Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Transracial Adoption

A Vision Test, 
By Amie Sexton

Love is colorblind.

Do I hear a resounding “AMEN!”??? You might regret it. There are two things you should know before jumping on this bandwagon.

1.) 99.9% of the time this statement is made by white people. If you hear an African American use this comment (without an excessive sarcastic drawl and much rolling of their eyes) you are the exception to the rule.

2.) It is one of the most misguided statements commonly made by white people, many of them adoptive parents.

Let me quickly point out that I have spoken these words myself in times past. So has Tara. (Yes, Mrs. Livesay- I’m dragging you under the bus with me. =)) It is based on this personal experience and the outgrowth of it that I am willing to share my thoughts with you now. Let’s delve into the phrase more deeply.

Is love colorblind? I believe what we have here is a classic picture of good motivation followed by crappy methodology. Good intention meets bad interpretation. The notion behind colorblindness is just as simple as you might expect: to be blind to color. But one trip to Wal-Mart with your Haitian, Ethiopian, Ugandan, African American child yields extreme evidence through bulging eyes and double-takes that your and your child’s color difference is easily identifiable.

It is only convenient for a majority race member to flippantly (no matter how well-meaning) discount color in this way. White people don’t have to think about being white…it is what it is. Unless they happen into a room, party, neighborhood, or country in which they are the minority. The average white American will never walk into a department store and wonder “will I be followed around and accused of shoplifting today?” You assume this will not happen to you. No, no, wait. It’s worse than that. You don’t have to assume it won’t happen. You don’t have to even waste half a second considering it. It never has to enter your consciousness.

Hispanics and African Americans do not share this luxury of NOT considering it. I have witnessed blatant and abusive racism first hand. And at the Goodwill for crying out loud! I get that stealing is stealing but seriously? Is it really worth it to let your stereotype destroy another human being over a $3 pair of used jeans? Anyway. Without arguing through 200 years of history, the simple reality is that whiteness has natural benefits. Benefits that no one had to march for, beg for, or be lynched for. The freedom not to think about race if we don’t want to being numero uno on the list of benefits.

Furthermore, to say that love does not “see color” is as ridiculous as saying that because I love dogs they are all exactly the same to me. Suppose you stood before me with a Great Dane and a Chihuahua and I insisted that there is no difference between them –that I am blind to their genetic traits. Any one of you would argue my insanity in a court of law because clearly one of these dogs is a 210 lb. mini-horse and the other could be mistaken for a rat. My love for dogs does not change my ability to recognize their distinct attributes. My love may allow me to impart affection to both critters equally regardless of their size but it will not cause me to ignore what is obvious. And taking it even further –if I insist these two creatures are practically the same in every way and therefore I cram my Great Dane into a crate made for a toy breed I’m no longer just ignoring the difference but overlooking their specific needs and inadvertently causing damage.

Have you seen Avatar? The Na’vi tribe greets each other with the phrase “I see you.” Simple but heavily loaded with meaning. New Age nuances aside, it is explained in the movie as deeply significant and referring to the very essence of the person. I see who you are and all there is to know and love about you. We could take a lesson from the overgrown blue people.

When your adopted minority child looks in the mirror he/she sees black, brown, peach, yellow, tan, etc. skin looking back. For that child to hear us say that our love is “colorblind” can be far more hurtful than any of us would dream. What we mean is that our love for them transcends color and ethnicity. But what they often hear is “I don’t see part of you.” We so desperately want to affirm our children in the security of our unconditional love that we miss the point. What if Tara came to me tomorrow and said, “Amie, I’m going to overlook the fact that you are a red-headed freckle factory and continue loving you anyway”? Besides how completely ironic that would be given our shared features, it would also hurt me deeply because the very nature of such a statement implies that my traits are unbecoming and undesirable and something to be overlooked in order to find me acceptable. Our children want to be accepted because of who they are –inside and out- not in spite of it.

Love that overlooks is belittling. Love that acknowledges is accepting.

Bottom line: love is not colorblind. In fact, God (who is love) is not colorblind. And now the bigger questions are: How does God see color? Does the world see it the same way? Do we? And how do our, the world’s, and God’s views of race affect our adopted children? 
 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Part II

“How does the world’s view of race affect our children?”

I’ve written and backspaced a gazillion opening lines.  Turns out there is no perfect segue into a post about race and racism.  It’s a very touchy subject.  And the sheer weight of controversy surrounding it should be counted as proof positive that –despite the opinion of many- it still exists.  As Angie commented in the previous post, it is perhaps less overt but no doubt alive and well.

Much like the misguided “colorblind” references we’ve already discussed is the equally misguided belief that racism is a thing of the past and as long as a person works hard they have completely fair and level opportunity to live the American dream.  And just as it is foolish to disregard our physical differences, it is incredibly short-sighted to dismiss hundreds of years of history and its residual effects.  Years of abusive, destructive and oppressive history—and I’m not merely talking about slavery.  But since you mentioned it…;-)

One of the most disheartening attitudes we frequently encounter is the “It’s been 200 years, get over it already” mentality.  Sigh.  Consider this.  Just a week ago our nation celebrated is 234th year of independence.  Celebrated it.  Because what happened over 200 years ago set into motion the wave of events that continue to define our country today.  What if I propose that we should all just “get over it”?  I’m willing to bet that I would be verbally destroyed by masses of intensely patriotic people.  People who have an emotional, almost spiritual connection to the history of the US would come out in droves to put me in my place.

Likewise, in less than a generation we will be 100 years beyond the Holocaust.  Which of us would dare to say, “It’s been almost a hundred years; can’t we move on already?”  It’s just plain crazy to even imagine such a notion.  Yet we expect the entire population of African Americans to blink away their suffered past and relegate it to a once a year educational emphasis.  Really?  But for the sake of this post, let’s assume that most people are at least willing to acknowledge the travesty of slavery.  Even so, it is the years that followed and their continued impact which are too often discounted. 

I hold the belief that what slavery did to the black man’s physical being; Jim Crow tried to do to his spirit.  Shackle.  Degrade.  Devalue.  And in many ways it worked.  Whites have often scoffed at the depth of involvement played by black churches in the Civil Rights movement.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Even though it was wrapped in legislation, this was a battle to dignify the soul of a people.  The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 elevated the enslaved communities to something more than household goods and furniture but it did little to improve their standing among their fellow man.  The Civil Right Act of 1964 was another step in the right direction but no…they are not over it because no law enacted by Congress a hundred years ago or forty years ago can change the hearts of men.  And what’s more, if you’ve adopted a child with brown skin…he/she will experience both the best and the worst of what this nation’s tense racial history affords.

The world sees color.  Sometimes it is for the good.  But this is hardly the rule.  And we needed to examine the ripples in the waters of history if we want to help the next generation ride the swells of the present currents.  As we acknowledge our children’s differences, we would also do well to prepare them for the reality of racism. 

My daughter may one day be followed through a department store under suspicious eyes, not because she has done anything wrong but because the world sees her through sin-tainted lenses and responds in kind.  My son may be pulled over by the police for no apparent reason or someday be heartbroken because the girl he’s fallen for has a daddy with no intention of letting a “colored boy” date his daughter.  My bi-racial babies may spend much of their lives torn between being “too black” or “too white” even though they know that who they are is defined by Christ.  I don’t want any of my kids to become cynical and grow up expecting the worst but God forbid that they should ever come home asking “why didn’t you tell me?