I want to share something deeply personal and highly sensitive. I’ve wanted to share it for more than a week now, but to be honest, it’s a topic that is highly sensitive and emotive and so I feel like I’m walking a tight rope of political correctness and potentially teetering towards offensiveness. As a white person, I am humbling learning through my children, but my point of reference is still one of a white, privileged, blonde, blue eyed woman.
That is not my intention.
But I want to talk about race and racism.
I was inspired by Nikki’s post about whether or not she’s raising a racist. I want to add my voice, our stories are completely different but there are similarities in the situations.
Something Nikki wrote in her post has stuck with me:
All my life, growing up, I felt like I was less, uglier, different. My sisters are fair with light eyes.
A couple of week’s ago, after a fun day out, we got home and everyone settled down for a little bit of chill time. The next thing I knew, Hannah was crying her eyes out. Like sobbing. Heartbroken, inconsolable sobs. After lots of cuddles and comfort she told us that she’s sad because she doesn’t want to be brown. She wants to be “peach” coloured like the rest of us.
It broke my heart.
I feel like I have failed her on some level that already, at the tender age of 4, she has picked up on some unwritten, universally accepted “rule” that light/fair/white skin is better, more attractive, more desirable.
In my eyes, she is so beautiful, so perfect, with her super dark eyes and her gorgeous, rich coloured skin.
But if there is one thing that has happened since becoming a mother via adoption and through cross racial adoption…
I’ve learned that we are all racially biased. If you say you are not, you’re lying to yourself. It has been a hard and at times uncomfortable journey. I’ve learned so much about my own white privilege through my children and my children’s birth parents. I’ve faced down the ugly side of racial stereotypes, not just from white people but from people of colour too. In fact, some of the rudest, most hateful and racist comments I’ve received about my children and our choice to adopt cross racially have come from people of colour.
I’ve tried not to raise my children in a racial vacuum.
By encouraging diversity. But it’s not easy, having grown up in my own racial vacuum. It’s been tough and at times down right uncomfortable. It’s also difficult to explain and encourage diversity to a 4 and 7 year old. They don’t quite grasp it.
We’ve had lots of conversations about skin colour. And about what it means to be mixed race. But it’s difficult for them to understand at this stage. Ava, like Nikki’s Sophie, has often pointed out that she is peach coloured but Hannah is brown. I’ve tried to explain to her that looks can be deceiving that because of diversity and mixed cultures, they are actually both “brown” in terms of their heritage and racial make up. I”m just not sure they get it yet.
I’ve also picked up an interesting phenomenon when discussing my children’s racial heritage. Ava’s birth mother is white, she receives a lot of kind comments from people when I talk about her. Hannah’s birth other is coloured, there is a lot of tsking and judgement that goes along with conversations about her, the double standard makes me sick to my stomach. It infuriates me.
It makes me sad that my daughter wishes she wasn’t brown, but I won’t shy away from it either. No matter how uncomfortable it makes me. Or how difficult the conversation is. I won’t deny who she is or what makes up part of who she is. We are open and we are honest and we try to deal with each scenario as and when they arise.
It’s not always easy and mostly I’m rambling now and unclear of what the point was that I wanted to make except to say that it’s difficult. Being a cross racial family has it’s own unique set of challenges and given mine and my husbands whiteness it’s sometimes tough to deal with having no personal point of reference ourselves.
I’m going to talk more about the challenges of raising adopted, mixed race children in a blog post next week, keep an eye out for it. I’ll be talking about some of the most horrendous assumptions and statements people have made.
But Hannah, my sweet girl, know this, you are beautiful in ways beyond words, you are more than the colour of your skin. You are everything my heart desired and my soul yearned for. You completed our family and you are so very precious exactly as you are.