Setting Privileges

In ONE week at work, yes in one week, I heard comments that would make my jaw drop and leave me stumped for words.  Some comments were directly against the Ethics Code of Conduct.  Others fall somewhere in between.  The comments came from various people; male, female, Black/African American, Latino, and White.

The first comment I heard was during our department’s holiday dinner at a local restaurant.  As we were waiting on our meals, one of the ladies began to throw shade at the employee who was in charge of organizing our holiday celebration because she wrote “Holiday Party” instead of “Christmas Party” on the email invite.  I was surprised.  Especially, because Hanukkah overlapped with Christmas this year.  Did she assume that everyone at our table was all of christian faith, that we all celebrate Christmas?  Or did it not matter to her?  I wondered if she ever looked at our corporate holiday calendar in Florida where they have off for Rosh Hashanah and other Jewish holidays.  While we don’t have those holidays off in our state, our corporation does recognize and honor the importance of other religious holidays besides christian holidays.  I wondered if she knew that my department has an employee who is Muslim, who does not have any paid holiday leaves for his religious holiday.  In addition, his religious holiday comes and goes without much to-do as I am almost certain that many do not even know what spiritual holiday he celebrates or when.  On the other hand, those of us who celebrate Christmas have at least a month long nationwide celebration and some still feel the need to complain?

The next comment was about adoption.  While in the ladies room at work, I ran into a coworker that I used to sit across from.  I asked her about the kids and her baby that she had given birth to a couple years prior.  She said the kids were all good and that the baby was now three and then jokingly said he was handful and bad.  We both laughed, knowing the challenges of toddlers.  Then she asked me if I “wanted him” because she was about to give him away for adoption.  That comment left me speechless.  I was at a loss for words.  She does not know my story, that I am a birth mother who relinquished her parental rights and gave my son away for adoption.  And while I know she was joking, her comment was no joke to me.  I thought about my son and all adoptees.  I wondered if he was in that room and heard that comment, what message it was saying to him.  That a child who is bad will be given away because their parents don’t want them anymore?  I certainly did not choose to relinquish my son to adoption because I didn’t want him.  And sadly, when I shared this experience with a coworker she confessed that she has made that exact comment about her adolescent son and has heard others say the same.  I agree.  I heard that statement thrown around jokingly in my younger years.  But now it’s different.  I can’t help but think how careless our words can be or how unthoughtful we are to make jokes about children who are surrendered, orphaned, abandoned, and fostered due to unfortunate circumstances.  None of which are because they are bad children.

Next, the topic was about the criminal justice system.  My supervisor was talking about her upcoming jury duty.  This began much chatter on the floor.  Coworkers began laughing and making jokes.  One coworker said they [the person on trial] were guilty and that our supervisor should give them “the chair”; so much for the fair trial theory, for an unbiased jury to gather the information and deliver a fair verdict.  On a personal level, my coworkers do not know about my father, his crime, or his imprisonment.  While my father may have been very far away in a prison cell, he was alive.  I wonder if my life would have been different if he had been executed for his crime.  As a child, would that have impacted me differently?  I don’t think people can understand what that’s like to be the child of a convicted felon and truly comprehend how the general population views your convicted parent.  Although they were not talking about my father directly, they were speaking about his actions.  I have very mixed feelings about this topic.  While it was difficult to not have my father around, I am glad he served his prison sentence.  While I wish he would have never got involved in this crime that caused tremendous emotional impact on our whole family, I am glad he was not sentenced to death.

Lastly, I asked a new co-worker how she liked working for our company.  She shared with me her thoughts and then she began to share with me about her previous job and the reason she left.  She talked about her old boss and then called him a “fag”.  She quickly followed up by saying she didn’t hate gay people but…

I was trying to gather my thoughts and grapple for words in this conversation.  I have family members who are gay.  More importantly, this person does not know me well enough to know whether or not I am gay.  It never ceases to amaze me how people who have been discriminated for their gender, their religion, their race can then turn around and use such discriminatory words or actions towards another group.  How can we ever move forward if we cannot see outside our bubble?

setting-privileges-2

I recently had to call into the IT department.  When I did so, the tech asked me to find “Setting Privileges”.  Then he began to inform me what I needed to do for my computer to recognize which privileges I needed in order to perform my daily task.  I thought about that and how that related to the human population.   Are we born and programmed with certain privileges?  And, do those preset privileges enhance or diminish our social status?

Our country?

Our race or cultural?

Our economic class?

Our religion?

Whether we were born gay or not?

Whether we were born with special needs or a disability or not?

Whether we were born into our family or adopted into our family?

These are just some.  There are still more that can factor into our privileges and human experience.

But, should our privileges give us the right to make fun of others?  Should they give us power, control, or a sense of entitlement?

In computing,privilege is defined as the delegation of authority over a computer system. A privilege allows a user to perform an action. … Users who have been delegated extra levels of control are called privileged.

