This month over at Grown in my Heart, there are some great discussions going on about adoption and race. The stories I have heard have made my heart ache, but I have benefited from knowing the reaction that parents have taken when their kids have been taunted or discriminated against. I know that it isn’t IF race is going to be an issue for our family, our children, but WHEN. We are a trans-racial family now, and we live in a white, white, white area of the world. For awhile I thought (ignorantly) that it was enough that we were open minded parents. That WE didn’t discriminate. I thought somehow through osmosis that it might just make everything A-OK with our kids.
But I have to face the fact that it won’t. We have been reading the Sesame Street book, “We’re Different, We’re the Same” the past few nights. (Another favorite of Matthew’s is I Don’t Have Your Eyes). I have been trying to make an effort to point out to both boys our differences. Sure, it’s sweet that if you ask Isaac if Matthew’s skin is different, that he says no. (He actually told me they both have red and green skin, but that’s how conversations with a 3 year old tend to go.). The fact is, though, that Matthew’s skin IS different, so we talk about that while reading the book. I also make sure to go over WHY it is different and why that is okay, and how many other colors of skin there are, and why they ALL are okay. Because one day, someone is going to point it out, and they might not be doing it in a kind way. They must hear it from us, at home.
One thing that I have to remind myself is that it is OKAY to point out something obvious. That someone is black, that they are Asian, or Jewish, or gay, or whatever. That is fact. They know they are black or Asian, etc.. Sounds simple but I come from a part of the country where people still whisper certain words while looking sideways. “you know, the black girl” or maybe “the Jewish couple”. It isn’t a crime to point something like that out. What makes it bad is if you are assuming something negative about the person BECAUSE of that. I had to remind myself of this back at Christmas-time when we were at a portrait studio getting the boys’ pictures made. I told Isaac to be careful because there was a baby in a carseat behind him. He turned around and said, “that a brown baby!” and then went back to playing. I thought about melting into the floor and dying, but remembered that it IS a brown baby. He didn’t do anything but point out the obvious. Had he said, “oh gross, a brown baby,” well then we would have had some serious problems.
I guess my point is that I have finally realized that I am going to have to be the one initiating conversations about race at our house. As I read Isaac the book again today before his nap, I asked him if he knew WHY Matthew’s eyes were different from ours. He didn’t know, so I told him it was because Matthew was from Korea, and that people born in Korea have eyes that look like that. And in true Isaac fashion, he thought about that for a second and said “yes, he from Korea and that’s why he say “shui, shui*” and “di-dee-go!!!”.”
I guess that’s true too.
*Shui shui is the Korean phrase that Matthew uses to tell us he needs to go pee pee.