Guess who’s racist?

Me.  I never really thought I was – oh, I have my prejudices, I know I do and for the most part, I don’t think I’ve hurt anybody.   Til I hurt my husband.  We were talking about the baby and I told him that I had my doubts that he would bond well with him because he was black.  I also probably meant “cause he doesn’t even remotely resemble you at all”, but that’s not what I said.  He doesn’t even remotely resemble my husband and when he goes out in the world, he’ll have to deal with other people’s reactions and perceptions.  He brought up the fact that months ago, when we were thinking that we may not get matched with a mixed race child, that we should open it up to other races.  I was also willing to let go my preference for a girl, but I was pretty adamant that I did not want a white child.  Meaning if we received a profile for a caucasian child, I wasn’t going to submit our profile.  Now when I said that it wasn’t because I hate white people, obviously.  I had a few things in mind.  One thought was  that I didn’t want anyone to think that I wasn’t the mother but the nanny.  Another thought was that there were so many black children that needed a home, and being that I was black, I had a pretty good idea of how to raise them with  a sense of pride in their racial heritage.   Knowing that this would be our only opportunity to adopt a child, due to a variety of factors, I was pretty hellbent on this. Hubby was okay with my decision.

It never occurred to me that I had offended him.  Wounded him.  And when I made the careless remark that I wasn’t sure that he would bond with him because he didn’t share his race, it still didn’t occur to me.  Know if you knew DH, you’d know that I always call him a redneck cause he pretty much makes racial remarks about everybody – he always has and frankly, I’m always taking him to task for it.   His best friend of 30 yrs is Nigerian.  He’s a sports kind of guy and when you see him with his friends or former teammates, I can’t believe the way they talk to one another.  I wouldn’t have any friends left if I ribbed them the way he does.  My point is that it takes a lot to offend him.  And disappoint him.  But somehow I had managed to do it and I can’t really say that I blame him. He takes all people pretty much at face value, all anyone has to do is sit down and talk to him and he either likes you or he doesn’t based on personality not race.  If you offend me however, he will punch you in your face.  If any of his friends or member of his family offends me, he will surely take care of it.

So when he asked me why wouldn’t I have taken ANY child if I truly wanted to be a mother, what did I have to say?  I didn’t have anything to say.  Cause I couldn’t take back the fact that I would have not CHOSEN a child that was not black or of bi-racial heritage. Now, if we had not been chosen because of race, that’s one thing.  I had no control over that.  Yes, there’s the school of thought that a black person can’t be truly racist because of the history, power and privilege. I’ve never subscribed to the school of thought.   Yes, I’m sure had someone said here take my white baby please, I would have come around to my senses and opened up my mind and my heart, but that didn’t happen.

And I did feel ashamed that I could have even doubted his ability to love this child at all based on the single fact that he couldn’t share the “black experience” with him.  I apologized deeply and sincerely and am still rather upset that I could have hurt him that way.  Cause what if he had said that he did not want a black child?  I would have ripped him a new asshole and probably filed divorce papers.

I tried to explain my reasonings, but frankly I had a hard time understanding them myself.  So permit me to explore them here.  Growing up as a black female, I had a really hard time finding my features being portrayed as beautiful, preferred, desired… aka this society’s definition for beauty.  So most of the time I felt ignored or only highlighted because I stood out in a crowd for negative attention.  You know like being trailed around a store cause I might steal or ignored for customer service.  When I was younger, I’ve applied to rent apartments and then shown up and the place was rented10 minutes later.  I’ve called about open job opportunities, then shown up to find the job was taken.  Growing up, I often felt like I was on the outside looking in.  Of course, many people have felt like that, but it was because of my race, not my class or social status or physical appearance.  It’s just kinda like I had an awareness that I would always be judged differently than my friends.  Even if I wasn’t.  I would always run the risk of being excluded and I never knew when it was going to happen.   Is that person rude to everyone or just to me?  Because of my career choice, I was surrounded by artistic types who were more tolerant but I often could only audition for small parts, the servant or part of the chorus.  Do you know how many nurse roles I’ve done?  Rarely the wife, the love interest, the best friend.   Never the main character, never the lead.  I was always reminded that there was only rare opportunities for me to shine and I had better be perfect or it would be a long time before I would get another chance. That lack of opportunity leaves a mark on the psyche of an actress.

