Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Racism - And The Talk...

By now most of you have either heard about or read Pittsburgh Tribune columnist Mike Seate's article: Adopting Asian Kids Becoming Latest Fad. It's a class act from beginning to end. I'm not linking to his blog because it's just more of the same. (By the way, are we the only ones who get the Angelina Jolie yada yada treatment? I didn't think so.) Is it surprising that a columnist writing for a major publication would openly promote racist beliefs? Only if you think racism ended with the Civil Rights legislation enacted in the 60's and Don Imus is just being misunderstood. Sure it did, he is and there aren't any folks refusing to vote for Obama because he's black. I sent Mr Seate an email. I don't expect a reply. I do hope however, that somewhere along his life's journey he overcomes the hate he has for my family and finds value in helping to lift lives up rather than using his talents to inflict hurt and anger.

As painful as it is to say, confronting racism is something Aly and I know we will be preparing Alyzabeth for. Sadly, it's not a question of if. Most parents raise their kids dreading the day when they have to have The Talk. You know, The Talk. The birds and the bees. We wish... About a year ago I mentioned to a family member that we would be confronted by racism. I remember their saying they didn't really think that would be much of a problem if at all. I also remember thinking. You're a smart person. I know that you know it will happen. Maybe you were just trying to be nice to me but then, we each know racism exists in our own family. Like I said. It's not a question of if.

We had a brush with racism a month or so ago when Aly and I were facilitating a workshop. As is customary in many workshops, we opened with the folks sharing a little about themselves and what they hoped to get out of the workshop. When it came our turn, with smiles flashing, we shared our adoption excitement. Deep down I had this uneasy feeling but a guy can always hope. Score one for the bad feeling. The group's reaction: Silence. No smiles. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. Straight ahead stares. While considerate and attentive throughout the training, this group made it very clear, they did not approve of transracial adoption. We were adopting out of our race. Message sent. Message received.

I came across a wonderful comment the other day. One of those perfect reminders that you always appreciate. "Do not let the exception become the generalization". For every racist there are gazillions of good and loving people. I want to be sure and stress that with Alyzabeth. You know, for when we're having The Talk...


a Tonggu Momma said...

Excellent post!

I did see that drivel as well (I'm guessing every on-line AP did). We've encountered blatant racism on several occassions. Then there are those moments where it's not blatant, but... I'm sure you can fill in the blank.

And if one more person under the age of 60 calls our little Tongginator a "China doll," I just might lose it.

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

I read this on Sunday evening and it burned me up....but the reality is that as PAP's we all need to be prepared to face these kind of statements and people every day!

Dawn said...

The guy that wrote that column is obviously an idiot. There's no question about that.

I'm happy to say that since we first started telling people we were going to adopt a baby from China until today, almost three years after being home with her, we haven't encountered any racist comments. My husband's uncle wondered why we were adopting instead of me getting pregnant and having another baby, but that was the only question. Everybody we know was very excited for us and they love her very much. Strangers that we've encountered that have asked about her have had nothing but good things to say. I'm aware that in the future we may have to deal with someone making hurtful comments, but so far we've had nothing but acceptance of her and our decision to adopt her.

If people don't approve of you adopting internationally, it's none of their business anyway so try not to let it bother you. Just know that you are doing what's right for your family and when you finally get your daughter home, life will be great.

Kristin said...

Huh, I thought babies from African countries were all the rage... guess I'm still fashionable with my Chinese daughter.

In general, I think people are well meaning, but stupid. 2 or 3 celebrities adopt from a foreign countries and suddenly it's a trend? Silly.

As for the Brangelinas of the world, I give them nothing but kudos. Their children appear to be well loved and happy and that's what every child deserves.

redmaryjanes said...

