10 March 2011

A Different Kind of Racism

First of all let me please say that I am not accusing everyone out here where I live of being racist or having this different kind of racism. It is something I've encountered not a few times since we adopted Destiny and want to blog about. Maybe it's just to vent. After all it's not going to change the world. We'll still get certain comments that make my blood boil. Everyone who's adopted and is reading this already knows what kind of comments I'm talkin' about.
This different kind of racism I will call novelty-racism. It is the attitude that cute little black babies are dolls and collectibles. Okay, maybe the word "collectible" is taking it just a little bit too far, but sometimes with the comments I am forced to listen to I do not think so. No, I am not confusing beautiful baby comments with novelty-racism comments. I do recognize the difference. I mean just look at my boy. He's gorgeous! I got all kinds of comments on how beautiful he was before our little miss joined the family. He still gets compliments, but Destiny usually steals the show now. She is the baby after all.
Also, I don't want people to think they can't give little black babies compliments for fear of seeming to show novelty-racism. I am not complaining about kind words as you will soon see.
Here is an example. I share it over others because it is the worst I've heard so far and will explain my point the easiest.
While in the local "Bull's-eye" store a lady sees me wearing my daughter from several feet away, lets out an "Ooooooohhh" and comes charging at me. I am caught off guard thinking my son is falling out the buggy ( what y'all probably call a shopping cart ) or something. I quickly check my children then look up at this woman wondering what in the world is going on. While I don't remember the conversation word for word, I can remember it pretty closely.
Loud Woman: Oh she's so cute! ( At which point I smile and begin to say thank you. ) Is she yours?
Now let me stop right there for a minute. Though it is not highly offensive to an adopted family may I say that whether the child is adopted or not, yes the child is mine.
Me: She was adopted. ( I said this because I knew what she was getting around at and didn't feel up to educating the woman at the time. )
Loud Woman: Just look at that hair! Oh I want one! Where did you get it?
Yep. She said "Where did you get IT. I was floored. I didn't know how to respond to that. My mouth dropped open. She noticed and tried to back track.
Loud Woman: Oh I've just always wanted to adopt.
Me: ( After a pause to think about what she was saying now. ) Oh, do you have trouble having babies? ( I can relate to that and wanted to be sensitive to her if that was the case. )
Loud Woman: No, I have five kids but they're not adopted. I want a couple of black ones.
At this point I am trying to mind the manners my momma gave me and politely leave the situation before I pop this missus up side her head, but dern her she just didn't want to let me.
Loud Woman: They're just so cute! ( And proceeds to try and touch my baby for the umpteenth time. )
Me: ( After finally recovering a bit from this assault and coming to my senses enough to respond in a somewhat educational way. ) It doesn't really matter what color their skin is all babies are beautiful.
Loud Woman: ( stutters ) Of course, they are, you're right...
I walk away. You know how you always think of the perfect thing to say after the situation? That always happens to me! Now I have what to say firm in my mind so LOOK OUT Loud Woman! You don't want to see me in Bull's-eye again!
Seriously though, I am sure this is the extreme example of this novelty-racism as I call it, and I don't expect to come across another person so ignorant as this woman was again. If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, or I should say WHEN you find yourself in a situation like this, just remember your children are watching and listening, and respond calmly, educationally, and matter-of-factly.
What do I mean by "educationally"? Most people who make unwanted comments about your adopted child( ren ) are simply ignorant to the fact that they have said anything rude. I learned about this when our first child passed away and people would say things like, "You can have another one" or "She's better off where she is now anyway". Most of the time people are trying to say the right thing but just don't know how.
Back to "novelty-racism". I live in a predominately white state and for some reason a lot of these white families are adopting black children. I think it is wonderful! Destiny will have children her race to go to school with. These children are being raised in good homes! However, I have also noticed a couple of people like Loud Woman adopting and I worry for those children. Yes, they are better off in that family than growing up in the family they were born into, as the birthmother obviously also believes, but babies are not pets to groom or dolls to play dress-up with. Babies grow up to be children. These children deserve parents who will learn about what their particular needs will be and who try to meet those needs. I am at the very beginning of this and have a lot, lot, lot to learn, but I am trying and am willing to learn. I hope one day these novelty-racist people will recognize that their attitude toward whites adopting blacks is incorrect.
I did not adopt my daughter because of her skin color. I did not adopt her in spite of her skin color. I adopted her because she belongs in our family.

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8 comments:

  1. I'm so glad I found your blog!! I'm the vanilla mom of a vanilla (bio) girl and two chocolate boys. (And I was born and raised and still living in the South!) I feel exactly the same way you do. People tell me all the time, "I want to adopt a black baby, too. They're so cute." It gets under my skin almost as bad as out right racism.
    Can't wait to read more!

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  2. I'm glad you found it too! Thanks! I feel the love.

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  3. I came across your blog today by way of Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care. I too am from the South (Mississippi) and my husband and I have adopted our youngest through the foster system who just happens to be chocolate. :) I also hear all the silly comments from people who mean well, but should otherwise just keep quiet! We didn't adopt her because we wanted a child of a certain race. We adopted her because she was made for our family and she was ours LONG before we ever laid eyes on her! Thanks for blogging!!

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  4. These kinds of interactions were all too common for me when my daughter was a baby. I finally took to wearing my sunglasses when indoors at Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond or (fill in the blank here). It was just easier to avoid the wild-eyed rush toward me, you know? Now days, the interactions are different but no less challenging to navigate. And I can't help but wonder: Will all these your-daughter-is-so-beautiful people be happy to have their sons date her when she's older? I think I know that answer...

    As an aside, I see you have Terry's piece over there on your side bar. Are you a member of Pact? Have you gone to their summer camp yet? It's really worth it (we met Terry and his son there this past July). In case you are not familiar, Pact is an adoption agency that aims to place children of color with same-race parents, while also advocating for all children of color including those adopted outside their race. Actually, that doesn't encompass what they do. You should visit their website at pactadopt.org and read about them. Founder Beth Hall is one of the most amazing women I've ever met. They have a TON of resources for parents like us and our kids.

    I'm really glad I found this site. You have some really great stuff here, though I respectfully disagree with the name of the site. It won't, however, keep me from coming back.

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  5. Interesting to think about "Will all these your-daughter-is-so-beautiful people be happy to have their sons date her when she's older?" I think I'll work on a post about that in the future. I am not a member of Pact and have never heard of it. I'll go check out the website. Thanks!

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  6. Hey "Friend" I see you have not put your name so I will not divulge it either. I was reading your entries and the part that popped out for me was when you said...
    "I did not adopt my daughter because of her skin color. I did not adopt her in spite of her skin color. I adopted her because she belongs in our family."
    I think that is very articulately said. Well done and Exactly how it should be!

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