too damn sensitive? Or are we chronic defenders of our rights and the privacy our children deserve? Should we just shut up and take whatever the world hands us, with a smile and a nod? Or should we spend our energies fighting particular battles, demanding justice, and disagreeing with those who disrespect our families?
Here are some of my truths:
---My kids aren't poster children for adoption. They are just my kids. They didn't ask to be adopted. They didn't ask to have white parents. But their birth parents chose for us to be their parents, and we are honored to have the privilege. My children aren't required to be anything but children.
---I will and am teaching my children that it is ok to stand up for themselves and others when they are being treated unjustly. It's ok to tell you, a random adult, "no" when they trying to harm my kids in any way. It's ok to refuse to satisfy the curiosity of adults who abuse their positions of power to satisfy their personal curiosities. My kids don't have to let you "pet" their hair. My kids don't have to answer you when you ask, AGAIN, if they are "real" siblings.
---I will, without shame or embarrassment or guilt or uncertainty, teach my children about their history as African Americans. We will celebrate Black History Month, MLK's birthday, Juneteenth. We will have Black Santa ornaments on our tree. We will talk about slavery. We will subscribe to Ebony and Essence. We will celebrate their race, not disguise it in the name of "colorblindness."
---I will give my children opportunities to foster a healthy racial identity. This means, for us, having a mentor for our older two children and having a diverse group of friends. (The research done on adult transracial adoptees says that where adoptive parents went wrong was not connecting their children with people of the children's same race so the opportunity for meaningful relationships could develop.) I will have their hair professionally cut and braided, as well as take care of their hair myself. And I will also let my kids be who they are, without trying to alter them to fit any mold.
---The idea of talking about race and intentionally fostering my children's racial identity makes some really uncomfortable. (Even seeing my family makes some people really uncomfortable!) Your comfort isn't my concern. I'm mothering my children and celebrating who they are (their personalities, their feelings, their talents, and yes, their race). I'm working diligently to teach them how to grow into independent, strong, compassionate, passionate, loving adults who value justice, equality, love, and challenges. I want them to know that first and foremost, they are loved and created by God, that they were created to do divine things with their lives, and that we, their parents, will do anything to help them achieve their best. My concern is not helping you stop feeling guilty about race, pacify your curiosity, or coddle your rudeness.
---I'm doing a good job. I know mothers aren't supposed to be self-affirming. I know we are supposed to feel guilty and uncertain and overwhelmed. (I'm not immune; I feel these things at times, sometimes in long seasons.) But I know that God has put people in my life to boost me up: to inspire, to support, to cheer. I know that my children are ok. Not just ok, but awesome. They are smart and talented and beautiful and funny. They have some great nurture and some great nature.
Listen, I do worry a lot about colorism (my middle daughter is very dark-skinned) and racism + sexism (my son, a black boy). My heart breaks for the young men and their families who are ripped apart by adults with guns who treat black boys like aggressive men. I cheer when I see accomplished African Americans. I point these stories out to my children. I can't stand the term and concept of "colorblindness."
I want adults to act like adults. Not turn every thought into words. Not insist that my family prove ourselves, that my children make them feel better about adoption or race or both.
You don't hear me ask a person in a wheelchair why he or she is wheelchair bound. You don't hear me asking a person who is overweight if he or she has an over-eating issue or a metabolic disorder. Because it's none of my damn business. And because it doesn't matter.
My kids are people. As Dr. Seuss said, so wisely, "A person's a person no matter how small."
So yes, when people question my children, when the news reports another senseless murder of a black boy, when I'm asked to produce "proof" of my family's authenticity, my mama bear comes out.
Label it angry white woman if you want.
But I'd rather go through life knowing I stood up to wrongness rather than coddled it. I'd rather be the one who defends rather than cowers. I'd rather be the one who stands strong versus falling down. I'd rather be the mother my children need than the white person you prefer, the one who pretends color doesn't exist and that we live in a post-racial society where we've all just "gotten over" race.
At times, yes, I'm angry. And I'm always white and a woman. But I'm not going to fit the mold that makes you comfortable.
Because I'm too busy bringing up babies who are going to do great things.