Saturday, June 28, 2008
"Jesus loves the little children. All the children the of the world."
That was always my favorite song to sing when I was in Children's Church and when I used to teach it. I don't know exactly why I shared that but this picture just made me think of that song. Plus in my house I have a biracial child and a child who wishes she was anything but white!
I was actually going to tell the story about how we came to be where were are now. Our Family Love Story. But then I saw this picture and decided to ponder race for a bit. I guess I don't want to really ponder it as much as I was thinking of a funny story about my personal experience with race.
My oldest, Marie, is biracial. She is caucasian and hispanic. We are not exactly sure what her exact hispanic origin is so I kind of float with whatever she decides she is for now. There is a very large Puerto Rican community in this area so she has many Puerto Rican friends so most of the time she likes to be identified as such. She had a Mexican friend and a few Honduran friends....so for a time she was both Mexican and Honduran. See where this goes the more diverse the community is? She so desperately wants to identify ethnically that I have decided that it is more detrimental to go with her flow than refuse her this choice. She is aware of the fact that we are not clear on her ethnicity and I embrace her and love her no matter what her ethnicity.
It has always been fascinating to me that she is so eager to embrace her hispanic heritage. She is half caucasian and yet she never acknowledges this. In fact because Marie identifies herself as wholly being hispanic my younger completely and utterly caucasian daughter identifies herself as being wholly hispanic also. In Rose's case I believe it is to more closely resemble and emulate her older sister.
As Marie grows and matures she is more able to discuss her need for an ethnic identity as she also concedes that when she is around people that more closely resemble her physically, she finds herself feeling out of water. White people see her as being spanish and spanish people see her as white. She has a white family so they perceive her as being white.
Before I adopted Marie I never thought of these things. I thought that loving a child was enough and would make these things inconsequential. And I certainly never thought this would be an issue with a hispanic child. I mean she isn't that much darker than me and is almost of the same coloring of my husband. She had a white mom so it wasn't as though she would be too bummed at having white parents. We even moved to a community that was predominantly hispanic so that she could acclimate easily.
When people see that we have adopted a biracial child they always say, "isn't that nice of you" and they look with that look of....I don't know what it is exactly...but people give you this pity look like awwww she isn't white aren't you a good person...or I had someone I worked with say to me that I should be careful adopting a hispanic girl because they were promiscuous and dressed like harlots....it was their culture....I was stunned ...who says that about your kid? I am a grown up I can take that....
Marie always gets questions like "why did you let a white family adopt you" and it is hard to be 12 or 13 and not be accepted by the white community because you appear to be spanish but the spanish community sees you as white. So you fit nowhere. I never imagined that could happen. So ethnic identity is very important and to encourage it is crucial. They have to be confident in who they are as a person. And no their color doesn't matter or shouldn't but the reality is that it is part of them. So loving them is loving and embracing their color and their ethnicity. It is important whether we think it is or should be.
I like to share funny stories....And this is one I think is funny.
Last December around Marie's 14th birthday, she was invited to her first "teen" birthday party with boys and girls. She was sooooo excited and in the afternoon we went to get the young man who invited her a present. My husband and I were in the front seat and Rose was in the back with Marie. Now, so you know, Marie and Rose are glued to my hip when I am home. They always beg me to drive them places and beg me to take them with me.
Anyhoo..... We are driving along.....
Marie proclaims "Daddy, can you drive me to the party tonight?"
"just because I want to bond with you daddy" Marie using her doe eyes.
"i want to drive you there so i can meet the family"
"daddy, can't you meet the family?"
So now my feelings are completely crushed. I always take her to birthday parties. I always meet the parents and I always hang out for a bit with the other adults. I have always done this for her. What is wrong with me?
"no that is MY thing! I am taking you"
"No I don't want you to go...I want DADDY!" She is now being almost hostile.
"Marie, what is your deal? I always go...."
"Mommy, I just want Daddy!:
"No why can't I go...Are you embarrassed because I am fat?"
"Then what?" I just couldn't believe that she was dissing me! What could I possibly have done to embarrass her so I thought for a moment.....
The boy who was having the party was hispanic and everybody at the party was going to be hispanic...AHHHHHH....I am not hispanic....
"I know is it because I am white?"
"What?" Her eyes looked down to the floor and she smiled. When she smiles it always means that I have yet again found out the truth!
"it is because I am white...You don't want your friends to know I am white!" My smile became huge. I was actually quite proud I had become the victim of teen embarrassment. I mean it is inevitable that during their teen years, you will do something that will embarrass them. I just didn't realize the thing I would do was something that I had no control of!
"Sorry, Mommy. I didn't want to hurt your feelings...But all the other parents are spanish....and dad looks spanish and he understands spanish...so I think he should take me....Don't be mad"
"Mad? That rocks...Thanks, Marie! I have never had personal experience with racism against me for being white....So thank you for the experience....." You just never know what will happen next! She teaches me so many lessons....Lessons I didn't even know I needed!
My husband and I both drove her to the party and she did let me take her in. My husband, in fact, should have taken her in because the grandmother was the only one there and she only spoke spanish. He was really the logical choice. I later found out that the only reason I was allowed in was because no one had arrived yet. When she left the party, she waited outside so I didn't have to go inside....Talk about peer pressure...hahahaha....The lessons I learn!
Just a way to finish this off in a way. I embrace and love my daughter's ethnicity. But it is only part of who she is. She is a beautiful, smart, funny, kind and wonderful young lady. I don't think that race, color or ethnicity has anything to do with what is valuable or good about a person. It is the same as whether you are a boy or a girl. There is no one who is more valuable or worthy of anything because of their skin. It is merely a part of the person and part of the truly wonderful gift God has given us as the human race. God has given us the gift of uniqueness and difference. Life would be too boring otherwise....