- I went to the gyn this morning to talk about this menopause stuff. She was basically like, “That sucks, and sounds like you are doing all the right things. Good luck. #frustrated
- We took a short family walk this evening. Hope wants y’all to know that Yappy was super cute.
- She also wants you to know she choreographed a new dance, and she just announced she was going to dance professionally. This is not true. 😂😂😂
- Yes, we are jointly authoring this post.
- The Harry & Meghan interview was lit. So much tea. Sad though tho. Racism is a helluva drug. I think they really thought they could control them. Eff around and found out. And just imagine if Meghan wasn’t so fair skinned? They tripped that Archie would come out looking like his Black grandma! I mean… Trash. #basura After the way they did Diana, you’d think they’d know better, but here we are.
- Hope is still having nightmares; she says they are so sleep disrupting. I’ve had to wake her out of the terrors a couple of times this week. Yeah, it’s still bad.
- I made baked beans and sausage last night. You would think it was a high end meal the way your girl Hope crushed it with a side of toast. I’ve put another can of beans on the shopping list.
- I need to find a language coach for Hope. She wants to start studying Korean again.
- Hope also wants you to know she’s bought a new alarm clock. Cross your fingers that it works for her (and me)!
Category Archives: Race
Ten Things on Wednesday: 3/10/21
In the Days After
So, a week in and I swear I’m ready to already write 2021 off.
Unless you live under a rock, you are aware that the US Capitol was overrun this week in a coup attempt.
Many moons ago, I worked on Capitol Hill in the House of Representatives. I was there for a little over a year as an intern, working for a member from a district similar to the one I grew up in. I primarily worked on tobacco and education policy. It was a plumb gig, as the special assistant to the president of my university recommended me for the position. It was only supposed to be for a semester, and it lasted a year.
I also interned on the Hill for a House Committee chair during my second year of college.
I went on to be an association lobbyist for nearly a decade, spending many days on Capitol Hill meeting with staff and Members on topics in my portfolio.
There is a certain mystique to the Capitol complex. There are tons of tunnels connecting all the buildings. Hidden doorways and chambers, a little subway on the Senate side. There almost always a bustle of people coming and going. Security is always tight; you had to go through metal detectors long before 9/11. There were places where you lowered your voice, more out of reverence than anything. It’s a special place; its representative government live and in real time.
There were lots of things I hated about working on the Hill, but I never forgot how fortunate I was to have been able to work there—It’s a place where careers are made. I often thought of the enslaved people who helped to build the complex and what their spirits must think about me being in that space. It gives me chills.
So, to see people literally climbing the walls of the Capitol building was really emotional. I have friends and colleagues who work there. My current beau works there. To see the space desecrated in ways that really were unthinkable was hard personally, but as an American—yo, WTF.
The news didn’t report how some of these folks urinated outside of offices. There are only a few pictures of the largely Black and brown custodial staff who had to clean up the horrendous mess folks left. They didn’t talk a much about how security rushed to save Members of congress, while staffers where left trying to barricade themselves in offices under siege. I saw staffers tweeting at their bosses in hopes of checking to see if everyone was ok.
And then of course there’s how easy it was for the Capitol to be overrun. Last summer, most of downtown was boarded up because of fear of possible damage to property. My office building has pretty much been boarded up since June given all the protests that have taken place. During the summer tanks and other military vehicles were all over downtown DC. It reminded me a lot of what it was like in the city right after 9/11.
But not this week. The National Guard didn’t get called up until well into the afternoon. Images show that insurgents were treated with patience and kindness throughout the afternoon. There’s lot of video and audio of these terrorists threatening and harming police—so I’m guessing all that Blue Lives Matter stuff is out the window. There is literally no explanation other than giving emotional White folks the benefit of the doubt that wasn’t afforded to protestors who just want law enforcement to stop extrajudicial killings of Black and brown folks. If you know DC, you know this is true.
Even the arrests in the aftermath—what around 20 people? And I’m supposed to feel some kind of way about that? Do you know how many hundreds, and nationally thousands, of people who were arrested during BLM protests last summer? In protests about extending oil pipelines through reservations and sovereign Native property a few years ago? The juxtaposition is hard to swallow.
