June 1, 2010

A Black and White Life

I've often wondered about the long-term impacts or outcome of adopting an African child into a white family. 

I've wondered how it will impact each of us as the years progress and how Quint will handle the issues that are sure to come up.  The questions.  The stares.

Where's your Mother? 
That's her over there.
Where? 
Over there!
I don't see her? 
The WHITE lady...
Oh, sorry....Oh...

Children can be cruel, and I can only imagine some of the words that might be thrown at him.  Not just because his parents are white, but because he is black.  And let's be honest, it was only a little over 50 years ago that people were still using separate doors and drinking fountains and buses and on and on.  (yuck!)

And that used to seem like a long time ago to me.  Until he came.  And now it doesn't seem like nearly enough distance between us and that awful, hateful time.  Not nearly long enough.  And I will never fully know or understand what he will face.  Breaks my heart.  But I'm willing to try...and try hard, because I love him with every fiber of my being.

I know we've come a long way as a society.  Just look at the White House.  We have certainly felt the winds of change for years.  So that does my heart some good.  Also knowing that we would never intentionally put him in harms way - or live in a community that was not blended in some fashion.  Certainly not in any communities that are not tolerant of bi-racial families.

And it hurts me to even write that, but I know it's true.

It's something we'll always consider before we move...for the sake of both of our children.  We'll always consider their needs in the life choices we make and how we live our lives from now on.  The church we attend will have to be integrated.  The company we keep will be diverse (and thank God for that anyway, right?).  The places we visit as a family will be a blend of cultural experiences for them to take in.  On and on...that's our job.  To offer them diversity in their lives.  Because they are likely to have some struggles in this arena.  And as their parents, we should do our best to bring them up to appreciate all the facets of our differences and support them.  Not shelter them, but acknowledge the good and the difficult together...and find ways to see all the sides of it openly.

The mother in me wants to say that racism is no more.  That those were the old days and that those "old days" are long gone.  But it's not true.  Not enough.  Better, yes, but not forgotten and certainly not over completely.  You and I both know it.

Aside from the questions he will surely live with regarding his abandonment and adoption,  I can't help but wonder how much more he will have to shoulder because he is a black child with white parents.

We can say that America has grown and changed - and we have.  But racism is not dead.  It's everywhere, in fact.  And I can't protect him forever.  I can't keep the ignorant people from judging him first as a black man, and second as a human being.  (oh, my heart...)

I stumbled over a blog recently.  It was written by a black woman who was adopted by a white family.  I'm not going to link to it for several reasons.  The essence of her post was this:  while she loves her adoptive parents and appreciates what they "tried" to do for her - she still believes very strongly that they made a big mistake in adopting her.  She went on to make it clear that she felt white people had no business adopting black children.  Please note that she was admittedly a loved member of her family.  She had three siblings, one of which was her biological sister, also adopted into the same family.  She admitted her parents were "good" parents.  That she was a complete member of their family, and cherished.

I was perplexed reading her words.  Completely.  Because she admitted to having felt really badly about throwing her own parents under the bus - but still felt compelled to tell the "world" that bi-racial families, in her mind, were just misguided attempts to "do good deeds" or "self-seeking" attempts to have children without any thought or understanding of what the adoptee would go through for the rest of their lives.  That it was truly, selfishness, at its core. 

Ouch.

I've thought about this a lot.  Wondering what Quint would think if he were a grown man and I could go to him and ask if he felt this way too. 

I wondered if we had added to his loss by bringing him around the world to live in a white household?  Had we unintentionally screwed up his life by loving him, because we're white and he's black?  By having the best of intentions, but not giving enough thought to how living in a white family might impact him later on?

I think not.  Here's why:

While I can say with deep conviction that we are certainly the better for having known and loved Quint, and I hope and pray he will feel the same in his life - I think I can also say that his options were fairly bleak.

I'm gonna step on toes here...but where were the throngs of people lined up to get him?

There were hardly any at the time.

There were 300 children in that orphanage when we visited.  Three-hundred in one orphanage.  I can tell you, our referral time was two weeks from the time our dossier was received in Ethiopia.  Two weeks, friends.  Let that resonate for a minute.  Especially considering Keira's long process.  While we were there. (roughly two weeks)..we saw only one other family - a French family, also white.  So when people say we have no business adopting an African child, I say..."are you going to?  Who then?  Only black people should raise black children?  Why? And  for that argument, if black people are not able to, then these children should languish in poverty and disease without ever knowing a family or parents or siblings...or love?"  Help me.  Really?

