Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Ostrich Impulse

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 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.


Jana said...

Great post, does adopting rescue us from caring about anything else? Does it give us an out for anything else altruistic? "Well you see, I adopted a baby from I already did a good deed for my lifetime". Scary! So if you gave birth to a biological child, does that mean it was nice enough of you to bring them into the world and now your duty is done? "Sorry sweetie, I birthed you, I'm not gonna be able to get you to school or teach you any skills so you might learn to live in this world" Yuck. BTW,your son is wonderful, we are hoping to travel next month to pick up our little guy.

coffeemom said...

Agreed. It is impossible to set down the race issue, it has changed your family permanently. You are now a multi-racial family and you will walk through the world with a different footprint. Period. And your son is just your son, but he will learn and need to learn race and all that word means and entails. It's so NOT a simple issue. It's very complex, with layers and layers. But the bottom layer is that Abe is your sweet boy. Ever. And yes, you ARE the lucky ones!

Christa Lou said...

You know, though, I subscribe to the same list and I often want to be removed, too. I could see that guy's point in that a lot of the dialogue that goes on in that list seems to be ugly towards one another and people hashing out their own problems and disagreements, not really about the best interests of the children and the process of adoption. Plus, I don't think stating that adoption is a rescue is necessarily treating that child like a charity case, any more than if my child was about to fall and get hurt and I could "rescue" her by saving her from falling-I would not think I was better than her or she was pathetic or anything, just that she was about to be in a very perilous place that it was my God-given job to get her out of because I love her and she is my child-that is the way I see adoption, too, and what Jesus did for us on the cross. Also, I don't think we do a lot of good to other brothers and sisters in the Lord to slam them for not having a multiracial-enough church or whatever b/c if there were a bunch of black people in the pictures, it still doesn't necessarily make it a place where Jesus is really lived and breathed, and that is what is the most important. I will say, though, that there IS a sad lack of "imperfect" people shown in our church brochures and websites, and ironically those are the very people Jesus came and hung out with. I am not trying to be disagreeable, but merely to point out that I didn't see his comments as an intent to say race is not an issue, but to say that sometimes this group gets very bite-y with each other and it is not encouraging a lot of times-and I agree with him on that. Please don't think I am being hateful, just trying to look at the other side of the issue and caution against dragging a brother down b/c of one email post that may have been read any number of ways by folks. Does that make sense? And Abe is so stinking adorable, btw!

mama becca said...

Oh my gosh Lori. This subject is so good to write about, and I think you did a great job breaking down what you'd read and how it has impacted you. It's interesting, because we feel up to our elbows in learning about this. We are "white" and don't see what non-white people see... that we have "white privilege" in the smallest of daily things that we would never even notice. Not being white WILL impact our son. We MUST realize this.
Zach went to a "dismantling racism" conference last night. He learned so much. We need to open our eyes... to not be offended, but simply to *see* what others experience, and be a part of changing our culture (and ourselves) to respect ALL people. It's not easy. To run away won't help, pastor Bubba. We should talk about this on the phone sometime...
love to you

Adoption Cubed said...

Hi. I have enjoyed reading your blog these past several months and wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this well-written (as always) post. I wish more people would allow themselves to be a "student" in a situation like this; or at least be a part of the discussion. Perhaps your words will challenge others to do so. Let us hope!

Lori said...

Christa: I agree that the tone of the yahoogroup can be tiresome. It's why I have only posted anything two or three times. I prefer to stay out of the fight. *However*, I do feel that this particular thread had a tone of respect about it from most every post I read. People seemed to be really listening and considering other's points as opposed to the common bashing that goes on. This was so refreshing to me, so I was confused by this pastor's request to be removed from the group. Considering the encouraging, respectful tone of this discussion, his request felt like an attempt to ignore a difficult subject.

As for my criticism of the youth pastor's church: I wouldn't have a criticism at all if they didn't themselves state that one of their core values was "diversity and unity." I have seen a lot of churches that say this is a core value, while they don't seem to be making many strides towards making different types of people feel welcome. If I were AA and checking out churches to attend, I doubt I'd be drawn in to this one based on their website.
(and I'm not at all questioning this church's spiritual fervor and sincerity).

Gretchen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gretchen said...

Wow. Very interesting stuff, Lori. I'm proud of you for bringing it up on your blog. Also- I enjoy slamming people, soooo.... ;-)

Actually, in my opinion, you weren't slamming anyone in this post. If you would have been then you might have been calling the man names. I can think of some right now (but that's not really loving and compassionate, is it?).

