While I was at work a couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with one of my co-workers regarding whether or not she believed Trayvon Martin had been racially profiled by George Zimmerman. I respect this particular person’s opinion, as she was a foster mom for years to an African American boy. I was approaching this discussion as a concerned mother for my son’s future. As she and I were beginning our conversation, another co-worker chimes in quite loudly with her point of view and takes the stage. She informed us that we were wrong if we thought there had been racial profiling in the Trayvon Martin case and that this type of mindset is what is perpetuating “racism”, which she does not believe truly exists. She continued by stating that we are living in a world of reverse racism and white people are scared to say anything to a black person for fear that it will be seen as racist. She strongly feels that race should not be an issue and that we should not place so much emphasis on it.
Then, she took her comments to a very personal level. She told me that there is no reason to raise my son as my “black son” and that I should be raising him as just my son. Different cultures, in her opinion, do not really exist. She used her ethnicity of being Polish as an example by saying how her mother did not force her to learn how to cook Polish food. I stated that I wanted to embrace my son’s culture and empower both of us with education. Her next comment of, “you don’t buy a book on how to raise a black child,” caught me off guard. Yes, I have bought many books on transracial parenting and adoption. These books are continued means of education for myself while living my new life as a multi-cultural family. I want to read about other people’s experiences and learnings. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, if I was not doing this, I believe I would be doing a disservice to both my son and myself. I could not believe she made that comment and continued on the way she did about my ability to properly raise my son without causing him a complex for being black. She ended her rant by printing out the following article for me and by telling me that her black friend in Texas feels the same way as her…since I guess all black people must feel the same way, right?!
After this “conversation,” I felt upset as you may imagine and had to compose myself so I could get on with my work day. I felt as though I had been attacked and violated on a very personal level. My parenting of my son and my multi-cultural family unit had been racially attacked. I am still very bothered by this situation and have yet to do anything about it. I do feel that I need to talk to this person, as I see her on a very regular basis at work. She may not change her mind or be cured of her ignorance and naivety, but at least I can speak my mind and let her know that her comments were not appreciated and were completely out of line.
I am reading a great book right now, Come Rain or Come Shine, by Rachel Garlinghouse. She provides a list of “Things I often hear white people say” that I would like to share with you.
“Race doesn’t matter.”
“I am colorblind. I couldn’t care less if someone is white, black, purple, or green.”
“I’m not racist. I have a friend who is black.”
“Why is there a black history month? Shouldn’t there be a white history month?”
“Why is it ok for a black person to call another black person a nigger?”
“Talking about skin color puts too much emphasis on race.”
“I don’t understand why everyone says that President Obama is our first black president. He is white and black.”
“The world is a melting pot.”
“I’m so tired of people playing the race card. Slavery and civil rights times are over. It’s time for them to take responsibility for their actions.”
“Don’t worry about teaching your kids about race. They are too young to understand or care. And by the time they are older, racism will be a thing of the past.”
A book that Garlinghouse suggests reading, which I am very much looking forward to getting my hands on is, “In Their Own Voices:
Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories” by Rita J. Simon and Rhonda M. Rhoorda. These authors interviewed many transracial adoptees and find that the vast majority of them feel hurt by their parents’ lack of education and lack of incorporation of their black culture into their families. Maybe my co-worker should read this book.