Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just because we can!

I have been thinking about this for a while now and have not known how to begin. So I guess I'll just begin. I hope it doesn't turn in to a rant. As you all know, Alyssa is bi-racial. Her bio dad was black and her bio mom is white. We adopted Alyssa knowing this - don't care, she is our daughter. What I don't understand is this. Why do we have to emphasize the fact that she is black. I have had some people lately telling me/asking me that I should teach her about her African heritage. I have had heritage camps suggested to me as well as celebrating Kwanzaa. I have really done a lot of soul searching and keep coming back to WHY??? Alyssa was born in this country! Right here in Wisconsin actually! Whey do we want to stress the fact that she is black? She knows that she is black. BUT and this is the most important point to me, she is part of our family! Do we want to stress the differences? Do we want to force her to celebrate holidays that she has never heard of or listen to African music, etc. just because she is black? Again, I say WHY??? We have talked to Alyssa about this. In her eyes, she is American just like everyone else. Yes her skin is darker than ours, but does that make her different? When we asked her what she thought of going to a heritage camp, she said, "Why, can't we go to a camp that has kids that are adopted?"

In her eyes, the color of her skin doesn't make her different. In her eyes, being adopted makes her different. Does that make sense? I don't want to become one of those fanatical adopted Moms that force her children to participate in "Heritage Awareness Days". It would be completely different if Alyssa would have been adopted from another country. Then I understand it. But just because she is black - NOT, it's just a color!

OK, I'm glad I got that off my chest.

We are going up north this weekend! Jeff and I talked last night and realized that we have gotten so caught up in the day to day stress of dealing with RAD and all that entails, that we have almost forgotten to stop and have fun as a family! So many activities get tied to behavior. IF you have good behavior, IF you get your chores done, IF, IF, IF! So, come Hell or high water, we are going to go up north this weekend and enjoy the fall color. We are going to the Pumpkin Patch Festival, the corn maze, and whatever else we feel like! We told Alyssa that she can invite a friend along, no strings attached! We are going to have fun this weekend, not because Alyssa has been doing good, not because we have accomplished goals, we are going to have fun this weekend just because we are a family and we can!


Dinah said...

Oh HUGS!!! I know what you are saying!

I think cultural, racial awareness is very important. I know as Little B grows society will not see him for him, but rather they will see a black man. And as a black man, with emotional issues, we need to get control now or he will have a very tough life! So I do get that racial awareness thing.

I can remember the first day we brought him home, I totally panicked because I had no idea how to raise a 'Black' child. Well, my fears waned when I realized that race was only a very small part of what we were facing. How can we even start to address racial issues until we get attachment dealt with. KWIM?

Little B's mom is bi-racial (black dad, white mom) and we don't knwo B's father, but we're assuming he's black.

As far as Kwanza, from everything I've researched, that's a holiday made up in the 60's to celebrate the AA heritage and from what I understand it invokes spirits worship?!?! So that's not Christian so not something we'd celebrate. However, I have no problem with talking about it to him (as I'm sure you are all for also) and educating Little B about AA heritage.

Just do the best we can is how we do things, right? Try to do right by our chidlren. We've been able to find some great AA role models for LIttle B that do go to our church and also have kids Little B's age! That's been a huge blessing.

But we really try to focus on Likeness also. His eyes just light up when I say things like, "You have long arms just like daddy... we can't ever find shirts to fit you two." Of course we also talk about skin color. But we try to find common things too.

We can live and learn this one together!! :)

atlasien said...

I don't think celebrating Kwanzaa or going to Heritage Camp are two things that are important. As for African music... Alyssa is African-American, not African. I do believe it is crucial for children of color to have role models like them and a connection to their ethnic heritage.

Children of color, whether adopted or not, are often given messages that they are different and lower than white children. They get these from the media and also from their peers. As a result they can grow up with a lot of self-esteem problems.

Please think about embracing her color, not saying it's "just a color". It's always going to a massive part of her identity.

Also, saying
"she is American just like everyone else" strongly implies that you think celebrating ethnic heritage is un-American. That's a very unhealthy message.

