Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dealing with Racism

My 5 year old daughter seemed a little down yesterday and when I asked what was bothering her she said, "Mom I think there are kids at school that don't like me because I'm Chinese". This is the first time she has ever expressed something like this so I asked if anyone had said something mean to her about being Chinese and she replied, "No, I just know".

After all the websites, blogs and books I have read about trans racial adoption, being a multi-racial family, and the racism that still exists today in America, I was still shocked by her comment. Everything I had read about how to talk to your child about this topic fled my mind and I struggled with what to say. I didn't want to mouth platitudes about being "color blind" or lie to her and say that no one would ever think such a thing about her. I ended up saying something along the lines of "That must make you feel sad when people don't like you because you look different than them. That's not okay for them to do that". But I know as time goes on that this will not be enough.

Since we brought N home we have worked very hard to celebrate our differences as well as our similarities as a family. We have tried to help our daughter to feel proud of who she is and where she came from. We have several children's books about adoption and Chinese stories and poems. She has many Asian dolls and she loves her "Dance and Learn Chinese with Mei Mei" DVD. But I still wonder if there is more I should be doing? In Boise there are more opportunities for Chinese dance and language classes but our resources are limited and the commute is an issue. I have begun to wonder if we made a mistake moving to rural Idaho? There are three other Chinese adoptees in N's school as well as a few children of Hispanic heritage, however, the vast majority of kids there are Caucasian. At times like these I feel my own "whiteness" very acutely and wonder whether I, as a member of the ethnic and racial majority in this country, can truly understand what my daughter may go through in her life being a member of a racial minority.

What are your thoughts dear readers? I know that some of my "regulars" here are adoptive parents and members of transracial families. Have you faced the issue of racism with your children? How did you deal with it? What steps have you taken to help your child to embrace their racial and ethnic heritage?

Thanks for your help.

Jen

4 comments:

Kramer Family said...

It don't have experience in that area, but it sounds like you are doing a terrific job raising Noelle to love herself. It seems like every child has something they have to try and overcome. Noelle's may be a little tougher, but no matter what you do as a parent...it will never seem like it is enough. You just have to do your best and pray that God is there to take up the slack!

recycling man said...

show me those little creeps....

Dad wants to bust some heads...

Keeping up with the Jones Family said...

I don't usually leave comments, but I feel the confusion you must both feel. Racism is real and it is prevalent. It shouldn't be, but that is life in a fallen world. I will say that since we put Bethany into a more international school we have noticed a considerable amount of peace over how she looks. She no longer expresses the self-deprecating remarks she once did. We didn't put her into this school for that particular reason, but the diversity has been a definite blessing for her.
I am glad you recognized not saying the typical comments parents immediately go to. In fact, you did a beautiful job of empathizing with your daughter as well as telling her that racism is wrong. I am also glad you recognize the reality of racism, which is something that so many adult adoptees have said they dealt with in their own lives. Sadly, most experienced racism not only with the typical white americans, but also among their own ethnicity. Bethany's teacher, a third generation Chinese American, experienced racism against her when she traveled to China because she wasn't Chinese enough. Adult adoptees share that the group they most fit into was other adult adoptees. I wish it weren't so but many people fear what they don't understand.

Aimee said...

have you ever read the blog:

http://littlecabininthebigwoods.typepad.com/

It's SO encouraging...she has adopted three beautiful girls from China and I love her perspective.

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