Category Archives: politics

Seeing My Future

January 13, 1993

Dear Me,

This is a letter to myself to let me, in the future, see what my hopes and expectations were when I was almost 16, and to see how my life met up to those dreams and expectations.

In two and a half years I hope to graduate high school and probably go to BYU. I want to get my bachelors in English secondary education. Maybe minor in Spanish.

I would like to be married when I am 20 or 21. I don’t want to have children until I have graduated college and maybe even worked a couple of years. When I do have kids, I hope to be in a financial situation that I do not need to work so I can stay home and raise a large family.

I hope to remain active in the church and serve the Lord. I have given a mission a thought, but I doubt that I will go on one. I want to keep my virtue and stay pure. I want my husband to remain with me forever.

 

I found this letter to myself while I was cleaning last night. I wrote it 17 years ago—it has managed to survive all of those years and several moves. Amazing. Even more amazing is just how closely my life resembles what I envisioned as a high school Sophomore. Really, the only things I got wrong were that I was twenty-TWO when I got married and I didn’t minor in Spanish. Other than that, it all came true (well, I guess forever hasn’t happened yet so my husband had better hold up his side of that bargain!).

Who says that teenagers don’t know what they want? Or that what you do and think as a kid won’t end up affecting the rest of your life?

Today, I am thankful for:

  1. The fact that my boys are old enough to turn on the TV and entertain themselves until I get up in the morning when they wake up too early.
  2. The obvious and extreme amount of effort that went into the activity for the women at church this evening. My soul was replenished and I am so grateful to all the women who took time out of their lives to give me such a wonderful evening away from mine.
  3. Adult female conversation. All of the other speakers in my household are male (and most are kids). ‘Nuff said.
  4. The fact that after I asked Noah today how he feels about his adoption (he said there wasn’t really anything he wanted/needed to talk about) and emphasized that if he ever had questions or wanted to talk I am always willing too, he immediately grabbed a piece of paper and drew a picture of him hugging me under a rainbow with hearts and the words “Happy Birthday” (which I interpret as “I love you” given the overall sentiment and the fact that it is nowhere close to my birthday). And the huge, prolonged hug that followed after he gave it to me. A “moment” definitely occurred.
  5. My mother’s apparent reelection (not all of the polls have reported, but she has a comfortable lead). That job brings her too much purpose and joy for her to lose it.

 

One more thing for this evening. I am a big believer in the power of prayer, even if you don’t actually know the person you are praying for. I say this because I have a friend who could really use some prayers right now. Her daughter was diagnosed with leukemia a little over a month ago. A couple of days ago, she was put on antibiotics for a staph infection. This evening, she tested positive for H1N1. I know that a lot of people reading this blog are already praying for Candace. But I know a lot of you don’t know her. If you can find it in your heart tonight, say a prayer for her. Then say a prayer for her parents because, wow, I just can’t imagine how hard this is. Thanks.

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Filed under adoption, Daily Life, Gratitude, Kids, NaBloPoMo, Parenting, politics, Thirty Days of Thankfulness

Black Culture—How Black is Black Enough?

As I have already mentioned, Sean has a black uncle and, therefore, four biracial cousins. When the oldest cousin, S~ (whose appearance tends more towards the white genetic influence), was still in high school, she started to go through some rebellion. A conference with the principal was arranged.

On the appointed day, S’s white mother and black father walked into the office of the black school principal. As they sat down, he chuckled.

“Well, that explains it,” the principal said as he looked at S’s father. “We were wondering why she has started trying to act Black.”

Unfortunately, by “act Black” he was not referring to an increased interest in academics (or even sports). No, he was referring to her sudden interest in hoochie clothing, urban slang, and 50 Cent.

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Culture: The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.

The concept of defining Black culture first became important to me about seven years ago, as I began exploring the idea of transracial adoption. As anyone who has adopted a child of another race can attest, the concept of birth culture is given much emphasis in pre-adoption discussions with social workers.

Certainly, defining the differences in culture are relatively simple when adopting a child from another country. The American experience is vastly different than the Guatemalan experience, the Vietnamese experience, or the Cambodian experience.

But how, exactly, do you define the difference between the American experience and, well, the American experience?

Do not misunderstand—I do not claim that there is not frequently a difference in experience for people of different races in this country. Of course there is also a difference in experience for people of different socio-economic status, or even people from different parts of the country. Yet, I don’t recall anyone impressing on me the importance of developing a twang and participating in pageants if my child came from the South.

