Separating Adoption from Race – and a Momma’s Overdue Outrage

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Racial mirrors matter. Watching “A Snowy Day” together.

So far, the blog posts I have written about race have been placed in my “adoption” category on my home page. It’s not enough. Blackness and adoption are obviously not the same thing. In our house, maybe they have been the same thing, for too long now. But our son is getting older. He understands his skin color is different from ours.

He’s hearing what people say to him. When we are together, he gets a near-constant stream from white peers of “Is she your mom? But you’re black!” From Black peers, he gets “Is she your mom? But she’s white!” He already asked me not to come to lunch with him at the cafeteria again. He firmly asks me not to chaperone any of his field trips. That’s okay with me… cuz I have potty training twins… but I wish I could be inside his head for a little while.

It’s time to add a new category to this blog. Should I call it “Race”? “Black and White”? It can’t just be about one color, because I’m going to have to add a lot of stuff about my own white privilege. Remember, “if you don’t think white privilege exists, you are already enjoying it.”

Just because a problem isn’t YOUR problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

As my son matures, so do his understanding of adoption and race. As his brain or body has a growth spurt, so do his anger and his grief and his knowledge. But you know what? SO DO MINE! I have been living in a white bubble for 37 years and I think it’s finally popped. I think – I hope – my eyes are opened. And now I’m using those eyes to try to see the world through my son’s eyes, just a little. I am learning. I am asking questions. I am reading, reading, reading. I am listening. I am growing.

This growing hurts. And you know what? IT SHOULD HURT.

I SHOULD be uncomfortable. I have growing pains as I realize all the ways I’ve been ignorant. Downright wrong. I have regrets as I realize that I wasn’t paying attention until I had a Black son – until I had to pay attention. Where was my anger before?* Why did it take me so long? Because I have white privilege, that’s why. I was completely blind to that fact. Now, I am having growing pains as I realize just how different my life, as a white woman, has been from a Black boy’s life. (And it will continue to be different, no matter how much outrage I have.) I have growing pains as I realize just how incredibly hard it will be to raise a Black man in the American South. How much it’s going to hurt to do, and to watch.

I can’t ever go back. I have opened a door and gone through. My old life with blinders is completely over. As the inauguration looms over us, “Black & White Thoughts” is a now new category on this blog, and in my life. You are going to hear about it.

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*This week’s episode of the TV show “Blackish” delivered a very powerful speech about this topic. The main character, Andre, addresses the way white people (including me) were more surprised by the election results than were People of Color. He wonders why we white people were not paying attention sooner. He says, “You think I’m not sad that Hillary didn’t win? That I’m not terrified about what Trump’s about to do? I’m used to things not going my way. I’m sorry that you’re not and it’s blowing your mind, so excuse me if I get a little offended because I didn’t see all of this outrage when everything was happening to all of my people since we were stuffed on boats in chains.” Read more about it here. Watch the full episode here.

What the Bleep Did I Just Let my (Black) Child Watch?

slave auctionI just accidentally showed my (black) child a cartoon about a slave auction and a master who whips runaway slaves. Yes, I did.

I could not believe my eyes. My four-year-old and I stumbled across the most racist cartoon ever made. This wasn’t some dark corner of the internet. This was a classic cartoon compilation DVD sold at Wal-Mart recently. Think Popeye and Steamboat Willy. Safe, right? Wrong.

This silent black and white (ha!) cartoon was made in the early 1930s. The characters are animals, but their races are apparent. I’m not going to name the cartoon or the DVD, because I don’t want to share it in any way. Let me just summarize some plot points for you:
• Lazy black (or blackface?) cartoon characters pick cotton
• A black girl dances happily
• The master whips the little girl when she tries to play with her white friend
• The white friend cries
• Chained-up black characters march in front of a sign that says “Slave Auction Today”
• The little girl happily dances on the auction block, even showing her bottom/underwear, while a crowd of men scream to buy her. (It says “auction block” right on the stage, so you can be sure.)
• A black mother washes her black baby in a washtub. She scrubs him so hard, he comes out white, and she screams. (I could be wrong about this one. This scene was actually the most confusing and disturbing part for me.)
• The blood hounds are released to chase the little girl, who now must somehow be a runaway slave. (It says “blood hounds” on their dog house, so you can be sure.)
• The slave master and the blood hounds join together to chase the runaway slave girl.
• The runaway slave girl runs to Uncle Tom’s cabin. (It says “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” right on his cabin, so you can be sure.)
• Uncle Tom is chained out front. The little girl says “Help”.

Happy but lazy slaves. Wow. Whipping. Chains. Auction block. Selling a little girl. Blood hounds.

I am a Southerner with roots in the Confederacy. How do I teach my white and black sons about that? I don’t know. But it sure as $%@!# isn’t going to be with this cartoon.

While I was sputtering and calling for my husband, my (black) son said, “I like this show.” To my son, I apologize. To the cartoon, may you burn in hell.