I watched coverage of what was happening with Hope, who concluded that if this came with adulthood, she didn’t want it. I wonder how all of this will shape her ideals about democracy and participating in it.
Lots has already happened since the coup attempt, and I’m hopeful that this country will get it’s ish together, but Wednesday was a hard day to endure since then.
In the meantime I’m still going to be hunkered down right here until at least after the inauguration.
On the Fly
I’m struggling to find time to write these days. I’m still working like a madwoman. Today was a 12 hour day. Evenings and weekends, I’m totally vegging.
Hope has not one but TWO jobs. She’s tired and thriving. I’m really proud of her; her transformation from human sloth to working woman is kinda head spinning. She was recognized for her stellar performance after just two weeks at her first job. She was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of her first paycheck; fortunately she has created her own savings plan. She also has picked up a few groceries and filled the had tank–unasked!!! (I did reimburse her.) Hope has always been a good kid, but watching her these last few months has honestly been the most delightful.
Hope being out at work also means that I have some of the home alone time I crave. I have treasured my time with Hope during the pandemic, but we could stand some time apart. Of course, that’s complicated too. With the ongoing unrest and law enforcement continuing to use excessive force even with all of the heightened scrutiny, I worry about her getting to and from work safely. And well, there’s still a pandemic going on. 🙄🙄🙄
Unironically, I’m realizing that if she ever goes back to college, I might have to go through empty nest feelings again. Her college is planning on opening as usual; I’m not convinced that they will though. I guess we’ll see.
I’m crocheting another blanket. I’m currently watching The Great on Hulu (It’s just ok. I like my historical dramas to have a bit more accuracy.) I spend a lot of time on my patio in my zero gravity chair; it’s my favorite place from spring until fall (I have been known to put on my goose down and plop on the patio in the dead of winter). I’m trying to hold on a few weeks until my summer vacation. I’m kinda bitter that the pandemic means no beach this year.
I’m better this week, but I’m really tired. But I’m better. And Hope is doing so very well that it gives me hope that everything will be ok.
Mourning Ahmaud Arbery
I refuse to watch the video of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. I made a conscientious decision a few years ago to stop watching such videos. There is a part of me that wants to bear witness, but the reality is that I cannot take it. I simply cannot.
After years of watching Black men, women and children murdered by White folks has left me with a bit of a shattered heart.
How many more times am I supposed to duct tape it back together only to have it shattered again?
If you’ve been under a rock or just consumed by news of COVID-19 and nothing else, Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old Black man was shot to death by two White men while he was out jogging in a Georgia neighborhood back in February. Two men chased down Ahmaud in a truck, alleging that he was a burglary suspect and that they were attempting a citizen’s arrest. Never mind that reports indicated there had not been a burglary in the neighborhood since New Year’s. They chased him down the street, and with another neighbor in another car, boxed him in, confronted him and demanded that he stop. He allegedly fought back, and he was shot dead with a shotgun.
I can’t imagine the fear he must have felt when he realized the truck was following him, when the yelling started, when he realized he couldn’t run to safety, that he would have to fight for his life, and the moment when he breathed his last breath.
I walk Yappy just about every morning. We usually walk 1-2 miles. We walk in all of the seasons (unless it’s pouring as Yappy generally does not do rain!). I walk through 2-3 neighborhoods regularly. I try to let Yappy be my ambassador because the silly dog will happily greet just about anyone. Not that long ago, we ran into an White neighbor who noted that I “didn’t live around here.” His tone was clear. I replied that I lived nearby, but that I’d been walking Yappy on that street for 5 years, it’s odd he hadn’t seen us before. I made a point to wave at another neighbor who I see often on my walks. I avoided that block for a week afterward; I got the picture that I didn’t belong.
Thankfully, he opted not to hop in his Volvo and chase us down the street. He could have.
And hey, there’s new construction going up across the street. I walk by the home nearly every day. Have I checked it out? Sure. Did it ever occur to me that I could be seen as a burglar, be chased and murdered for checking out the new house? No.
When the video of Amhaud’s lynching went viral my heart sank. I didn’t need to see it. My heart broke for Ahmaud’s family, knowing that their son’s and brother’s last few moments were being consumed around the world. I found myself feeling despair.
This keeps happening, and we go through the paces again and again.
Black person is murdered for FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.
