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Archive for the ‘Race’ Category

Overheard

I teach Spanish to preschoolers a couple of times a week.  Dawit came with me to class yesterday, and played and read quietly as I conducted class.   I overheard this quiet conversation regarding Dawit between two four-year olds, one from Guatemala (D), one white (E):

D:  Who’s he?

E:  Senora’s son.

D:  He has darker skin than me.

E:  So?

D:  You know, I have lighter skin.

E:  My skin is the lightest.

D:  Yours is the best.

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Many people come across my blog searching for information on Ethiopian adoption.  I’ve found a wealth of information and friends through blogging this experience, and if you start clicking through the links in the sidebar, you’ll find varied experiences and opinions on adoption.  Included in my blogroll are also First Family blogs–sometimes referred to as birth family.   At the start of my blog, I actually wrote from Ethiopia.

Warning:  this blogging stuff is addictive.  There are a list of Ethiopian adoption blogs in my blogroll on the right.  Wanted to point out a couple of blogs that I have been frequenting lately:

Adventures of the Wonder Twins   Cuteness abounds–great blogroll

What the Heck?   Funny.  Seriously.

Give All to Love   Just getting ready to travel…

Swerl    Huge Ethiopian adoption blogroll

If you’re considering international/inter-racial adoption, check out the links in my blogroll regarding race and the adult adoptee blogs.  Also, be sure to check out:

Harlow’s Monkey  Views on trans-national and trans-racial adoption

Culpability  A look at ethics in international (Ethiopia) adoption

*Note to long-time friends of Meet Dawit–the local paper is publishing a story this week on Ethiopian adoption, and will include this blog.  I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to encourage potential adoptive parents to gather info on all aspects of adoption…  feel free to add more in the comments!

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A perfect match

Mrs. G., Dawit’s Kindergarten teacher, stopped us this morning to tell us about a class discussion.  While learning about Abraham Lincoln, the 5 and 6 year olds talked about slavery.  To demonstrate the idea of owning another human, Mrs. G. took one boy (his mother was in class volunteering) and pretended to pay his mother for him.  Now this boy was the property of the teacher, and she could make him do whatever she wanted.

The kids understood this idea, and talked about the fact that you can’t own people.  You can buy groceries, cars, clothes, but not people.  One little girl added “except if you adopt a baby.  Then you pay money for a kid”

As if the discussion on slavery wasn’t dangerous enough…now Mrs. G is in an adoption minefield.  She explained that adoption is an act of love, not an exchange of money.  That sometimes children need a family to love, and adoption allows that to happen.  It doesn’t have to do with owning or buying anything, it is about love.  The mom volunteering also happens to be an adoptive parent, and she added that sometimes the new parents help pay for diapers and food, or to help some of the children who are still waiting to be adopted.

Dawit raised his hand and said proudly “I am adopted.”  And Mrs. G said “and your parents love you very much” to which Dawit said “I know.”   He participated rather matter-of-factly, as if to demonstrate that what his teacher said was true in his experience.

How did we get so lucky as to have a teacher who was willing to take that on?  It would have been so easy to avoid that topic, or ignore the comment from the little girl.  But she chose to go there, and to be sure Dawit was safe.  It takes a village.

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What to think?

I was picking up Lily from an afterschool activity yesterday, and Dawit was waiting patiently in the hallway. The room was filled with squealing first grade girls having a good time. Dawit looked in from the door, clearly feeling a bit sad to not be in on the mayhem.

As the girls were gathering their things, I invited him in to help me pick up the floor. They had used some craft supplies, and the room was a mess. He loves to help, and he’s a fabulous housekeeper. As he scurried around picking up scraps, the adult leader of the group started chatting with me about how the session had gone. Then she leans in to me and says under her breath and nodding at my son: “where did he wander in from?” I said “oh, the hallway.” She came back with, “I mean who does me belong to?” With perfect timing, Dawit approached me with a “mommy? Can I…” So I finished my conversation with this woman by saying “Me. He belongs to me.” She was flustered and started with “oh, I thought maybe he was a part of that other program in the cafeteria, or…”

Yes, I know that there are multiple factors as to why this seemingly nice mother would choose to voice her prejudice to a perfect stranger. Maybe she thought it was strange to see a boy at an all-girl gathering. Or maybe she doesn’t want anyone to help her clean up. Perhaps she was sincerely concerned for his well-being, wondering where his caretaker was.

Since Dawit has been with us, seeing life through his eyes has given me new perspective on race. It’s ongoing. We live in a diverse, tolerant community, and I tend to be optimistic about people in general. But I have now been in several scenarios when other white people have made comments like this to me, not knowing I am his mom. It’s very subtle.

This summer at the kiddie pool, I was sitting on the edge with a whole row of parents watching the kids play. Lily and Dawit were playing well together, but a little too much splashing was going on. I called to Lily to stop. The mom next to me leaned in and said “I wonder where his mom is.”

It had the same quality and tone as the comment yesterday. It’s similar to when people whisper the word cancer . Like it’s an unpleasant topic you’d rather not be caught discussing.

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I was tagged by Erin for the Anti-Racist parent meme. Here goes:

1. I am:

Irish, German, Austrian

2. My kid(s) are:

Lily- Irish, German, Austrian, Scottish

Dawit-Ethiopian

3. I first started thinking more about race, culture and identity when:

I’m unsure of my age, but I was just tall enough to be rummaging through the “junk drawer” in the kitchen. My mom was nearby in the sewing room, and I was questioning her on how some people speak other languages. (This came from watching the Electric Company). I couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea that humans, who are all basically the same physically, create different words for the same thing.

Obviously I’m paraphrasing Granny, but what stuck with me was this idea: people have different ways of living, and different neighbors. This can change the way they talk about things.

4. People think my name is:

Hard to pronounce and French. “Manogue” is completely Irish, but only those straight from Ireland seem to recognize this.

5. The family tradition I most want to pass on is:

Enthusiasm about learning and trying new things

6. The family tradition I least want to pass on is:

Teasing, mocking, purposely embarrassing.  (this is a favorite activity of my husband’s siblings)

7. My child’s first word in English was:

Lily: “please?” (puh-weeese?)

Dawit: “uh-oh”, and shortly after that “unicorn” (woornicorn)

8. My child’s first non-English word was:

Don’t know…the first thing we heard him say was “Eshi” (ok, yes)

9. The non-English word/phrase most used in my home is:

“na”–come, “tolo”–quickly (Amharic)

“salud” (Spanish, when someone sneezes)

10. One thing I love about being a parent is:

Seeing the magic of the world through different sets of eyes. It’s never dull!

11. One thing I hate about being a parent is:

When I don’t love every minute of being a parent, I feel a bit guilty.

12. To me, being an anti-racist parent means:

Recognizing that people experience situations through their own lenses and filters. These experiences are shaped both by group culture and individual circumstance. Race is something we all think about, make judgment about, live with…I want to be consistently aware of my own attitude, what I pass on to my kids, and tuned into to how they may perceive a situation. Communication is key.


How about some anti-racist sister input?  I’m tagging Suzy Q at Big Sis Diaries
and Kelsey at A Family of Ten (who’s off to college!)

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