Thursday, January 25, 2007

Writing white

I think I am going to be posting back and forth from my personal blog to this blog. I am eager to see more people join the conversation.

Last night I went to a reading and discussion surrounding the book Outsiders Within, an anthology written by transracial adoptees. There were about 25 folks who attended the event, most of them white and many of them with children they had adopted from outside the US or children of color adopted from within the US. In other words, many of them were the parents of transracially adopted children. A few were in the process of adopting. Most who had children already still had very young children.

Transracial adoption is such a complex subject and it's one that I have big emotions around. I know many many adult adoptees who are very articulate about their struggles, identity conflicts and confusions inherited from being adopted by white adults without the skills to teach them about racism, their birth country, or their specific identities. For the most part, I fall in the same camp as the anthology contributors: I believe we should work hard to make sure that parents all over the world have access to their basic economic needs and human rights and that no parent should ever have to give up a child in order to guarantee their own survival. I look at Luca and she is the same age as some of the adoptees were when they were adopted. She already has such a full life, full of so many relationships, I can't imagine her needing to uproot that completely and "become" someone else just like I can't imagine the emotional struggle involved in having to give her up.

But that isn't the point of this blog. During the discussion, a lot of questions were asked. A LOT of questions. It's clear that many of the white parents were hungry for suggestions from adult adoptees on how they can raise their children with compassion and integrity. It was clear that some of the questioners were used to talking about race and racism and some were a bit more awkward in their language. It is also clear that people were there because of how much they wanted to learn, to be good parents, to do the right thing.

At various points during the discussion, I got angry or frustrated or cynical. I was frustrated with what I felt was the ignorance of some of the white folks, the reluctance to look at racism as a system or to look at our collusion with white privilege and the way that this collusion continually props up racism. I wanted more direct conversation about our responsibility and accountability as white folks. I quoted a Cheri Register piece I read ages ago in which, in discussing her adoption of an African American child, she talked about realizing that while, on the one hand, she had "saved" her child from poverty and the foster care system, on the other hand she had burdened this child with her ignorance, put this child into a vulnerable position by not being able to give her (I don't remember if it was a son or daughter) the life and survival instruction and support for living in a profoundly racist nation. I was so moved by Cheri's willingness to sit within that place of contradiction, refusing to consider "giving up" her child, this piece of her life, yet also refusing to deny that her parenting would by definition bring some harm as well as some good.

This is what I wanted, practical direct conversation that starts with an assumption that white privilege exists and it informs our every action.

And so I got annoyed and then, yes, fell into the "better white than you" trap of white privilege. Meaning, I felt for awhile like I "got" it and "they" didn't and I wanted so desperately to talk with other white folks who "got" it and not with these people.


This morning I did the first group of a Mindfulness Politics course. And halfway through, I sat there cross legged on the floor and wept. This is not who I want to be, hard hearted, angry, self-righteous. Race, white privilege, this core of injustice, these things have been on my front burner for most of my adult life. This is the work I want to do. Last night, I forgot HOW I want to do this work. I forgot that sometimes, when sitting in the midst of that conversation, being brave means having compassion.

I am so hungry for conversations about all of this, not just the talking analytical conversations or the mental masturbation as Vikki called it last night, but the scary practical conversations and strategies that help me think about how to parent and how to be as a white person.

This is something I am going to write about a lot more here - and on the antiracist white parent blog. I am also trying to drag the other adults and parents that I love into this conversation, asking them to do their own writing. And more than that, I'm going to use my daughter as a guinea pig. Meaning, I have never parented before. I haven't yet found any practical parenting books about raising white children and yes, I know there are books out there about taking your kids to multicultural events so they know that a diverse world exists, but I am talking about something very different from that. I am looking for help.

Susan Raffo

1 comment:

cloudscome said...

I feel so many of these same things, and am reading the same books. Happy day for me to find this blog!