Everyone else is doing it

So, here we go.  Let’s talk about race.  On my Facebook feed I get lots and lots of posts about how the country is racist, how the cops are racist, etc.  I’m not denying or arguing that, in many places in that country it is so.  And not just against blacks, either, racism is not “white against black”.  It’s anyone who thinks “their” skin color makes them superior.  It can be light-skinned blacks against dark-skinned blacks.  It is everywhere, but it is not EVERYONE.

That’s what I’m tired of hearing.  That if I disagree on a point about everyone being a racist because they’re white or disagree on a point, that they’re racist.

In Ethiopia, being “black” is a bad thing.  (Wait, isn’t that in Africa?)  There if you are “black” then you’re second class, lower, a “slave”… but if you are “brown” then you are ok.  My kids who are from Ethiopia were very upset at being called black when they got to America.

Since then, they have continued to struggle with racism.  It was black people that took them away from their birth parents (in their eyes).  When they came to America, they were very frightened of black people.  I’m not sure what happened in the various orphanages or holding homes they were in, but whenever they saw a black person, they would hide and cry, afraid they would be taken away from us.  Even if it was a neighbor, they would shy away.

When my eldest child of color started riding the school bus, he was yelled at one day by a black child his own age, “Go back to Africa!”  Now this other child had no idea my son had recently arrived from Africa, so it was ironic and funny, and confused the hell out of my kid.

After years of working on the issue of my kids being afraid of people their own skin tone, we finally got to a place where they felt comfortable and didn’t pay so much attention to it.  And then when get screamed at by a large black man in a parking lot “How much money you get for them nigga boys?  It’s all about the money!”  (He said a lot of other things, but that’s about all I can put in print, and it was directed at us, in personal ways.)  So, back to square one with my kids, who are now once again scared that a big black man is going to come take them away from the second set of parents as well.

So yes, my kids have experienced racism – by black people.  It’s going to take awhile to turn this around for them.  (Thank god we have such great neighbors and we can keep reminding them “Miss C doesn’t yell at you and call you names, does she? Mr. D isn’t mean like that, is he? People are jerks, their skin color doesn’t mean anything about whether they are nice or not.”)

Am I naive to think that someday they might end up in a place where due to the color of their skin they will be mistreated?  No, of course not.  And we talk about that with them, prepare them as best we can.  But in their world, the people who have mistreated them were black people.  How do you wrap that up in a nice neat package and explain it to a child?

So when we have these “race wars” on the media, on Facebook, keep in mind that not everyone’s experience is the same.  For my children, their experience is that black people are the racists, belittling them because they have white parents, a Hispanic sibling, even though they are as African-American as you can get, being told they’re “not really” African-American.

Racism is not a one-way street.  It’s not even a two way thoroughfare.  It’s more like DuPont Circle in DC was in the 80s, roads dumping in, veering off, and if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re just going to end up going around and around in circles, never getting anywhere.



One comment on “Everyone else is doing it

  1. Have you ever checked out the online transracial adoption group on Facebook? There’s much more to this puzzle than what yore portraying. Systemic racism as a whole, prejudice within subsets of a community- this is way more nuanced than this post suggests. For the benefit of your kids, I highly reccomend joining!


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