Privilege (computing) – Wikipedia

Advertisements

Do All Lives Really Matter?

What does a family, a community, a city, a country, or a world look like when All Lives Matter?

I live in the Dallas-Ft Worth Metroplex.  And as most everyone knows, we had a recent shooting where five police officers were shot and killed while working a peaceful Black Lives Matter Movement event in downtown Dallas, Texas.

The first time I saw the “Black Lives Matter” meme, it was in a Facebook post the summer of 2014.  There wasn’t any added comment or explanation of the post.  At the time, I didn’t realize it was a movement.  I thought it was a new creative meme.

black-lives-matters

When I saw the post, it immediately brought to mind a conversation that I had had the previous day with my son’s godfather.  I am someone who is very aware of synchronicity and divine intervention.  I am in awe when these occurrences happen in my life, as if I am being divinely guided by some spiritual being.   It actually happens quite often but that is a post for another time.

I commented on the Black Lives Matter post.

I explained how I had just had a conversation with my son’s godfather, who was very depressed after losing his partner, Jose of eighteen years.  He had even contemplated suicide.  After he and I talked, I got ready to leave and walked to my car.  I started my car and was about to leave when this overwhelming thought came into my mind.  I thought about the time my high school friend, Mark, committed suicide a couple years after graduating and how I was the last friend to see him alive, dropping him off at his home the previous day and him saying things to me like, “nice knowing you,” and how I didn’t take him serious.  I’ve had many regrets about that over the years.  Could I have said something that would have mattered?

So, I got out of my car, walked over to my son’s godfather, who was standing in front of the house, stood directly in front of him, made clear eye contact and said, “Your.Life.Matters.”

We were both brought to tears and it was an emotional moment.  I had to be sure this time I made it perfectly clear.  Sometimes we just don’t get a second chance.

Well, the response or reply I got back from this page was not a favorable one.  She did acknowledge that it was great how I was there to help my son’s godfather through his time of need but accused me of combating the “Black Lives Matter” with the “All Lives Matter” antidote, which was a statement that was included in my comment.

At first, I was hurt and offended.  I was unaware of the movement.  I was sharing a moment.  I felt God had given me this sign or affirmation of what had happened the previous day.  This person didn’t know me personally.  She made a quick assumption and most likely assumed something about me, based on my Facebook profile picture.  And my first thought was to respond harshly and tell her just that.  But I waited.  I cooled down.  And I began to do some research.  Lord knows, my mixed family has had our own experiences with discrimination.

I had to ask myself, “What was my true intent?  Was it to combat this post from the Black Lives Matter to the All Lives Matters?”  My answer was clear.  No.

So I explained exactly that to her.  I apologized to her and told her that my intent was not to downplay the importance of “Black Lives”.  I shared with her a recent post that I had written in response to the current events and told her that I understand the hypocrisy in America.

https://onewomanschoice.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/it-all-comes-down-to-race/

As a child, one of the quotes that I heard often was, “Actions speak louder than words.”  The truth is we can say “All Lives Matter” in response to the “Black Lives Matter” but our American history tells us that just simply is not or has not been so.  It is a thought; it is a spiritual truth and principle.  But is not an action that we actively participate to create.

Let me explain the problem with the duality of these two movements.

When I gave birth to my first born son, Jaren, many of my family members were upset with me.  They had racist ideas and prejudice feelings towards my newly formed mixed-race family.  Some overcame their racism, some learned how to mask them in my presence and some refused to acknowledge me or my son.  We had been cutoff and were not welcome.  My step father, who came into my life when I was five years old and became my primary father figure while my biological father was in prison, took the longest to overcome his narrow-mindedness.  He disowned me and my newborn baby.  He did not accept his grandson, Jaren, until twelve years later.

We came face to face one time with my step father at the local custard stand back home, where he and my mother were sitting in the car.  My sister talked me into walking over to the car in hopes he would finally get to meet Jaren, who was two years old at the time.  My sister hoped our father would miraculously overcome his bigotry.  He didn’t.  He refused to look at or speak to me or my son.

Now during that time, I knew that my son’s life mattered.  And I am sure I made the statement a time to two to my mother and siblings.  I could have, maybe even should have said, “Jaren’s life matters,” to my father that day.  And he could have responded, “All my grandchildren’s lives matter.”  And while both statements are true, it still does not resolve the issue that one is being discriminated against and excluded solely based on his race and skin color while the others are not.  The issue is being ignored.

On top of that, my family could have said this is not right.  Karen and Jaren are family.  They could have voiced their opinion and acknowledged the wrongful acts.  But they did not.  My older brother, sister and their spouses were the only ones to at least acknowledge to me that they didn’t feel it was right for the way I was being treated.  However, they would not voice their opinion or outraged to our father.  Why?  Did they fear he would exclude them from his graces too for speaking up?  Or did they believe deep within that it was okay for me and my son to be treated that way?

