Yesterday, as we sat eating dinner and watching Fox News (I know, I know, how horrible to do both at the same time!), the kids asked, once again, if the person on the screen was Barack Obama. They really have been quite fascinated by the idea of the election. Sean looked at me and said, “You know, it’s kind of too bad that N~ is too young to understand the social implications of all of this.” That would be the social implications, of course, of having a President with the same racial makeup he has.
“You know,” I told him, “I’m actually glad.”
The thing is, I have been thinking about just that topic for the past couple of days. It started with the revelation, the day after the election, that virtually 100% of the black vote went to Obama. Honestly, it bothers me that this is seen as neither surprising nor appalling. Honestly, if 100% of the white vote had gone to McCain, there would (rightly so) be screams of racism. Because, really, an entire race of people is not going to all vote the same way if they are voting on issues and beliefs and who more closely aligns with their world views. It just doesn’t happen.
With this in mind, I started thinking about some of the attitudes I encountered when first making the decision to adopt transracially. I learned about the long-standing declaration by the National Association of Black Social Workers that placing a black (or biracial) child in a white home was committing cultural genocide. Even organizations like Pact, which was founded by parents of transracially adopted children, stressed the importance of having strong same-race roll models and involvement to teach racial identity that I, as a white parent, could not.
I’m beginning to think that my inability to teach certain aspects of racially identity will be a blessing in my son’s life.
(Pausing to duck while some of you throw stones.)
Here’s the thing, it is absolutely true that my son won’t grow up with an ingrained understanding of racism like he would have gotten in a black family (which, incidentally, is not what he would have had if he were raised by his birthmother–she’s even whiter than I am). Instead, at five-years-old, he has no idea that there are narrow-minded people in this world who won’t like him because of the color of his skin. He doesn’t know that there are people who will have lower expectations of him for something as inconsequential as race. He doesn’t know what a big deal it is for the majority of our country to have decided that the black man is the one better qualified for the job.
And I like it that way.
Don’t get me wrong, he will learn. He will have to. You can’t shelter a child forever. But you can let him develop a strong sense of self worth before making him deal with the stupid ideas of what our country has now shown to be the racist minority.
Have you thought about that? The kind of racism that claims a black person is less intelligent or qualified has to by dying. Our country just proved it is dying. Because, not only did over half of the voters pick Obama, but there are tons of people who voted for McCain who still would have happily voted for him if he were black because they aren’t racist. They voted against Obama’s politics, not his skin color. Racism isn’t dead, but you can’t look at what just happened and believe that it still holds even a fraction of the same power that it once did.
Instead of teaching a child that he should go through life on the defensive because of his color, you can let him internalize the idea that he can be anything, even President of the United States, regardless of his skin color. He doesn’t need to grow up believing that he will instantly be a victim of society because of his race.
No, I can’t teach N~ what living with racism feels like. But I can teach him what living with it doesn’t feel like.
I think that is going to serve him pretty darn well.
Today, I am Thankful For:
- The fact that my kids are already totally “grossed out” by the sight of Sean and I kissing. If they want to continue to run, screaming and giggling, every time kissing comes up until they are, oh, 25 or so, that would be just fine by me.
- Lucky Charms. If you’ve ever wondered if an eight-month-old has the cognitive ability to sort objects, just throw a handful of Lucky Charms on his high chair tray. In no time flat, you’ll have a tray of tan cereal and a baby screaming for more marshmallows. (And, of course, a smile on your face.)
- Birthday parties. And any other reason for my kids to have all of their cousins together at the same time, for that matter. Because my kids love spending time with their cousins. (And I certainly don’t mind hanging out with the adults in the family!) Happy 2nd birthday, little niece of mine!
- Kids that actually enjoy working. At least, most of the time. I may never understand why vacuuming and raking leaves are fun, but making beds and picking up toys require a battle of epic proportions. But, whatever. I’ll take the leaves and vacuum with a smile on my face.
- Being part of a family that includes a black uncle, cousins who are also biracial, and cousins who were also adopted. Because, racial identity (or adoption) issues or not, it is always a bonus to have family that you can relate to on any given issue.