They don’t teach this in pre-adoption parenting classes. (At least I don’t know any that do). If you know any that do, leave their contact information and details in the comments, please!
The article below spells it out very well, but it is an area of adoptive parenting that the adoption “industry” deserves a failing grade in. Consequently, we are sending many children of color, children of color who were raised by white parents, out into the world without adequate knowledge and preparation for how the world is going to look at them.
When my youngest two children came home from Haiti, they were two and three years old. While I can’t claim any credit for it genetically, they were two really adorable toddlers. They have grown up a lot in the last 16 years. There are many people who have had an impact on that growth and we are grateful for community that has helped us raise all 5 of our kids.
A strange thing happens as kids grow up. They don’t stay looking like the adorable toddlers they were. (Okay, actually, that would be kind of weird if they did). But instead they grow up and start looking like the kind of adults the world is afraid they will become – black ones.
Because black men who are very muscular are dangerous. Right?
Black men who drive alone in their car enjoying the summer night with the music up and the windows down are dangerous, Right?
Black men who ask too many questions when pulled over for going 31 mph in a 25 mph speed limit zone are angry and dangerous because they must be hiding something. Right?
Black teenagers who go the mall with their friends are thugs looking to steal something or get in a fight with someone. Right?
And that’s where the adoption agency and adoptive families and the churches fall short. We must do a better job.
We must do a better job before the adoption is finalized in teaching white parents that there will certain conversations and certain roles that this world forces parents of children of color to have. I can teach my son how to be an adult, a husband, a father, a banker but I can’t teach him how to be a black adult, a black husband, a black father…..
Because I don’t know. I don’t know how to be any of these. Because I haven’t been those and I never will.
And that is why, not for the sake of the parents but for the sake of the kids, start doing whatever you can to help children of color, especially male children of color (though what I’ve heard, there’s an equally hideous (if not more) tragedy that can happen to girls of color.)
Maybe the best way to help the kids of color who have white parents is to get the white parents together and scare them into reality? And then get things moving for their kids to show them some of the reality of the world we live in.
Just about a month ago, my son had a headlight go out on his car. He was going to fix it “tomorrow.” Apparently his girlfriend was waiting for him. I said, “you have a choice to make. Choice #1 be home before the sun goes down. Choice #2 let’s get busy and change that lightbulb as quickly as we can and then you can go.”
“Dad, I’ll do it tomorrow, it’s not that big of a deal.”
“Son, I love you too much to let you go out and drive after dark in a car with a headlight that says, “Hey Mr. Police Officer, here I am, come talk to me.” Is that what you really want to say? Do you really want to waive a sign asking the police to pull you over at 11:15 at night and you’re a teenage young black man and you’re all alone and you’ve got a head light out.
Don’t go there.
And Dads – it’s our responsibility, whether we are black, brown or white to make sure that not only our kids but also their friends and others know the reality of “Driving While Black.” I can’t do it. But I can sure talk about it and do my best to prevent it from happening.
Oh and while we’re at it, what’s up with hooded sweatshirts? We have a rule in our family, the only place you can wear the hood up on a hooded sweatshirt is outside when the weather is conducive to them. It’s 20 degrees out, that’s perfect hoodie weather. It’s 75 degrees out? Nope, not so much. Hood off.
If you walk into a public building – restaurant, gas station, school, friend’s house and you are stepping out of the weather, the hood comes off. Not eventually. 1 step inside the building.
Why? Because if you take your hood off, people can see your face. If you take your hood off, you don’t look nearly as much like a gang banger as the white people in the gas station might think you do with the hood pulled way down. When you take your hood off, it increases the chance that the people you are going to interact with will see you for who you are – a well behaved teenage young black man. If you keep the hood on, people are going to let their theories run all over the place and before you know it, you’ve got trouble and the manager is on the phone with the cops.
I’m not saying that keeping your hoodie off when you are inside and when the weather doesn’t call for one outside is going to solve the police brutality issues. I did grow up in the all white middle class suburbs, but I’ve learned a lot since I was a kid.
And I know that taking off your hoodie certainly won’t hurt.
P.S. If you know of people who work in this or could help or you want to or whatever about it, let me know – use the comment box on the right.