Fear of righteous anger

As I wrote here, I’ve gotten some concern and push back from friends about how much I shared with my daughter about the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. They say I’m scaring her.

Tonight we marched through the streets with anarchists, beat drums, and listened to speakers from local rappers and poets to pastors and Nation of Islam members. A cold front blew in and it drizzled on us for over two hours. She was transfixed.

That fear you sense? It’s not hers. It’s yours. She’s just pissed. Maybe that’s what you’re afraid of…

E with sign

And here are my daughter’s feelings about it in her own words.

How I felt last night: angry, bold, joyful, grateful, sad, proud.

I felt good being with the people I need to be with. I also think that one of the pieces of poetry really touched my heart and at that moment I knew I was not alone. I knew that there was people to be right at my side making me to be a part of my community and make sure that in this world that I’m in they are here to protect me. I’m trying to express how I feel and that is the most important part of me.

A post script from Mom: Since I posted the first part of this last night I’ve gotten a number of emails from white parents of children of color asking for advice about how to have these conversations with their children without scaring them. I knew how I wanted to answer the question but asked my daughter about her experience of last night to test my hypothesis. She proved my point perfectly above.

In a nutshell, it is flat out irresponsible and cruel to avoid preparing children of color for our racist world. It is equally critical to their safety and success as making sure they learn to read and cross the street. BUT if you only tell them about the hard stuff without surrounding them with a community that is working to make things better you’re only doing half the job and yeah, you’re going to scare the crap out of them. Sharing the hard stuff in an age-appropriate way and then empowering them with opportunities to effect change surrounded by people they know, love, and respect who share their experience of racism and take those experiences and turn them into protest, song, poetry, and dance that is the most powerful message a child of color can get.

So no, it’s not okay to avoid the conversations. It’s not okay to live in an all white environment and take field trips to places where your child will see people who look like her/himself. Your child doesn’t need a zoo. They need a community!!



A seven year-old takes on National Adoption Month, Gotcha Day, and generally tells it like it is

The following is from my seven year-old daughter. We came up with the questions together but the answers are 100% hers.

What does it feels like to be adopted?

I like being adopted because I enjoy where I am but I do have some sad moments. That is normal but those sad moments are hard. It feels like my heart is a puzzle and there is a piece missing that is missing because I am not in Ethiopia. Some of the puzzle pieces that are here are my grandmother, my mama, our dog, my grandmother’s dog, our two fish that passed away, and my friends, and family-friends.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here. When I’m having a hard time I scream in a pillow sometimes. I cry and kick the backseat of the car. When that happens I’m thinking “I don’t belong here but I’m here. I don’t belong here but I’m here. I don’t belong here but I’m here.”

I feel like kids and parents think that the happy parts are the most important parts of life and leave the sad stuff out but that is very wrong because the sad stuff makes your life kind of in a way that’s complicated. Clarifying question from Mom: Is it like you’ve talked about before that if you’ve got sad stuff stuck inside that you’ve haven’t let out and something good happens you can’t really be happy because the happy gets squished by the sad? Yes!

What does it feel like to be black and adopted by a white mom?

It’s not easy to be a black kid with a white mom because people ask questions that I usually don’t want to answer but it matters about the way they say it. If they ask in a mean voice I will not answer and if they say it in a way that it’s like a real question and not just to be mean I will answer. I actually like having a white mom but I wouldn’t like it as much if I didn’t know anyone who was black because black people make my life more special because they are the same race and that helps because they understand racism and it feels good to see people who look like me.

What do you think about adoptive parents celebrating adoption like Gotcha Day or parties when an adoption happens?

Sometimes I feel like it’s not really fair because for them it feels like all happy stuff but for me it’s all complicated like part happy but also really sad stuff too. Even though it’s hard to deal with sad stuff I need to deal with it and if my mom was only thinking about the happy stuff it would feel like my mom didn’t understand and I would feel lonely. It wouldn’t feel like my mommy is the best mommy ever and I wouldn’t feel very safe.

Also I really hate the word Gotcha. It sounds so scary. It sounds like your parents are taking you away from your birth parents and it’s really sad because that’s what adoption is. You’re not with your birth parents anymore and that’s sad so why would you want to have a party. It’s so scary!!!

What do you think about National Adoption Month?

(Note from Mom: I defined National Adoption Month as a time of the year when there is a lot of stuff on the internet, TV, radio about adoption. It’s usually just adoption agencies and adoptive parents who are talking but this year, there are more people who are adopted and birth families who are talking about adoption.)

I don’t think it’s right for people who adopted children to talk on the TV and I think that because the children who are adopted have more to say than moms and they know exactly how it feels but the parents don’t know exactly how it feels. I think having a special time to talk about adoption is okay because it is interesting but if it’s just like a big party and people only talk about the happy stuff then it feels sad to me because adoption is sad because bad stuff has to happen to make adoption happen.