What's Race Got to Do With it?
"Well, we are adopting an African baby, but when we bring them home they will be an American citizen. So then yes, they will be African American, but if you're wondering if my baby is going to be black,yes they will."
That was a simple conversation I had with one of my students a few months ago. She was obviously trying to be politically correct and was just innocently curious about the color of my baby's skin.
I have been wanting to write a blog post about race for quite a while but have debating when and how to do it. After a conversation with a dear friend this week and some other events that happened this weekend, I decided to do it now. To be quite honest, I am not exactly sure where this blog will end or what its total purpose is but we will see....
If you know me and Jeffrey, you clearly know that we are an inter-racial couple, Heck, even if you don't know us you probably gathered that info from the giant picture on the top of this blog.
I'm not sure where I want to start, but I think I want to start with our adoption training. Jeffrey and I were required to go to several different classes in the paperwork portion of our adoption. One of the trainings was specifically about adopting a child from a different race/culture. Now, first of all Jeffrey was the only black person at the training and we were the only family adopting from Africa. The instructor pointed out the obvious that people may not think that our baby is my baby due to our skin differences, and that many people would probably assume that our baby was Jeffrey's biological child.
This really doesn't bother me at all, but it does bring up a lot of questions. A while back, I was talking to a few friends about how it is different to raise a baby not only from a different race but from a different culture. I don't remember the exact question I asked, but I remember them responding with the answers that they don't really think race is a big issue today. I remember thinking yeah "You're white and have no idea". Lets face it, even in a world where we have an African American president and many celebrities and athletes who we all adore who are from different races and cultures, AMERICA STILL HAS BIG RACE ISSUES.
Jeffrey and I both have super supportive families who have stood by us and have stood up for us. I also know that it was difficult for some our our extended family to adjust to even if they never said something to us personally. We have had several people ask us if we have ever faced issues with being a bi-racial couple. Obviously, we aren't facing issues that people in the 1960s faced but we have had some difficulties. We usually end up telling people that the people who usually comment are people who don't even know us. Sadly, we have lost a few friends over the fact that they did not agree with our interracial relationship, but the people who really love us and know us wouldn't ever question our relationship. When we first started dated, we were young and I was probably a little more insecure and aware of others. I noticed people looking, but after a while I seemed to stop noticing. We are so blessed to go to an extremely diverse church and have several friends and family members of different races/cultures. I think I'm probably just so wrapped up in what we are doing that I ignore the people who are just passing by, but this past weekend was different. We were at the St. Louis Galleria walking around, and I noticed some dirty looks coming our way. I thought maybe it was just me, so I didn't say anything and Jeffrey actually commented that he had noticed a lot of people giving us rude looks. It was surprisingly the younger people.
Jeffrey and I have always been really open about talking about our racial differences. We have talked about how we really want our children to understand issues about race and know who they are. I have heard many people say that they don't see skin color or that they don't look at Jeffrey as black but just a person, but to me that is such a sad image. Jeffrey is a beautiful strong black man, and I am proud of who he is. I want my children to grow up knowing that mommy and daddy don't look the same, but it doesn't mean we are any better or worse. It is what makes us who we are and what makes the world so beautiful. We have discussed how we want our children to be proud of who they are. I know we will face some challenges with the fact that one of our babies will be bi-racial and one of our babies is going to be Ethiopian. I know everyone who adopts internationally does not look like their children, but I am happy that Jeffrey will be able to relate to our baby. Yes, I know that Jeffrey is not African, but I feel like African American people do face issues that I don't think I would be able to relate to. I am happy that he will be able to talk to our baby about things that he has faced as a black man in America.
I know I'm getting deep here and probably making some of you uncomfortable....Keep reading.....
We really want to teach our baby about his/her Ethiopian culture and allow him/her to ask questions and feel comfortable to talk about where he/she was born. We think the fact that we are going to have an Ethiopian baby is absolutely wonderful and beautiful and we don't want to hide that or deprive our baby from that.
As far as when we have a biological child, I want our baby to know that they can be proud of who they are and the fact that they have a black dad and a white mom. I understand that questions and issues may arise, but I think the biggest thing is to be open with your children about this topic of race even if you don't have an interracial family. Talk to your kids about others!
Okay so where am I going with this? I know if I left it right here, several of you would let me know that we shouldn't be defined by our race, and I would have to say that you are totally right. But I would also have to say that race shouldn't be something that we ignore or act like we are all the same. Race and culture should be celebrated and explored.
Our children will have black and white grandparents, a Japanese great grandma, Hispanic relatives, and many family friends who are made up of a whole lot of other stuff =) . Will our children ask us about their family? Will the notice the differences? I don't know, but I really hope they do. I want our kids to see the beauty of our family and other families that may look different than ours. I think the most important thing for our kids to know is that we treat everyone with love and respect regardless if they are different from us.
So did this blog really accomplish what I wanted it to....maybe. Did it make you think? Did it make you possibly more aware? I know some of you will disagree with what I posted and that is completely fine. I have just been thinking a lot about race and felt like writing about it.