Tonight, we went to a meeting at B's school about changes that will be happening next school year. There was a fair amount of complex drama that happened last year about district lines and such. With no kids in the system at that point, we just listened from the sidelines; this year though, we are going to these meetings to educate ourselves about all the ins-and-outs. It's interesting.
At one point in the meeting, we were to join up in small groups to discuss the proposed changes and to clarify what our values are as a community. I ended up in a group with a four other parents, two of whom were African-American mothers. One of these women brought up the issue of diversity in schools, and how important it is for her kids to have some faces that look like theirs in the class.
I'm pretty sure at this point she didn't realize I was an adoptive mother of a black child, which I'm sort of glad about since I then got to hear her unfiltered opinions about white parents who adopt black children. She joked about how she and her friend sit on the soccer field and try to pick out which of the black children are either "mixed" or "adopted." She pointed her finger saying "Yep, look at that messy hair. Adopted. Mixed. Adopted, adopted, mixed." Then she started laughing.
She went on for a while about how these parents think that "love is enough" all while not preparing their kids for the "different reality" that their kids will grow up in, simply by having darker skin. She's exactly right. Turns out she's a therapist and that some black adult adoptees have come to her to talk about how they don't know where they fit in, how their white parents didn't expose them to black culture so they have no way to judge character. She said that these kids end up in wrong crowds sometimes because they don't have positive black role models who show them how to judge character and help them know their place in the world. She even said that some white parents don't listen when their kids tell them instances where they were discriminated against.
I also found it interesting that she makes sure when her children are placed in their classes each year that "if there is only one other black child in that grade, they better be in my child's class." I was also thrilled to hear that one of her children was taught by B's kindergarten teacher, and that she loved her. I mean, she gushed about how wonderful she is.
She does "curly hair parties" for moms like me who are just learning. She is a bright, shining light of a person.
I also got her card before I left for the night.
Well this is totally fascinating. Sounds like a really interesting woman! That's the kind of profile I wish we did in the Oregonian
I'm sure she is great, and is going to be a warm and good friend and resource to you, but I kind of wince at the idea of her and her buddy so glibly labeling children from the sidelines. Pointing out the failures and foibles of parents, yes. Pointing at children, no?
I HAVE TO KNOW about the moment you told her about your family make-up. How did that go? Was she a little embarrassed?
And I love that you are confident enough not to get defensive instead seeing her as the gift she may be for your family.
I agree with the three above comments. I had mixed feelings and wonder the outcome. Frankly, I wish I had somebody to help, but I have approached a few African Americans in our area (not many live here) to ask for their suggestions on hair products for my two Ethiopian sons. I have a closet full of products worth plenty of money from suggestions off the internet. I spent hours on the floor of the aisles reading to look for such-and-such oil, but not that stuff. I know hair is important, and I respect that...and I'm trying...but my kids might be the ones with the 'messy' hair. I'm not having a pity party - just stating the facts. Most of the ethnic hair I see on grown men is very short. Sure, we can do that, but do I still put a product on their scalps? And frankly, they think having a small 'Afro' is really cool. I try to swollow my pride and let them wear their hair that way never knowing if their hair looks just right. I'm a tactile learner...I need somebody to show me and watch me do it. Do the oils/lotions/whatever go on a wet head? I have read mixed information about when to comb the hair. So while I understand and appreciate what the women were saying, I can feel for that white adoptive mom who is trying her very best. Please, post what you do for Abe's hair. While I cannot tell if it looks dry or not, the style is what my boys want. I'd appreciate knowing the products you use and how/when you apply them/comb, etc. A barber said, "Hair grease!" I live in middle America...It is not in any of the Dollar Stores nor Dollar General (apparently it used to be) nor our Wal-mart. Online, there are many options. I could use some unjudging help in this area! Furthermore, I cringe at the judging b/c I try to throw others a bone. Our sons had such profound fungus on their entire heads that there were still traces of it after 6 months of both topical and oral treatments. Our Dr. said we could not put ANYTHING on their heads, and the medicine made them even dryer looking. So my vanity made me want to hide in our home, but my pride and joy were soaring so much that I wanted to have them with me everywhere...the store, at the park, etc.
I forgot to mention that when I asked for help of the three different African American women...one in a salon, their response to me was not positive nor helpful. One said I shouldn't have adopted an ethnic child, another rolled her eyes and the third told me to Google it.
I have been following your blog for some time now and have never commented but just feel the need to now. I am biracial...raised by my white mother and only knew the white side of my family. Who says love isnt enough? I say it is. I have many pictures from childhood that show my momma was not a expert at hair care...what she was and still is...the perfect mom for me. I think its great to expose your child to as much culture as you can and learn together, but the love you give will heal hearts, grow confidence and mold your child into a beautiful person who in turn will now how to love without color boundaries. You are doing a great job. I can feel the love for your children through your words...I know they fill it.
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