Transracial Parenting »

Raising the Young Gifted and Black

Saturday morning, I took Tin to a kid’s activity event at Ashé Cultural Center. As soon as we walked in, he started acting up. He didn’t want to paint the drumsticks and he did not like the activities and he wanted to know where all the kids were. I collected some markers meant for the drumsticks and asked him to help me. We found a seat at a long table that was covered with brown paper.

There were a few kids there, milling about, but not many. They ended up cloistered around one table together. When a mother walked in with her son, I beckoned them to join us and they were approaching when the mother saw her friend at the other table and joined the others instead. Tin pouted.

I stared at the door to see who else might come in and also to collect myself. Tin is at that age where he rapid fires questions at me from the time he wakes up till he goes to bed, and I thought we were coming to a stress-free zone, but instead, was having to deal with the demanding and annoying side of Tin.

“What are you looking at?” Tin asked as he poked his head in front of my line of vision.

“I’m meditating,” I said.

“Draw with me,” Tin said, and he pushed some markers my way.

And so I did. I began to write questions and answers on the table – “Is this all there is?” “Now you know.” “How did I get here?”

Tin wanted every marker I was using.

He created and colored an elaborate mosaic in orange and blue and brown, trimmed by gold and silver. Meanwhile, the drummers took the stage and began playing a nice Afro Cuban beat. I looked over and saw Tin had drawn an ankh in the middle of his large design. I just shook my head – an ankh – also known as breath of life, the key of the Nile. He saw me noticing it and pointed towards the stage behind him, which was bookended by giant copper ankhs.

Then he wrote TIN across the base of the ankh.

On the way out the door, we won the raffle and Tin got two giant drumsticks.

“This is the best day and best present I’ve ever had,” he said, as we walked out the door to Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.

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Sunday morning, Tin said matter of factly: “I wish you were Black. I wish I had Black parents. I wish I lived with a Black family.”

I was sitting in the living room on the sofa reading the New York Times. It was 7:30 am. I was also praying that Tin was sleeping late and I would get to have a Sunday moment. Tin is six and half years old, I have given up praying that the hard questions would wait till he gets older.

I told him: “I understand. I’m sorry.”

He ran to his room and slammed the door.

I went to my transracial support group online and threw out the exchange to get opinions from the other transracial families, adoptive parents, adoptees, and social workers that are on the site. They agreed that there is not much more to be said here but to instead just sit with the discomfort. Luckily, Tin speaks his mind. We are a transracial family, it is not ideal for anyone, but it is who we are.

About 15 minutes after the exit, he emerged from his room and came into the kitchen and hugged me around my legs. I picked him up, which is hard to do these days as he weighs 50 pounds, and put him on the counter. I said, “I know we do not match, and I love you. There are many families who do not match.” I pointed to the Obama magnet on our refrigerator. “President Obama’s mother was white.”

“No she wasn’t!” he said.

I reached for the iPad we have on loan and pulled up a photograph of President Obama’s white mother and African father. Then I pulled up the white grandparents and said, “His mother couldn’t raise him because she was too young. So he was raised by his white grandparents.”

We hugged again.

Then we went about our morning routine — a breakfast of scrambled eggs in warm tortillas with some cold watermelon slices, and Tin playing Legos while I did laundry, made the beds, and got us ready to go to a mom/kid brunch.

When we got in the truck and were on our way, Tin asked, “Is __ white?” asking about the child whose house we were visiting.

“I know his mother is Hispanic, but I’m not sure if his father was white or Black,” I said. “Does it matter?”

“I wish I wasn’t Black,” Tin said.

“Why would you wish that? Being Black means you descend from a long ancestry of kings and queens,” I told him.

“I don’t like kings or queens,” he said.

“Well, you have me there. But remember what we say – I’m Black, I’m Proud, Say it Loud, uh,” I said.

“I’m not saying that,” he said.

I pulled over and found the James Brown song and turned it way up on my phone, Say it Loud, I’m Black, I’m Proud, uh and sang along.

By the second stanza, Tin was singing along with me and James. By the end of the song, he asked me to play it again, and again, and again, and by the fourth playing, he was saying it loud, I’m Black, I’m Proud, uh.

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+ - 2 comments

August 28, 2015 - 6:23 pm

Rachel - Seta – so good to hear your voice and always thankful for your support. I’ve been sitting in on a lot of story telling circles lately and feel that the entire nation needs to sit in on a few to come to understand what all of what has been status quo means to all the rest of us. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. Lots of love to your family and you, R

August 28, 2015 - 6:09 pm

Seta Majkia - As I read your post, tears welled up in my eyes. Two events in my own children’s lives came up for me.
My daughter was about 5 years old and came home very upset. She had beautiful brown hair that I had to comb everyday since her mom and I were separated while she “found herself” (she’s still looking and I’m remarried!). She complained bitterly that she wished she had blonde hair. This conversation went on for days. Much of it stemmed from the fact that all the dolls my ex-wife’s relatives would buy her were white with blonde hair. I had tried to tell the family members she needed to have a range of dolls that included some that looked like her. Unfortunately, my warning went unheeded.
After my daughter became distraught, I sat her down and told her how beautiful her hair was and then advised family members that from that point forward, if they did not bring dolls that looked like her, they would be taken back to the store and returned for one that did.
They didn’t take me seriously and that Christmas, bought ALL WHITE DOLLS WITH BLONDE HAIR! I unfortunately had to use this as a teaching moment. I gathered all the dolls with my daughter and took them back to the store. I then asked her to find dolls that looked like her and I would buy them. I even went into Manhattan and bought one (since there were so few selections at that time) just to get her to see the beauty of who SHE was. Doing this helped her feel better about her hair and looks.

My youngest son had locks from very small. Unlike today when locks are commonplace, he was one of the few boys with them. It didn’t help that he has a cute face. So many people claimed he looked like a girl that finally at 4 he said he hated locks because it made him look like a girl. My wife and I took out pictures of East African men who had long locks they grew from birth. We showed him pictures of famous people with locks like Bob Marley. Once he saw those men with locks his attitude changed and he felt more secure.

The reason early childhood education is so important is that a child’s mind grows so rapidly from birth to 7. Tin is using reasoning skills. I know (as you do too) that he felt really bad for what he said. It is a testament to you, your understanding and your maturity as a human being that you were able to reason with him and wait for him to work it out.
I will say one thing I hope you make sure he understands (maybe reading this to him will help) is that you adopting him and raising him the way that you are is the most expressive way a mother can love her child. You have given him the gift of love. There is nothing greater than that.
My wife and I (current wife who I have been married happily to for 24 years!) have raised our youngest son to love all people no matter what their background and have love and pride for himself. He has friends of all races because as we have taught him, we are all family.
I long for the day that none of these things will continue to be an issue. What you are doing will mean that when Tin has children, he will teach them to love all people too. Keep your patience, it does get better. One look at our youngest son shows us that…

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