Sunday, June 28, 2009

A must read book

For the past year, my reading has been limited to law books. I decided this summer though, since I only had two classes, that I was going to begin to read books non-law school class related again.
Our kids are becoming aware of race, color, and differences in people... I've been interested in things like this for a while....but since I am parenting kids of a different race than I am, it is something that I need to know more about. It needs to be something that is "normal" to me... something that doesnt throw me for a loop when it comes up... I want to be able to understand the psychology behind these things... and a look into how children of color relate to race.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a pizza delivered to the house. The driver was an African-American man. My dh invited him in as he had our food and dh had to sign the receipt. My kids ran up to him... one of them asked if he was black... He said he was. Then one of the said: "That's cool! we are white!" Dh told them, "no, you guys are not white... you are brown." Then they all looked at themselves, looked at the driver, looked at us... and all came to the conclusion that they were indeed white.
I've read other books and such about how kids come to understand color first and race second things like that... I know that it's important for us to put ourselves in a position of diversity so that the kids are exposed to others like them and are not singled out for their color... we do things like that... but in one quick sentence, my kids completely called into question things we were doing to help them navigate this thing called race.
One book I read over Christmas was "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla" by Marguarite Wright. It is a great book about how kids learn to identify race and color and when they put it all together. Parenthood is all about learning as you go....and for us that are parents in a transracial family it seems that we need to be open and learn even more...
So, the pizza man encounter gave me some more reading to do.... A book that I have wanted to read that just hadnt gotten around to reading is one that I just finished. "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. In addition to "I'm Chocolate", I believe this is another MUST READ for a transracial adoptive parent.
While neither book is geared to the adoptive parent... both include sections on adoptive parenting. One section really stood out to me.... as it is something I have said to other people...and it seems to be one of the more "sticky" points of being parents to children of another race.
Dr. Tatum discussed a mother's effort to immerse herself and her Latino child into events in the Latino community. She then goes on to talk about another mother: "During the question-and-answer period that followed, a White woman stood up and explained that she was considering adopting a Latino child but lived in a small rural community that was entirely White. She was impressed by the mother's efforts to create a Latino network for her child but expressed doubts that she herself could do so. She said she would feel too uncomfortable placing herself in a situation where she would be one of few Whites. She didnt thing she could do it.
I thought this was an amazing statement. How could this White adult seriously consider placing a small child in a situation where the child would be in the minority all th time, while the idea of spending a few house as a "minority" was too daunting for her?"
She goes on to say: "The successful adoption of children of color by White parents requires those parents to be willing to experience the close encounters with racism that their children - and they as parents - will have, and to be prepared to talk to their children about them. Ultimately they need to examine their own identities as White people, going beyond the idea of raising a child of color in a White family to a new understanding of themselves and their children as members of a multi-racial family."
I really believe this is something that we as adults must face head on... If we are uncomfortable as the minority in a group...then it must be very daunting for our children to be the minority in the group... We as adults are able to process things... our kids usually are not at that point yet... I know mine are not. I've been in many situations where I have definitely been the minority... I usually dont feel uncomfortable... and when I have it has related to the difficulty of a language barrier and not necessarily the color or race of the people around me.
The book really discussed White Privilege and things like that... I think it's important, as parents of children of color, to do our best to realize these things... we need to be aware of White Privilege and how it has affected us...and how it will not be there for our kids. We need to prepare our kids for the racist world they will encounter... how they will be put into a "group"... how other parents may react to them being friends with their kids.... how society sees them....
This book also discussed the importance of language... and how that bound members of the Latino communities.... This is one reason I want my kids to be fluent in Spanish... not only to facilitate ties we already have with people in Guatemala...but because it will be expected by their peers. Their peers see my kids as Latino.... doesnt matter the race their dad and I are... the world doesnt see that. Right now, the world sees 4 little Latino kids... but soon, that perception may change. Unfortunately, the lessons must begin sooner than later for the kids... It's our job as parents to protect our kids... by gearing them to combat racism and by instilling pride in them and their race/cultural identity, we are protecting them.
I am now reading: "Loving Across the Color Line: A White Adoptive Mother Learns about Race" by Sharon E. Rush, an adoptive mom of an African-American girl.
So far, it's a good read.
While I dont believe that all learning must be done from books... I do believe in learning from others' experiences...and I do believe there are those out there that do this research and such for us to learn from. Combined with other things like, living experiences, talking with others, and immersing ourselves in different groups, I believe that reading books such as these help me to help my kids navigate these things.
Just some of my Deep Thoughts on a Sunday night....

6 comments:

Kerri said...

Thank you for this! I think you are so right. I'm familiar with the first two books but the third one is new to me. I'll have to check it out.

We did have one experience a few weeks ago where a kid told Medina she didn't like brown people (we use that term too). I found it interesting that Medina's response was, "that means she doesn't like my mom or any of my family." Not "she doesn't like me." She was much more concerned her family. I have a feeling that now that we have some answers about her adoption, which has occupied so much of her thoughts until now, race will start to become more of an issue for her.

Rhonda said...

Great post and I so agree with learning and teaching through books. I want to make sure we are always able to find/answer and have our children understand why their brothers are white and they are brown. Katie has already made comments about her hair and mine are both "black" which they are! Will definitely check into those books as I have quite a few but not those. Thanks so much. Rhonda

mom2joelito said...

Several months ago Danny and I had a discussion about brown people and white people, and he, too, was seeing himself as white. I guess it's an effort to be like the people they love! I just assured him that he was brown and beautiful, and I loved him that way. I'm sure we'll have many discussions to come!

mom2joelito said...

Several months ago Danny and I had a discussion about brown people and white people, and he, too, was seeing himself as white. I guess it's an effort to be like the people they love! I just assured him that he was brown and beautiful, and I loved him that way. I'm sure we'll have many discussions to come!

mom2joelito said...

Several months ago Danny and I had a discussion about brown people and white people, and he, too, was seeing himself as white. I guess it's an effort to be like the people they love! I just assured him that he was brown and beautiful, and I loved him that way. I'm sure we'll have many discussions to come!

mom2joelito said...

Sorry my comment came out 3 times! I don't know how that happened!