Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Red and Yellow, Black and White

Hope drew a family picture last night. I asked her to draw it to figure out if she would make note of who was white and who was black in our family. I have been reading all sorts of blogs and opinions about the importance of race when raising adopted children.

I've been thinking about the switch that will take place this fall when some of us will swap places and go from being the minority to being the majority again. I wonder if Hope and Isaac will feel it or not. We certainly feel our whiteness here. It won't go unnoticed. After all this time in Haiti I just wonder if Hope and Isaac will now recognize that they are the minority when in Minnesota.

When we first moved here one of Hope's earliest observations as she looked around was, "These people match me."

There are all sorts of folks who debate the importance of making sure your black child feels connected to their roots and that you, the white parent, make them feel in touch with their heritage and not ignore it or the experiences being black will almost certainly bring. The concern is always that the adopted black child will not fit in with white or black culture.

We had our kids in MN for three years. We experienced a few rude comments and some ugliness. Once at a Wendy's in St Cloud, MN the entire restaurant acted like they'd never seen black children. Sorry if you're from St Cloud - but man, you people are rednecks. Pick your eyeballs up off the table and pop them back in your heads for goodness sake.

On the other hand, we disagreed that we need to live in the middle of North Minneapolis in a diverse area so our kids will feel less different. Moving to Haiti gave us a taste of being different and now we're all in a position of understanding each other and what it is like to be discriminated against and maybe even disliked.

Our parenting approach has always been to talk to Hope and Isaac (and eventually Phoebe) about who they are in Christ first. As children of the King, who sees no color, they need to know they are highly valued and loved. They are equal, they are unique, they are beautiful. Once that is covered we talk about the rest of it. We don't ignore it, but we also don't make it a national case or spend a lot of time bringing up issues that have not yet presented themselves. We speak openly and honestly about adoption, race, Haitian culture, American culture, and curious people who stare at you because you're different then them. As it stands today Hope and Isaac are secure in their knowledge of our love for them and their birth mothers' love for them and most of all God's love for them.

By studying Hope's drawing, I found that we are not necessarily black and white. It only revealed these things to me:
  • Britt has no arms and club feet - the rest of us have no feet

  • Hope has rosy or prominent cheeks

  • I have a deformity (that I partially passed on to Isaac) in my hands

  • Troy lives under a rainbow (nice for him)

  • Paige has a gaping wound on her forehead

  • Noah has curls on one side of his head and uneven ears

  • Isaac has large pierced ears, red hair (malnourished?), and is using the name of a giant discount furniture store as an alias