No arrest is made, and initial police reports are that it was justified.
Magical videos appear showing that the murder is not justified.
Character assassination of Black person begins along with the common refrain, “If Black person had just FILL IN THE BLANK, they would not have been shot.” (For Ahmaud it was a juvie record)
Arrest is made without incident. Sometimes there’s even a stop for food on the way to the jailhouse.
White murderer is rarely indicted by the grand jury.
Farce of a trial is had, typically resulting in a not guilty verdict.
And then we start it over again; unless some rando person decided not to wait and just gunned down another Black person who was FILL IN THE BLANK while minding their own gotdamn business.
Are you exhausted? I know I am.
And we can’t even march in the streets right now. Yes, we can call, email, text and share all kinds of information, but the desire to march in the streets and put our anger and our grief on display can’t happen because of the pandemic—which by the way we are disproportionately dying from as well.
It is traumatizing. Not just hearing about and watching someone else’s death, but also worrying about what I might be doing while minding my own gotdamn business that will get me killed. It is traumatizing and exhausting in a way that you can feel in the very marrow of your bones and in the soles of your feet. You just want to find a panic room and stay there, where it’s safe. But we know that’s not realistic—pandemic related stay at home orders notwithstanding. This persistent emotional trauma shortens our life, as if we needed anything else to worry about since we know that the healthcare system can be trash towards us.
Last week, I just spazzed out. I was emotionally spent. I’m still dealing with a lot of emotional stuff having to do with being sick and not being able to see my family and worrying about Hope’s future with the pandemic looming over her undergraduate plans. Work has not stopped churning, and unreasonable expectations of productivity persist. And then when I sift through social media, there are folks who expect Black folks to do the emotional labor of helping *them* through this difficult time.
I am weary, just weary.
It’s enough to just make me want to stay in bed forever. I tapped out a couple of days ago. I masked up and went stress shopping at the local market. Cake, ice cream, snacks, margarita mix, one lonely pack of baby spinach and a bunch of overpriced meat to put in the freezer. All told I spent a $100, and then I just sat in my car. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.
I still haven’t cried, and I need to so badly.
Hope knows how emotional I can be; she sometimes teases me about it. She knows when not to tease me; she’s constantly checking in to make sure I’m ok.
She’s still worried about me being sick. She still doesn’t understand how hard I work sometimes (we do not share the same work ethic; we are very different in that respect), but she does know the depression that covers me when a murder like Ahmaud’s happens.
The mourning is real. I wear it like a bathrobe. I sit with it. I try to bury myself in it. The sadness. The grief. The struggle to remember that #notall White folks are dangerous, that I had loving White people in my life who are dear friends and colleagues. I know it’s not everyone, but I also know that so many folks will stay silent about these injustices. Silence is complicity. If you are my friend, you say you care about me then you need to speak up and get your people together. Please don’t ask me what you should do—I BEEN TOLD YOU. Be an antiracist and get to getting your people together. Dassit.
There is so much despair, the despair about what will become of us as a people, and me and Hope as individuals—what will become of us? Are we safe? Should I keep walking my dog in the mornings? Even in the nice neighborhood across the way? Is there anyway I can figure out how to prevent something like this from happening other than to stay hidden in my house, like I’m on some underground railroad?
I can tell you that I didn’t survive the last few weeks of being sick for this shit.
When White folk ask me why I’m so consumed by race all the time I usually respond how could I not be? At every turn this society is quick to remind me that my and my family’s melanted skin can be a problem.
I am so very tired.
None of this is ok.
My faith in the justice system is limited. My belief that Ahmaud’s family will see real justice is limited. My belief that I am safe on my morning walk is non-existent. I know that even with a cute dog, walking down the street to get some exercise is threatening.
And there is nothing I can really do to change that.
It’s really just too much.
This weekend social media was abuzz with commentary on Tyler Perry’s latest movie playing on Netflix (A Fall From Grace). I scrolled past most of it because I wasn’t in the mood this weekend for a TP flick. I’ll also admit to being one of many critics of his storytelling. I support him and want him to succeed, but his storytelling is mediocre. He recently boasted of his work ethic and how he writes everything he produces alone; well, it shows. A good writing room and/or a good editor can turn good writing into brilliant writing.