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”  ~ Dr Martin Luther King

After the Dallas Police shooting, our church hosted “A Call to Action.”  I quickly began to see “Blue Lives Matter” social media memes along with front yard signs with this same campaign slogan supporting police officers.  And while I know it was criminally and morally wrong for someone to shoot those police officers, it seemed to me that those who did not want to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement could now protest with their Blue Lives Matter movement, just like the All Lives Matter movement was attempting to do.

On the other hand, sadly, when nine church members were shot and killed sitting in their church, where was the outraged?  Where were the protests?  Where was the Call to Action?  How many shared a Twitter or Facebook post of sadness or support of the innocent lives that were taken that day?  I can tell you that my church was pretty silent on the issue.  There surely wasn’t any Christian Lives Matter movement, hash-tags or memes floating around social media.  And why?  Because they were nine Black Christians?  If a gunman, especially a black gunman walked into a white church and killed nine white church members, there would be an outcry and outrage.  No doubt in my mind.

I’m not sure I understand how some can dislike the Black Lives Matter movement because it sounds like it excludes All Lives (Black Lives Matter has never, ever insinuated that other lives don’t. ), but then support or hash-tag Blue Lives Matter which also happens to be a select group.  I’ve even recently seen All Dogs Matter.  But the actual movement was created by and for Black Lives.  To use it for ones own agenda is a form of plagiarism and appropriation.

A few months back, Jaren and his friend had a very real experience and encounter with police.  He and his friend were stopped and questioned for “suspicious behavior”. It was late, after mid-night.  They had been walking around catching Pokémon and were on their way back home, walking through a church parking lot when two police cars surrounded and cornered them.  Two white police officers got out of one of the cars. One officer had a rifle in his hand with his finger on the trigger.

What is so suspicious about two grown kids (18 year olds) walking around that police felt they needed to be armed and ready to shoot? And they needed two cars? Does my son look that scary or like a criminal?

Jaren said one officer was calm and cooperative.  He had heard about the Pokémon Go game.  However, he said the other officer, the one with the rifle in hand, was stone-faced.  This encounter shook up my son and he admitted he was scared.  I’ve encountered the police several times while in high school.  Two times, I was taken to the police station because drugs were found in the car.  Not once, even when the car was full of white teenage and young adult males and females, did they ever pull a gun on us ready to shoot.

Jaren has been taught to respect the police.  In elementary school, Officer Tommy would come to the school and visit with the kids.  Officer Tommy also worked at our local mall.  When Jaren saw Officer Tommy at the mall, Jaren would always say hi.  And sometimes Jaren would want to stop by the police shop located in the mall just to say hi to Officer Tommy.  Jaren had no reason to fear the police and has always been respectful.  On top of that, Jaren’s father and Uncle are both police officers.

I am so very thankful that our boys got home safe.  But not all boys or men who are unarmed do.  Some get shot.

I’ve wondered, if something happened to my son that night, would my family, friends, church members still stand silent?  Would they think that my son and his friend must have done something to cause their fatal fate?  Or would they believe that sometimes innocent or non-threatening people, especially black men can get shot just because they are black?  Would my community protest on behalf of my son and his friend for their injustice?  Would they stand firmly with me and host a Call to Action on their behalf?

We all have aspects that connect us; it may be our language, religion, ethnicity, race, country, community, or social or economic status.  It could even be our disability.  That’s natural.  That’s human nature.  But…when we are unable or unwilling to see another side of the story, when we ignore the facts, when we allow that which connects us to also separate us from others we create or perpetuate issues in our society.  When we honor or value the lives of those with certain job titles over that of the average civilian, when we feel more for those who look like us than those who don’t, that’s an issue.  When we become distrustful of someone solely because of their race or differences we are not acting in the true sense of the slogan that All Lives Matter.

The truth is America has had a history of systematic racial discrimination against black lives.  Black lives have been stolen, kidnapped, owned, enslaved, bought and sold, traded, beaten, raped, oppressed, marginalized, hung, and killed with no regard.

So the question is do all lives really matter?

It not just words on paper, or a Facebook or Twitter post.  Real lives are at stake here.

Having a Voice

Having a voice (whether spoken, written or signed) is an important aspect in a society.  We as individuals and as members of a specific group or gender have always had a need to express our voice.

I was watching the TCM channel over the weekend.  One movie was going off and another was getting ready to come on.  The movie ending was a movie about the old west, a Cowboys and Indians kind of movie.  The movie coming on, ‘Murder Ahoy’, a black and white film, released in 1964 was based off of novels and characters written by Agatha Christie.

