“Is Matt okay with you adopting *that* kind of child?”
These are painful words to write. In fact, it’s taken me months to figure out how to talk about this topic and I probably still won’t get it right. I’ve gotten in many unintentional arguments with people I love because white privilege is a tough subject to talk about. Why? Because it involves emotion. I’m mostly going to focus on how White Privilege is involved in adoption, but this waves out to everyday living for a large portion of the world. So as you read this, I beg you to put emotion and preconceived notions aside and listen sincerely with the desire to learn.
🎈”When I was a kid I thought Zootopia was this perfect place. Where everyone got along and anyone could be anything. Turns out real life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means hey, glass half-full we all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So, no matter what type of animal you are from the biggest elephant to our first fox.. I implore you… Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with all of us.” -Zootopia🎈
Since welcoming Tyce into our family, we have had an overwhelming number of people make comments to us, acting as if we are unaware that Tyce has darker skin than us. It’s always “well meaning” people that think they somehow have this insight into what it means to be a Person of Color (any non-white person) because they have a friend or went to school with someone who was also a Person of Color. I get it. I grew up in a suburban white neighborhood. You can’t get much “whiter” than where I grew up. When I was six, I got a black Bitty Baby for Christmas, and I thought I was diverse. And let me tell you, I thought I understood and could empathize.
What is “White Privilege?”
I think it is important to first establish what the definition of White Privilege is. I’m not talking KKK or White Supremacists. I am talking an unseen power that white people are naturally born with. There are so many facets to this, but i’m going to stick with the very simple definition so I don’t lose you all.
So, what does this mean? Let’s start with a disclaimer- I’ll be honest with you, when I was first told that I had white privilege, I took it really hard. But, then I took to education and did everything I could to learn about the WHY. Having white privilege doesn’t necessarily mean you hate people of color. The term “white privilege” doesn’t even necessarily mean you think you are better than a person of color (although, I could get into a lot more definitions and examples of how this can subconsciously and consciously apply). BUT, now that you know the definition of white privilege, lets get into how it impacts your life as well as the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Let’s start with the first comment I included at the top of this blog:
“Is Matt okay with you adopting *that* kind of child?”
Oh, the stab this leaves in my heart. This “well meaning” person, and I am saying that because she genuinely did not see the hurt of this question, thought that she was showing concern and compassion for my very white husband. And this question in itself shows her systematic, unknown white privilege as well as racism in general. Sadly, this isn’t the first time we have received similar comments and questions.
It’s easy to come up with the snarky remarks to make light of a horribly awkward situation, such as “by *that* kind of child do you mean adorable and perfect in every way, yes! Yes, Matt was okay with that.” But there comes a time when we have to face reality.
Reading it back, it may seem obvious to many of you why this question is inappropriate. So what about some these comments:
“Was his adoption cheaper because he isn’t white?”
“His family must have been poor.”
“What if he grows up to be violent?”
“Why would you adopt a brown baby when so many white babies need families?”
“Are you worried that when he gets older he will have a hard time getting dates?”
“Wow, you are so amazing for adopting a child that looks different than you.”
You guys, I can’t even bring myself to type all of the comments that I am forcing myself to remember. I have tears pouring down my face as I think of my little boy and the confused world he is going to have to learn to live in. I have a pretty strong armor when it comes to hearing these things, but then I realize one day my son is going to grow up and he is going to understand the comments that people say to me at the grocery store. And one day I am not going to be able to be his voice.
Now, I posted some very negative comments I received, but I want to dive a little deeper and show how this issue can be super subtle.
One of the most common arguments I see against White Privilege is:
“I know white people that struggle just as much as any black person.”
It’s true, there are white people that live in poorer areas and there are people of color that live in rich neighborhoods. But, that is missing the point.
Let’s take my friend who lives in Utah with her husband who is Hispanic. One day they were driving along and got pulled over for a traffic violation. Her husband was asked if he had proof of citizenship…. Now, I’ve been pulled over a few times and every time I get asked for my drivers license and my insurance. I’ve never been asked to give proof of citizenship.
I have another friend who has a black son that just entered Junior High. I saw a post of hers on Facebook recently asking where she can find bright, non-threatening beanies for her son to wear during the winter because she is scared to let him put his hood up as he walks to school in the cold. Comments from other moms with black sons of similar ages were all commenting about how they got beanies that look like frogs and other juvenile characters in an attempt to make their children look childlike and non-threatening… Not once, growing up, did I ever have to think about these kinds of things for myself or my brothers.
That is white privilege.
White privilege is the ability to go about your day and not have to worry about small things like being suspicious while buying your cereal, or whether or not you’re going to get a job interview because your name isn’t a “white” name.
A few years ago, I would have argued with people that told me these things happen. They’re being “too sensitive” right? But then I saw it happen. And then I saw it happen again. And then I adopted my son who is a different color than me and I saw my own white privilege come out when I experienced shock at the first comments I received. And then I realized how much white privilege I have because I had assumed people were being too sensitive because I had never experienced it.
It hurts. It hurts a lot to admit. It hurts even more to accept. But then, it feels freeing to acknowledge and fight for change.
What that means for transracial adoptions
So, what does white privilege have to do with adoption, specifically transracial adoption? Matt and I stepped into the adoption world extremely quickly. In fact, it was more like a dive. I didn’t have time nor did I realize how much I still needed to educate myself. Basically, I did everything backwards from how I wish I did it. So for my friends that are looking and in the process to adopt, here are some things I wish I would have known about transracial adoptions.
First, I wish I would have understood the importance of social mirrors. Mirrors are the people and customs that represent where your child is from and who they are.
We have been so blessed to find many people in our area who have adopted Marshallese children. It is a huge blessing to be able to introduce Tyce to people that come from the same culture and heritage as him. I still feel like it’s not enough, but it’s a start.
Second, If you are considering adopting transracially, make sure you do your research and learn what cultural barriers your area will have on your child. This is a good point in the adoption process to put your future child first, and decide if you are in the right position to meet the needs that your child of color will have that as a white person you never experienced.
Third, color blindness is not a thing, and it is more harmful than good. Our country went through a “phase” where it was proper “not to see color.” And by pretending color didn’t exist, we pretended racism and bigotry didn’t exist. And that is a problem. It is okay to acknowledge that cruelty exists in the world. It is ok to recognize in yourself how you can improve and show love. Action is how we improve the world and our society. Action is what will make a difference. ACTION is what I urge everyone to take to unite our world, our families, and our nation.
Why am I talking about this?
I recently heard someone say,
“If a white person were to stick up for a Person of Color being treated unfairly, treatment is more likely to change for the better. If a Person of Color were to stand up for another Person of Color, treatment is less likely to change. So a white person can use their privilege to help others.”
I am not the expert on this topic. I am still learning about it myself. But, I vow to keep learning and trying because it is worth it. I barely hit the surface, but for now, this is what I have.
***If you have any questions or concerns about this please message me! I am continually learning and would love to get perspective from everyone.
***If you are starting the learning process yourself, please message me! I would love to point you in the direction to more resources that I have found helpful.