Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Two steps backward

I wonder what Martin Luther King, Jr would say about this AP article?

The title is, "Do Whites Need Training Before Parenting Black Children?"

Try to swallow that with an open mind, and then dig into some bigoted thought patterns revealed in the article. On first read, it sounds like a one-sided, uneducated, 20 year old, sad commentary by empathy-free people who believe they have the right to subjectively judge whether I'm "good enough" to parent a child that desperately needs a mom. Then, when I took a deep breath and went back through it, though I agree with education in general, I still oppose throwing out the "color blind" policy currently in place for US adoptions.

The word choice by adoption professionals saddens me. The idea of "race" instead of "culture" says that your color determines something deep about you.

It is like my friend saying "I have two REAL children and one ADOPTED child." I believe we choose to give up certain vocabulary to move forward. I don't tell my kids they aren't my REAL kids because they didn't come out of my body, and I don't tell them their race determines who they will become.

Their culture is a part of who they are. The color of their skin is part of the tapestry that makes up our world, but it does not define what they are inside. I'm sad to see adoption foundations use this language.

My guess is that MOST PEOPLE who don't mind having someone of another "race" in their immediate family have a smidgen of sensitivity to other cultures.

There are some good quotes in the article. Some truth, like this, "All children deserve to be raised in families that respect their cultural heritage." Yes. That is one of the enjoyable side benefits of adopting a child born in a different culture.

And, "child welfare agencies should strive to find permanent homes for black [i'd say ANY rather than black] children among their extended families before placing them in foster care." Duh. If social workers can't figure that out, then why do they think these same people can determine if I'll bring enough black culture into my daughter's life?

I'm sick of people spewing out of one side of their mouths that society needs to integrate - which I believe it is doing and has been doing and will continue to do - while at the SAME TIME setting up these scenarios where an enlightened few determine proper racial boundaries. Isn't that racism?

We need to look forward as a country. We are a melting pot of cultures and I think our kids are getting that concept, and they are seeing people as individuals who embrace the cutures they love. I respect my white friend Lee Ann, who embraces west African drumming and the culture around it. I accept that my friend Laura embraces some of India's yoga culture and has integrated it into her life. I respect the black woman who embraces hair straightening or Latin Catholicism. It's all integration. It's not necessary to divorce individual dignity from culture.

I think the main thing that burns me about this article is NOT that adoptive parents need training. All parents need training. It is that the article makes it a "black" thing. Adoptive training should - and from my experience does - include cultural awareness training on many levels, for all parents. Let's promote education across the board and get over the need to define people by groups.