6.01.2009

just an observation

This just is just an observation that I've made lately...so take it for what it's worth. Trans-racial adoptions have many complexities -- and this is one of them.

Before Vince and I returned home with Micah -- actually, before we even submitted our application to adopt from Ethiopia, we frequently discussed how outsiders might perceive our family -- both white and black people. Living in the deep-south we expected some resistance to our trans-racial family, but we just weren't sure what that resistance would look like. The sad reality is, in the US skin color has been at the root of many problems for many years...long before Micah was born...long before I was born. (So please understand I do not share this observation flippantly.)

No, I did not expect the African-American community to do black-flips because a Caucasian couple adopted an Ethiopian child, BUT, I did not expect the coldness either. I'm not completely sure how to process the blank stares and looks of contempt. Sometimes it's the lack of eye-contact that is most noticeable...I don't think we'd earn a glance even if we were standing next to Jesus.

Part of me wants to share our story with these strangers, but then part of me wants to simply glare back. Most often I just look away...at a loss to initiate some type of connection. I'm not sure if the image of our family elicits insult -- i.e. you can't get it right, so we're going to do it for you??? NOTE: our goal in parenting an African child is not so we can make him white!!!! People with light skin are equally as screwed up as people with darker skin!! What's even more complex about the situation is that Micah is not even African-American...he's Ethiopian. Kind of like, though I have light skin I still have NOTHING in common with someone from Eastern Europe...other than skin color. (An African-American friend pointed this out to us...his culture is completely different from the Ethiopian culture.) So, to be nit-picky about it, Micah is Ethiopian-American, not African-American -- we will raise him according to this Ethiopian heritage. But, I digress...

On the other hand, white folks have their own unique reaction to us...which, interestingly enough, I often find insulting. Comments like, "Oh, he's much better off now..." Really? Why? Because we're white Americans?? I kind of understand their thinking: access to better health care and education are definitely benefits. But, those opportunities are not the end-all-be-all --- they don't necessarily out-purpose the opportunity to remain in one's home land with one's birth family. Micah has not been adopted into our family because America is superior or more resourced, but because God works all things (in Micah's case, all things being some very sad circumstances) together for good (my paraphrase, Rom 8:28).

So, I have been trying to view our family through the eyes of strangers. What would be my knee-jerk reaction be if I encountered an African-American family with Caucasian children? Would I do a double-take? Probably. But, would I experience anger toward that family? Oh, I pray not!! What look do other trans-racial families read on my face?


This is the attitude I strive for, even while being misunderstood by suspicious on-lookers:

Ga 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Col 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

...again, just thought-processing in hope of greater understanding...

UPDATE: SHORTLY AFTER WRITING THIS POST, MICAH & I VENTURED OUT TO TARGET WHERE WE WERE TREATED VERY KINDLY BY TWO (YOUNG-20S) AFRICAN AMERICAN GIRLS...MAYBE THE VIBE I'M CATCHING HERE & THERE IS JUST A GENERATIONAL THING...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and your perspective on things. I was put on to your blog by your pastor Bill(I think???), who preached my husband's grandmother's funeral a few weeks ago.

We chatted at the funeral and he learned that we are currently waiting for referrals from Ethiopia and gave us your blog address. It has been such a blessing to read. I love the observations and perspective...and of course the beautiful photos of Micah.

Thanks for blogging,

Lori
Huntsville, AL

E said...

We just got the cold treatment today at the zoo...and I noticed, but it didn't bother me. I guess I've gotten used to it. However, we mostly get positive responses (even from the black community)...so that's good. :)

I think it's so bizarre when American blacks call themselves "African American" - because most are very (very) far away from their African roots and any traditions, etc. I have two black brothers in law and both take exception to the "African American" tag...because they consider themselves "simply" Americans. However, they're both very much entrenched in the black community, which certainly has unique cultural traditions, etc. I know a few Americans who immigrated from Africa (just as our son has done) and I think they're truly African American. Sorry for rambling...the bottom line is I understand where you're coming from and how it is sometimes uncomfortable to be treated with coldness or - worse - hostility.

Blessings!

Erica

Adam Sarah, and Leah Horton said...

Been there done that. It's amazing when we go to Wal Mart or something people will look at us and they're like, one of you don't belong and you can see them processing. Or the other day I took Malachi to the doctor and everyone there had to comment on how cute he was and touch him and such. I don't remember it being like that with Leah. Maybe it was becuase I was his dad and all dressed up for work and they thought it was cute but I think there was more to it.

mrbjbb said...

Thanks for this interesting discussion. Brad and I are definitely processing all these issues as we begin our home study this Saturday (!) and prepare our hearts for our baby girl from Ethiopia. With Zeke, we have encountered people who say "he's better off" with us. I have the same reaction as you to that comment. The other one we hear is "He's so lucky." I simply say, "We're all blessed to have each other."

Keep up the good blogging! :-)
Missy

Kelly said...

I soooooo know what you mean. I am so looking forward to the day when I lose every ounce of awareness of how people look at me when I am out in public. I catch myself forgetting, so I know that it is coming soon!!!

Allison Lewis said...

Hi Alisa,
We've been prepared for this very thing happening, but knowing it's coming and actually living it are two very different things. I would love to hear more on your experiences and how you're handling them.
And I totally forgot to write you back on your agency question the other day...we're with CWA. What agency did you use?
Thanks for sharing...I love your openness and perspective!
allison

Erica said...

I haven't had a lot of time lately for reading blogs, so I'm just reading this post. By the way, thank you for the YG comment about the hair - I'm going to checkout Mixed Chicks. Now, back to this post - you have NO idea how much I needed it!

As you know, we received our referral last Friday and people who I never expected to say nasty things or ask "just how dark is her skin" are driving me crazy. Sadly enough, it's some of my own family members who never uttered one negative word (to me anyway) and now they are piping-up and they haven't seen her picture much less met her! My heart is just breaking right now. My Dad told me last night, "Erica, if these people are behaving this way, then we need to pray for them because it is a matter of the heart. Only God can change them but He can use us to do that through love. Stand-up for our baby and family but do it with love - Christ's love." I'm from the South too, and it killed me when my Grandmother didn't show pics at church on Sunday for fear of what her "friends" would say, but my Dad's right in that it all comes down to the heart. Honestly, I would still like to sock them....I'm working on this attitude though ;)!

Rob & Candy said...

You know, I have noticed that I don't look at people in the stores anymore. I don't want to have to "think" about the glance, or the stare or whatever. I have noticed that AA grandmas often stop in the aisles to talk to Henry. They are normally very sweet to him. Today a young AA man told me to F... Off. (can I say that in blog comments??) while I was driving. Henry and Igor were in the car. I have no idea what the comments was for. I'm so glad that the boys don't know that word (yet). We continue to navigate the world of color- white, black, red, brown, etc...

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