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Another Post About Race..

Julia over at Unwritten wrote a thought provoking post about race, particularly in the adoption context, which I felt compelled to comment on.  This was after her and I had had a discussion a couple of weeks ago about race and there was a phrase that she used in her post that hit home for me – unconsciously racist.

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had a few week’s ago with an acquaintance about the racial heritage of my girls. In this conversation, the phrase non-white was used. Can I just say that it is my opinion that that word is for me, a prime example of unconscious racism.

From Wikipedia:

Non-White – Person of color (plural: people of colorpersons of color) is a term used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white. The term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism. People of color was introduced as a preferable replacement to both non-white and minority, which are also inclusive, because it frames the subject positively; non-white defines people in terms of what they are not (white), and minority frequently carries a subordinate connotation.

This term, which is meant to be inclusionary , lands up coming off as exclusionary and I love the Wikipedia explanation that non-white defines people by what they are not.

When people ask about my daughters racial heritage, and believe me, when you have adopted children, Joe Public seems to assume that they have licence to ask anything about your children, in front of your children, offending your children, merely because they are adopted, I do get offended. Firstly it’s none of your business and secondly, my children have nothing to be ashamed of so please don’t talk about them in the context of “non-white”. Or proudly inform me of how you are raising your children to associate with “non-whites”.

I also don’t like terms that airy fairy race. In a perfect world, none of us should feel ashamed of our racial heritage. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know that my girls are “mixed” race. Just another label really, but in adoption terms, “mixed” race means that they have one birth parent of colour and one birth parent who is white. I prefer to think of my girls as coloured. A beautiful & perfect blending of cultures, religions and races.

Edited to clarify, depending on your adoption agency, the race classification may vary. For some, mixed race is always when there is one white birth parent, while for others mixed race then has sub categories of light mixed race, medium mixed race and dark mixed race. Which ultimately are blends of the various races. Both Ava & Hannah are considered light mixed race as they both have one white birth parent. 

mixed race

Saying someone is coloured is not offensive or racist in my book, but saying they are “non-white” is and for me, speaks volumes of unconscious racism.

 

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15 Comments

  • Reply Joyce

    Ai jinne…. I wish I could express how I feel about this colour debate… it is such a non issue in my life. And I know that I will probably have to get involved in the debate at stages of my life when people ask, but at the moment I just love confusing people when they see me with my two children who clearly don’t look like me (as I am exceptionally white and they are coloured) and then I am highly pregnant to add to that, so people just don’t understand what the heck is going on with the situation… I LOVE IT!!! Hahahaha!

    February 5, 2014 at 11:18 am
    • Reply Sharon

      I don’t really care usually, but I don’t like having my children referred to as “non-white”. They are coloured. Stop trying to show how open minded you are when you use that racist term.
      That is all…
      Mostly I don’t care and I do have a giggle when we’re out as a family & we see people staring between our children and Walter and I, trying to work out the equation!

      February 5, 2014 at 11:42 am
  • Reply reluctantmom

    I read the original blog post – very interesting reading.

    My feeling is that the “search for political correctness” has created an entire language of things we say in whispers, and things we are afraid to say out loud.

    If there were two people in front of me – and I had to tell someone about them, I would rather die than mention their colour. I will say “the one with darker hair” or “the one who had jeans on” when in actual fact referring to someone by the colour of their skin for description purposes is quite acceptable.

    But I can’t – so it leaves me often trying to describe someone, and acting like I cannot see the colour of their skin.

    I can talk about the colour of their hair, and eyes, but cannot talk about their skin. Which for me has the same amount of importance.

    On a slightly separate subject I think the “language” that exists around adopting children is one that people learn. If I think back to myself 5 years ago and all the inappropriate “terms I used” but over time I have learnt and experienced how to ask, and when just not to ever ask or mention. I have also realised how hurtful certain questions and statements can be, but I have also realised people do it out of ignorance and not mean-spiritedness.

    I hate the term coloured – I hate the term mixed-race – and I hate the term non-white. The reality is that there are so many “terms” that are becoming distasteful it is actually quite challenging to have a discussion about race without it sounding like you are using the “n” word.

    Sorry for the rambling — there was a lot in my head, and I had trouble trying to get it out in a succinct manner.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm
  • Reply Jenny

    I heard of a very upmarket couple – girl from a very swanky girls school in Jozi – who adopted two black kids – and sent them to the township with their domestic worker on weekends so they could ‘stay in touch with their heritage’. ja nee. no words.

    February 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm
  • Reply Ncumisa

    In terms of “mixed race”, surely a child of a black parent & an Indian parents (e.g.) would also be considered “mixed race”? Any idea why the adoption social worker says for the child to be “mixed race” one of the parents has to be white?

    February 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I honestly have no idea. Personally I think mixed race is a stupid term really, but that’s just me.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm
    • Reply Ncumisa

      Meant an Indian parent, singular.