But, I was a good little pre-adoptive parent. I attended the classes. I explored my feelings on race. I bought the book, Inside Transracial Adoption. I even read most of it and successfully denied the urge to throw it against a wall on several occasions.

Here’s a little tip: Always know who you’re getting your advice from.

Part-way through the book, one of the authors describes the “small, Midwestern college town” that they lived in, and how they decided that it was too conservative of an area to raise their family in, so they moved to San Francisco. A few pages later, and I realized that I knew the town she was referring to. I grew up near it, and went there often.

My husband, who grew up in northern California, hated that town because it reminded him so much of Berkley. It was that “conservative.” Seriously, the University that she was referring to chose, several years ago, to have their commencement address delivered by a convicted cop killer. That was the kind of area that was “too conservative” for the woman who literally wrote the book on transracial adoption.

What was some of the advice dispensed?

  • If your religion doesn’t have a Black congregation, you may want to consider changing your beliefs.
  • You should consider forgoing the Montessori preschool that your other children attended that was so good at fostering creativity and self-direction so your child can attend the rigid Cambodian preschool and learn the necessary traits to become a good little Communist in a room full of faces like his.
  • While your other kids are off at band and soccer camps, send your adopted daughter to Korean culture camp so that she can be reminded of all of the ways she is different from you.

Instead of focusing on ways to incorporate your child into your family culture, you are encouraged to constantly emphasize the child’s birth culture. And, while birth culture is important (we all need to explore our roots), it frequently turns into a neurotic, academic over-emphasis. There comes a point where it exceeds the well-meaning intention of giving a child a sense of “past” and becomes a constant reminder that “you aren’t like us.” No child needs that.

After research and thoughtful consideration, I came to two conclusions:

  1. A lot of conventional “fact” is crap.
  2. It was important to me that my son see positive, professional examples of people from his (and other) cultures.

I wanted my son to grown up, first and foremost, as part of our family culture. But, someday, if and when he wanted to further explore his birth culture, I didn’t want him to think that the definition of success needed to include a great jump shot or a Wikipedia entry that sported the phrase, “after leaving drug dealing to pursue a rap career…”

In 1972, the National Association of Black Social workers took a “vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason.” They justified this by saying (among other things):

The socialization process for every child begins at birth and includes his cultural heritage as an important segment of the process. In our society, the developmental needs of Black children are significantly different from those of white children. Black children are taught, from an early age, highly sophisticated coping techniques to deal with racist practices perpetrated by individuals and institutions. These coping techniques become successfully integrated into ego functions and can be incorporated only through the process of developing positive identification with significant black others. Only a black family can transmit the emotional and sensitive subtleties of perception and reaction essential for a black child’s survival in a racist society. Our society is distinctly black or white and characterized by white racism at every level. We repudiate the fallacious and fantasied reasoning of some that whites adopting black children will alter that basic character.

Looked at from the historical perspective of being written in the early 1970’s, I can almost understand where they are coming from in their assertion that black children needed to learn proper coping techniques.

I am bothered, however, by the fact that the National Association of Black Social Workers has never retracted this statement and, in fact, still stands behind it, claiming that transracial adoption is “cultural genocide.” As far as they are concerned, every child with any black heritage should be placed in a black family. End of story. I am also bothered by the extent to which the adoption community, and even society as a whole, seems to cling to this idea.

In a country where the majority of the voting population just chose Barack Obama (and most of us who didn’t made our decision based on his politics, not his race), you just cannot argue that the same level of racism exists as did previously. However, the fear of racism, and level of distrust because of it, persists.

The National Association of Black Social Workers is right; I can’t teach my child to fear white people and the possibility of racism. And I’m glad for that. He won’t be crippled by an overwhelming distrust of society. Heaven forbid, I may even succeed in sending him out into the world with the belief that he’ll be seen as just as capable as the next guy. What a shame that would be.

When I first mentioned, about a week ago, my discomfort with having the slavery talk with my son, Lilola left an interesting comment on my blog. She stated that, appearances aside, Noah is just as much white as he is black. I have known Lilola for several years and know, as anyone who knows her does, that she is very rarely wrong. This time, however, she is.

The fact is, appearances aside, my son is more white than he is black.

And how do I justify saying that? Because he is the recipient of the most horrid of all Liberal epithets: White Privilege (which, good heavens, gets its own—very long—Wikipedia entry). So many of the things that liberal thinkers blame on “Black disadvantage” are not issues for my son. He has a stable home environment, involved parents, access to a good education, security…heck, we even go on family vacations. As the beneficiary of my “privilege,” he is not having what many define as a “Black” experience.

