Sunday, November 21, 2010

Transracial. It's what we are.

Justine... I bet you thought I was never going to get around to answering your question!  But here I am, and I'm gonna give it my best shot.  Justine had asked about my feelings and other's reactions to us as a transracial family.  (Justine is a strong and courageous mom of 3- 2 bio and 1 adopted this year from Hong Kong.)

I remember how it felt to take Jack out with me when he was a newborn.  I felt so self-conscious!    I felt like anyone who looked at me was thinking, "Oh, she is OBVIOUSLY a new mom and doesn't know what she is doing."  I remember being in a Walgreens and putting his carrier on the floor to look at a magazine and then absolutely panicking b/c I thought, "What if I forget about him and leave him here???"  I picked him up and immediately left and went straight home.  Nutty?  Yes, perhaps.  But going from not having any children to having a baby was a BIG adjustment.  And this was a baby who looked (almost exactly!) like me.

When we first came home with Avé I was very, very, very, VERY disappointed with myself about how self-conscious I was when we would go out in public. I was uber-aware of every eye that noticed us, every head that turned our way, every question that flittered across someone's face.  I was truly SHOCKED at how self-conscious I felt.  It was akin to that new-mom self-consciousness, but with a much uglier twist.  I'm not proud of this.  But ultimately I learned a lot about myself.  What I think it came down to is that I do not want to be judged.  We are noticeable.  I knew to expect that.  What I didn't know to expect was that with that "notice" might also come judgement and disapproval.  It hasn't happened a ton, but it has happened.  And whether the instances of judgement or disapproval were all real or all in my imagination or a little bit of each, it took some getting used to.  But I'm happy to say that it only took a few months before I didn't even think about "those looks" anymore.  Now-a-days it seems I have developed a spidey-sense for "those looks" and I just make sure not to even turn my head and make eye contact.  I do the same for the overly-approving, "oh, I see what you have done here and aren't you a wonderful person" looks, although I have a bit more grace for those b/c I think I used to do the same myself.  :-/

There have been a few "awkward" conversations.  Once at church a lady who I do not even know cornered me and started asking questions about our adoption.  I answered the basics: where she is from, how old she is, how long she has been with us.  But then she kept asking for more information.  About how do we know her "real" birthday and about her "real" family and how they died.  Mind you, Avé was STANDING RIGHT BESIDE ME this whole time.  (luckily it was a very noisy area and she didn't understand much English at the time)  I deftly avoided giving direct answers to those questions but she didn't take the hint.  When she asked me, "Did she have any siblings?" I just smiled my biggest smile and said, "She does now!"  But she still didn't stop.  I was really afraid I was going to have to be flat out RUDE to her but luckily Mick and the boys walked by and I said something about how they were looking for me and I had to go... and just walked away with her disapproving look staring behind me.  It did not help that she was an African American woman either.  That made me feel all the more judged and uncomfortable.  But REALLY!!!  As if I'm going to tell a total stranger details about my daughter's life that she herself doesn't fully grasp yet!!!  Geesh!  I was so ticked.  I've seen this woman a few times since and always feel like she's looking at me weird.  So I just do whatever it takes to avoid her.

There are those out there who say that transracial adoption (and even just adoption period) is just flat-out wrong.  There are even those out there who say that transracial adoption is a plot by the "white man" to eliminate black culture.  (both of these are examples of opinions on those adult adoptee blogs that I no longer read.  and I WON'T link them for you.  so you'll just have to trust me on this.)  People can hold all kinds of beliefs.  So once again what it comes down to is God asking me, "Who are you going to listen to?"  

I just started reading a fantastic book called Growing Up Black In White by a transracial adoptee named Kevin Hoffmann.  I was so encouraged by some words he wrote in the first chapter of his book.  He wrote, "It is my belief that each adoptee is divinely matched and placed with their adoptive family."  I loved reading those words. Especially since they were written by a transracial adoptee and even more especially since they came at the end of a story of horrible racism that his family endured in the late '60's.  To be honest, there are times when I struggle to believe that.  If you know me and you know Avé, you probably think it's completely ridiculous that I would ever doubt for one minute that God had his hand in putting us together when she needed a second family.  I truly think the reason for my struggle is filling my head with all those blogs who say the opposite of what Kevin is saying.  I wish I had never discovered them- certainly not so early in our time as a new family.  The seeds of fear and worry that were sewn in my heart are proving difficult to get out.  But get them out I will.  Because I do believe that God made us a family.  And I do believe that God works everything for good.

Right now all the looks and comments go over Av's head.  But there will come a time when that won't be true.  I need people in my life and good information in my head to help me navigate these waters.  I am not trying to be naive nor ignorant about racism.  I am fully aware that the only people who use the term "color blind" are white people.  Ignoring race is akin to ignoring gender.  It's there.  It's obvious.  And it DOES matter.  I know that I don't know everything I need to know to handle all the various situations our family might encounter.  And I also know that I do not know much at all about teaching my daughter to handle racism.  But if I truly embrace the fact that this is how our family is supposed to be, then I also have to trust that God will place people in our lives (and in Av's life specifically) who can help us learn to be the transracial family we are supposed to be.


Sohailah said...


Deena / TEAM MARQUIS said...

Awesome post! I am going to get that book ASAP...let's do a little bloggy bookclub :)

Gayla said...

Bloggy Bookclub! YES! I like it!!!!

Tricia said...

I'm going to go look that book up as soon as I finish this comment. :-) Thanks for your honest input about adjusting to being a transracial family. You hit it on the head with the "I do not want to be judged" statement. I already struggle with this, and we are only in the waitlist phase. But we have a few people who don't approve for whatever reason and OH it is hard. I remind myself that this was God's calling, and we are following the journey HE is taking our family on. And when I'm not worrying about those who disapprove, I love the thought that after our sweet girlie is home, our family will look just a little more like what God's church around the world looks like. And that is beautiful!

Selam! G'day! Hello!