The movie began with Miss Marple, an elderly female fictional character who appears in numerous novels and short stories by Agatha Christie.  Miss Marple, dressed in a white collar shirt, jacket, and tie, is sitting at a table among all men discussing matters when one of the men suddenly drops over dead.  This sparks her amateur detective instincts to investigate.  As she is following a trail, she slowly walks backwardly down a fire escape.  Two men, who meet her at the bottom, startling her a bit, question her about her motives.  She becomes stern with them and tells them they do not know what has just happened.  They reassure her that they are well aware of what has just happened and then attempt to scoff her off.  She asks them what they are implying.  (We as viewers know what they are implying.)  They deny they are implying anything.  Then they tell her that maybe she is “not herself.”  Miss Marple quickly and sharply responds, “I have always been myself.”

This is a classic example of a woman being presented as equally important as her male counterparts.

Agatha Christie, being a female herself, creates strong women with dialogue that expresses our own ideas and self-worth.  Agatha Christie does not shy away from showing how women may be perceived and the stereotypes or the subtle oppression that exists, but she is able to use her platform to demonstrate how women are resilient, intelligent, have an important voice and are an equal contributor in any society.

Shonda Rhimes is a modern day example of this.

However, the old western movie that was going off, who had imitation Natives, got me to thinking about all the times we have allowed someone else to speak or portray an image for another race or group.

There are so many that I am afraid I will inadvertently leave off some so I will focus on these key groups.

Slave, Black African American, and old western movies, depicting Cowboys and Indians (Native American Indians), were more often written and directed by white men.  It was their vision, their voice, their interpretation, and their dialogue that was written for the world to see, whether it was accurate or not.

I don’t doubt that “some” had good intentions of trying to capture that reality of a time in history but if we are writing from one side of history, we are not truly portraying a true sense of reality.  If one has never been a slave, then one cannot truly understand or comprehend the intensity of what it means to live as a slave or being a direct descendant of a slave.  Can you imagine a white director or writer telling a black man or woman, this is how slaves acted?  Especially during early American film history, when the Black American voice was silenced and oppressed.

Alex Haley put names and faces to the American Slaves when he told his true story in Roots, which made a huge impact and won one Golden Globe Award and another 16 wins and 35 nominations.

Same goes for the Wild West movies but with one added element, we didn’t even allow Native Americans Indians to act or portray their own roles in our films.  And if we did, it was minute, with possibly one or two key members among hundreds of imitations.  We either used other ethnic groups with similar characteristics or worse, we used white men and painted them brown.

Our American stories, were written to honor or glorify the white Europeans and early Americans about their fight for this country.  But at what cost?  These stories, whether for politics, for the news, for historical preservation or for entertainment, were written from one side, the white mans.

Sure, we’ve always had sympathy characters to tug at our hearts and make us question our motives and morals but when we turned the last page of the book, or watched the credits roll the screen, Americans went back living life as they always have.

Recently, one of my Facebook friends shared a YouTube documentary video of the history of the African-American Cowboys.  In this video, real American black cowboys shared the history and the stories of their parents and previous generations, stating the origins of the American Cowboy is a culmination of the West African heritage and the Spaniards.  They even shared about the history of the term ‘cowboy’ and how it came from the early American slave days.  As commonly known, black males were referred to as boys, no matter if they were young boys or elderly men, during slavery and even up to the Civil Rights era.  So the term, cow-boy, actually started back during slavery and had a whole different connotation than what it later came to represent in movies and folk-lore, which was a strong, rugged white man, like John Wayne, the Lone Ranger and many other western film icons.  Could that have been early appropriation?

Have you ever watched a movie or a news story, read a book or an article that was written or directed by another race, ethnicity or gender who depicted your race or gender from their perception and felt that it was not a true depiction of you or your family, your history, or your people?  How about when the white race is the minority in the movie?  Or a movie, where instead of hiring people who represent your race or culture, the film crew hired another race, costumed them up with paint and fake hair to depict your race?  And White Chicks does not count.  Has your race ever been eliminated completely from historical facts or were the facts grossly distorted to benefit another race or culture?  Not many of us White Americans have, especially in comparison to other groups?

Can you imagine going to a movie and having to watch people with your skin color or your culture being portrayed as subhuman, primitive heathens, being represented in a subservient manner, always obedient to the white man and when that does not happen, the consequences that resulted.  That’s a systematic oppression.

There are a few other examples of this, too.   Adoption is one.

For years, the books, the blogs and personal interviews relating to adoption were mostly by adoptive parents.  They shared their one-sided view on adoption that society seemed to view as the most worthy, respected voice.

The story or stories that were handed down to the adoptee’s about their original, biological family and why they were available for adoption was communicated by adoption professionals to the adoptive parents who then passed the story to the child, if it was even shared or communicated at all.  We’ve since learned over the years, that many of those stories were not true but a false misrepresentation of the facts to appease a need for a separation and relinquishment to occur.  These false stories were needed in order to create a scorned, bad woman, someone who was lacking moral value, who was poor and negligent and was incapable of loving her own flesh and blood or turned away in cold malice.  Adoption movies also played into the roles and stereotypes.  Ironically, these stories conveniently left the males unmarred, who coexisted in the process of breeding.

