Thursday, August 02, 2007

On the Inside and the Outside

Mocha has a very poignant post today. I have had the opportunity to examine my own preconceptions as I learn daily what it is to be the parent of a black child. My child is black and both myself and my husband are very white. Going into this whole parenting thing is one thing, going into this whole parenting thing with a child of color is something very very different. Not only am I different than most of my mom friends because my son is adopted but I am also decidedly different because my son is black. Sadly, he is often the only child of color at any of our playgroups--one other woman has a daughter from China, but to be honest being Asian where I live is not the same as being black.

I really thought that I had a leg up on this whole race thing as I have had interactions with black people my whole life--as my city is about 50/50 white and black. This, I have learned, is more of a hindrance than a benefit. My city is segregated and segregated badly. There are white communities and black communities. Are their black people who live in the white communities, yes--but very very few. I have been forced to face my feelings about the black areas. I have been taught over the years not that black people where bad but that certain areas were dangerous. Well, who lives in those area? You guessed it.

I have thought about taking Minnow to places that offer more of an opportunity for him to interact with children of color. That would be good for him and it is my job to do what is good for him, but I would be an outsider. And in a city as segregated as ours, outsiders are not embraced with open arms.

It is important to clarify that our differences are much deeper than the color of our skin. They are cultural. These cultural differences are exacerbated by our skin color, but also for me because I am an adopted mother. The looks I get from black women and men when I am alone with Minnow differ greatly then the looks I get when I am with hubby as well. I might be an insider when it is just me--meaning Minnow could very well be my son, when it is just he and I, but when hubby is thrown into the mix, it is obvious that our son is adopted.

I don't know how to conquer this issue. I have to keep wrestling with my own preconceived notions in order to give Minnow a balanced look at race. I have to be aware of the situations that somehow place a value on skin color--no matter how insignificant they seem. It is hard to be an outsider, but I think that it is easier for me as an adult to cope than it will be for my son and my future daughter. I need to seek out opportunities for my son to see and interact with people of color in a positive way.

As a woman and mother, reconciling my own feelings about being an outsider in so many groups is the hard part. I am lucky that this blogosphere has allowed me to "meet" many mom's just like me--white adoptive parents of Ethiopian children. It is nice to be on the inside somewhere. You ladies rock...and you know who your are.


sarah said...

I, too, am an outsider in the very community where my son looks more like those around him then in our own neighborhood. work takes me into that community on a regular basis and I am now completely comfortable. I am sort of curious to see what reactions I get the first time I take him to work with me, as we never discussed the adoption with the staff of the school I work in...

Anonymous said...

Such a conundrum. Do you become friends with people just because they're black and so is your child? It feels so wrong to me in so many ways, but seems so important for Amelie in others.

My thought is generally that I don't want to be friends with people just because our situations are alike that I wouldn't be friends with in real life...I won't be someone's friend just because they've adopted their child, just because they have an Ethiopian kiddo, just because they're also a mom, just because they're black. I guess I'm equal opportunity in who I won't be friends with! I have become more aware of putting myself in situations where I might possibly meet another mom who is black than normal, however. If she sucks, I'm still not going to be her friend, but I need to at least open myself out to that (and to other moms in general, etc. etc.). I've met so many amazing moms to Ethiopian kids, but others who I'm like "eh". I don't continue to socialize with those ones, you know? Same thing with moms in general. It's lovely that you're a mom-black woman-adoptive parent-have an Ethiopian kid, but unless we can have a good time in the absence of those things, I don't have time for I sound snotty.

I'm just the type that prefers to have a small, tight knit group of friends I completely adore, rather than the type to know everyone but not really be close to anyone.

On a side note, I about lept to sign paperwork at the daycare that had black kids the other day. I literally grabbed Bryan's arm and squealed "LOOK!!". So I might be just completely lying when I say it's always well thought out. Amelie's face LIGHTS UP when she she's other black children (and I see other transracially adopted kids in the grocery store LIGHT UP when they see her...), she lunged at a black woman and her son in Pottery Barn Kids one day...she knows we're different and I already want her to have more opportunities to feel more normal...

Like when she meets Minnow this winter :)

Sorry for hogging all your comment space. I'm rude.

stephanie said...

Hi. Found your blog on someone's link and am glad I did. First of all I love dooce and lucky me that my previous job allowed me to devour her archives completely. Her posts made me laugh out loud and also brought me to tears. Love her.

Great topic you touched on here. It struck a nerve when you said being Asian is not the same as being black where you live. I am adopting from China and Ethiopia concurrently and have been told to my face that Asians are better accepted here (metro Atlanta). It made me sick to my stomach to hear it but it also made me aware of the potential battle we face.