Because I'm all for black families adopting black children.  Of course, I am.  I'm all for families of any color, race, nationality, etc adopting.  I don't care who.  But we all know there aren't enough adopting families, period - no matter the nationality or race - to soak up the vast numbers of children without parents and homes.  

Obviously we cannot be the end all/be all for Quint in his lifetime.  Some things, yes even racial issues, he will simply have to figure out.  That is part of his story to tell.  But this is true for many children - no matter the race.  I can't erase American history - so he'll have to learn what it means to be a black man in this country.

He'll also need to understand that being from Africa, being adopted, being a black child in a white family...he'll have challenges that other people won't.  But it's how he handles those challenges that will make him into the man he will become. I pray we will be sensitive to those challenges and lovingly guide him with compassion and grace.  Is there any other way in an adoptive family? 

Recently, CNN published an article about white families adopting black children.  You can read it here.  It's a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it - but even more startling were the comments to the article, found below it.  The blatant disregard for anything different.  One commenter noting that white people adopted black children for the sake of appearing "holier" and "savior-esque".  Another said it was like a white person picking out a "Fendi" bag...whatever the hot trend is at the moment.  And oh...the many people who vehemently stated they felt races should "keep to their own kind".

The assumption that somehow we think we're superior...a white family..saving a child, adopting a black baby...an African child from Ethiopia - the layers get more intense to ensure sympathy and pats on the back.  Yuck.  I don't want sympathy or pats on the back!

I wasn't trying to save Africa, if you really want to know.

I was trying to be obedient to what God told me to do.  I was also trying to be a mother.  And the color of skin that my children would have, had NO BEARING WHATSOEVER on my desire  to love a child or on the condition of my heart. It didn't make me a better person because I went "all the way to Africa."  Or because, gasp, I adopted an African child.  Frankly, I'm a little bit insulted when people suggest we did this brave, bold, amazing thing to adopt him.  Is it really that foreign?  Aren't we past that yet?  Aren't families  made in all sorts of wonderful ways - biology notwithstanding?  Isn't he worth it...it's just a plane ride after all.  Why is this still so shocking - it's borderline offensive, and truly I try very hard to choose not to be offended.  I do.  But this is so bizarre to me.

To say that we have no business adopting a black child, well it's ridiculous.  The argument being that I can never know what he'll go through.  That we're too different.  That I'll never understand what he'll face as a black man in this world.  Never appreciate the struggles or the trials or the culture differences that are there, even if we would be inclined to pretend they aren't there.

But I guess we could abstractly argue that I'd also never understand what he would go through were he to get cancer - God forbid.  I couldn't relate.  And it would be something he would have to carry with him his whole life.  But I would certainly love and support him and be there for him, no matter what he faced.  Right? 

My God, are we not all people?  Do we not all live and die the same way?  Do we not all eat, drink, sleep, and move about in the same fashion?  Why is this still an issue? 

No one is superior.  No one.

And please don't send me hate mail.  I'm making an abstract but drastic comparison of one person having an internal struggle that another person could not ever truly be able to relate to.  I'm not equating being of another culture with having cancer.  So please.  



And so now we've brought into our family a beautiful African baby boy who had quite literally, no one in the world to love or be loved by.  Which is TRAGIC in itself.  And yet there are those people  who would say we are horrible people.  Unfair.  Self-righteous.  Un-kind.  Ignorant.  Self-seeking.  And selfish.
Maybe I am selfish.  Because from the minute I saw Quint's face, I wanted to be his Mommy more than anything I had ever wanted in my life.  I was rocked to my core with love for him.  Moved beyond anything I can express in writing.  So if that makes me selfish, then I'll take it.

I'm here to put in writing that I could not love Quint more if he had come from my womb.  Simply not possible.  I do not look at him and see skin color.  Ever.  Period. I look at him and see my wonderful, amazing, beautiful boy.  Every. Single. Day.  Nothing less.

If sometime in the future he takes issue with our adoption of him- of our desire to love him...(and I pray that day never comes) then I hope we will listen with careful ears and open hearts.

In the meantime,  I like to think we've helped each other - he and I.  A childless mother and a motherless child.


Skin color be damned.






26 comments :

Jodi said...

Amen!!! No negative comment here!! :)

Cate said...

Great, wonderful, fantastic post!

This is an issue I'm really struggling with simply because my husband and I will adopt, and I'd love to adopt interracially. However, we live in a small city with virtually no diversity in Oregon. Is it fair to a child to bring him or her to an area where they will know no one of their own race? Where I'd have to drive two hours just to get her hair done? I have one black friend here. One. I know no Asian families at all. It's quite sad, and people here are very ignorant about racial issues. Note I didn't say they were racist. They truly do not have a clue.

