I'm back. I want to share with you an experience I had this past weekend at my kids' event and share with you my thoughts on it.
Ok, let me start out by saying I thought long and hard about how to say this so as not to "offend" anyone. And I'm saying this with much love and concern - so please take it that way. I believe that anyone who takes a child into their home to love, raise, and care for a child that is not biologically their responsibility is one of the best kind of people in the world. What they do is a selfless act that can't compare. If done right, they give a child a chance at a future they may not have otherwise had.
My concern is, when raising a child outside of your culture, please make sure that you are aware of how that child is seen and treated in AMERICAN culture. I know these children are the light of your life, your child. They will grow up learning "your ways", but those ways may not serve them in the best way as they grow older. Consider, when they are not with you, how will they be seen through the lens of the culture we live in now, especially with the racial climate that we've created? When they are with you, within your culture, they have you as their safety net - people know they are with you. You are their "pass" to a world that otherwise might not be welcoming or comfortable letting them in. But the concern is, what happens when you aren't there and they are outside of the bubble you've created for them? Unfortunately, your safety is gone and they are seen by society as the stereotype that's already been placed on them. That's until they have the opportunity to show otherwise, if they get that opportunity. Some people are so oblivious to this fact that it's not even a consideration to teach these children how to navigate and deal with how their home rules and how they are perceived in their home may not be the same rules and how they are perceived when they are actually in the world without their "pass".
I will tell you why I say this. This past weekend at the event, there was a beautiful family sitting in front of us. There was a cute and petite white mom, and burly, broad chested white dad - who looked to be very loving and doting parents to their three children. One child, a beautiful, rusted, red-skinned and haired black boy, with light brown eyes, about the age of 5 or 6, called them "mom and dad" - so it is my assumption that he is adopted.
During their time there, the boy decided he wanted to get out of the stands, walk down to the bottom of the bleachers, swing on the railings and stomp in the middle of the stairs of the aisle. He did this several times, especially when he got "angry" for not being able to get something he wanted. I'd call it, "cuttin up" on those stairs. And the parents continued talking to each other while he threw a fit swinging. Another instance, he was constantly in their personal space. Sometimes he'd be so, aggressively, as he rough-housed with them. I watched as he nearly hit his sister in her face and attempted to punch on his brother (both older), and attempted to put his dad in a headlock while his dad did the same with him. You could tell at times he was playing (until they got the better of him), but it was still disturbing to watch. Why? Because as I watched their interactions and his behavior, all I could think was, "They are going to end up getting that little boy killed." I know. It was a horrible thought, but here is what I saw the black boy learning that won't fly in the culture in which we currently live:
1. There are no boundaries.
This little boy was allowed to wander freely around at will. Of course good parenting of any culture shouldn't allow this for obvious reasons, but this is especially dangerous for people of color (POC). Unfortunately, in this day and age, there still are some places that we are not welcome. Most times, we can "feel" it. When we do, we get the chance to make the choice, do we want to oblige and move on, or do we ignore it and stay? This is something many
white people never have to think about. As Trevor Noah explains in one of his comedy specials, blending in is really a "white" thing. He says, think about it, that's why there is no black James Bond. White people can blend in to any setting anytime they wish. A black James Bond will be spotted immediately. Which is true, white people have the ability to blend in just about anywhere - there are no boundaries for them. But for this child of color, trying to live in that reality could be very dangerous as he gets older and out of the protection of his mother and father.
2. I can act out when and where I want to.
Again, good parenting of any culture wouldn't allow this for obvious reasons, but this is especially dangerous for a person of color (POC). In an age where POC are being arrested for sitting in a Starbucks, acting out will possibly get your killed. And to be truthful, this is not new for us. Which is why often times some POC put such emphasis on how to act in public and are often disappointed to find out it is us acting up "in front of company". And we've seen the difference between how a POC is treated by authorities versus those of our white counterparts for the same or worse offense (I've seen videos of white males literally try to take the gun of an officer out of its holster, jump into said cop's car, and not once incur bodily harm). Whether we want to admit it or not, POC have to be on their Ps and Qs concerning their behavior in public - and it's been that way since we stepped foot on american soil.
3. Personal space does not matter.
Again, the good parenting bit above. But what this child is learning is that he is allowed in people's personal space. This becomes a problem as he grows because as we have seen, just by stereotype and conditioning, he will be seen as "intimidating" by many in other cultures and ethnicities. Now imagine this boy not understanding that and playing with or getting in the face of a white kid/girl, or any kid or girl for that matter, in the way he was playing with his father, brother, and sister. He sees no difference because it's what he's used to. He won't understand how that will be viewed by the culture we've created and that could possibly get him hurt, jailed, or killed.
If it seems I'm making assumptions here - very big ones at that - remember this is my opinion and observation. But in a time where everyone is on edge about race relations, "bad cops", "protests", etc, it's definitely something to consider. Do I expect for parents that have cross-culturally adopted to treat their children that are of other cultures/ethnicities any different than their own? Of course not. Love, laugh, play with your children. It's what they need most. But please make sure that your child is aware of how without you, they will be perceived and then act and teach them accordingly. I hate that we live in this kind of world...but it is what we've created it to be.