But I digress, this isn’t about TP and his Netflix movie, it’s about the critiques, who’s making them and who’s watching those who are critical.
An old friend recently posted something akin to if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all on social media today. I wrote a response that despite all of TP’s contributions, it is still more than appropriate for us to have a critical conversation about his work. His contributions to Black American culture are obvious, noteworthy and meaningful. At the same time, in my opinion, his work is lacking, often recycled and full of misogynoir. She eventually deleted her posted and I slid into her DMs to apologize for blowing up her post and to inquire about how she was really feeling.
Turns out, there was a lot of defensiveness because White folks in her life were yucking it up about how TP’s stuff is so bad that he was being dragged by other Black folks. All of this made it easier to dismiss all of Black creatives. She wished that we could have these critical discussions in private, away from the White Gaze but we can’t so the default position is to say nothing bad, nothing critical. She emphasized that this lesson in “can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all” is one of her core parenting values.
Ah, I got it.
Again, this isn’t about Tyler Perry at all. It’s about White folks.
Seriously, so much of this life is about White folks that it is seriously a mystery how we get anything done.
In a nutshell, the White Gaze is the world as we know it through white eyes. White folks write the history. White folks teach the history; anything that is not directly connected to them and/or their production of history is easily discounted, dismissed and forgotten. The White Gaze prioritizes white identity and centers white experience in all things. It dictates the way we talk, the way we dress, how we think about presentation, how we engage, how we are paid or not, how we raise our kids, and how we engage socially. It impacts us in countless ways, all day, every day. And it’s not even malicious, it’s just unconscious White supremacy at work.
This notion that we can have a meaningful community debate about the quality of Black art privately…well, we can’t on a large scale. . The same way I consumed the tweets, insta-posts and FB feeds White folks do as well. The fair and meaningful critique, similar to that which they might produce for art created by other White folks, is viewed differently and used to dismiss all.
The White Gaze is crushing because it’s always present.
After our interaction in the DMs, I thought a lot about what it meant and in what ways the White Gaze has shaped my life and my parenting.
When I was younger, my business dress was very conservative. I wanted to be taken “seriously” by all of the White folks where I worked. I remember the first time I cut my hair short and how all of the mostly White men I was around commented that I was so exotic. I grew my hair out. I kept my color schemes muted; didn’t want to be accused of being too loud or looking unprofessional. I worked on my public speaking and disavowed as much of any lingering southern accent as possible. I wanted to fit in, and very specifically, I wanted to fit in with White folks.
I eventually aged, and I began shedding f*cks. I largely wear things that are comfortable, sometimes colorful and I relish speaking in my own authentic voice. I’m matured and feel more free now.
I also know that I have this freedom from the Gaze only because of the capital I amassed from decades of succumbing to it. I’ve earned my freedom, but I also know it has limits. The Gaze always creates limits.
So when Hope came along, I was committed to trying to raise a strong Black woman who was self-assured and confident (we’re still working on this). I think back to my emphasis on manners and certain kinds of interactions. I think about the little weekend classes I sent her to on Saturday afternoons, and how I leveraged every bit of privilege I have amassed to her benefit—usually in rooms where I was the only Black or brown person. When she acted out, it was always uncomfortable, but when she acted out in front of White folks, my cheeks burned hot with embarrassment. I know the tableau we presented could easily be extrapolated to pathologize more Black folks. Suddenly, we were a stereotype, live and in color (pun intended).
Fear of the Gaze lingers just outside my front door. Heck, it’s in the house, and sometimes this blog is influenced by it.
During my afternoon pondering, I considered all the ways I silently conditioned my daughter to survive this Gaze. I considered how she pipes down when we’re in front of White people and it’s always the best of the best manners. I considered how stressed she gets when she has to dress formally; it’s not just that the clothes aren’t always comfortable, but there is a fret about how she will be viewed in the ensembles. I think about some of the clothes I’ve bought her since she left for college. Some of the things that I (and many of us) would consider basics, I know she has no interest in and that I am trying to affect her presentation—when there’s nothing wrong with her presentation. I am hyper aware that my parents conditioned me that in formal situations (read White situations) I need to have on my best clothes, best manners, best diction…best everything, and the pressure was enormous. One wrong move didn’t just ice me out, but might others out as well. I thought about all the ways I have conditioned Hope…not even intentionally (I’ve done that too) but unconsciously conditioned and modeled certain behaviors that help me navigate the Gaze.