Adoptees and biological/relinquishing parents are now speaking up and speaking out in great numbers to set the record straight.

White Americans but mostly White American males have been steering the course of our society for hundreds of years and have been exhibiting their white power and privilege over many centuries.  White Americans started out as a minority in this nation and yet have managed to populate this entire country, almost wiping out the Native American Indian culture.  White Americans have dominated politics, literature, media, and entertainment for years, have exhibited many atrocities on this land, none as great as the atrocities than to that of the Black, African American men and women, and yet somehow still seem to find ways to blame others for the demise of American culture and the American dream.

There is this need in our society to create a good people versus a bad people, a hero and a villain, a sinner and a saint, a better than or worse than, a systemic hierarchy, whether it is true or not.  As in all things, there are always exceptions, there are always some truths.  But when those truths are watered down, diluted or distorted to benefit another person’s ego or personal agenda, this is when we begin to create an oppressed, disturbed and dysfunctional society.  We begin to honor the lies and deny the truths.

Here’s the thing, no matter how many lies are told, how much oppression is exhibited, how many times the legal records, history books, or the legal system tries to distort the facts, sooner or later, the truth will reveal itself.  A lie can never change who we are, from the time we enter this world from the time we bid this world adieu.

The truth is White Americans (both males and females) have also protested and fought for the rights and equal treatment of all humans.  This has been documented and we know this to be true.  There is never an all or nothing in our society.  That’s that great thing about living in a free society and country.  But, as many who have fought for the protection of our equal liberty in our free society, there have been just as many fighting against it.

As humans, having a voice and sharing our voice is as old as life itself.  From early biblical stories to folk lore to early American history, speaking up for things that matter to us, especially when we feel we have been forgotten or neglected or oppressed is a natural human instinct.  We all have the same basic needs and our voice helps us attain that need.

 

Race, Price and Ethics in Adoption

When I came to Texas back in the early 1990’s, my boyfriend and I talked about having kids.  We lived together on a 100 acre property south of the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex.  I remember having some blank note cards that had these beautiful painted American Indian/Latino children in a southwest desert setting.  They were so adorable.  In my ignorance, I said, “If we adopt, I want a baby who looks like this.”  I see now how these thoughts were and are unethical.

Sonny, my boyfriend at the time, who actually does have some American Indian ancestry along with European, has light hair and light eyes.  I too have European heritage.  So the chances of us producing an offspring with these characteristics were very rare.

The idea that I thought I could just choose whatever kind of child I wanted because I was adopting, as if children (especially vulnerable children who have been separated from their biological family) are cataloged merchandise and are there to please my needs sounds absurd and yet people do this all the time.

To be honest, I don’t know if I would have understood this prior to me giving birth and relinquishing my parental rights.

I have read many articles and have heard people say how they have always loved Asian children or Latino children and so forth and how they think they are so cute.  So when some of those people decide to adopt, they will often say similar phrases as the reason they chose to adopt outside their race.

Here is the issue.  More often, those same people have never dated anyone from that particular race.  And many would never even consider dating or marrying someone from that race.  So how is it that someone could have always loved “blank” babies but not like “blank” adults?  Babies grow up to be adults.

Saying you want to adopt an American Indian baby when you are not American Indian or making sure the baby you adopted has the ethnic or race that you specified to the agency that you wanted to adopt sounds privileged.  Could it be a deal breaker?

The other thing I have heard as a reason to adopt either outside of one’s own race or oversees was because it was cheaper.  I’ve heard adoptive parents say, “We were planning on adopting here in America but the agencies wanted to charge $35,000 to $40,000 so we decided to explore our options oversees.”  Likewise, I’ve heard similar comments made about adopting domestically from a minority race here in America.

Placing value and worth on a child is unethical especially when it differs due to one’s race, skin color, age, orphaned status or one’s biological background.

Saying you decided to adopt oversees because it was “cheaper” sounds like you are trying to get the best deal or a bargain basement price for something (a human being) that should never be dollar driven or as an incentive.  Cars have incentives.  Department stores have deals and bargains on merchandise.  Human beings are neither of those.  And adoption agencies are not dealers or retailers.

We understand when people want to adopt within their race.  It makes for less obvious scrutiny.  Adopting outside of your race can be more complex.  But when we adopt outside of our race because we decided to settle for something other than what we initially wanted, or we feel sorry for another race as if they are disadvantaged, or because the expense is cheaper, or because it is trendy, or because we want to prove we are not racist, or because we feel it is our right to buy whatever kind of child we want, what does that say about who we are and what we are willing to do to buy babies or children.

When someone has their heart set on adopting or they are acting out of desperation, we know that logic does not always trump ethics.  But that is no excuse for behaving unethically.

