Early on in our marriage, Anna and I decided we were one day going to adopt children. We were going to have a few biological children and then adopt a few. It sounded like a great plan and I probably meant it too. It turns out a lot of well-intentioned people like me say this and never end up adopting. If we are all being honest, it feels good to say and mean this but actually following through and adopting is harder and requires more effort than anyone could anticipate. And that probably would have been our story. It's likely that we would have had some of our own children and then called it a day.
It's been my experience that life has been harder and more challenging than I ever thought it would be. Anna and I did end up having a child. She was beautiful and perfect and we wanted more just like her.
Cancer had other ideas.
When our daughter was nearly 1 Anna was diagnosed with lymphoma and her nearly yearlong battle with it left her infertile. The fight took an emotional toll as well and there was a period after beating cancer where merely existing felt like a victory. Three years after remission Anna was tired of just existing and wanted to add to our family. Suddenly, our long ago wish to add to our family through adoption was looking more like a reality.
There is a story about how we came to this conclusion but I will condense it to one sentence: Anna and I, independent of each other, felt like God was making it clear to us that we should become foster parents. So we took the necessary classes, went through the interviews and on December 26, 2012 we received a call that a 3 year old girl would be coming to our home. She arrived that night and never left. The adoption was finalized on August 18, 2015. She's very bright, extremely extroverted and friendly, loves to sing and dance. She's athletic and naturally gifted at gymnastics. She is also bi-racial and Anna and I are white.
What's the big deal, right? We live in the Pacific Northwest which, for the most part, is a hotbed of progressive ideas. Not only have I never received one negative comment about our daughter but I don't recall ever hearing more than a few innocent passing references to her ethnicity. The fact is I don't believe I have ever had one conversation with anyone regarding the differences between her skin color and ours. That may sound surprising to people that live in different parts of the United States but, from my experiences, that seems fairly...normal.
I still live in the town where I grew up. It is a university town and one gets the sense that us locals are proud of its reputation as a community full of progressives and liberals. For better or for worse, it is a place where political correctness reigns. And, truthfully, I love it here. There is a reason I've never left - it's a wonderful town. But it is also a town in which I grew up rarely discussing race. For one thing, it was and still is a very white town (84% of the population is white, according to Wikipedia). For another thing, it wasn't "polite" conversation. In an effort to swing as far away from overtly racist ideas and talk we, instead, didn't really talk about race at all. The thought is that everyone is the same so why bring up our differences?
I didn't know the term at the time but I was "colorblind" and grew up in a town that seemed to value "colorblindness". So, when Anna and I found ourselves the parents of a bi-racial child it didn't even phase me at all. Sure, there were new things we encountered. We had to learn how to do her hair. We learned about ashy knees and the importance of lotion. But even then, I still didn't see myself as the father of a bi-racial girl. I was the father of a 3 year old girl that needed a stable home and that was it. And while there is some truth to that, I am beginning to see that was (again) well-intentioned but, ultimately, wishful thinking.
I started waking up over the last few years as our news feeds were being dominated by names like Trayvon, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, etc. I knew great injustices were being perpetrated but I had a hard time putting into words what was being stirred inside me. I was finally pushed over the edge this past year when I first listened to the racism episode of The Liturgists Podcast. Many of the ideas and experiences presented in this episode were new to me but, more than stirring me intellectually, they convicted me. For the first time, I was made fully aware of one of my blind spots - my lifelong colorblindness.
"It must be nice to not have to consider race / It must be nice to have time to contemplate the stars". That line from rapper Propaganda's song "Precious Puritans" speaks volumes to me now.
To even claim to be colorblind you have to come from a place of privilege. You have to be a stranger to racial injustice. I grew up a white face in a sea of white faces. Due to her skin color alone, my daughter is not going to have that experience and by raising her as colorblind parents we would be doing her a huge disservice. She is going to have negative racial experiences. She is going to experience injustice. Colorblindness rejects those experiences. She belongs to a rich cultural heritage. She is mostly likely a descendant of African slaves. Colorblindness denies that heritage. She will have a perspective that is different than mine and Anna's. Colorblindness discredits that perspective. Some days our daughter calls herself African-American, some days bi-racial. Colorblindness dismisses the labels she uses to describe herself.
Our hope is that Anna and I can be the parents she needs. That we can instill in her self-worth. That she can rise above the colorblind community we live in and can grow into an out-loud, strong, proud, African-American/bi-racial woman.
Our daughter deserves better than colorblind parents.
28 Days is a project about perspectives of people whose lives intertwine with the black struggle either personally or through others close to them. Along with their perspective they entrust us with what they hope for moving forward.
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