And then, because I totally go down rabbit holes, I wondered how transracially adopted kids learn about the White Gaze. I wondered who teaches them about it and how especially immersed they are in it? And if their parents eff with that colorblind foolishness that centers whiteness…what then?
The White Gaze is oppressive without even trying to be.
So while I won’t be checking out of Tyler Perry’s stuff I still want him to win. As much as I think his writing is mediocre, I think that equality means that all folks have successful yet mediocre artists producing successful yet mediocre art. His wins also mean that I am free enough to criticize him publicly without care for the White Gaze and its oppression. A world in which that works is a world where parents like me are also free from having to coach our kids how to survive the Gaze as well.
That’s a world where I want to be.
Thoughts on “How to Deal” with Racists
I was cruising around social media on New Year’s Day and throughout all the lovely end of year tributes and proclamations for 2020. During my scroll-fest, I kept stumbling upon posts by white folks seeking counsel on how to deal with racist family members. Not all the posts were adoption related; some dealt with awkward family moments during the holiday dinner and others dealt with business folks who were dealing with racist clients or colleagues.
For some, the revelation that their friends/family/colleagues were racist AF was not new. They had long known that these individuals in their lives had trash ideas about folks who are not White. It had only recently become an issue that needed “dealing with” when they announced something monumental like an adoption, an engagement or a new client or job. In other words, these posters *knew* and either giggled along at the racist jokes/commentary or sat silently when the behaviors were occurring. In either case, the information was not shocking; it was only shocking that somehow the racism was directed at them as proxy for their child/partner/client/colleague.
For other folks, these revelations were new; allegedly (heavy on the emphasis here) there was no previous evidence of being racist. For them, this new knowledge was shocking and triggered a spin into cognitive dissonance as they wondered whether Uncle Jim was always an arsehole (I guarantee you he was).
All of the posts sought counsel on how to navigate this new knowledge which I find to be just…sigh…sooooo privileged. We really need a book, “How to be friends/family/colleagues with a racist without personal moral and emotional quagmires.”
Sigh. I swear this is exhausting.
Listen, racists are going to be racist. It’s what they do. Racists are as predictable as the sun rising and setting.
Grandma got racist during this administration? Nah, grandma got bold during this administration; trust, she was racist long before this administration came into power.
You are floored that your parents don’t want a black grandbaby…I’m guessing they have that one or two “acceptable black friends” that have never received an invitation to their home in 40+ years.
As a Black woman, I’m always more shocked by the folks who are shocked that they now “see racists.”
I’ve never had that luxury. I had to learn to spot them early in order to just live. Honestly, spotting them is not hard; they typically are more than happy to reveal themselves. And if you miss the first hint, don’t worry, they will predictably show themselves again.
So, when White folks are *gasp* stunned to find that friends/family/colleagues are racist, I’m usually like really? You didn’t know? How did you not know? And now you want to know how to deal? What does that even mean?
Does it mean that you are trying to deradicalize them?
Does it mean that you want to find a way of not banishing them out of your life?
Does it mean that you want your would-be Black/brown child to still be able to have a relationship with these folks because #friendsandfamilyareeverything?
Does it mean that you need an exit strategy before you straight up ghost them?
What does “deal with” mean?
Let me tell you something: I don’t deal with racists.
I do diversity work professionally. Once I peep the racist, I’m cordial but frozen tundra frigid, not just chilly. If they are in my workshop, I’ll include them, I’ll make sure they don’t derail the program for everyone else, and I’ll also ice them with a quickness if necessary. And I get paid to deal with this stuff, and I just refuse to give them more than a passing professional thought once I’ve peeped them.
But let me run up on a racist outside of work….
I have zero time or tolerance. If I address them at all it will be with enough smoke to hide a major metropolitan city.
Here’s what I’m not going to do: I’m not going to spend any time with them. I’m not bring my kid around them. I’m going to let my friends/family/colleagues know that that person is not safe to be around. I treat them like a biblical leper. #canceled #mymoodforever
So all of this handwringing over racists…why?