Now, here’s the kicker. The same is 100% true of our current president.

He was raised by a white mother and white grandmother, with almost no involvement from the black side of his family. He had the experience of international travel. He went to Harvard.

The pervasive attitude that Barack Obama is going to understand the poor and oppressed because he is “black like us,” drives me nuts. Like my son, he didn’t grow up with “Black disadvantage.” He grew up in a white (well, and Indonesian) society with some amazing experiences/privileges. But, because of the color of his skin and, I suppose, the fact that he plays basketball and listens to hip hop, he has been certified as Black enough.

Hmmm…I wonder how the National Association of Black Social Workers feels about that?

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Filed under adoption, politics, The Me Behind the Mommy, transracial adoption

Black History—a Part of the Whole

As I stated in my preamble, Eric Holder’s speech on February 18th regarding Black History Month left me with a variety of topics to cover. The trick, of course, is trying to categorize them in a way that makes sense to people other than me. At this point, my intention is to go with three main topics over the next few days: Black history as part of American history and the public discourse surrounding it, Black culture, and the importance of learning from early slavery instead of just harping on it. More or less. We’ll see.

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In his speech, Mr. Holder begins by calling us “essentially a nation of cowards” for what he sees as a lack of discourse regarding race relations. More than once, he proclaims that American history can not be appreciated without an understanding of Black history.

That’s true.

Of course, American history also cannot be fully appreciated without an understanding of Irish-American History, Asian-American History, Hispanic-American history, or the history of any other group that may or may not have been exploited in the building of this great nation. We are, truly, a melting pot. Each culture that has entered our borders has brought its own set of values, its own list of trials, and its own share of great minds to contribute towards getting us to where we are today.

How do you think a push for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant History Month” would go over?

Yeah, me too.

Obviously, there is one significant difference between the Black population and others—they were the only ones who lived through government-sanctioned slavery. Certainly, that is a blight on our history. It, and the years of segregation that followed, were a time when horrible people did unforgivable things.  It is a time we should remember and learn from.

But, it is a time that has passed.

I will not pretend that discrimination is dead in our society. It is alive and flourishing. It has the potential to intimately effect all people, regardless of age, gender, or skin color. If you don’t believe me, do a search on college scholarships exclusively for African Americans. Now, do a search on scholarships for which you will only qualify if you are white.

Mr. Holder is right about one thing—honest discussions on race are hard to come by in a multi-racial setting. This is because, as non-minorities, we are taught to feel that we should continue to bare the responsibility of, and make amends for, the actions of our ancestors. Never mind if they were actually slave owners or not, we still remain guilty by nature of being the recipients of “White Privilege.” And, of course, that status as Privileged makes it politically incorrect to suggest that people strive to be judged on the capacity of their minds or the content of their character, as opposed to the amount of melanin in their skin.

But, Mr. Holder makes impassioned pleas that we strive to acknowledge the pigmentation, not just the accomplishments.

He loses me, however, in his insistence that Black history needs to be more thoroughly incorporated into the study of American history. Growing up, I learned about Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln (oh, wait, does he count as part of Black history?), Frederick Douglas, and Rosa Parks. I even learned how the Civil Rights movements following Ms. Parks refusal to move to the back of the bus was really more about a seething reaction to the treatment of the murder of Emmit Till than because people were really that mad that a tired lady couldn’t get a seat up front.

I learned about the Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation, and the Civil Rights movement. I studied mandatory busing and saw the devastating effects that it had on some of the schools close to where I grew up.

I really don’t remember if I learned any of these things during the month of February. All I know is that I learned about them in their historical order, as part of a comprehensive look at American history. I didn’t spend one month learning about “them” and the rest of the year learning about “us” as Mr. Holder’s speech seems to imply.  I just learned OUR history.

Of course, there are things about our history that I don’t remember ever learning. Too bad for Mr. Holder, they fly in the face of some of his assertions. Mr. Holder claims that other significant civil rights movements, such as feminism, “were all tied in some way to the spirit that was set free by the quest for African American equality (during the Civil Rights era).”

As if fated, the history lesson that I did with my kindergartener today was on Susan B. Anthony. Like Mr. Holder, I have always seen the fight for women’s suffrage as coming after, well—not the Civil Rights era for goodness sakes, but after the end of slavery. After all, that is the order in which they are studied, right? Today, however, I learned things that I never remember learning before.

