Last month my youngest son turned 10, He is finally a decade old and it’s starting to sound strange to call him “my baby”. Yet, he is still my baby and he is so precious to me.
10 days after my baby celebrated his milestone bday, another young boy’s life was taken away (2.26.12). By now most of the world has heard of the tragic story of Trayvon Martin. The Meffs have donned hoodies and we have been praying for the truth to be told and justice for all parties involved in this tragedy.
But Bill and I are also realizing we have to have some more serious conversations with our baby about the realities of this world.
When we made the decision over a decade ago to adopt we specifically wanted an African American/ or bi-racial child. We felt we were equipped to handle the complexities of a multi-racial family. We were committed to raising our adopted child in a way that would honor his or her culture of origin.
It’s been a magical, fantastic journey. I have shared our story many times over. We have been blessed with the most precious child and we have been richly blessed by having an open adoption and his birth parents are just like family.
There have been some interesting twists and turns, most of which I rarely talk about. It’s strange as a white woman to have to address these issues. I would much rather let them fade away, or ignore them.
But I can’t.
Things have been said, things have been observed that are blatantly racist. When we started the adoption process someone said to me “ Aren’t you worried that people will see you and Bill and Eli (our oldest child) and they will think you slept with a black man.” Uhh…really? Uhh…ok, I was so dumbfounded I couldn’t think of a response. (So…is the problem that I may have had an extra marital affair or that you don’t like black men?)
Or the time we were at a park and & all the boys there were acting kind of wild. A mom angrily scolded Isaiah (then 4).
I walked up to her and asked why she had singled him out & she replied; “Well, did you see him, I don’t think he’s mom is here.”
“I am his mom and I am curious why you singled out the only black child at the park when there are at least a dozen children being very rowdy. I would hate to think that you made this decision based on his skin color because that is not the example I think you would want to set for your own children.”
She apologized, but I was shaking with fury inside.
I am hyper sensitive to that crap now. I feel badly for Isaiah, he is very loud. No, you don’t understand. This kid is obnoxiously loud! You can hear him a mile away. Now when we are in big group settings like that I tend to scold him- because I don’t want him to attract the attention of any potential mom cops.
Is that fair to him? No. It’s not. He should be free to fully express himself as he wishes and not have to worry about holding back.
And yet, there is a sad ending to the story of Trayvon Martin. We’ve talked a lot these last few weeks as a family. Over the years we’ve shown them The Eyes on The Prize documentaries. They have seen the old news coverage and photos from 14 year old Emmitt Till’s death in 1955. It seems like a lifetime ago, but as a responsible parent I must ask myself…is it really that long ago? Click here for Bill’s blog post about this complex issue.
What do I do as a white parent, raising a child of color?
Educate, protect, nurture, what else? As a woman I feel I can relate somewhat to discrimination. Due to my gender that have been times I felt ridiculed, made fun of, threatened, or afraid for my safety.
But it’s a different story for the African American Male. The statistics are horrific. Jails are filled with young African American men. Homicide is the number one killer of young African American men.
Then there is “my baby”. He knows there is racism in the world. Luckily for him we live in a very urban/mixed area. I feel it’s safe to say his teachers and friends here have been color blind; but what if we leave this area? What about when we go back to Texas to visit relatives? I was shocked 2 years ago when I flew to Amarillo to be with my mom and the first thing I saw in the airport gift shop was a Confederate flag for sale! The next day I went to a barbecue joint a high school buddy of mine had opened and when he discovered I lived in the DC metro area he asked if I’d been to Ben’s Chili Bowl, I admitted I hadn’t made it there yet and he laughed and said “That’s alright, it’s pretty dark there if you know what I mean.” O.K. I didn’t get it at first, but then I guessed he assumed it was located in a part of DC that is predominantly black.
Yes, good ole small town Texas. I have to be on guard there. When we travel back I can tell I am on hyper alert for rude looks & hateful glances from strangers.
I guess if we travel to South Florida, or any other state with that stupid “stand your ground” law I’ll have to make sure my baby never leaves my side.
Which obviously isn’t realistic.
In just 4 years Isaiah will be the same as Emmitt Till was when he was horrifically beaten to death for whistling at a white woman. In just 7 years he will be the same age as Trayvon Martin was when he was fatally shot in the chest while unarmed by a neighborhood watchman who’d been advised by dispatcher’s to leave the child alone and wait for the authorities to arrive. By the time they arrived there was a dead teenager face down on the grass.
I do hope that Isaiah will not be 60 years old before there is justice (It wasn’t until 2004 that the FBI further investigated Emmitt’s death and sought justice).
I don’t want Zaya to leave my side, but eventually I have to let this sweet young boy to take risks and experience life. I have to trust that there are more people of faith and goodwill than there are people like Mr. Zimmerman. God has given me this precious little boy, my baby, and I will protect him the best I can. My faith and my hope that he will be protected by such blatant racism lies not only in God’s hands, but in all of ours. We all have the power to choose love over hatred. That’s the only thing that will save all of us.