Because exacto-blading racist friends/family/colleagues is hard? Yeah, so is being Black living in a world committed to racism and white supremacy. So, yeah, I’m sure it is hard for folks to cancel these people, but the alternative is what…subjecting yourself and your kids to a bunch of rancid foolery?
How Sway, how????
That’s going to be a hard no from me, and I ain’t posting a response to your ridiculous inquiry. #IsaidwhatIsaid
Every day, I read comments made by foster and adoptive parents raging about the deficiencies of biological parents. While some hope these parents get it together to be able to parent or have an open adoption, more than a few advocate zero contact at all. None. And while in some specific instances this might be warranted for safety reasons, folks are out here trying to rationalize hanging out with racists?
This is what we are doing in the year of our good Beyonce 2020?
Come on, people. #dobetter
If grandma was a pedophile this wouldn’t even be an issue. Trust that exposure to racism is damaging, and it’s not just damaging to kids, it’s damaging to everyone. I can’t even believe this needs to be said.
Kick these folks to the curb, full stop. Protect your kids and protect yourself. Stop making excuses and space for this kinda radical behavior. Let them know why you are cancelling them; let them know that it is a consequence of bad behavior. Let them know that reinstatement will only be considered after a presentation of sufficient evidence of changed hearts and minds over a sustained period of time, and that they could still be cancelled at any time.
And then walk away.
Dassit. Walk. Stroll. Strut. Roll out.
Stop trying to make a way for racists. Stop it.
Stop trying to rationalize; stop trying to be nice; stop trying to be understanding. Have some principles and be out.
Friends/family/colleagues don’t let friends/family/colleagues hang out with racists.
Just stop it, and go pick up a copy of Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to be an Antiracist.
Not Sharing It
So, I haven’t shared the story of the little boy whose kindergarten class came to witness his adoption finalization, and I will not be sharing it. I think it’s worth unpacking briefly why in hopes that we can all practice some discretion and reflection on adoptee narratives.
Hope and I finalized our adoption by Facetime since the court with jurisdiction was across country. We invited my parents, sisters and a local cousin and his family. We had a little BBQ afterward and shared the time with family. There are some pictures, and although Hope looks happy, I now remember tinges of sadness around the day. I felt it then, but I couldn’t understand why. Now, years later, I appreciate the gravity of the occasion so much more; Hope was leaving a life behind in many ways. While many adults might not have looked at that life fondly, she was with a parent she adored and that’s what mattered to her. She has told me on more than one occasion that she would give anything to have that again. Our finalization day represented that option being completely closed off to her in her mind.
We do acknowledge our family day these days, but in a very, very low-key fashion. It’s hard to know what that young boy will feel in the future with so much public attention on this moment in his life, but I don’t want to be a part of publicizing something that might result in some really, really complicated feelings as he ages.
I also recognize, now even more than ever as Hope is 18, that at only 5, he can’t consent to having his story publicized. Yes, it’s warm and fuzzy, but it is his story—yes, it is a shared story, one that would have been just as warm and fuzzy if kept private. Take the all the pictures, the videos, make a scrapbook for him to have an remember, but keep the kid off the internet and let him create his narrative.
I’m hardly perfect in what I’ve shared about my and Hope’s life in this space, but there are many, many details that I really try to keep private. Those are the times when I have more vague references or just gloss over information. It’s just not my stuff, and I shouldn’t take stuff that isn’t mine and share it with you. I just shouldn’t. So as much as the story is heartwarming, I just wish it was kept private or even just keep his name private..
And because of this…clipped from the CNN article on the adoption.
This child didn’t orchestrate this, the adults in his life did. And, again, adorbs that the kiddies showed up and out for their classmate, but be clear that this wasn’t something he initiated. If you watch the interviews, you’ll see him (cute as a button) talk about it, but be clear that it was orchestrated. Sometimes, in this overly socialized world we live in, we just share, share, and share when maybe we should be more judicious. This was the ultimate social media post; I’ve seen it at least a dozen times this week. I just couldn’t share it.
And last, but certainly not least, is he really the only little black boy for miles in Grand Rapids, MI or what? He *is* the racial diversity in his class. He is in an environment that is nice but really homogenous looking. It makes me hope that his parents are taking pains to create extensive and meaningful connections to folks who look like him. His support system is adorable, but there’s no one in it who looks like him. That shook me a bit. I also didn’t want to put that out in the universe either.
