Tonight, I’m going to be facilitating a workshop on race and parenting to a group of foster to adoptive parents. My aim is to give them tools for parenting and while my core is about transracial parenting, these tools apply to all parenting.
Tool #3 in the toolkit is Standing Up For Our Children.
I’ve heard often from parents about the Thanksgiving table – heard so often it is almost a cliché – that uncle so and so or grandpa makes racist remarks and everyone cringes then they go home. For the transracial adoptive parents, it is more than a flinch because their child – from a different ethnic background – is exposed to these remarks and [everyone] is scarred by them.
I asked a group of workshop parents once if they would be willing to walk away from these relationships since they are damaging to their children. Everyone unanimously said NO. They said instead they roll their eyes, they limit exposure, but no, they are not going to break off from grandma or Uncle so and so simply because they make racist remarks.
I was thinking about this in earnest this morning as I read a New York Times article about the fourth season of Duck Dynasty starting back up. What’s interesting about this article is not Phil Robertson, but his son, Willie, who has adopted transracially not once but twice (he has a foster daughter from Thailand who I’m counting). Willie has spoken out publicly about how some of his church members have not been so loving and kind about his first transracial adoptee.
While the article’s author sort of shrugs off Phil’s public racist and sexist remarks as something that was not unexpected, much like the parents in my workshop have done, I wonder if maybe it’s time for this issue to not be about us anymore and what we CAN tolerate, but about our children and changing the world they inherit. Oprah Winfrey said we might have to just wait till all these old dinosaur racists finally die off, but in my world, their extinction is not coming fast enough.
If a child grows up with a parent who has zero tolerance of racism, the child grows up knowing that it is not okay to undervalue other human beings. Is this radical? Perhaps.
Tonight, I’ll be speaking to parents who are doing the hardest job in the world – parenting – because if you are trying to raise a child well, it is a challenge. However, these are no ordinary parents, these are parents who have taken in foster children and are going to now adopt them. They may be parents who have taken in children from a different background than their own and they will have to take their parenting up a few notches to do it well.
I won’t tell them they should be radical but I will tell them to think about it. Here’s a tool a parent can have when their racist relative makes a remark – they can tell their child after they have checked that relative that: “Sometimes it hurts when our family doesn’t realize that what they say makes you feel bad. Well, our work is not to change them, but rather to figure out how we are going to handle it.”
To the Robertson’s family, I applaud Willie’s family enlarging their life through transracial adoption and I pray that they are all given tools to deal with an ignorant patriarch.