Almost one year ago, I wrote a post about moving outside my bubble and educating myself about racial justice. This was directly motivated by stories like that of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, but it’s also motivated by my own kids, the ones who count on me to be able to guide them to adulthood. Recently, I realized that I am woefully unprepared to address the emotional needs of my adolescent transracially adopted kids. So, it was time to find a place to listen and learn.
Tonight, I began what will amount to 24 hours of racial justice training. Yes, TWENTY FOUR hours spread over six weeks. I am a mom of ten. Do you realize what kind of commitment that is for me? It’s crazy to take this on. I don’t have time for this. Do you realize what this will mean for my kids if I don’t do it? I can’t imagine living in a world where your parents don’t look like you and have not one inkling of how the rest of the world sees you. This training won’t make me able to empathize, because I will never walk in their shoes, but it will make me a better listener when they try to tell me what they’re experiencing.
Tonight I spent four hours listening to people share their life experiences surrounding their multi-cultural heritage. People listened to me too as I spoke, sometimes in frustration, about the joy of parenting my kids, and what I have witnessed my kids live through. I shared my personal stories of the world viewing my children a certain way, treating them a certain way, then seeing me, their white mom, and completely changing their attitudes. We did exercises, discussed research, and we shared. I’m not inherently a sharer. I don’t like it. I don’t like discussing. I like writing. I like sitting here, behind my screen, and telling you about my life. I don’t want to actually have to talk to anyone about it.
But, I did. Because, I look like this, but have a daughter, and a few more daughters, and some sons, who looks a whole lot different than me.
And if I don’t share, and learn, life will be a whole lot harder.
At one point in this workshop we had to do an exercise where we named a stereotype associated with a group we identify with that is NOT consistent with who we are. So, basically, we had to fill in the blanks.
I am (a/an)_____ but I am NOT (a/an)______
We were all sitting in a giant circle, and as we went around the room sharing, I had to choke back tears as I listened to people pour their hearts out.
I am a lesbian but I am not a man-hater.
I am a white heterosexual male but I am not a homophobe.
I am an African-American father but I am not absent.
The assumptions we make about each other, the little boxes we try to fit each other into, they break my heart. I know that some people never take the time to pause and think…”Yes, this person IS this, but that does NOT mean they are necessarily that.” I know some people make assumptions. I know what this leads to. This workshop is about learning to recognize, within myself, what assumptions I make, so that I can do a better job as a mom, and as a human being. Now though, I wonder…
What do you think of me when you see me?
I am an adoptive mom but I am not anyone’s savior.
I am a woman but I am not less than any man.
I am thin but I am not Anorexic.
I am blonde but I’m not dumb.
I am white but I’m not unaware of my privilege.
–FullPlateMom, who wants you to think about what you are, and what you’re not.