It's a very common thing for transracial adoptees who were raised exclusively around white people to grow up afraid of other people who share their race. They feel like they have to try so hard to fit in with white people and not appear different. I'm not saying this happens to everyone, but I have read it again, again, and again and I can really empathize with it. It's a sad thing to be afraid of people who look like you, and to feel like an impostor.

I am not adopted, but I had a lot of racial identity problems growing up, including racist abuse. I was not able to share it with my parents, so I had to go it alone. Please don't let that happen to Alyssa, especially as she starts into the turbulent period of adolescence.

There are many things you can do, including reading about the issues facing African-American women and connecting her with role models.

Dinah said...

altasien said, "Please think about embracing her color, not saying it's "just a color". It's always going to a massive part of her identity."

And I just want to say I agree 100% with that. I understand what alyssa's mom is saying also. But I agree that her racial identity will be more and more identifying to her as she grows and as parents, we need to make that a positive thing.

Just be open to talking about it with her! I think it must be very difficult for these kiddos who are adopted transraially to feel so different because of not only adoption, but also race. On the other hand, I like the difference also because there is no way on this earth that we could "hide" little B's adoption from him (nor would we want to) and it has opened us to talking about his bio family and culture and race in general. Little B knows he's "Afercan American" (He's 4, okay, lol). Giving him the right words is important, I believe.

Sorry to go on and on...but this is a big deal to us families who want to do the right thing by our kiddos! :) Society puts so much pressure on cultural awareness that sometimes they forget that there are other issues to be dealt with, so I understand your thoughts!

Dinah said...

ok, lol, enough comments, dinah!

Just wanted to say have a fun weekend up north!

Lisa said...

I have no experience with this so I'll keep my big mouth shut. For once.
I will say that I KNOW you're a really AWESOME mom and you will make the best decisions.

ryasmommy said...

I could not agree with you more and I commend you on your opinion on the topic. I am Asian and my honey is black and we have a beautiful 2 year old daughter. Its silly to force rituals, ideas and holidays on anybody when it probably will not change who they are. That is your child and that's that. Its not like everybody black celebrates kwanzaa. We do not. Keep up the great parenting and continue to live life like you want to. FYI I have straight hair and struggled with her curly hair for the longest. I just posted on my blog about her hair and what I use if you are interested.

Torina said...

I can relate to this on several levels. First, I identify as white but am also Menominee Indian. Because of racism, my family hid our heritage because we COULD. As a result, I found out as a teenager more about my history. I still feel like an imposter but I really WANT to be connected to not just my Scandinavian history but my Native American as well.

My boys are both mixed ethnicity as well. Toby is African American/Ojibwe/Sac and Fox Nation. Gabrio is Mexican/Ojibwe. We are all learning together about our heritages. We go to Pow Wow's, art exhibits, and culturally appropriate celebrations like Dia de La Muertos and Black History Appreciation day, Native Feasts, and I read the boys and Tara stories that are about all of our various cultures.

When Toby came to us, he said, "I wish I was white." He was only 5 years old and knew that he was different. Now, he is proud of the fact that his skin is darker and he looks up to his black role models.

It is definitely a balancing act, but we try to incorporate all of our various cultures as something wonderful to appreciate and learn about. I agree in that it isn't something that we focus on and need to point out constantly. I like to say that if all families and people looked the same, the world would be a very boring place.

Thandi said...

I'm South African and have to be honest. Kwanzaa (which isn't even celebrated in ALL countries of Africa!!), African dancing etc aren't that big a deal over here!And anyway, as already mentioned, they're pagan fesitvals so even elss reason to do them.I once commented on someone else's site that I personally believe that blacks make too MUCH of a fuss about being black.I've never heard of White Heritage day. Black History MOnth or whatever is celebrated over there.Our democracy is only 15 years old but we haven't gone crazy about our past.We're more into moving on with the future-and we're the MAJORITY race! If she wants to know stuff, THEN I'd talk about it etc. I know I'm late, but I had to comment.