Anyway. I cringe, cringe, CRINGE when I hear people use the phrase "rescued orphans." It comes off sounding like we're some kind of hero for adopting a child from Ethiopia. Blech.

Also- don't advertise yourself (or your organization) as diverse if you don't exchange words and moments with people from different origins or backgrounds. We have so much to learn from each other- remaining stuck (my dad always said- "pictures speak a thousand words") in the "look! we're all the same here" mentality does nothing of the sort. Those folks are just stuck.

Besides, chacos are so way cooler than crocs. And scarves. Scarves are WAY rad.

Snarky. Snarky, snarky, snarky.

Anonymous said...

This is such a challenging issue, and one which all of you who have grown your families with children of a different race will inevitably face. My hope, and one of my passions is that by being open and allowing discussion to take place without judging one another that true reconciliation will occur. But really, your families and the people who are your friends and just cannot help but love your kids will be part of that process. There is a great book by Doug Schaupp called "Being White" which has helped me a lot to see things differently. Thanks for having a place to continue this dialogue.

Gretchen said...

Well said, anonymous. Truly. It's amazing how difficult it can be to not judge one another.

Makes me think of a topic for my blog....

kristine said...

Dear Lori,

I think I have only posted a few times to let you know that I was praying for you when you were in process of bringing Abe home. I do, none the less, enjoy your blog...your thoughts, and insights into adoption and other life issues! I, however, had to leave a comment in regards to your post about the youth pastor...whew, I read it and was also almost ashamed. As a Christian it was painful to read what I will label as ignorance. Thank you for expressing my thoughts so concisely.

I have a 5 year old beautiful gal from China and am waiting on a 7/22 court date for my nearly 8 month old daughter from Ethiopia...I am the one privileged to be their mom...I am the one who gets the delight of watching them grow and change. I did no rescuing or saving. In fact, although I will do my best to bring into our daily lives pieces of their cultures and country, I grieve the reality that they will be so far from their culture and place of birth...

Thank you again,

Kristine from Bellingham, WA

Mrs. C in NC said...

Lori, I agree with all your posts. This one is one of my favorites. I hate it when people act like we're saints (the "rescue" thing...). We're SO FLAWED, so human... just open to and excited about adoption!

I especially loved the recent lion video. I cried like a baby. I'm a big animal lover. (three dogs, vegetarian)

Confession: I'm 33 years old and a Gilmore Girls fan. I get so excited when your dear husband is in an episode. Yeah, I tape them on the ABC Family Channel. I'm a super dork.

Sarah C.
Raleigh, NC
Court Date 7/28 to bring home our first children ever!! ...our daughter Tsion (age 9) and our son Mihret (age 12)

Anonymous said...

I read your blog often but have only left a few posts. I just wanted to say thank you for this post! Your amazing with your words and wisdom and I appreciate your sharing.
Kim P
Beaverton, Oregon

Rusty Spell said...

You and he obviously haven't read Leviticus 27:34, which states, "Therefore do not wear shoes intended for the spa as you would wear walking shoes. It is an abomination."

los cazadores said...

I don't read the yahoo group yet, but I should tap in once in a while. (Blogs have become a major time suckage for me at work and I really have to reign myself in as it is! :) ) Without knowing more about this pastor, it saddens me extremely to think that he prefers to think of his child as a charity case over thinking of the needs of the child, social and emotional health re: race in particular.

Your opinion is very well stated, thanks for posting it.

I hate to quote Angelina Jolie, but as she does have some experience in the matter, I read she told a reporter of her children,"It's not about them being lucky to have me, it's about us all being lucky to have one another." [paraphrasing]


Dan, Misty & Ashar said...

Great post. Sorry a little late in getting to it. On being rescued...One of the things that runs around in my mind about our adoption is that God led us to it. We aren't doing it because we want to rescue, or even because we have a right to be parents. In truth, (at least in my mind) really isn't ours. We are given a gift (a child) for a time to raise and teach and pour into all of the truth and principles that they will need to be effective in their world. It's a gift to us, and a huge responsibility. It's noble, because it honors God, but there is no pride in that. It's not a right we have or a gift we give them. It's a gift and a responsibility that we are given. Just my two cents. Great post!Oh wait, I already said that;-)