So when it came to adopting, I was still holding on to the dream of that child that would be part me, part DH.  And I held on to that because I didn’t want a conspicuous family.  Hubby and I were already conspicuous.  Frankly, I did my best to make that a positive thing.  When we travelled through Montana and other parts of the U.S. , and of course, people stared at us (blacks and whites), I’d just tell hubby to relax, it was because we were so good looking, such a striking couple. I didn’t get upset, I was used to it; he was not.

I knew what it felt like to be conspicuous and I didn’t always like it.  So many black babies looking for forever families, white babies were always wanted by someone. I could be wrong, I don’t know. But I knew that I would work hard to make a biracial or black child feel wanted and beautiful and confident.  I knew how they might feel.

Again, that’s not what I said though.  I should have said  any child, no matter what race.  If I had a doubt, I should have said it might have been because the child was not biologically his own.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t.

My halo thudded to the ground.

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19 thoughts on “Guess who’s racist?

  1. Wow, what an honest post!

    I can understand the disappoint you felt in yourself but don’t judge yourself too harshly – I really don’t feel like you were coming from a negative place, just a place that you are familiar with. Who doesn’t do that? The fact that you even acknowledge it now speaks volumes!

    Very happy for you to be sharing your journey with your hubby and baby!

    Jen

  2. Race is so complicated, especially in adoption. As potential adoptive parents we are in the strange position of having to answer questions about what race child we feel we could parent. If we want this one and not that one are we being culturally sensitive or racist? I feel we could parent a child of a different race, be as culturally sensitive as possible, expose the child to people who look like him/her, etc. But could same race parents do a better job? Probably. We are Caucasian. Would it be easier if we were chosen by a Caucasian birth family? Yes. This is just a fact.

    Most of all, I want to be a mom NOW. I want to cast a wide net. For us, eliminating potential matches based on race seems distasteful and unwise. I’m not saying its right for every family. Its just what we are coming to. We’ve managed so far in this crazy infertility journey. We will manage whatever comes.

  3. Damn. You opened your heart and all sorts of things spilled out.

    I am white. I have no idea about what it is like to be a black female, except for talking to the black females that are friends and have described exactly what you did.

    I had NO idea that they were profiled in stores until they told me. I admit I am naive.

    We were “advised” to not open up our profile for a black baby. When we were told that, we asked why and were told that we couldn’t offer that child any of his heritage. While I understand what she was saying, I still scratched my head.

    In our little corner of suburbia there is not much family diversity or diversity in general. Now that we are older, we can see how bringing a black child into a community that is 90% Caucasian would be unfair to the child. But we would have loved the child, no matter what.

    Honestly, our (white) son looks NOTHING like either one of us. To most people, it is quite obvious because of his stature, facial features, coloring, etc, that he is most likely not biologically related to us. Sometimes he laughs about it, sometimes he is hurt. When he is hurt it breaks my heart.

    I hope in time your husband realizes that you were just thinking out loud. I would imagine that it won’t be a black/white thing that bonds them, but the “guy thing” that they can share.

    I will end with a funny true story.

    I mentioned that I am white. I am not just white, I am snow colored. I also had red hair, and freckles.

    When I was a child, my mother and I were shopping at an upscale department store in Florida. I was happily peering through the glass cases that held the jewelry my mom was looking at.

    I wandered to the opposite side of the counter when an annoyed clerk who had to clean my nose prints off the case asked me who I was with, I told her my mom. She looked around and didn’t see anyone she thought would be my mom. I then pointed her out. The clerk thought my mom was my nanny. (there were MANY nannies in that part of Florida at the time…most were from the Islands).

    My mom was very dark olive complected and when tan, was darker than many black people.

    When my mom saw and heard the conversation and realized that the clerk was stunned that we were in fact mother and daughter, my mom started to laugh. It was the loudest, longest laughter I had ever heard from her.

    I guess my point is, that no matter what, people are going to do and say stupid things. When your husband is out with SK and he calls your husband daddy, if it turns heads, he will have to learn to laugh and give his son a big hug.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. Your family has changed so much in the past few weeks. You are still a bit raw.

    All of you snuggle up on the couch today and just love each other. That seems to help almost anything.

