National Adoption Awareness Month 2019

I have read many blogs and articles by adoptive parents and adoptees. It astounds me to hear some of the comments and questions they are faced with as transracial families. Especially since I myself have a mixed race family and have never been asked directly or heard statements that many transracial families have heard. Partly, I think because White adoptive parents maintain their White social groups whereas mixed race families usually have expanded their racial social makeup.

I experienced this first hand one time while visiting Noah’s family in NE.

Sunday morning, we went to their church. I was introduced to one couple with an explanation of who I was. It seemed they had previously been informed of our open adoption relationship and wanted to learn more.

They, who appeared to be White, were married and raised a family, bio kids, who were now grown. They were now fostering a young boy who looked Latino. I think they were about to move from fostering to adoption. But I think they also wanted to maintain a connection with the boy’s mom.

Noah’s parents wanted to invite them over for dinner later that day. They let me know the couple wanted to spend more time with us. While I felt like an experiment, I knew it could impact this young boy and it was worth doing what I could to help.

They came for dinner with their young son.

After dinner is when things got interesting. The guys were downstairs watching TV in the basement. Upstairs, adoption soon became the topic. I started out learning that the husband of the couple was an adoptee himself. His siblings were also adopted. The wife began to talk about their race/ethnic guessing of her husband. She said that they (her husband’s parents and them) think he “may” have Latino or Hispanic. Then she begins to discuss the adopted brother of her husband and in a different tone says they “suspect” he has Black in him.

The words caught me instantly! I am sure no one else thought anything of it. I thought, wow, the brother who could possibly be Black is already a “suspect” without doing anything but being born. Why did she change her words from “may have Latino” to “suspects he is Black”? It’s not like HE was hiding is race. Was it because the agency purposefully withheld this info or truly didn’t know? Or because if the adoptive parents knew, they would not have adopted him? This was probably in the sixties so a different time no doubt. Did the possibly Black brother need to hide his Blackness in order to maintain his place in the White family?

Noah just happened to come upstairs in the middle of this conversation. I became immediately concerned about the impact on him. I looked at him and tried to interpret his facial expressions and body language. Even though I am not his parenting mother, I am still his mother and worry about him as an adoptee and a mixed race male.

Then the conversation turns to transracial adoption. The wife then drops the bomb.

She said (while referencing to Black/African), “We could never adopt a child of mixed race.” She went on to say that she thought raising a child of another race would be too hard. As she said the final too words, Noah looks directly to her and said, “too hard” in sync with her. My heart sank. I was dumbfounded and speechless. I could not believe she made this statement in front of my son or in front of me.

I began to wonder how often my son Noah had to endure comments like this. What message is this saying to him? Raising him is more challenging than raising White kids?

Then she looks at Noah’s mom and provides praise to her for raising a mixed race adoptee. Noah’s mom just silently stares at her.

And here I am, standing among this group as the microaggressions of racism seep out into this conversation and not one considers the impact on me or my son. Should I feel more ashamed for organically conceiving mixed race kids and birthing them or for relinquishing my rights to one so a White family could raise him in a difficult and bias world. To be honest, it is the latter. But this was the first time I was made to swallow the rife first hand, as if I was subhuman.

Thankfully, Jaren was downstairs. And I wonder if he was present, would the conversation have even veered in that direction.

These conversations are not something I have encountered as a parenting mother of a mixed race son. Nor have I heard someone tell Jaren that they couldn’t raise mixed race children because it would be too difficult. Nor thank me in front of Jaren for raising a mixed race son as if my role was superior to that of any other mother or father parenting their child. What an awful burden to place on a child.

These conversations are for White folks who feel safe in White spaces. I look back at this conversation and get angry with myself. I wish I had stuck up for myself and my sons. I should have explained that I am proud to have mixed race sons. They were conceived out of deep love and passion for their father. And nothing about their race makes it difficult for me to parent. I am fiercely protective of both of them.

Being Black should never be something to hide or feel ashamed of. Nor should a child be made to feel guilty for being born Black, or told their race or “blackness” makes life more difficult for their family.

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.

LIVING BI-RACIAL

Yesterday at church, I introduced myself to one of Jaren’s Sunday school friends.  He gave me this surprised look and said to Jaren, “I didn’t know you were mixed.”  Jaren said, “Yeah.”  Now this doesn’t bother Jaren or me at all. I appreciate someone’s honesty, as long as it is respectful.  And this isn’t the first time that someone looked surprise when they learned that I was Jaren’s mother. Jaren has told me on a number of occasions that he has had kids respond this way at school when his classmates find out he is bi-racial. He said they will often say, “I thought you were straight up black.”

When Jaren was an infant, he was neutral looking and could pass for Latino, Asian, and bi-racial and he seemed to spark a lot of curiosity. I had people stop me often to ask me about his ethnicity, like the time I was in the hospital recovering from giving birth for the second time. My mother and a friend brought Jaren to the hospital so he could meet his new baby brother. One of the nurses came over to me and said she was wondering about the race/ethnicity of my newborn. She informed me that once she saw my toddler, she knew he was of a mixed race. She commented how beautiful Jaren was and asked me what his ethnic background was and I told her. She said, “Makes me want to have a baby with a black man.”

I remember one time, when Jaren was about three years old.  His father hadn’t been over to see him in a long time.  I don’t remember how the conversation started but somehow the subject of race came up.  Jaren’s father asked him, “What are you?”  Jaren proudly said, “I’m black and white!”

Jaren often referred to himself as tan.  And when he saw someone else similar to his skin color, he would say, “They’re tan like me.”  As he got a little older and he noticed in his pictures that his skin tone changed as he aged, he told people, “I was born white but turned black.”  This always made me laugh.  I think others weren’t sure how to respond or react, but we would make light of it.

I let Jaren express himself anyway he wanted, as long as it wasn’t derogatory.  And yes, there were times when I needed to step in and say, “That isn’t appropriate,” just like any other parent of a one-race family/child.  I, like most of you, have heard time and again that prejudice is taught.  And people assume that it always derives from home but I can tell you from experience that my son learned more about prejudices from classmates at school then he did at home.

Recently, we sent in for DNA testing to see how diverse my son really is.  He is mostly of African, European, with some Asian and American Indian and even some Neanderthal.  How about that?  Yes, my son is rich in diversity.  But he is also rich in love.

In the end, we are of ONE race….the human race.