Friday, August 27, 2010

by request

For those of you who requested rambly and uninformed... here you go.


When I was in 3rd grade we got a new student in our class. My best friend was in a different class, so when we met up at recess I informed her of the event. "We got a new girl in our class today and she's black," I told her. The new girl overheard me and came over to us. "I'm not black, I'm Mexican." "Oh. Sorry," I said, and my friend and I ran off to play wall-ball. I remember thinking something along the lines of black, Mexican, whatever. Later I remember being shocked to find out she lived in one of the nicest houses in our neighborhood and her father was a wealthy small-business owner.


I grew up believing that I could do or be anything I wanted. I grew up believing that everyone had that same opportunities in life, no matter what race they were or what their background was. I grew up believing that if you didn't reach your goals in life, you didn't want them bad enough or work hard enough to get them.

Those things were true for me, but who was I? A white girl whose parents went to college, got married, got good jobs, stayed together, and provided for all my physical, emotional, spiritual, and educational needs. Did I earn any tiny little bit of that privilege? Nope. Did this unearned privilege inform the above-mentioned beliefs? Of course.

This is not bad or wrong or anyone's fault. It just is. Or was -- I don't believe those things anymore.


In the paper the other day I saw a story about unemployment. The headline read "In jobless misery, it's mostly women and children first." The article noted that single mothers have been hard-hit by unemployment and featured two pictures of white women with children. They also included a table of unemployment statistics, which showed that black men had the highest rate of unemployment by a significant amount. But that's not going to sell papers is it?


What am I rambling on about? Well, I think I'm trying to get at a couple of things. One, that I have started very deep in the hole when it comes to understanding racial issues in America today. But, two, I am trying to grab the rope with both hands and climb my way out.

Why does this matter, and what does it have to do with adoption? Well, as I noted in my previous post, it turns out we are white and our third son is not. In order to be the best parents we can be for him, we need to understand what this might mean for us and for him. I've heard people say, "Oh it doesn't matter what color our child is, we love him just the same." DUH. That was never in question. The question is, would you ever need to say that about your white non-adopted child? And even if we were to say that race doesn't matter to us, it will very likely matter to our son. It is part of his identity, and brushing it aside is like saying that part of him has no value. OF COURSE it doesn't affect how much we love him, but it does affect who he is, just like being white affects who I am. As his parents we want to help him form a healthy racial identity; taking the blinders off and realizing all the ways that our society is biased toward white as the "norm" is a step toward being able to do that.

Oh! It is so hard to it "publish" on something this scattered and unfinished, but I guess it is representative of where my thinking is on these things right now. As Claudia reminded me in the comments of my last post, I am thinking, and that is important in and of itself.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

a little light reading on racial issues

How will we -- two white people with two white kids who grew up in mostly white communities -- parent a child who is not white? Not an easy question, and it doesn't have an easy answer. We are trying to listen to many different perspectives as we consider this challenge, including adult transracial adoptees, adoption professionals, anti-racism advocates, parents who have adopted transracially, and others.

I just wrote a long post about 'white privilege' and how this adoption process has opened our eyes to racial issues in a way that we had never considered before (and that statement in itself is actually evidence of 'white privilege'), but then I decided it was too rambly and uninformed. Instead I will invite you to read this essay, which compares white privilege to right-handedness, and also to check out this disgusting juxtaposition of two very different captions on two very similar pictures.


Friday, August 20, 2010

court date (beta version 1.0)

I usually wake up to the boom-boom-boom of little feet (whoever coined the term "pitter-patter" never had kids), but today I was awakened instead by a very unexpected phone call. Our case manager is on MST and forgot that it was only 7 AM in Seattle, but I did not mind a bit because she was calling to tell us that we had been assigned a court date for November 26 in Ethiopia! This was a shock to both her and us, as we were told not to expect any information for at least a few weeks after the courts reopen in late September. Apparently someone is working some overtime over there (or maybe they just have really good rain boots?) because families are still getting assigned court dates, despite the rainy season closure.

We are excited, but we are also trying to be realistic about what this means. It does not actually mean that we'll be going to court on November 26. In fact, we were given about a 90% chance that this date will change in the next couple of months. It does not mean we can buy plane tickets or start making arrangements for travel. All of that will still need to wait until after the courts reopen and things get back up and running. But it does mean that our case is ready for court, which is encouraging. It means that the court system is still operating at some level even though they are officially closed, so maybe that will result in a smoother transition time when they reopen. It means that something is happening and that feels good!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

first steps

Today one little word broke my heart.


It showed up in this month's child developmental report from YWAM, looking innocent enough in the section labeled "other comments". But last month the report said walks with help... and this month it says walking. Oh! I cried and cried: equal parts sadness and pride.

Some of my tears were for myself -- as a mama it hurts to miss this milestone in my baby's life.

Some of my tears were for him -- though I know he is loved and adored by his nannies, he didn't stumble into a mother's arms after those first precious steps. Separate from wanting that for myself, I want that for him.

And some of my tears were for his first mama -- she missed this too.

Even still, we will tuck away this memory and keep it for him. We don't have pictures or videos, like we do of his brothers' first steps, but we have this little moment of faraway pride and love. It's not the same, and maybe it's not enough... but we'll give what we have in love, and where we fall short may God's grace abound.

Nate, age 12 months

Dexter, age 15 months

Monday, August 2, 2010

sharing links

Are you following Our Little Tongginator? If you are an adoptive / prospective adoptive parent who is not allergic to wit, honesty, humor, perspective, and exclamation! points! then you should definitely check it out. If nothing else, visit every Sunday afternoon for what TongguMomma calls "Sunday Linkage". Where this woman finds the time to be an amazing mom to her Little Tongginator and scour the web every week for the most thought-provoking and interesting blog posts about adoption... well, it's a mystery to me. I'm sure thankful she does though!