Susan B. Anthony, who was born in 1820, was an impassioned abolitionist. By the time she was 25, she and her family were holding weekly anti-slavery meetings which were, at times, attended by Frederick Douglas and William Llyod Garrison (another noted white abolitionist).

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who was never taught that Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony knew each other and worked together to fight slavery.

Susan B. Anthony—one of the most notable pioneers of feminism—began her work for women’s rights because she was sick of not being taken seriously as an abolitionist because she was a woman. The fact is, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked for Black Suffrage at the same time that they were fighting for Women’s Suffrage. Their dedication wasn’t spurred on by the success of the anti-slavery movement (and certainly not by the Civil Rights era), but by their desire to have a strong enough voice to HELP MAKE IT SUCCESSFUL.

I didn’t notice Ms. Anthony or Ms. Stanton on Mr. Holder’s list of people that should be studied as part of Black history.

I read Mr. Holder’s remarks on Black history, and I am left with the strong suspicion that he was the type of kid that just couldn’t help picking at scabs. He’s right on one thing—there is healing that needs to occur. It won’t happen, though, if we insist on constantly ripping open old wounds.

This country’s history is OUR history—all of us, no matter what the color of our skin is. It needs to be acknowledged. It needs to be viewed for what it was. It needs to never be forgotten so that it will never happen again.

And then we need to move on so we can acknowledge our present and the tremendous progress that has been made.

Because, in case you didn’t notice, Mr. Holder, in 2008 the majority of our country elected a minority President.

That’s got to count for something.

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Filed under politics, Soap Box, The Me Behind the Mommy

A Preamble

Uhg.

I mentioned last week that I had the joy of the slavery talk with Noah over the course of two history lessons (0ne on Harriet Tubman, one on Abraham Lincoln). I considered, at that point, going into further detail about my feelings on race as a white mother of a biracial child. Given all of the other things I was dealing with on the adoption issues front, I decided not to tackle it.

Then, today, I watched this on Momversation.

OK, the video itself wasn’t what riled me up, so much. My feeling is that, if you have two schools that are equally strong in the education department, but one is more racially diverse, there is nothing wrong with making diversity a consideration.

The first couple of comments on the video, though? From people who were saying that they would actually put diversity a bit ABOVE education on the list of priorities.

HUH???

As I pointed out in my comments over there, since having kids I have lived in two different school districts with large minority populations. I wouldn’t send my kids to either of them. And one of them was the school district I grew up in, for Pete’s sake.

Of course, I felt compelled to read the text of the speech by Attorney General Eric Holder that sparked the discussion in the first place.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Even with the TV blaring and kids yelling in the background, the English major in me couldn’t help but go into all-out deconstruction mode. Aside from being completely inane, Mr. Holder’s comments contradict themselves left and right. By the time I talked to Sean on the phone about it, I was speaking at approximately light speed (which, as anyone who knows me is aware, is what happens when I’m REALLY WORKED UP).

So, here’s the deal. I’m going to talk about it. There is no way that it will all go into one post—there are just too many subtopics to hit. Despite what Mr. Holder may think, I’m not a coward when it comes to talking about race. I’m warning you now, if you don’t like discussions on race that don’t fall squarely into the politically correct camp, you may just want to avoid reading what I have to say.

Be prepared to find out what I think about race, education, the importance of birth culture, Black History Month, slavery, and why it drives me crazy that everyone refers to Barack Obama as simply “black.”

I’m prepared for a workout from the stones that may be thrown at me. After all, pregnant girls are supposed to exercise, too.

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Filed under Homeschooling, I think my head might explode, politics, The Me Behind the Mommy

I’m Proud To Be An America

Today, I am Thankful For:

  1. My grandfather, who got the most miserable tour of Europe by defending our country in World War Two. I really wish that I would have learned more about his experiences while he was still alive.
  2. My father, who spent a year never sleeping on dry sheets as he served our country in the heat and humidity of Vietnam.
  3. My father-in-law, who made many trips in and out of Iraq to serve our country in Dessert Storm.
  4. The hundreds of thousands of brave men and women who risk their lives every day to protect ours.  Words can’t adequately convey the gratitude I have for your sacrifices.
  5. The wives (and husbands) of those who serve our country. I have several friends who fall into this category, and I really respect them for how they accept the regular upheaval as they are transferred from one base to another. I would go crazy never getting to put down roots. The sacrifices of military families is significant, and they deserve our gratitude, too.