I read the article and did not get too steamed up because it obviously wasn't written with any intelligent research behind it. If this man feels concerned about the black children in the United States who are not being adopted, then I would love to see him stand up and adopt one. I would love to see him stand up for reform in the US adoption laws. There definitely is a need. Then I would give more creedence to his concerns and then maybe he would understand why many choose to adopt internationally. US adoption is scarey right now, not many rights for adopting families. Many would adopt domestically if they could do it without so much risk of having their children taken away. It's not a racial decision, it is a security least it was for us. I know many white families who are adopting from Africa, again not a race decision. We want children and a secure adoption environment. The US can only provide one of those criteria right now.

Tracy R said...

There are people who judge all different types of adoption, including transracial adoption in this country, which that writer seemed to be advocating.
I think the problem is that, until you actually walk in the shoes of a person who has adopted, you really don't have a clue what it takes and what leads you to make the choices that you do. No one makes that decision because they need a popular fashion accessory (horrified at THAT statement!) Once you've completed your adoption you'll find that just about everyone has an opinion about it ... and even those who are trying to be supportive will sometimes offer racist or ignorant remarks (she's so lucky to have you, it's so great you could do this since you couldn't have your own children, etc.) You try and prepare yourself for it, but no matter how prepared you are, when you're standing with friends and someone remarks at how dark your child gets in summer (my daughters are Puerto Rican, American Indian and Irish) and 'did you know that when you adopted them?' you will be dumbfounded and angry beyond words.
From reading your blog, I'm sure that you will handle these things with diplomacy and grace. I, on the other hand, usually just look dumbfounded and angry and say something like, 'do you have any idea how dumb that question/statement was?'

Alyson & Ford said...

Tonggu Momma: I was one of those that didn’t have a clue originally about the “China Doll”. I learned pretty quick though… :)

HG2: I questioned sending the guy an email knowing I was just feeding into what he wanted; attention. Still, I did but I made it short and I didn’t yell or say anything that I thought he could use as an example of PAP’s gone crazy. Not the easiest thing for me to pull off I might add... :)

Dawn: Your comment gave each of us hope… It also told me I may have to move. :)

Kristin: Put me in the camp with those who give kudos to the Brangelinas of the world who catch unbelievable flak because they adopted! The thing that riles me is when someone finds out we’re adopting and immediately goes into the celebrities get all the special breaks and do it just for the publicity thing. If my energy level is up, I go into the celebrity defend mode, if not, I still let them know that I think it’s cool that they are adopting.

RMJ: Can I hold that nail for you as you hammer away? It seems you do a good job at hitting the nail on the head. You described so many of the key issues that confronted us when we made the decision to adopt domestic or foreign.


Alyson & Ford said...

Quoting Tracy: From reading your blog, I'm sure that you will handle these things with diplomacy and grace. I, on the other hand, usually just look dumbfounded and angry and say something like, 'do you have any idea how dumb that question/statement was?'

Tracy: The line about my handling it with diplomacy and grace - you sure you're reading our blog? :)
The thing is for me, my Achilles heel was (is) always my temper. I've worked hard to get it under control (I wasn't ever physical, except sports - more verbal but still anger didn't bring out the best in me). Aly accuses me of passive aggressive behavior because I get quiet when we have our disagreements. And there I was thinking it was a good thing I shut up! :)

Johnny said...

An a-parent on my agency's Yahoo group posted a long comment about this writer. He has a history of writing purposefully inciting articles in order to get backlash. And then, he gathers the angry emails and comments and bundles them up for a book!

When I read through the first few paragraphs of his "article", I suspected this to be the case (an inciter)because a few years ago, the whole "adopted child" as a status symbol ran it's course of outrage through the blogsphere. I figured this guy was milking an old outrage for his benefit.

Vivian M said...

Kudos to you for defending your family, thoughts and beliefs. There will always be ignorant or racist people in the world. But if we give our children a good education, loads of self respect and self confidence, and a loving foundation, they will succeed and be proud of who they are, regardless what other people think. Who cares what other people think anyway?

Dawn said...

