Saturday, March 24, 2012

Race Isn't a "Big Deal" Until It's YOUR Kid?!

A prospective adoptive parent, considering transracial adoption, writes that she's become "race obsessed," after growing up "in an environment and at a time (when was that?!) when race wasn't a really big deal:"
One of the decisions we’ve made is that we’re open to transracial adoption. My husband and I are both white and we’re on the path to adopting a child who is black. In many ways, this is not a big deal. My best friend is black and many of our other friends are, too. We live in an area that is predominantly black and many families in our church, school and neighborhood are interracial.

In other ways, this one decision has been one of the more difficult. There’s no other way to put it — I’ve gotten a bit race obsessed. I’m hyper-sensitive, in ways I wasn’t before, to jokes, internet memes, disparate treatment and everything else that minorities deal with every day.

* * *

I’m fine with joking about race and always have, but some things that are passed off as jokes aren’t funny in the slightest. A father of a friend recently told a joke that was so racist that it just made me sad. He’s old enough to fit into my “too old to fight” category on these issues, but I don’t want my children — white or black — to hear these things.

Even 30 Rock, a show I love, occasionally wearies me with it’s post-ironic racism. I was blessed to kind of grow up in an environment and at a time when race wasn’t a really big deal. Even being the only white kid in my kindergarten was a great experience. My best friend and I have been together since junior high school, so we certainly — she certainly — dealt with a bunch of race-related weirdness. That’s because we had both moved to a very rural and very white area. But the race stuff was mostly of the harmless variety. It didn’t hurt that she was the most beautiful girl in school.

I think that during those years, I developed a certain coping style where the right thing to do was to act as if any racial stupidity that came her way was no big deal. I sort of followed her lead. And since then, I’ve adopted that same attitude. If other people are racist, that’s their problem. And for the most part, that’s right.

But when it’s your own kid? Then it’s your problem, too.
Wow. Racism, racial jokes, aren't "a really big deal," "racial weirdness" is "mostly of the harmless variety," until it's your kid suffering?!  Nice to care when your child is affected, but what does it say when it didn't matter to you before?

And I'd like to know, when was that golden age in America when race wasn't a really big deal -- I mean, to people who aren't white, that is. I'm a History major, and I've lived in this country for 51 years, and I can't seem to identify that ideal period! I think we need to file this one under "Sh*t White People Say," when they're trying to be well-intentioned.

And her take-away from all of this?  It's not that she needs to learn how to be an ally to her child AND other people of color, to parent intentionally to help her child develop a positive racial identity, to develop strategies to help her child deal with racial teasing, to make race talk a normal part of family conversation, to learn how to deal with challenges affecting transracially adopted kids.  No, she thinks she needs to figure out a way not to be "race obsessed," a way to go back to the good ol' days when she thought race was no big deal! She needs to learn "to check my obsession and get to a better place where I can parent without such concern, anger and worry." I'm sorry, there's little way to be a sentient being in America without concern, anger and worry about racism.  And there's NO WAY to be an adequate parent to a child of color without concern, anger and worry about racism.

But she has help in her delusions.  After all, "All the books the adoption agency has given me have said that I can’t make too big of a deal about race."  Sigh.

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