It is time to review unethical behaviors, thoughts and practices so we can improve the adoption experience and allow it to become a necessity only after all other options and avenues have been explored.  This is when we use adoption to link children with parents that are best suited for each other which should neither be driven by race or dollars.

What some intended for harm, God intended for good, part 1

My first born son is a high school junior this year.  It’s hard to believe.  I think back to the time when I first discovered I was pregnant with Jaren.  Yes, he was unexpected.  Yes, he was not planned and under my own limited human perception, unintended.  And even with all that, I was not afraid of my future or our future together; despite his father’s lack of enthusiasm.

Even my family was happy for me.  Until…

Yes, until.

Until about seven months into my pregnancy, they learned that my future son would be half of another race of a man that they did not know nor ever met.  Jaren’s father was mostly African American along with some American Indian.  They acted as if I had done the most horrific thing.  And although I was thirty-four years old and lived more than a thousand miles away, they began to scheme on ways to talk me into getting rid of my baby who had not even been born yet

Then the phone began to ring.  This is how coercion begins.  Mom’s sister called first.  I had not talked with my aunt or seen her in many years.  However, she is calling me not to congratulate me or support me or to ask me how I was doing; no, none of those things.  She was calling me to ask me to “give up” my future infant for adoption.  She was very persuasive in her argument.  Even though just months before she had supported my pregnancy and was a guest at a baby shower given in my honor by my family back home, race had now played a very big factor in my decision to parent my own child.  She thought it would be more difficult to raise a bi-racial son as a single mother.  Apparently raising a white infant is easier than raising a bi-racial infant, especially if the race includes African or a darker skinned race.

It’s not like I didn’t know how my family felt about race.  I remember as a teenager, my mother had a variety of cabbage patch dolls.  One of them was a black cabbage patch doll.  When my niece was a toddler, she would play with the cabbage dolls and carry them over to my step dad.  He would allow my niece to place them in his lap except for one.  Whenever she placed the black cabbage patch doll in his lap, he would throw the doll across the room and call it a derogatory name.  Not the n-word but other derogatory names.  My niece would go get the doll, give it back to him, scold him, and they would repeat this performance several times.

So I knew my family didn’t really care about my role as a single mother.  Neither was their concern that this new offspring that extended from our family tree would get adequate care under my supervision.  They were masking the truth.  They didn’t want to be the family with the daughter who got pregnant by a black man.  They wanted that branch to be removed or at the very least hidden.  If they could just talk me into getting rid of my new baby boy and hide him away through adoption, they would have succeeded; they would have won the coercion battle.

But God had different plans for my son and me.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I don’t know where I would be if I had allowed my family to convince me that parenting my child was wrong.  I’ve thought about that many times over the years.  What if Jaren was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  It’s heartbreaking to think about.  Thankfully, I was stronger and God was louder and I am so very thankful I listened

God has been my source of empowerment and has continued to support and guide me all these years.  I won’t say it’s been easy as a single mother but most things in life are not easy.  But parenting my son has been worth it.  As for the racial aspects, I don’t think it has impacted my life negatively.  I would say I have benefited from the things I have learned as a mother of a mixed-raced family.  Sure, I’ve faced race issues but nothing that I have not been able to handle.  In fact, I would say my family has caused me more hardship about race than society in general.  All of which has helped me learn more about the human race and has increased my understanding and compassion.

As for my son, he is my life.  He has brought so much joy into my world.  He has raised my soul to another level of conscious learning.  I have experienced the greatest love I have ever known.  And I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be his mother.

It All Comes Down to Race

I’m one of those people who sense things.  Call it what you want; intuition, psyche, or inner guidance but earlier this week, I told my son that something felt off.  I said something was about to happen.  I felt the shift before it occurred.  Jaren asked me, “Is it something good or something bad?”  I told him it wasn’t something good.  Something just felt very wrong even though I had no prior information.

We got rid of our cable a couple years ago and opted for Hulu Plus instead.  The one plus side of Hulu is we don’t get bombarded with commercials.  Another aspect of Hulu is we don’t have local news.  Sometimes this is bad and sometimes it seems like a really good thing, especially right now when tension is high in the U.S.  And no matter how you view the Michael Brown story or what side or angle you take, it seems to me when all is said and done, it all comes down to race and the color of a man’s skin and less about an unarmed teenage boy getting shot, or a mother and a father mourning the loss of their son.  All of the sudden there are no exceptions, no “some”, no “few”.  Everyone gets lumped into one category, the white man, the black man, or however people get clustered together for a social or political statement or protest.  And I hate it!

I am not just a white woman.  I am so much more.