So, do I think his adoption day story is lovely?
Sure, but I also appreciate that it’s probably complicated. Even if it’s not complicated, I wish his story wasn’t so public. Yes, it’s feel good, and yes, it may even promote the adoption of children in foster care who need permanent homes. But is that all worth the loss of this child’s private narrative?
I don’t think it is.
I wish the family well. I wish that beautiful child well.
When Racism Consumes Everything
I don’t overtly talk politics in this space. There are numerous reasons for that, but ultimately, my very existence is a political act. There are countless adoptive parents who author blogs; I follow and read a fair number. But there aren’t that many who are authored by people of color. I’ve seen blogs come and go since I started my blog years ago.
I wanted to focus on the day to day experiences of a Black woman who adopted a tween. There have certainly been times when I tackled politics head on in this space, and if you follow me on Twitter (@adoptiveblkmom) you already know where I stand.
Since the president’s offensive tweet last week, I’ve been ducking and dodging a lot of the news. I tend to watch the news as I get ready for work and for a short time on the weekend. I listen to an absurd number of podcasts, several politically oriented. This week the podcasts largely focused on 1) whether the tweets were racist, 2) should we use the term “racist” and 3) what does it all mean.
I avoided a lot of it. I avoided it because it was stupid and exhausting. It’s like living in that movie Groundhog Day; it just happens over and over and over…it just never ends.
This president is a racist, full stop, without any equivocation.
This is not debatable; he has a lengthy history of racist behavior…he’s a racist. #fact #theend
This president has followers who are also racist and/or have a high tolerance and comfort level with being racist adjacent.
This president has colleagues are also racist and/or have a high tolerance and comfort level with being racist adjacent.
These things are objectively true. #allofthem #facts #nodebate
And what does that mean for folks like me and Hope? I’m glad you asked.
It means that sometimes we worry if spaces we enter are going to be safe…are we the only ones? Is someone going to yell at us? Will we get decent service? Will the cops be called because we didn’t get into line quickly enough at Starbucks because Hope is notoriously slow at ordering the SAME DAMN THING EVERYTIME we go so I slip into the loo while waiting for her to once again conclude that she wants a grande caramel macchiato?
It means that I’ve had meetings with school administrators that start out assuming that I have no effing idea what’s going on, because really how could I, talking down to me despite my having a doctorate in education. It makes for a contentious meeting from the jump when I have to gather them right on up within the first 5 minutes of the meeting.
It means that some of Hope’s odd trauma-based behaviors are often attributed to my piss poor parenting because I’m a single Black mother. That’s got to be the reason, right? This also requires me to get folks together.
It means as I help prepare to send Hope to this predominantly White college in a small city in Virginia where the largest evangelical Christian university with a president that openly cosigns on the president’s foolishness coexists, I have to have conversations with her about what might happen when she leaves campus to go into town, what to do in worst case scenarios and how to just stay safe. I spend more time coaching around racial safety than I do sexual safety, as she heads off to college.
It means that we have a dashcam in the car.
It means that I as a single woman who used to “taste the rainbow” when it comes to dating have committed to swiping left on just about all White guys and every dude whose profile indicates they are conservative. I don’t have a problem with the politics (I might vehemently disagree but we can be cool), but I can’t risk that their version of conservatism includes White nationalism.
It means that Hope’s political identity is being shaped by all of this; she will vote in her first presidential election next year. I see the jaded cynicism already seeping in. Despite my deep love of politics and my lessons in civics that I’ve put her through these last 5 years, she’s the type of kiddo who is at great risk of just sitting out of the political system all together. If you don’t think the system is fair or you believe that you are marginalized in it, where’s the justification to participate?
It means when I point out what bullshyte this president is, people actually ask me “Why are you so angry?” Really? Why aren’t you angry? Gee why the eff would anyone be angry? #sarcasm
It means that Hope’s grandparents are talking about how they feel like they did in the 50s and 60s; it’s not good. I worry that that emotional toil of reliving the racial animus they grew up with is literally shaving days, months and even years from their lives. That’s less time with me and my sisters, but it’s less time with their grandchildren, the youngest being just a month old.