I grew up in Georgia. The lack of diversity at times is just mind boggling. If we adopt interracially, I want these children to know people of their own race. I don't know what the correct answer is.

Michal said...

I have nothing to add except: Damn woman! Right on.
Ditto. I hear ya. Preachin' to the Choir. And so on.....

Anonymous said...

That post rocked! You are awesome and have been given a gift of words that I hope you will never stop using. The world needs this voice. I could not agree more whole heartedly w/every single point you made.
Dena

Carrie said...

Beautifully said. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

While we have not adopted yet I struggle with this as well! I know my love is not contingent on skin color, but I know it will be a struggle to keep others negativity away! To me, a child is just a child, who needs and deserves someone to love them. I told a secretary at my work we would probably adopt from Africa. She told me that it was not right, you dont see black people adopting white babies. Later I told one of my coworkers, a man from ethiopia whom I have know for many years. He told me it would be a wonderful thing, there are so many children and babies that need homes and parents and they could not be luckier than to come to america to a loving family. He said his wife and he struggle every time they visit and come back home, they would love to bring children back with them. I choose to think he is right and our love will be enough to get us through the harder times of dealing with peoples ignorance!

Anonymous said...

Love knows no color. Too bad about the ignorant people out there. That makes me cringe. You were meant to be his mother...what a blessing..two peas in a pod. :) Besides, he looks a lot like Anton..seriously! ~Holly

Nicole Beurkens said...

As a Caucasian mother to an African-American daughter I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this sensitive issue!
Nicole

Theis Family said...

Well said. Sadly, as long as there is sin in this world, there will be orphans and there will be racism of all forms. It makes me sick, but it is the way it is. We can only raise our children to love themselves and those around them because they were created and loved by a gracious, merciful God.

Chris said...

Well said!

aroundtheworldand2kids said...

Great post, Christi. Very good thoughts and I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

RIGHT. ON.


Thank you.

Mom said...

What a beautiful post Christie. I, as Quint's grandma, love this little guy like crazy!! I do, at times, see him as my "African" grandson, but not in a negative way, in a way that I thank God that I gave birth to a child that has a heart big enough to go all the way to Africa to adopt a child, to save a child, and bring him here to be slathered with love and affection every day, so that he will never know a day of hunger, poverty or death before he had a chance to really live life, because of the lack of proper doctors or life saving drugs to treat his illness. Yes, he is my little African grandson and I couldn't be more proud of that fact or love him any less.
I miss you my sweet Quint!!

Briana's Mom said...

This is a wonderful post. I do read adult international and interracial adoptee blogs often, and boy they often cut me to the core. I need to read them because it opens my mind to the fact that their are adoptees out there that have had a hard time feeling like they "fit in" and have a hard time dealing with their adoptions. I have to know that Briana might possibly feel this way one day, but I hope and pray that she doesn't. I know she will face struggles in her future, but I hope she has more positive thoughts regarding her adoption and her relationship with me and her dad rather than negative ones.

I adopted a child from China not because I was trying to "save a child" or because it was a "trendy thing to do." It was the best way for me to create my family. I wanted to raise a child that needed me as much as I needed her. Period.

Anonymous said...

my dear Christie, it's fair to say it will not be an easy road no matter what, he will have issues, because of adoption, because of his color, and because he is a child of white parents.
I have known several bi-racial people and all have issues with idenity. I have also known some adopted children that are black with white parents. The most recent was a young black girl that worked in our office as an MA, she was adopted and raised by a white family that she loves dearly, dearly! Very close with her dad. However, she does have issues of having white parents and their ability to understand what she deals with as a black woman. She says, "I am not white, I cannot live the white life or experience life from a white perspective no matter how I was raised, in turn they cannot understand my perspective on life either, even though they love me and do everything in the world for me".
So there you have it, no matter what,you have taken on a big challenge, you will do whatever it takes to make Quint a well adjusted African American boy/man, and he will love you, bottom line, it is what it is, you did the right thing, he will love you and thank you.
Be sure he gets educated about African American history, be sure he has black friends, be sure he understands Ethiopia and what it offered, make it clear when he can understand,that some people are cruel and don't like anyone that looks different than they do, you will do all the right things I am sure, but even though you do not see color when you look at him, others do, even today, times are much better than they used to be, but there are some that just don't want to change or accept.
Just love him and know that you may not see him as anything other than a loved son, but he will have to deal with his color everyday and there are haters out there.
not us though, we love you and your rainbow family, rainbows are so beautiful!!
love deany

Anonymous said...

