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.