  4. this is truly intriguing. I love your exploration of race and its impact entering into adoption. and your reasons for not wanting a white child are completely understandable and valid. there is no ‘should have’ when it comes to what you want.

    it sucks to say something hurtful to someone you love and not be able to take it back. I hope he understands where you were coming from and accepts your sincere regret. I think it’s clear what you would have said, had you had the time to reflect and explore your thoughts and feelings as you did so eloquently in this post.

    thanks for your candor and sharing this here. xo

  5. I can’t help contrast this with our own conspicuous family while of course our experiences are different. Dh gets stared at all the time and once was yelled at to “go back to your own country”…he’s Mexican and the offender was black (I have no idea what country he was from). Go figure. It didn’t bother him as much at the time but it killed me when he told me about it. When we are together in public I am quick to notice how many stares we get. And no matter how subtle people try to be in their staring it’s so obvious. My aunt who adopted from China gets stares all the time but then their circumstances are pretty obvious here where many women have adopted from China. Once though in line at a restaurant with both my Chinese cousin and Mexican husband we started talking about the fact that dh gets alot of stares (it was happening at that moment) and my cousin said she does too and then good naturely added that it was because she and dh were “different”. (she even used air quotes with her fingers.) I get lots of comments on how handsome my husband is so I always tell him that people stare at him because he’s hot. He knows that’s not the case (well, maybe sometimes it’s true).
    I don’t think you should be so hard on yourself. I think most of us are too quick to accuse others and ourselves as being racist. Your comment to him was NOT racist.But I also think racism is lightyears away at being remembered only when time capsules are dug up. There’s always room to grow and you yourself told me once to always look for opportunities to grow. Do you remember that? I still struggle with my racist demons and wrote about them in my blog and that was your comment to me. So right back at ya!
    And give Special K a kiss for me. A big, sloppy, kiss from this thin-lipped white girl.

  6. The girl from down the street is 14yrs old and has a white mother and a black father. She spends 75% of her time at my house. She is considered one of the family. She calls me mom out in public and we get some seriously weird looks. My kids are extremely white(pale) and are obviously Caucasian.
    Peoples prospective in mixed race families are changing, albeit slowly.
    You can’t change the way you feel. I understand you not wanting a caucasian baby. It’s the way you feel.

    So I do have to say that about 2wks ago we were in McD’s and I noticed a cute baby. This baby had beautiful olive skin with bright red hair. Turns out the baby had a very black father and a red haired fair skinned mom.
    You never know what a baby could look like especially in a mixed race.

  7. (((hugs))) I think all of us can be racist or at least mildly offensive at times without really meaning to be. (I know I struggle at times with my own ingrained perceptions about certain racial groups I grew up around.) We’re all a product of the environments we grew up in, & they can be pretty hard to shake sometimes, no matter how hard we try. I hope things smooth over with your dh.

    I know no place is entirely “safe” from stares & comments, but you live in a pretty multicultural city, as do I. I see so many multiracial couples & families these days, I hardly give it a second thought anymore, whereas my parents, from Prairie Smalltown, find it remarkable.

  8. Don’t be hard on yourself, IMHO you have stated your preference for a child based on your experience growing up as a Black person. So dont be hard on yourself, your DH has agreed and supported your preference and is brougt in to your journey. If you still feel awkward about losing your halo have a discussion with your DH and obtain his point of view. Men very rarely do want they do not want to do.

    take care

  9. I agree with a most of what you said. A few thoughts:

    1.) I may be guilty of rubbernecking at interracial couples – but it’s because it makes me so damn happy that we’re on our way to becoming one big race of mutts. Some people don’t like that but I like it because then we can stop being bent about who has more melanin.

    2.) I went to public schools in urban areas my whole life. During that time half or more of the students were black. I have been called “white bitch”, “cracker” and “honky” far more times that I have ever uttered racial epithets.

    3.) My husband and I won’t adopt. But if we were of that inkling, I can see us adopting a black child, primarily because, as you said there are so many more people lining up for white babies. I do wonder how much of that is that they want the child to “look like them” or that they just don’t want a black baby. And if it’s the latter then why are there so many people adopting asian babies?

    4.) I’m sorry you’ve been passed over for different types of opportunity because of your race. I hate to admit it but when I was interviewing for an accounting position I almost didn’t call a qualified applicant because of their name. The reason why though is kind of interesting. It’s not that I don’t like black people. It’s that I have been on the receiving end of black women’s tempers more times in my life then I would like to admit (you know, cause I apparently looked at them wrong) and I didn’t think I could deal with having that type of personality as my subordinate. So, in this case, I almost passed someone over because of the stereotype I associated with their race. Interesting, eh?

    • Being an interracial couple, to me, is not a political statement. It was simply that we made each other laugh a lot. Homogeneity is not the solution to getting people to respect each other’s differences. When I was younger, I was amazed to learn that the Irish and the English hated each other because of religious differences- they were both white, I thought, who cares what church you go to, they both believed in God. Didn’t stop them from killing each other. Then I found out that Africans fought over tribal differences – once again they both looked the same to me. And so on….