Today, after I dropped Jaren off at the local mall with his female friend so they could go shopping for school clothes, it dawned on me that I forgot to tell Jaren to be careful as a mother normally does to a sixteen year old going to a public place without his parent.  Then suddenly I remembered my statement I made to him earlier in the week.  I had forgotten all about it until that moment.  I called Jaren.  I felt this urge to tell him to be extra careful.  Not just as a sixteen year old but as a young man who resembles a black young man more than a white young man.  I told my son to be extra careful today because with everything going on, tempers are high and people are on edge.  I wanted him to be cognizant of his surroundings.

Never have I ever felt the need to impart this type of cautious concern on my son.  But as his mother, I need to recognize the truth about our society and that some people who do not know my son will judge him before they get to know him.

IMG_0051

The Privileged

I just finished watching 12 Years a Slave and so many thoughts are running through my head.  I’ve seen slave movies before, Roots, Django Unchained and a host of others.  I learned nothing new.  But it did reconfirm my belief that the people back then, and by people I mean “white people” were seriously lacking moral values.  Now I understand that not all white people were of the same wicked mind.  But I do think it is fair to say that the majority of the white people, especially those living in slave states were really fucked up.

Excuse my French.  But we are grown folks rights.  I mean if we can watch a film using the “N-word” and watch human beings being sold, chained, whipped and hung for only the sake of a white man’s desires to be richer, well then, the “F-word” should surely not be as offensive as watching this Academy Award winning movie.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing this movie at all!  It was well written, well directed and very well acted.

Can you even imagine?  I mean really imagine what the black actors must have experienced emotionally to recreate this epic film?  I don’t think many of us can.  To allow yourself to be treated with such disgust and ignorance, even if only for make-believe when you yourself know in your mind that the story being told is not made up, and that it not only happened to ONE black man, but happened to many other black men and women whether they lived as a free man or woman or not.

I can only say how very thankful I am that my ancestors arrived in this North American Continent from their European counties in the early 1900’s.  How proud I am that my ancestors were not among those slave owners or cruel hired hands working for the slave owners.

My son and I have had several conversations about slavery and the world today.  And honestly, I do get somewhat frustrated when I hear the white privilege complain about other races, making their ignorant assumptions of how lazy certain races are and how the whites have to pay higher taxes because not everyone is pulling their weight.  I will tell you that in my thirty plus years of working, most of which has been in a large metropolitan area, I’ve worked with equal amounts of dedicated, reliable and loyal African, Latino and Asian American co-workers as well as Caucasian-European American co-workers.

But that’s not even the issue.

What the white privileged of America seem to forget is that slavery made this country VERY RICH.  I seriously doubt that we even would have had the status of the RICHEST country in the world had it not been for the hundreds of years, HUNDREDS OF YEARS of slavery; free workers who made slave owners, business owners, politicians and many other average white men very rich.  Economically, money was flowing, products were being bought and sold.  But at what cost?

These black men and women not only worked for free wages (which the indentured servants did as well) but they were held captive, beat mercifully and treated like animals and sometimes much worse.  To be torn away from your own children because human traffickers could get more money by separating the family, and then to be told, “you will forget all about them [children]” is an unforgivable act.  That’s what they told birth mothers, too, just before money would exchange for the newborn infant.

I wonder how many of us today, no matter what color our skin is, could last as a slave.  I often wonder had America not have had slaves, would it have flourished or even still exist as it is today.  How dirty is our land, our money, our country?  Does it make you proud to be an American knowing that we are rich and free because of the sacrifices that were forced upon human beings who were trafficked and sold and gave their entire life to a country that saw them as no more or less than an animal.

So you will excuse me if I don’t sympathize with you for having to pay a little more taxes that helps pay for unemployment, food stamps, wic, Welfare and Medicaid, which I have also been the recipient of and that many of you falsely claim is mostly used and abused by other races rather than the all righteous white race.  Considering we all still have our freedom, paying taxes to help a needy person, especially single mothers is a small inconvenience as compared to the hundreds of years the slaves worked for free to build this rich, bountiful and free country that so many of us take for granted.

And don’t even get me started on the Emancipation and the Civil Rights Era.

Humble

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  James 4:6

I was recently hired by the employer that I had been working as a temp for the last few months.  One of the things that I noticed at my new place of employment is the humility of the employees and even the management staff.  They even include the word “humble” along with respect, integrity and fairness in their employment contract.  Now that’s very unusual.  I can tell you that after working in the corporate world for the past twenty plus years, humble people is not a common trait seen among the corporate workforce.  What a concept.  To have humble, compassionate and nice people to work with.

A phone conversation I had over 30 years ago with the mother of the boyfriend I had been dating at the time turned very sour.  She had overheard a conversation and decided she needed to confront me about it.  Someone remarked, “Karen might be pregnant.”  My boyfriend’s mother immediately assumed that it was her son’s girlfriend (aka me), also named Karen.  After accusing me of being pregnant, she then tells me that I was not going to have this baby and that I needed to get an abortion.  Assuring her that I was not pregnant and telling her it must have been another Karen, I decided to go one step further.  I asked her why she didn’t like me.  What had I done?  I knew that she didn’t care for me.  A person knows when someone likes or loves them and when someone doesn’t.  That’s part of how friendships are formed.  Besides having things in common, we feel a warm endearing presence from another who also seems to enjoy our presence when we’re together.