When it comes to holidays, Veteran’s Day really isn’t even a blip on the radar. I mean, how many “Happy Veteran’s Day” cards do you see Hallmark making? Heck, when I talked to my dad earlier today, we discussed the fact that he was off for Veteran’s Day, but I didn’t proclaim any holiday wishes to him. Honestly, and I’m a little ashamed of this, I didn’t even say “thank you.” But that is just because it seemed kind of awkward.

The truth is, I am grateful for what my father did. He signed up to serve in a war that wasn’t popular. He stayed in the military when he came back, even though our country wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy towards servicemen and our government wasn’t exactly paying them grandly for the “respect” that they got. He loved our country–he still does–and he served it. On the rare occasion that we can actually get him to talk about Vietnam, it becomes obvious that it really bothers him that our country’s politics prevented us from doing what needed to be done to win in there.

I wasn’t alive during the Vietnam war. I only know the things I have studied. It seems to me, though, that there is a lot in common with what happened then, and what is happening to our troops in Iraq today. A segment of our population have decided that this war isn’t the popular thing to do, and many of our politicians don’t want to do what needs to be done to finish this thing.

I pray for our current and future political leaders. I pray that they will worry less about what is popular, and more about what will work. I pray for the Iraqi people, that they won’t have another Saddam Hussein move in if we pull out.

Forty years later, Vietnam is still suffering. I pray it will be different for Iraq forty years from today.

Most of all I pray for our service men and women, that their sacrifices won’t have been in vain.

(Even if it was a McCain ad, the message is so appropriate that I had to include it.)

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Filed under NaBloPoMo, politics, Thirty Days of Thankfulness

Five Things the Election Made Me Thankful For

Yes, my blog is in mourning. But, while I have definite concerns over the socialist leanings of our new President elect, life must go on. So, I will  now lay the issue of politics to rest (for awhile, at least) with today’s list of five things that I am grateful for–the election version.

Today I am Thankful For:

  1. The fact that the election is over. My candidate may have lost, but I am still doing a happy dance that I don’t have to hear about politics 24/7 anymore.
  2. In four year, Barack Obama will have the opportunity to run on his own record instead of George Bush’s. Whether he likes it or not.
  3. The Democrats didn’t end up with a super majority.
  4. Al Franken appears to have lost. Because Oh. My. Gosh. If he won? I think I’d take it as a sign of the apocalypse. I can understand wanting to vote for a Democrat, but Al Franken? I don’t get it. I am so glad that he won’t be making major decisions for our country.
  5. I live in a country that has moved forward far enough to elect a black president. Seriously. Even if I think that Obama is the wrong guy, I am happy to know that my biracial son will grow up in a world where a black president isn’t a foreign concept.  I’m grateful that he’ll see black role models on TV other than athletes and 50 Cent. This is a huge deal. Mr. Obama, please don’t screw it up.

And now, back to life.

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Filed under NaBloPoMo, politics, Thirty Days of Thankfulness

I Felt More Thankful Earlier

I started to write a post. I was about three paragraphs in. They just called my state for Obama and I’m afraid that this race is over. I’m now too depressed to write my whole post so, without further ado:

Five Things I’m Thankful For Today:

  1. My mother complains when I write about diaper blow-outs. If she only knew the things that I don’t tell you about. With that in mind, today I am very grateful for disposable bleach wipes. ‘Nuff said.
  2. Barnes and Noble. When it became apparent that Sean plans on having election coverage on all evening, I headed out for a new book on human trafficking (amazingly, B&N had the one I wanted).
  3. Having the flexibility to take my kids to the polls (and count it as school time) because I teach N~ at home. It really was an educational experience for them, and W~ and N~ have spent the day asking questions about McCain and Obama.
  4. The way E~ cracks himself up when he shakes his head “no” at me. Nothing beats the joy of a baby.
  5. The availability of information. I love to learn, and we live in a time where it is so easy to do. Bookstores, libraries, the internet–we have an amazing wealth of information available to us. I think of all of the people in the world who don’t even have the advantage of being literate, and I am so grateful for how available information is to anyone in this country who wants to access it.

Sigh. I should have done that earlier in the day. I’m going to go read my book now. Or maybe work on changing my blog theme.

What’s the appropriate length of mourning for the death of this country as we know it?

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Filed under Homeschooling, I think my head might explode, NaBloPoMo, politics, Thirty Days of Thankfulness