      February 5, 2014 at 12:10 pm
  • Reply Melinda

    Hi Sharon, according to both agencies i worked with, Kala was considered mixed race. Her Mom was “Coloured” and her dad was “Black”…Another agency I crossed path with considered mixed race as the blend of two race groups (describing the skin preference as wimpy coffee / creamy toffee..and you would be shocked to know the agency I am referring to). They had three classifications : black, mixed race, white. So i think the classification of mixed race is determined at an agency level.
    I hate the term mixed race.! I consider my child coloured and proudly so

    February 5, 2014 at 12:35 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Mel, you know what, you’re actually right. Our girls came from two different agencies. The one had mixed race as one white and one colour birth parent. The other had 3 different classifications of mixed race being light, medium and dark.
      Isn’t it just revolting that we think of people in those terms. I’m proud to simply say my girls are coloured, I don’t feel the need to go into the entire classification thing with everyone.
      Just on a lighter note (no pun intended) we have a little joke at home, Mommy is milky tea, daddy is milky coffee, Ava is a cuppachino and Hannah is an espresso. It’s not meant to be offensive, it simply is what it is, I won’t sugar coat the difference in my families colours to other peoples comfort. We are what we are and we’re proud of our blended cultures and colours!

      February 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm
  • Reply karen

    I don’t like un-white either, it certainly does define you by what you are not. For the same reason I hate when parents explain to their boy child the difference between boys and girls, where a boy has a penis and a girl has an inside penis. It totally devalues women. (I’ve heard this explanation too many times)

    February 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm
  • Reply Vanessa

    Sharon I hear you. I once sat with a group of colleagues from around the world and proudly proclaimed that my beautiful daughter was mixed race Chinese/Malay. I could not have chosen a quicker conversation killer – a Greek colleague later told me that many Asians did not approve of mixed race and that it made them uncomfortable. That and adoption.

    Our 3 adopted children are by birth Chinese, coloured/mixed race South African and my youngest one is what I have overheard referred to as “obviously coloured”. That tends to translate into “she has very curly hair”. Such rubbish at the end of the day and while I understand the internal and public debate that adoption tends to lend itself to, I also sometimes wish for a way to simply tell complete strangers to mind their own business.

    My eldest is now 14 and she chooses to call herself Asian. My middle child is 11 and calls himself Spanish ( delusions of Real Madrid grandeur, I tell you) and my youngest is too young to define herself. I like to think of them as wonderfully loved, over-indulged and diverse South African born children.

    The race discussion (specifically the coloured vis a vis mixed race) is one that you could write reams on and ultimately it’s simply choice which is also ok. I think the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu referred to children of different races as loaves left in the oven to brown for varying degrees of time. That is the mythology encouraged in our family. I don’t like any of the terminology that stratifies according to race.

    February 5, 2014 at 10:07 pm
  • Reply stephanie graves videira

    I take my hat of to you ladies for adopting a child white,black,Indian,Asian,Colored it doesn’t matter on race all kids need is love – why people judge is so sad 🙁 – I come from a mixed race family of a white father and my mom a good mix of all the races ( Irish, Jamaican , Portuguese and Indian ) my mom looks like shes from an Island and i look Greek and my brother looks Indian we grew up when it was shunned upon in South Africa to be in a mixed relationship but lucky my brother and i went to private mixed school and had friends of all races, but when my brother went to high school he went to a government one and only whites were allowed, my parents fought to get him in as on his passport it was stated he was white ( but if u look at him he looks far from it ) and they won the battle and he got in and he had no problem making friends and was considered popular at school 🙂 my folks raised us with love,respect,manners and i think we didn’t come out to badly – so blaaa to those who shun on adopting kids from different races and marriages of mixed races

    February 6, 2014 at 1:29 pm
  • Reply Lynette Jacobs

    I follow both Julia and Laura-Kim’s blogs and I have commented there too. I am praying for the day people will not see colour…but just the human being and the child. We work in a ministry that provide care and housing for homeless and poor people…so we are truly a rainbow of colour here. I love rainbows 🙂 I love the fact that here we embrace each other and don’t see colour, just the person. I love it that the people live in close proximity to each other…often sharing rooms and there is no issue about race. We are oom and tannie to everybody here…even those older than us, and that is precious to me. When we get here all the children comes for hugs and kisses….and they are all hugged and kissed…no distinction made. I love my work. I cannot handle it when people profess to love but live out their lives in hate in their speech and action. Thank you for this post.

    February 6, 2014 at 2:31 pm
  • Reply shaz

    hi sharon
    i would just like to share my son is of African decent and is 5 years going on 18 …..
    he is at a private school but at the age that friends notice that we are not the same colour and when ever a child comes up and asks quite blantely why are we different colours he gets quite offended and walks off or puts his hands over his face and says oh not again we have even been asked if he got burnt to look like that, but when you explain that he is adopted they dont get it or understand and keep asking questions to the embarrasement of my son as if he isnt even there and parents will ask infront of him so what happened to his mother with no regard to my son being put out as if he doesnt understand , i wish people would think before they speak and educate themselves , he is my son whom is much loved and wanted just like theirs

    February 11, 2014 at 11:20 am
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