Well, I didn’t get that warm fuzzy feeling from my boyfriend’s mother.  Her response, “You’re too nice.” 

How do you respond to that?

Years later, when I looked back, I would joke about it with some friends and comment, “I should have told her to go “f” herself and then maybe she would have liked me more.”

This wasn’t the first time that someone made this kind of opinion of me.  I recall my mother and older brother saying this is why they believed our stepdad liked my sister, Colleen better than me.  I think their exact words for the reason, “Dad likes Colleen more because she’s tough and doesn’t take any shit.”  He had more respect for my sister as opposed to me, because I was the meeker one.  Seems kind of strange, doesn’t it; to dislike someone because their too nice or to like someone more because they’re harsher.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl_NpdAy3WY  (You like me, you REALLY like me!)

People around in my later years would be quite surprised to hear that I was “too” nice.  Boy, have I changed.

I guess being a mom has changed me a lot.  My protective maternal instincts sparked very early.  I started off battling prejudices from the time I got pregnant.  For those of you, who have children, imagine having to experience one of the most exciting moments of your life without the support of your loved ones.  I was a fragile fish, who just wanted to grow and nurture her baby, swimming among the sharks.

I would have many more opportunities to prepare my heart for battle.  Racism can make a person very callous.  Dealing with the looks, the rejection, the “we’re better than” attitude can be flat-out exhausting.  Then after becoming a birth mother, another layer of social assumptions and prejudices were added.  My skin got tougher and my meekness was slowly fading away.  I would look back and think how blind and naïve I was before I entered into this world of mixed races and birth families.  The reality can be disheartening at times.  I had no idea how the world was until I was on the receiving end.  I became bitter and insensitive.  Sometimes I was downright mean.  Nope, I had decided that I wasn’t taking no more shit from anyone.  I had listened to their shit and shoveled their shit for far too long.  If they wanted to throw shit my way, I was going to through it right back in their face.  See how they liked it.  

Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been given a test and I think that I may be failing.  But those who were placed in my life to love me unconditionally have failed on some level as well.  It’s a ripple effect.  Once the object makes contact with the water, the ripple begins and we can never go back and stop the movement.  The ripple has already occurred and the action is already in process.

Funny thing is though, once you allow yourself to become like them, you no longer like who you’ve become.  So I’ve been trying to find my way back to my meek heart.   

But I will always stand up against injustice.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

Colorblind

Color blindness:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_blindness

“I am/we are colorblind,” is a common phrase that I have seen written in a news article, on a Facebook comment, a blog post, and I’ve heard multiple persons use this phrase with my own ears.   And it’s often used in correlation with an individual justifying his or her stance on racism, as if to say, “I am colorblind so therefore I cannot be racist”.

As a mother of a multi-racial family, I find it odd that someone feels they need to be colorblind in order to not feel racist.  Especially since being colorblind is an actual condition and form of a disability.  It’s like when I hear someone say, “I’m practically deaf.”  And this person is nowhere near deaf nor do they wear hearing aids.  As a person who is hearing impaired, I take offense when someone makes a comment like that.

I’ve read blogs about adoptive parents claiming their colorblindness and on the flip side have read blogs by adoptees being very aware of their trans-racial experience from the time they were young.  How can one family have two very differing experiences, one being so blasé about skin color as if they don’t even notice and another experiencing some sort of emotional detachment because of skin color?

So let’s examine this color blindness a little deeper.  I wonder why some people claim to be colorblind as opposed to acknowledging they can see a person’s skin color effortlessly.  Seeing colors is not a bad thing, is it?

How is it that we can we see the beautiful colors of the rainbow, the wild flowers in the field, the blue skies, the tiger’s and zebra’s  stripes, our red, white and blue American Flag and be in awe, but then deny that we recognize someone’s skin tone?  It’s like saying; you don’t notice someone’s striking blonde hair or their piercing blue eyes.  Does that make sense?

One of the things that drew me to my children’s father was his rich darker skin tone.  

On the contrary, the other popular phrase is, “People of color,” while referring to every other ethnic culture or race except the white race, as if to say white is not a color.  This is a strong misconception.  White is a color in the Crayola Crayon box, just like, brown, black, tan, yellow, pink or red.  To claim that white people are not “people of color” is to claim that white people are clear or translucent.  As far as I can tell, my skin has color.  My skin color may or may not be as beautiful as others but it still has color.

Perhaps that’s part of the problem.  When we are all permitted to recognize each other’s skin colors free from preconceived notions or judgments, while acknowledging that every human being is a person of color, then maybe we can move from colorblindness and racism to acceptance.