It means that even as I do my best to avoid all of this stuff, I’m hyper conscious that the rise and pervasiveness of racism, sexism, misogyny, homo/transphobia shapes my day, every day, all day. It influences what I choose to watch on TV, what I choose to listen to in the car, what books and magazines I choose to pick up, what people I share things with, what people I consciously avoid, how I view safety for myself and my daughter, how I plan my future, where I bank and invest my resources, how I use what privilege I have, what routes through certain neighborhoods I choose to take, how I use Yappy as a friendly opening, why I insist on being called ‘Dr.” in certain situations, where I choose to go to church and what I look for in those environments, why I choose to go to the grocery store in that neighborhood because the one in mine doesn’t have as nice product offerings, what concerns I have when visiting a new health care provider, will that person believe my complaints about ailments and offer appropriate treatment, how I’m expected to conform to certain beauty standards, that my skin color means I need to buy certain beauty products that aren’t always widely available, that natural or nudes in any product are not made for me and Hope, how our hair isn’t universally considered “professional” growing in its natural state from our scalp. And it goes on and on and on.
All of these things and so much more fly through my mind at least once a day on top of just daily living stuff like, should I cook those chicken thighs I took out this morning and I wonder if I Hope is willing to chop the veggies without a lot of pushback.
Every breath I take, every move I make, I am usually reminded that I am different and that my ability to be present in that space is viewed as a privilege and not as a right.
Even in adoption, I was and am aware that for some I’m viewed as unique. Every “best of list” I make, I’m conscious of the fact that there’s rarely more than one person of color who made the list. I am proud to be recognized, grateful even, but I also wonder why the few others out there aren’t also being recognized. Is there space for just one and am I non-threatening enough to make the list? Am I being tokenized? Yeah, pervasive racism will make you down your own achievements and recognitions.
And we’re seeing greater discourse around Black and brown children being separated from their parents. Separation is being used as a threat to reduce asylum seekers. We hear things about how “those” parents don’t deserve their children. We hear about the youngest of those children being placed in foster homes, and we’ll likely see these brown children adopted without consideration for reunification. All of this while the older children languish in cages or group homes. We see schools actually threatening child welfare agency engagement over unpaid school lunches. We see more Black and brown kids moving to White families prompting me to question whether this is a genocidal effort to kill our cultures, to “whiten up” our children, to just destroy our families. It is painful, extraordinarily painful and there are folks out there who actually believe that me putting this out there is radical, not helpful, not collaborative. And then in the end, the gaslighting will resume: “Why are you so angry?”
It is effing exhausting y’all. I’m tired. And this week I’m not angry, I’m enraged.
The thing about all this is whether all these emotions are sustainable? At what point does Stockholm Syndrome kick in, making many folks just give up and give in to the awful rhetoric that is permeating our lives? Do I have the present strength of my ancestors who toiled as enslaved laborers, to withstand this?
We’ve got at least another year of this, and quite possibly 4 more years beyond this, in the event there is a reelection. This racism isn’t new; none of it is. It’s just cool to be open with it now. The environment allows emboldened, overt racism now. It doesn’t feel good or even safe. It is taking an emotional toll.
It’s important that folks who call themselves allies to take up the mantle. I don’t care how you came to allyhood; be a good ally. Being a good ally means being an anti-racist. Being “not” racist ain’t good enough. We need to you go hard into anti-racism.
If you are a TRAP, whether you acknowledge that your kid will feel these things, know that they will. Accept that. This is learned, survivalist knowledge. It is the awful knowledge that we learn and accumulate in order to survive. Your privilege only extends so far over your children. Know that because it is the truth. You need to put your life on the line for them—not just them but for everyone who looks like them. If you’re down with colorblind ideology bs, you are a part of the problem. If you aren’t interested in learning the language of antiracism and the confrontations that are necessary to be actively anti-racist, your silent unwillingness is complicity. Full stop, no excuses, the end.
These are strange exhausting times. We all gotta do better at fighting back. You can believe in some conservative ideologies, but really, draw some lines, practice decency and acknowledge the dignity and human rights of others. I’m calling on folks to do effing better.
Your neighbor’s lives depend on it—whether in terms of the day to day or in terms of total life expectancy.
Let’s all do better, continue to fight and fight harder.