Two of my children started school this week. Sassafras and Little Man go to a charter school and Monday morning - off they went.
The school they attend is 80+% caucasian. Sassafras' grade level is very diverse. Nearly 25% AA and about 6 of the 44 sixth graders also happen to be adopted. That is so great for her. Unfortunately, Little Man is the one and only AA child in his grade level, and I'm not aware of any other adopted classmates. For him, this is very difficult.
At dinner this week as we were discussing school he stated, "I don't like being black." A simple statement, but a very disturbing and deeply sad statement for him to make and for us to hear. He has struggled through so many deep feelings related to adoption, loss, being a part of a transracial family, knowing he's lagging behind classmates in his studies. All these have been attacks on his self-esteem.
Whenever your child makes a statement that reflects possible self-hatred you can't help but cringe. If you're experienced parents, as we are, your cringing is on the inside and your child has no idea how deeply sad the statement has made you. We probed asking why he feels that way. He repeated statements I've heard from him before, "Every time they talk about a black person in history everyone turns and looks at me - I don't like that." He would love to blend and that, is impossible where he is.
My responsibility as a white mother raising black children is to raise a child who is proud of his heritage racially and culturally. We thought we were doing a relatively good job. We have many people in our life from a variety of racial backgrounds, but we may need to take another look at how we are addressing raising a black young man in a predominately white area.
We recently took a vacation to Idaho to visit family. Our Idahoan family is a diverse family themselves, but Idaho in general is not. While traveling through Idaho, Wyoming, Utah etc. there were several times I felt very uncomfortable as we were the only family with any black faces. More than once I couldn't help but exclaim, "Where are all the black people?" One restaurant stop in particular I cut short because I just felt we weren't real welcome.
I was feeling a little bit superior as we rarely have had that feeling here at home - it has happened, but it is fairly rare. Transracial adoptions are also relatively common in our area. Yes, we often get stares, but there are more friendly curious ones rather than we don't want you here kind of stares. I'm so use to it I forget that it probably bothers my children. We can't go anywhere in public without someone - a sales clerk, the sample hander outers, fellow shoppers, etc. implying that we don't belong together.
So, I'm reflecting on ways I can help him become a proud young black man. He has come so far in so many ways and gaining confidence in himself is a process. A process that needs fine tuning on occasion and this is one of those occasions.