I already commented, but I want to say more now. I don't want you to think we live in the perfect place where racism doesn't exist or everyone is totally accepting of international adoption, because I don't think that place exists. Luckily, negativity towards us personally hasn't happened...yet, and I hope it doesn't.

Our governor (we live in Utah) and his wife have several biological children, a daughter adopted from China and a daughter adopted from India. At the time he became governor I had no idea he had a daughter from China. They adopted their daughter from India while he was in office. The paper carried updates about their trip along with photos of them with their new daughter. There were people that wrote letters to the paper complaining about people adopting from other countries and how everyone should adopt from the U.S. because there are so many children that needs homes here. One letter, in which the writer was ripping on the governor and his wife for adopting internationally, really angered me. I wrote a letter to the paper in response. They never published it but they did publish several other letters with my same thoughts. Even though there were people who criticized the governor and others for adopting internationally instead of domestically, there were far more people that supported the governor and international adoption.

There are always going to be people that have to let their derogatory opinions be heard on subjects that have nothing to do with them. We just have to learn to look the other way. Unless there is a comment or opinion directed personally at us or our children, then I would say those people had better look out because they will get put in their places!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ford and Alyson,

Yeah, unfortunately you are all too correct, Ford. Most of the time we don't have to deal with too many negative comments, but leaving Costco the other day with our three kids a guy looked me right in the eye and said, "Hey, what aisle can I buy one of those on?" It's a good thing for him I pretended not to hear on behalf of the girls' sake as they are old enough to understand if I responded the way I wanted. And yes, I understand the temper thing. I REALLY wanted to punch him, but decided he didn't even deserve me getting angry.

Thanking the Lord for the many supportive people in this world who love families no matter the color or race!!

Melissa S.

Anonymous said...

Very well written.

I did a bit of googling on him after the steam stopped pouring from my ears and found quite a lot of information; mostly negative - shocker. I envisioned him sitting around his house in his bathrobe laughing at the inpouring of emails pointing out how much of a racist he is, which would, in turn feed, his fire; exactly what he was wanting. I think enough people sent letters and points were well made.


Kelly And Allison said...

I read the article but didn't get too steamed about it. I just thought he is not very smart. I also send him a letter but don't expect to hear back from him. I asked him if he has adopted from anywhere? And told him that I don't need to hear the answer because it is his personal choice. I don't like it when people bring racism into adoption. It is a huge responsibilities and no one takes it lightly. Racism is part of many people's life. Not only just children in transracial adoption. Best way I can think about is to face it, deal with it, and raise above it.


sarah said...

I read that article a couple of days ago and I did send him a short (2 sentence) note. . . mine was probably a bit inappropriate in some ways as I primarily questioned his cognitive skills (because he truly sounds like a moron).

Most people have either been supportive or quite 'neutral' outwardly at the news of our adoption.There've been a few reactions of thinly veiled or just outright bigotry (the worst was from an 75+ yr old, in-law uncle; ironically they adopted 2 children domestically when they were young parents). I confronted him about his remark. I can't change a persons bigotry but I can ask for some kind of respect in communication with me / us about our child - esp. from a relative.

KHM said...

Reminds me of that old saying:

Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it.

I'm ignoring him.

Nuff said

Anonymous said...

Hi there. We adopted our daughter from Guangdong Province in 12/2006. I came across your website via 'Ruby is Coming'. Anyhoo....somehow I missed Seate's diatribe when it was published....what a uneducated moron. Geez. In the 19 months since we brought our daughter Ruby home, we have encountered a fair amount of this type of stupidity. It still gets my temper up every time. And I think it always will because it's ultimately someone taking shots at my child and that doesn't sit well with me. I thought about writing Mr. I'm An Idiot Seate an email but, if I responded to everyone of these type of things, I'd be writing letters all day long.
Congratulations on being so close to your LID date. I know all about how exciting that is. Yay! Come visit us sometime at and 'meet' our incredible girl. Take care. - Maria