      It’s not surprising to me that being called out of your name didn’t create empathy or compassion for those who have suffered racism. It hurts doesn’t it? It created mistrust and suspicion. Which is why I think we can all be racist or prejudiced, but we must continually challenge ourselves to think differently, to not accept limited thinking and the status quo. Human revolution in our hearts and our spirits is the only thing that will bring about change.

      • You know, you’re 100% right about people of the same race still hate other for some OTHER reason. The Catholics and the Protestants is a great example and the same thing is true in Iraq with the Shia and Sunni. And of course we all know about Rwanda. It’s freaking crazy how people are always looking for a way to create an us vs them dilemma. It’s really bizarre. My husband says that humans just have a base brute/anger/desire to kill. I hope he’s wrong but it seems like he’s right. 😦

        P.S. I think it took a lot of courage to write this post. I have had a post stewing in me about racisim vs “culturalism” for a long time but I’ve never had the guts to put it out there. Maybe I finally will now.

  10. Thank you so much for your honesty. I don’t know your husband, but I have a feeling that if you showed him this post, or part of it (maybe re-written as a letter?) it might help him to understand you, to maybe be less hurt. Of course, you may have said all of this to him already. I just thought it was so well said and really showed your vulnerability and willingness to see those hurt places in yourself that have led to your hurting him.

    Also very interesting to read the comments–seems like everyone has something to say when it comes to race issues, no?

  11. Such an interesting post. I’ve been struggling w/ issues regarding adoption and race. When my husband and I decided to adopt, we decided that we would be open to any race. I come from a racially diverse family, so I didn’t think I had issues w/ race. Then, I started having issues with a co-worker, who happens to be black. She’s terrible at her job and has a lousy attitude. She has threatened me and called me names–in front of our boss, who also happens to be black. When I tell the story of this woman to people, they can’t believe she hasn’t been fired, until they find out that both she and the boss are black. I have found myself agreeing that the only reason she has kept her job is b/c of her race. I also have found myself becoming profoundly resentful of this, even though I’m not sure this is truly the reason. Now, I have come to doubt the kind of person I really am. I am afraid that this makes me racist. I even wonder if we should seek to adopt only a caucasion baby. As you know, the issues of both race and adoption are extremely complicated, and when you put them both together . . . well, it’s hard. I hate that I have these feelings.

    • One would then have to make an assumption that your co-worker and the boss are in collusion. And then of course, does that same conclusion hold true for there rest of terrible workers with bosses who share the same race, whether Caucasian, Black or Mexican or whatever? And then, if so….so what? What if that’s the reason? How much are you willing to have it negatively impact your life? That’s up to you and only you. Have you considered what’s behind her nasty attitude? Will you accept the status quo or will you challenge yourself to demonstrate compassion and understanding. You don’t have to like someone to have respect for them. It’s a difficult task, I know firsthand, to truly challenge the barriers you put up within your mind and in your heart. Don’t merely accept being uncomfortable with your feelings, look harder.

  12. Reading over the other comments, & especially your exchange with Me, made me think about my relationship with dh’s family. I was the first & still am the only non-Italian to marry into his mom’s side of the family. After I met all the relatives & heard myself referred to as “English” (my Irish ancestors would have loved that…) & a “mangiacake,” I called my mother & said I’d never thought about it before, but I thought I understood something about how she (Irish-Swedish-American) must have felt meeting my Dad’s (Ukrainian-Canadian) family for the first time. I’d been the new girl at school many times before, but all my classmates had always been from similar backgrounds (small town/Prairie/WASP/Eastern European communities). I’d never been “the other” before in that way, & it was kind of a weird feeling. I think we all have a long way to go to become more receptive to others’ cultures & ways of thinking…!

  13. My first time here following your comment on my blog. This post impacted me a lot since we have just been through the adoption of our girls. We are brown and our kids are white. In setting out to adopt, I saw a lot of my views change and morph with time. I started out not wanting to look beyond brown. Then I understood like your Buddhist friend said that children choose their parents. In our case, I truly believe the girls picked us. I am steeling myself for the years ahead when the girls will go through angst and confusion. I have no idea how I am going to deal with that or the years ahead when I am looked at as the nanny to my girls. One thing I keep telling myself is that all I can offer is love and have no expectation.

    I do not have anyone in my circle who has adopted. So, I am leaning heavily on the blogosphere for support and advice. 🙂

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