I've never commented before but I could not let this post past without saying you are amazing! Your words are so eloquently expressed that it brought tears to my eyes. Love sees no color, and Quint and Keira are both blessed to be loved by you and your family.

You are acknowledging that racism is still alive and well, and not burying your head in the sand as so many do. Kudos to you!!!

As a black woman I know all too well some of the challenges Quint may face; however, there is no doubt in my mind that he will grow and become well-equipped to deal with whatever may come his way.

God Bless,

~K

Jill said...

Great post Christie!
It is amazing to me the hate that people can still muster on behalf of our families....those who do not know us. Or our children. Those who wouldn't push themselves out of their comfort zones, or do something to make a difference. If it weren't for my fear of what my girls would face, I would say "THEIR LOSS". Unfortunately,at this time, it is still all of our losses. Sad.
Thanks for speaking from your heart.

Becky and Naing said...

well said!!

meme said...

As ALWAYS I love your writing - Well said. You definitely have a gift of writing and saying what you think. Amen....your Kentucky Friend

Melinda said...

That was BEAUTIFULLY written! I really enjoy your blog and honest posts! Thanks for sharing your heart!

Marie-Claude said...

Beautiful post!!

We go through adoption because we want a child. We are in need of a child. We have love to give and for most of us it is colorblind.

Having our adopted daughter in our lives changed us big time. For the better. We cannot imagine life without her, she is a little 5yo spitfire who is very proud of her heritage.

Should we stop ourselves to adopt because of the color of our skin is not like our children. No. These kids needs parents, love, food, schooling, love, a safe home, love, a family, love...

They need and deserve what all children are entitled to. Our family is beautiful, colorful and when I look at my kids, I know I did the right thing. When they hug me and tell me they love me, I know I did the right thing. When asked what they want to do when they grow up...and answer ''I will adopt'', I know I did the right thing.

The right thing for us. Is it always easy, the stares, the questions, the silence, no but life is not easy, but with prayers and love you will find The way.

So many orphans in the world, so many parents in need to love a child. Love has no boundries.

Marie-Claude

The Gang's Momma! said...

I'm so behind in reading my faves, but I couldn't let this one pass without saying, BRAVA! Great post.

It's a hard road, choosing to expand/grow/build a family via adoption. There will always be issues to confront. But truthfully, the issues we confront far outweigh the difficulties we face (or will eventually). What adoption has built into the hearts of my kids, my family, our identity and our mission is far greater than any noble cause someone on the outside might see us as taking on. I'm grateful for posts like this that pose honest questions but answer honestly also.

Good stuff!

Paula said...

Beautifully said! We see far more if we look at the world through our hearts than do we if we simply look with our eyes.

JonesEthiopia said...

Just read this as I'm catching up reading blogs.

I think A LOT about this topic, as I have two ET girls. Sometimes I really do wonder if we've made the "right" choice. And I wonder how the choices adults made when they were small babies will affect my girls as they grow up.

Mostly, though, like you, I just try to love my children and be the best mom I can be to them. I know our path will not always be easy, but I can't imagine my life any other way.

Shannon said...

While I don't want to discount that author's experience because I obviously have not lived her life, I think sometimes people just have a popular, secular worldview. The view she is advocating is secular humanism. A biblical worldview says that we are all part of the SAME race: the human race. God made us all in his own image. And while, I know that other people recognize race, God sees individuals made in his image. A biblical worldview also says that children belong in families and communities. They are precious and should be loved and taught about Jesus. Secular humanism looks to create a utopia on this earth and it will never be. There will always be orphans, neglect and abandonment on this earth. God is very pleased with what you have done, Christy. Do not let that woman's belief system disturb you.
Let me tell you that after my son was diagnosed with diabetes, I began to notice how worldview can color people's political beliefs. Many parents of kids with diabetes support cloning and stem-cell research because they want a cure for their children. I do not. I love my son and I want a cure, but I will always vote no to this type of research. See, it isn't always experience that gives us a right to speak on such things. It is just a matter of whom or what you worship.

Anonymous said...

Hey Sis-

Don't ever feel bad about expressing how you feel. You are COMPLETELY entitled to it, and if ANYONE can't handle your opinions or the realities of life, then they can just bark at the frickin' moon. I heard about all the negative comments towards the posts of Kayleigh and I'm not ashamed to say I went hunting for those comments so I could bash each and everyone one of THEM, but only learned from mom that you had deleted them :(
Sorry- I'm not only competitive, but also very impatient with ignorant and argumentitive people and will go to whatever extremes to back you on anything you post.
I'm there behind you, sis.

-Ashley