27 February 2011

I Am A Black Mother

A couple nights ago my husband and I went to a transracial adoption seminar. I took many things from that meeting. One is the fact that I am a black mother. Adopting a black child does not mean that I am now included in the "black" race. It means that I am the mother of a black child and am therefore responsible for raising the child as if I were black. This does not mean I should not raise her any differently than I would my white son. It means I have to add to my repertoire of mothering skills knowledge of things that a black child needs to grow up in a healthy way. If you watched the video of the speech given by Dr. Benjamin Carson in the previous post and in the side bar of this blog, you have more of an idea of what I mean. I have the responsibility of helping her feel comfortable with her race which may be harder for her since she is growing up in a white family and neighborhood. One major way I should do this is by teaching her about how her race contributed to the building of her country, America. I should teach her about all the black Americans not mentioned in our school's history books who played huge parts making our great country what it is today. Dr. Carson's words opened my eyes to this reality. He mentions Jan Matzeliger who invented the automatic shoe lasting machine which revolutionized the shoe industry throughout the world, Charles Brooks who invented the street sweeper, Frederick Jones who invented the refrigeration system for trucks which was later adapted for airplanes, boats, and trains. He mentions Garret Morgan who invented the traffic signal and the gas mask, Henrietta Blackberry who invented the under-water cannon which made it possible to launch torpedoes from submarines, Madame CJ Walker who invented cosmetic products for women of darker complexion and was the first female of any nationality in the nation to become a millionairess on her own efforts. He mentions Charles Drew who made contributions to blood banking and the understanding of the function of blood plasma, Daniel Hale Williams who was the first successful open heart surgeon in the world, Louis Lattimer who was Thomas Edison's right-hand man and invented the filament that made the lightbulb work for more than two or three days, who invented the electric lamp, who did pioneer work in incandescent and fluorescent lighting, and who diagramed the telephone for Alexander Graham Bell. He mentions Andrew Beard who invented the automatic railroad car couplers which spurred on the Industrial Revolution, and Elijah McCoy who invented the automatic lubricator system for locomotive engines and had so many great inventions that when something new came out people would say "Is that a McCoy?" "Is that the real McCoy?" That's where the term "the real McCoy" came from. These people and other black inventors are not mentioned in our history books. I sure don't remember learning about them. The only black history figures I remember hearing about are the ones that have to do with slavery or civil rights, like Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Rosa Parks. Teaching my child about all the other important black figures in history is part of what being a "black mother" means. I have the responsibility of teaching her what a black child growing up in America deserves and needs to know.

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  1. I have already forgotten where I found your blog, but I am so glad I did! I am also a black mother and love to find others! Thank you for making this blog. It's a great idea!

  2. I'm glad too, Amy! Thank YOU!

  3. I just found this post after leaving a remark about the name of your blog in another post.

    Let me just say, I am really loving what you're writing about on this blog and think it's so important. But I do disagree with you calling yourself a black mother. Yes, you are the mother of a (beautiful!) black daughter. And yes, you are going to raise a black woman and will have to draw on every single resource and role model you can find to help you. But you are not a black mother (I say this not in an effort to be mean, please understand, just to say that I don't agree with it). I actually sort of cringed when I first saw a link to your blog at Keep Me Curly, and I came here to see what was up. I'm glad I did, because, as I said: I'm enjoying reading about your journey and your perspectives. I relate to much of it. I simply don't think it's appropriate to view ourselves as black mothers, metaphorically or otherwise.

    We are white women who have benefited (thankfully) from a largely unregulated, unmonitored adoption system that favors those with money (i.e. wealthy white people), and treats children as commodities. These are some of the harsh realities of adoption that I didn't want to see for the longest time. But now I see them. I'm so glad I was able to adopt my daughter, but I recognize the flaws inherent in the system and hope to speak out about it so that change will come, however slowly. That being said, our black daughters will have experiences that we cannot ever truly know, and they will be navigating a world that isn't nearly as kind to them as it has been——or will continue to be——to us, simply because of the color of our skin. They will not see themselves reflected when they look at us. We are not black.

    I hope you don't take any of this the wrong way. Just my opinion. And I will be back, regardless of the blog name and any other areas in which I may disagree. I like that you are providing thought-provoking material. Honestly, I hope to meet you at Pact Family Camp one day and to talk about all this really intense stuff in person. :)

  4. I do not say "black mother" meaning my color is black or that I consider myself black. Other than clarifying that, my opinion on the matter is in the post above.

    I disagree with "We are white women who have benefited (thankfully) from a largely unregulated, unmonitored adoption system that favors those with money (i.e. wealthy white people), and treats children as commodities." Maybe that is the experience of some mothers, but not for me. Yes, we are white. Yes, the adoption system can be considered by some as unregulated and unmonitored. Yes, overall and generally the adoption system favors those with money, but that is not always the case. We did our homework. We studied many different adoption agencies. We chose one that we felt cares about the children and birthmothers. We spoke with the founder. We found out where each dollar of the adoption fee went. And when we were unable to afford the high adoption fee but felt like a certain birthmother was our birthmother this adoption agency waived the remainder of the fee we could not afford. We chose an adoption agency that provided counseling for the birthmother, even after placement. They contacted the birthfather though not necessary to be sure he was aware of the adoption plan and agreed. I do not have any guilt about our adoption experience. We are not wealthy. We chose to go into debt for the adoption fee. Even with the adoption tax credit we will be paying it off for a while.

    I completely agree with "our black daughters will have experiences that we cannot ever truly know, and they will be navigating a world that isn't nearly as kind to them as it has been——or will continue to be——to us, simply because of the color of our skin. They will not see themselves reflected when they look at us. We are not black."

    Thank you for reading and thank you for your comments!!

  5. Well, when I say "rich" I mean those of us who have the means to pay the fees and afford adoption, no matter how we come by that financing. Our adoption experience was much like you describe. We partnered with very reputable agencies, asked all the same questions, did the same research, borrowed money from the in-laws (including my three-month's worth of pay so I could take "maternity leave" at work). I won't go into the details here because as we both know, these are our children's stories and many details must be protected for them to share when they're ready.

    Suffice it to say, our adoption was a piece of cake and only took 7 months from our first application to holding our baby in our arms. And yet...through reading and studying and researching, I have come to see how the system is inherently flawed. It's been a long road for me to understand this and to admit it to myself. It was not an easy admission, I will say. Adoption was such a positive experience for us; needless to say, it wasn't so for my child's birth mother. And how can this be acceptable? How can it be acceptable that birth mothers are often not given the support they need, pre- and post-adoption (not to mention the stereotypical vilification of them in the media)? And how is it that the "fees" for brown children are very often lower than those for white children? This is the commodification I was talking about, the business side of adoption that, like white privilege for so many, is difficult to acknowledge as adoptive parents. I'm not pointing a finger at you, per se, just highlighting some of the things that serve as examples to the point I was making.

    I do not have guilt, either, but I am keenly aware that the system is flawed and would like to see changes that put children's needs first, make adoption affordable to all people, and include birth parents in the conversation rather than trying to redact them altogether.

  6. I can agree with all that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


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