Monday, October 22, 2007

This Post Has No Title III

for prior posts in this vein click here

Over the past week or so Braydon and I have had a series of encounters with overt racism. Of course we encounter various forms of racism regularly. Nevertheless, that doesn't make it easy. It is horrifying. Racism has always been something that has horrified me. But it takes on a new level of horror when you're raising black children. I remember talking about this once with a black friend of mine. He told me that racism had always been the dark side of life for him, but when he became a father racism was suddenly in "all caps" (racism became RACISM). Not being black myself, I surely don't even know the half of it. But I'll go out on a limb and say that as a mother, racism is no longer racism... it is RACISM. It screams out at me. It shakes me at the core. It sends me into that crazed-hyper-protective-mother-bear-mode that makes it hard to sleep at night. I hate it. "How can I protect them?" I keep asking myself. And the answer just pounds back every time, slamming me into its wall: "I can't protect them." It feels like an inescapable disease that I can't keep at bay from my babies' tiny lungs -- no matter what I do, they will breathe that air, that sickness will flow in, I cannot keep them from catching it. I think of that After School Special I saw in 4th grade-- 'The Boy in the Bubble.' Surely there is some sort of hygienic protective place where I could hide them so they don't have to be exposed to this? But no, there is not. No such place exists. So, here we are. Trying to live our lives amidst this. We do our best to cope, to let it roll off us whenever possible, to get up and keep going. The looks and stares and inappropriate questions/comments/statements are manageable. But when you take a few heavy hits right in a row, it is hard to not feel weighted down by it.

10 comments:

Tricia V said...

more than wishing the world was different, you guys are MAKING it different.

i'm sure you know others as well - i do. and i'm one of them. we CAN make this society more just, more accepting, less racist.

one of the books that i appreciated so much in creating my inter-racial family was Love in Black and White (http://mathabane.com/Love%20Home.htm)
Although it is about inter-racial marriage, the authors discuss generally what it's like to cross the black/white divide in your family composition.

Strength, courage....!! (Your boys are beautiful boys, and they will become beautiful, strong men...)

Troy & Tara Livesay said...

Hi Heather ...

We notice this a lot more being in MN ... obiously in haiti our kids are safer from judgement, although not free from it because they have white parents --- but for me as a mom it is way harder to be here and feel that someone dislikes my child based on color alone.

Sorry bad things were said and done to you and or the boys -- NOT cool.

Glen and Andrea said...

You have summed up my feelings exactly. We are now only 3 months away from having our Thai son in our arms and I find I just CAN"T STAND any comment or suggestion of ANYTHING racist. I have always had zero tolerance of racism but I have grown a 'mother bear' urge to somehow build a barrier around us to filter out racism. But I realise I can't stop it.

I'm worried about how I will react when racism attacks once we are with our son. I don't think we can up and leave the table in the middle of a meal but we don't want to act like it's OK either. I might read your earlier posts on this and see how you have handled it.

Candis said...

I find overt bias to be somewhat manageable. It is the deadly, unspoken assumptions about race/ethinicity that frighten me enough to quit teaching and homeschool our son in a couple of years. I could finally put words to impressions and feelings when the Jena 6 debacle became public.

Those who hung the nooses were suspended; those who fought were indicted. As a teacher I know certain school-based conflicts warrant police action. But why does a judge give some a reprimand, others community service, and a few jail? Generally, young people are given leniency when a judge perceives the youth to be misguided or immature. I don't believe most judges are overtly racist. I just believe that black boys are seen as emotionally and intellectually incompetent, and as such, irredeemable.

This pervasive impression leads to patronizing treatment of our boys, who deserve honest criticism and discipline--not a wink and a headshake behind their backs.
Sorry for the tirade, but this subject occupies more of my mind than it has a right to. In a perfect world...

Candis

me said...

So sorry someone was hateful to your family. Thank you for sharing this though. The racism is the part I dread when my babies come home. It's nice to learn from people like you and Brayden. For what it's worth, I think you have a beautiful family.

Lila

Malia'sMama said...

I just read all of your posts in this "thread" and think you handle things with grace and calm. I have had a few "unsavory" comments, including those meant to be "nice" that just rub wrong. I, too, think I am more sensitive to it b/c I so want to protect my baby from judgement, from pain. Blessings, Heather, Braydon and boys!

Ani said...

As a mother, I can relate to your desire to protect your smart, happy children from the ignorant, hurtful people of the world.

As a Puerto Rican woman educated in the US, I can atest to the unfortunate existence of these ignorant, loud-mouthed individuals.

So sorry that your family has been hit with these hurtful comments lately. I want to ask (and its absolutely okay if its too personal to answer), but how do you handle these situations? How do you react so that your children are spared the brunt of it?

All the best to you and yours.

LaLa said...

I am so sorry this is happening and unfortunately will continue to happen. We have had some comments about our daughter but it seems China adoption gets a "pass" by some people. Now that we are going to Vietnam we have had more negative things said.

Cloudscome said...

I was just thinking today, with a sinking heart, about all the hurt that may come our way in the years ahead. It is unbearable. Unbearable.

Ema said...

I feel your pain- literally. My son is autistic- and the comments that people offer to me to my face make me SHUDDER to think what is left unsaid.

Retard, damaged, defective, "when will you need to put him in a home?" "Does he go to school with normal kids?" "Is he a threat to normal kids?" Did you drink, smoke, do drugs, eat wrong. . .

I continued to struggle with the sinking feeling of watching him grow, and enter society. . .dread and pride, fear and joy, sorrow and victory. . .the more I prepare him to live in society the less protection I feel he has. . .but I refuse to let the ignorant people steal my son's accomplishments, period.
M