Saturday, July 5, 2008

Could all racists, not smile at my baby? Thanks :)

So we're at a cookout today, and EVERYONE loves Ty, like usual. Ty is often the center of attention, and we get stopped a lot when we are out. In general, I'm ok with that. I know that a lot of it is because Ty is black, and that's compounded by how gosh darn cute he is. Sometimes the extra attention gets old. Sometimes I just want to sit, or eat, or grocery shop or whatever, not have to have my guard up because we're a family built through adoption. So today, everything is fine, and although I don't know everyone at the cookout, I make the assumption that they are family and friends of people I do know. I make the assumption that they all realize a key fact. Ty is black. I'm not asking for rocket science, just realization that. So I'm eating and Ty is with someone, Mike I think, and I walk by two older men talking politics. One of them says to the other..."I'll tell you my motto about this election. My motto is, Vote white or don't vote! That's my motto!" and he laughs. Seriously what would my jail time have been for punching him out? Okay, clearly I can now choose to never have my son around that man. I'm okay with making that choice, and it does soothe me. Upsetting me still though? My nieces...cousins to my black son, are frequently around this man, as are MANY other children. This was not adult to adult conversation, this was conversation with many children around. I'm ashamed to say, I froze and said nothing. So now I'm stuck with a million responses and ways I could have and should have butt into that conversation. I was just so crushed. It was not expected from this man, who smiles and coos and talks to my Tyler. I realize Ty gets somewhat of a free pass, because we are white, but the reality is, that will only protect him for so long.

Then later in the nights, sitting around a fire pit roasting marshmallows, a young boy, maybe 8 or 9 is beside me keeps glancing over toward Ty, and then up at me. I know it's coming, and he is a child, so I welcome it with a smile, and he steps closer and peers in at Ty all wrapped and cozy in his blankets, and looks up at me, and then gently touches Ty's blanket near his hand. "Is he your baby?" he asks, with his eyebrows all scrunched together, trying to figure it out. "He sure is. This is Tyler." He nods like this is the response he's expecting, but I let him work through it for a few seconds and I smile at him again as he continues his looks from Tyler to me and occasionally to Mike who is sitting next to me. "So why is his skin black?" he asks. This tells me a couple things in just those few words. It tells me that in addition to differences in color, he's aware of race, since children only aware of difference in color typically reference the skin color as brown, and children aware of race, reference black skin (though Ty is pretty dark). "Well Tyler is adopted." I tell him and try to read if that answers his question. Clearly it doesn't so I make the mistake of asking a question that I don't have an answer to..."Do you know what that means?" Of course he shakes his head no. Shoot! "Well that means Tyler was born to another Mother before he came to live with me and be my son." Very super over simplified, but the best I could do, thinking on my feet. Of course the boys parents were no where to be found, or I could have looked to them for some help...hopefully I didn't start a really interesting conversation that they weren't ready to have with him yet. I was a little surprised that he didn't know what adoption was by his age though. Usually the your skin doesn't match his questions come from 3-5 year olds. He nodded his head and it seemed to work for him so I guess I did okay. I guess I need to add that to the list of questions I need the "answer at the ready" for.

Twice in 2 days we've been asked where Tyler is from. I LOVE telling people "Missouri" and watching how long it takes them to realize I mean the US. :)

Over all, still a great 4th. Better to really know the people around you than to just believe they all love and respect Ty as much as we do.

5 comments:

Robin said...

Shame on that man who is old enough to know better! As for the little boy, you did a GREAT job explaining adoption to him. I think you'll need to keep an adoption picture book in your diaper bag so it's ready to go at a moment's notice! :)

Marci said...

Okay, I can beat the 8 year old. I took Spencer for his 4 month pictures yesterday. (Yeah, I do them monthly. A little obsessive, maybe?) Anyway there was a little boy who was 3 or 4. He came over and informed me that Spencer was black. He is way too young to think Spencer is black... I did not say anything. Mom was right there and ignoring his comments, so I did the same.

Anonymous said...

Over the 4th my in-laws were here from Texas. I was talking to my FIL (who lives in Texas) about how nice it would be if we could afford to hire someone to lay bricks on our back patio. He said, "Well, you might be able to find a 'wet' to do it."

Arrrrgggghhhh...

DS2 is Hispanic (Mexican), although he was born in Ohio. We have to have a talk with him soon...like you I was stunned and silent when he made that comment. I told my DH and he rolled his eyes and suggested I should have said, "Well, when DS gets older we can just hire him."

It's so not easy with family and friends. I have no doubt they love my son beyond measure, they can just be so ignorant about their words.

J-momma said...

when people ask where my son is from i name the city that he was born, which is called, "New Britain" and then watch people's faces for a few moments before explaining he was adopted from foster care. it's really funny to see how confused they are, but are still too shy to ask for clarification. p.s. good job answering the questions. and i don't know what i would have done about the older men either. that's a hard one. it's hard to balance that with family.

Jensboys said...

Hey I followed your blog link from the a.com forums after you commented on my post :) enjoying reading your blog.

My sons are also from Missouri - and adopted, and black and have white parents - and are now 13 and 12.

We are a bit further ahead of you in our journey but its interesting to read back. Thanks for sharing your heart.