Every day the wonderful happens…

and I'm here to blog about it.

Conversations About Race February 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth @ 2:41 PM

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.

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7 Responses to “Conversations About Race”

  1. Dena Says:

    Great post. I grew up in one of those parts of the country where people say "the black man" as a way of describing a person's character, so I completely understand your concerns. It's great you guys are already discussing race with your sons.

  2. JoJo Says:

    So true about race. I'm so much more aware of it now. But, I think you're right when you're not so hyper sensitive to it, but just matter of fact..it's probably the best way. BTW…LOVE LOVE the family photo!!

  3. Christy Says:

    Great post. Since we share hometowns, I know exactly what you are talking about. When we moved, it was amazing to me how different everyone thought about things here, very refreshing!I absolutely LOVE the new picture. So Sweet!!!

  4. Great post!! We're in the same part of the country and I know exactly what you are talking about. We must be on the same wavelength because I have a blog post brewing in my head about something very similar. And like everyone else, I love the new family picture!

  5. Leanne Says:

    Hey Elizabeth!First of all, I LOVE your new picture!I can totally relate to the race issues…..I look at the pictures of your sweet Mathew from Korea, and my sweet Lilly from China, and just get tears. We are all the same, we just look different.When I opened your blog, "You Are Great" came on really loud, and Lilly started dancing and "singing".We are so blessed!

  6. The Tates Says:

    Kids are much more open minded than we give them credit for…all of those things you described are learned behaviors for sure. We were reading a book recently called "Luke on the Loose" the story is absolutely ridiculous but someone loves it beacuse of the title. He inserts himself into the book. He doesn't even notice that the characters are a different color from himself. Would love to hear how your conversations go with your children. That could be a great book titled "Talking to Your Child About Race: Not so Taboo".

  7. Lisa Says:

    Based on some of your comments "in the pool," I had a feeling we shared some opinions about this issue. It is always encouraging to discover someone else (especially in this area) who advocates such important values to their children and community. I'll be very interested to hear what you think of "Poisonwood Bible." It brings up a lot of questions about the line between "reaching out with love and compassion to help people from another culture" and "trying to impose your own values on people who are different from you."


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