Saturday, May 29, 2010

She Ain't Heavy...She's My Sister

Well I weighed my options about how to 'catch-up' with the multitude of posts that are backed up and waiting. I really leaned towards another monster post in which I put it all and caught up in one fell swoop. This seemed the most appealing because I know my tendency to get 'busy' again and the posts get lost forever! However, I think the long weekend will allow time for me to get all my work accomplished and still leave time for posting so here we go with the beginning of my past week......

As you will soon see, this week was filled with all the emotions possible in a human being! It began bad...heart breaking for a Mom in reality. Even more heart breaking for the Mom of children adopted from another culture. I could take off on my rant/rage about the current state of racism being cloaked in political robes that currently permeates our country but I try to keep my blog family friendly. I especially long to preach at those fellow adoptive parents who are delusional that their mantle of 'whiteness' and most excellent neighbors/neighborhoods will protect their children of color from the negative impacts of racism!! But as I've learned, that is a lesson best learned the hard way....sadly.

So this is the story, with a small 'pre-quel' to set the stage..... My girls live in a most excellent, upper middle class community that prides itself on being intellectually superior and racially diverse. We've discovered that the diversity is actually quite limited and the acceptance/understanding of other cultures is rather superficial. The 'good' thing we can say is that our neighbors' manners are such that we've been spared their actual opinions/attitudes as they would rather die than be perceived as being ignorant or racist! Disappointing to discover but as we look around and talk with other adoptive families in similar communities it seems to be common. A 'post racial' society is a loooooong way off for America.

Little things that we easily brush off as ignorance rather than racism have occurred on a regular basis in their life. Minor things like the pre-school children who asked why my girls didn't "wash off their dirty skins" are handled and accepted with no deep psychological scars in our house. As I've posted before it also goes the other way with Latino looking people approaching the girls and asking them in Spanish where "their real parents were"! But lately the darker and uglier manifestations of racism are appearing with more frequency! Our seminal lesson learned hard involved Julia, who at only 7 years old, and away at GIRL SCOUT CAMP faced a racially discriminative act without any of us there to talk it out and comfort her. Her childish joy at jumping from bunk to bunk with her tent mates cut short when one child stopped the fun by refusing to "touch a dirty spics bed" and too easily convincing the other tent mates to join in her racial slur! As I sat with the sobbing Julia in the car at pick-up and comforted her while starting the first lesson on all the possible racial slurs she would hear in her lifetime was the first visceral and emotional empathy I had with all of the Mothers to children of color who've had to sit and SERIOUSLY teach their children about how to behave in the presence of a policeman! 

Since that day there have been more tears over racial taunting or the more subtle exclusions from activities based on their race. We've gone through several emotional periods in which they've begged to have their gorgeous tans "bleached or whatever Michael Jackson did to his skin" and pleas for changes in hair color. It hurts because I thought I had 'done all the right things' in reading them books designed to build self-esteem and how to handle racial diversity. We have celebrated their culture and racial differences in all the most positive ways as well. Sadly, the rest of the world wasn't in the same program! I now know this is going to be a much longer and dirtier road than I first believed when I embarked on an international adoption....and together we are traveling down that road. We will continue to handle each pot hole as it appears to the best of our ability while hoping that the rest of the country will get their act together and repave this road with true 'post racial' sensibilities.

So this week's pot hole....
...a wavering voice calling on her cell phone asking me to come and get her from a planned movie outing with friends. A call that used key words that we had worked out recently to signal to me that she was in a distressful social situation...that I thought would be used in cases of alcohol or drug use...and she wanted out before things got out of control. As I raced to her all I could do was worry about how alcohol or drugs had already made it to the middle school level!!! She walked to the car with composure....but lost it as the door closed between her and the 'friend' who had been waiting with her on the sidewalk. Wailing in the kind of emotional pain that rips a Mother's heart wide open she cried, "Why don't people like me because of my skin!!!!!!" Seems that some members of the group planning to attend the movie together objected to the fact that Mari was included in the plans.....they didn't want to be seen uptown with "any spics"............

 and after a trip through McDonald's drive through for some ice cream comfort, I find the two sisters who love to fight over every little thing, snuggled together on the couch, under a blanket...where Julia's big (but carrying the battle scars of racism) heart loved on Mari until a smile could be coaxed back onto her face! Ahhh, to hate them....until someone else dares to and then it's "game on jerk"!!

Sadly, I'm sure other incidents will happen...thus is our life in a mixed race/culture family in 2010 America. We do what all such families must with it and move on!


  1. what a shame. that children are being taught that race matters. that Mari is judged by her skin color. so sad.

  2. that is just awful, and I am not naive but its so much easier when they are young and not in school. I know it will come and it will just be awful and painful, somehow I am hoping if anyone says something that she has 2 big cousins 1 a year older and 1 a year younger that might help straighten anyone out, although she is tough. I cannot imagine the pain as a parent to see your child hurting, I know its bound to happen so I will just enjoy the time now.