Things I wanted to say
As Ive been slowly decompressing from PACT camp, Ive been mulling over the fact that Ive had virtually no contact (except one mother) from any of the AP’s I met. When I did the last panel for PACT, I had about 6 AP’s email me with questions, comments and also to just have general conversation. So its become an interesting dilemma as I try to continue to write. Is anyone reading? And did people email me because I didn’t write about that first panel? Am I just an ‘angry black girl’? and that + ‘angry adoptee’ = we cant ask her anything? I know my fellow TRA’s are reading. Did the show freak the AP’s out? Its not a story about the numerous happy moments in my childhood. hmmmm. dilemma.
I mean, I want AP’s to read this. Its like the show. It is for me, but its also a comment on race, TRAdoption and black diasporic womanhood. I want AP’s to see it and discuss and I hope that when it’s done it will raise more eyes and discussion. But neither the show or the blog are instruction manuals. Most of us TRA’s are so done trying to teach people about ‘what to do’, much like as a scholar of African Diasporic culture, I am many times frustrated and ‘done’ teaching people about race. But while we are many times overwhelmed, frustrated and angry, I still want the AP’s who are trying to reach out to me. I’d rather have them ask and try to struggle through, than to make stupid assumptions about what it means to be black in the U.S.
and add adoption to that – messy, messy.
So I wanted to take a moment to make some suggestions about – “What can I do?”. and this is for the record and will probably be one of the few times I actually say stuff like this. (ha!) and finally, – ummm each of these could be an entire dissertation -so clearly, this is the short version.
1. Make a concrete commitment to making your close community multi-racial and multi-cultural. And i mean a daily, weekly, yearly, lifetime commitment to making sure your child is comfortable and never feels isolated or alone. and yes – if they are the only black person for 100 miles – they are isolated and alone – even if they cant find the words to articulate it. I think the example I gave at the last panel was a white woman AP who I know who takes her black son to baseball. She lives in Oakland where there are basically a few leagues – the white leagues and the black leagues. She lives near the white leagues, but she makes a concerted effort to take her son on a weekly basis to a place where she and her husband are the only white people. She talked about how uncomfortable it was at first, how out of place she felt, but after people knew whose mother she was, they were completely supportive of her presence in a space that is traditionally a black space. And her son – is thankful and is comfortable around other black folks. Oh and when I say close community, I mean your friends and people you consider your family, not just random folks.
2. If that means you have to move, or drive 50 miles to a black/latino/chicano/asian or multi-racial church, school, or other social institution – then (duh!) move or drive the 50 miles.
3. Read, read read read. Dont just read kids books even though some of those might be good for you too. Dude – just go to the respective section in your local independent bookstore (and if you dont have one .. i guess you can go to the big store… and if your indy store or your big store doesnt have a section. ummm. yes.. ask about it and start having them order books for you!). If you like fiction, start with fiction. Not crap fiction - actual literature. Read more than just the canon. yes, Dubois, Toni Morrison and Angela Davis are all gravy, but push yourself. Do you know Edwidge Danticat? Octavia Butler? Audre Lourde? what about current contemporary poets and writers? yes – go take a class. (And lets add music and films to this as well – get netflix if you dont have a good video store!)
4. Coming to a “culture” camp once a year is NOT enough. You are not interacting with any adults of color. Hello – its not just about your child’s community, its about you being able to understand what it means to be white, in an all white community, with all white friends. Its called “white privilege” - you dont have to think about race if you really dont want to and really, the saying ignorance is bliss has meaning here. Its much funner to live life as if race doesnt matter. Its much nicer not to think about how your child might have people tease them, or say hateful things, or treat them with disdain or isolate them in the classroom . . . you get my point.
5. On that note- Be willing and committed to struggle with the notion of “white privilege” and understand that race and the idea of “being racialized” is not something that you or your kids ‘finally get’ and then everything is cool. Living in a black/brown body is a life long thing. Yes it sucks, but yes black people learn how to live with the pressure or we slowly die. So yes, since you have a child of color – you cannot live your life anymore like race doesnt matter. sorry people.
6. Be willing to make mistakes and check yourself. Do you notice a pattern here? Yes – most of these comments are about YOU – not about your kid. Because your kid is not where the work needs to be done. Its not enough to just say “Im not racist” because you aren’t in the Klan or you aren’t physically cracking someone over the head with a bat or draggin them behind a truck. You must be willing to sit in the hair salon (sometimes all day!) where you are the only white person, or find a multi-racial salon. You must be willing to push yourself and strive to be anti-racist. We all do this work – no matter who we are. Its just harder for white folks because you dont have an understanding of ‘racialized’ bodies to begin with.
7. Rap and Hip Hop music is not the enemy. Yes 1/2 of it sucks and most of it that sucks is the crap on TV. But I am a hiphop head. I was raised on hip hop. But I seek out and support positive, poltical rap and hip hop music. When your kid is a teen… The Roots, Flipsyde, The Coup, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Saul Williams, Sunni Patterson, Agua Libre, Damien Marley, the list goes on and on… seriously.
8. Intent doesnt matter. Intent doesnt matter. Intent doesnt matter.I seriously dont know how many more times I can say this. Just because you didnt mean it – doesnt make it NOT freaking racist!!!! Just because you didnt mean to say that your son’s friend must come from a good home because he gets good grades, or you didnt mean to say “but i dont want to move the ghetto” (duh! all black people dont live in the ghetto you dumb ASS!), or wow she is so articulate…. But i didnt mean it. I didnt mean it.
well. it. STILL. hurts.
Thus endeth the lesson.
P.S. I just remembered one other thing. Make sure as you are reading, that you are reading everything abou race and adoption, race and the social welfare system, race and politics, race and …race. It is your responsibility to understand the (sometimes very, very f-ed up) circumstances that made it possible for your child to come to you. That idea that if you read about ‘positive’ people like wack ass Conde or other supposed ‘leaders’… thats crap. Its not about ‘overcoming’ race, its about understand how it functions.