While I rarely ever post to the yahoogroups on Ethiopian adoption that I subscribe to, I do read the discussions from time to time if it's something that seems interesting and helpful. This week, there has been a fascinating discussion going on about racism...so many articulate viewpoints being expressed that encourage people to consider things they may not have thought about before.
It seems that it can be easy to gloss over issues of race when it has become a non-issue in the day-to-day harmony in our families. The problem with this is that our children will experience racism at some point in their lives, and it's up to us to prepare them for that. Burying our heads in the sand isn't an option.
I was disheartened to read one very short post in this discussion written by a youth pastor who was asking to be removed from the group. He expressed frustration with the topic and seemed to feel that the discussion was going on too long, that it was being dissected to death. I can't find the original post, but I do remember his writing something about hoping that it would be enough that he'd "rescued an orphan." I cringed.
He left a link to the church he works for. While it brandishes claims on its website of valuing diversity, I didn't notice a single non-white face in any picture (and there were a lot of pictures). Even among the white crowd, everyone looked pretty much the same: no punk rockers, no "down and outers," no grunge youth. Everyone looked very clean and tidy, with tucked in shirts, baseball caps, cute ponytails on the girls and tasteful highlights on the women. The website even lets all those tidy folks know that it's okay to wear crocs sometimes. Well, that's good to know. For a minute there, I thought maybe they discriminated against footwear.
Someone on the group wrote this youth pastor a tactful and gracious response, pointing him towards a study that was done about referring to our adopted children as "rescued orphans" and encouraging him not to leave the group. So far, he hasn't responded. I hope he does.
All of this made me feel angry and snarky (hence the sarcasm) but then sad.
When this guy was challenged to think about race, he ran away. The child that he adopts is going to be brought out of all that is familiar to her and into a world that not only is completely foreign but also that treats her as a charity case, not just someone's daughter. What a lucky girl.
"Oh look, there's that sweet brown girl the youth pastor rescued."
She's going to be seen as a specimen of this man's altruism, not as a unique human being who, yes, may have been brought out of difficult circumstances, but who needs now to feel that she's part of a family who loves her as she is.
I'm by no means an expert on race. I still have so much to learn, and I hope that I listen to the voices of those who know more than I do and especially to those who have experienced first-hand the awfulness of racism. What I do know now is that when I look at this newest member of our family, I don't see him as a child we rescued. He's just our son, and if anyone should ever feel lucky during the next 18 years, it's us since we're the ones who get to raise and nurture this amazing, beautiful boy.
Bubba Youth Pastor needs to get a clue.