Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ignorance

When we first talked about bringing Pipo into our family, we talked about the possible ignorance we may face. Thankfully, there have been incredibly few instances over the last three years...but when it does come up, it is a terrible reminder to us that it is out there... it exists.

Today I had the kids at Fitz's big end of the year wrestling tournament. We go every year, so by this point, my kids know the building really well, and I am pretty comfortable to let them run loose there. So I was standing with another parent, watching a match when a woman walked up to me holding Emma's hand. She told me that Emma was alone on the first floor of the building and a group of boys were harassing her. I laughed a little and told her that they were probably her brothers. The woman was still upset, and told me they were 'threatening' Emma and telling her they would give her candy if she kissed someone. I asked Emma who, and she said Pipo, Charlie and Tommy. I told Emma to go get them, and again told the woman they were just her brothers, and I was sure they were just teasing her. The woman, looking very angry at this point, said "No... there was an African American boy there, and she looked scared!"

And there it goes... the bigger black boy with the smaller white girl. Obviously a little thug, obviously up to no good, obviously the poor little white girl was in danger from the black kid.

I told the woman a little more firmly this time... "Yes.. that is her brother," and I walked away. But I walked away fuming. If it had been Charlie or EJ teasing Emma, this would not have happened. But because it was Pipo, this woman assumed he was up to no good. The fact that she said Emma looked scared made me laugh... of course she was scared. A strange woman grabbed her by the hand and dragged her away!

I took all the kids aside and talked to them about teasing, but I also told them what this woman said. I have talked with all of the kids about this before. They need to know it's out there. They need to know that some people will see Pipo' skin color first. It makes me angry that a normal sibling moment turns into this, but it is part of our life. It is part of life that Pipo will always have to deal with, and moments like this are just part of the learning process for him.

The funny thing is that after it all, I was still fuming... I wanted to haul that mom outside and knock the ignorance out of her. (I know... very mature, but it's the mama bear thing I have going... don't threaten my cubs.) But Pipo was in a great mood afterwards. I couldn't understand at first, because it made me so mad. But then he said "Mom, you're really mad at that lady, huh?" and he smiled. And I knew then... he knows we've got his back. We've taught him that ignorance is out there, but we've taught him that we will do our best to stand up to it, to stand behind him.

16 comments:

blueliner16 said...

I like the new look -- like I'm standing in your front entryway!

Pipo kills me. Odd stuff will occasionally knock him off kilter, but the stuff that rolls right off his back...that bodes pretty well for his future.

JourneytoFamily said...

I can't imagine how infuriating that must have been. But I'm glad Pipo knows that you've got his back and he can count on your to stand up for him.

DotBlogger said...

I love this post.
I don't love ignorance, of course. And I don't love that this happened, but I love your protection and your discernment over the whole thing.
And they way you wrote it down.

We've really not had any trouble either in the 7 months that the girls have been home, but I suspect girls will stir up less discussion than boys!

:)

mayhem said...

My heart sank when I read your first paragraph. Ugh. You're just a few years ahead of me on parenting a black boy (mine are 5 and 4), and I know that the things Pipo and your family see are just around the corner for us. So thank you for sharing these experiences. I hope I'll be a better mom for having read about your experience!

Pipo's response is awesome. I remember my brother (now adult biracial AA, transracially adopted) saying that sometimes as a kid he needed to see not just a calm response but some fury on his behalf. Good reminder...

Jane (a.k.a. patjrsmom) said...

Really great post. I often worry about these types of situations especially as my children grow up.

Laurel said...

So sorry this happened today. My 13 y.o. African son still looks 10, but I know we will have more trouble as his size catches up with his age. (He's been home 1 year.)

Just today, a 75 y.o. white woman saw pictures of my 3 Ghanaian children and proudly said, "I like their skin. I have never had a problem with those people." She was so proud that she wasn't racist towards Africans, and then she told me that she is racist towards Hispanics. I was stunned ... absolutely stunned ... I had NOTHING to say.

Laurel :)

Life in Fitzville said...

Thanks for the support everyone.

Laurel, Pipo is 12, but not much bigger than your average 9-10 yr old. That's what makes it harder, if he gets this looking so young, what about when he is older?

ChezNiki said...

Im glad you supported your son(s) and your daughter through this outpouring of ignorance. I am a Black American woman raised by my natural parents who rarely stood up for me against another adult. You are doing it the right way. God bless you and your family.

mama bear said...

When we began our adoption process, I was talking with a group of adoptive moms one day. I meantioned that we are open to any nationality or race. One woman said, "You really need to think about this...black boys are really cute, but do you want to parent a black MAN when they get bigger?" Unbelievable. Is my caucasion son going to be easier to parent when he is grown than our Haitian son? Can't believe these women had adopted children as well.

Amy said...

I just want to apologize for ignorant people because apparently they are not smart enough to do it themselves. ;0) Unbelieveable. We have faced this too. Amy

Laurel said...

I am SHOCKED by Mama Bear's comment ... this was said by another adoptive mom?

Mama Bear lives in my area ... and I knew there was much racism here ... but I would have never guessed it could be found within a group of adoptive parents. So sad!

Laurel

dreamingBIGdreams said...

don't even know how i found your blog tonight, but i'm enjoying it.

we have four kids.

one bio.

one transracial domestic adoption

and two kids in Haiti waiting for our adoption to be final.

it is amazing what people will say. crazy stuff.

one time a guy was at our house and talking about how annoyed he was at all the black people on the bus.

after he left i was fuming and was thinking did he not see the pictures of all the familes that we love with black children around our house. did he not remember we have two kids in haiti - yeap they are black. oh and don't forget our youngest son, being half black doesn't make you any less black.

i like your handling of this. i often wonder how much to tell our boys and when to fill them in on real life.

:)jamie

Farmboy and Buttercup said...

Awesome! Your son knows you've got his back.

We have had a couple small incidents ourselves so far, and I need to prepare myself for more of them, as they can really catch you off guard, and not know how to respond (at least that is what I experienced).

Deborah said...

Hi! I came over from Laurel's blog. Your family is so beautiful.
I know that I have a lot to learn. We are waiting for our 5yo daughter and 4 yo son to come home from Ghana. I can't imagine the pain of a situation like this, and I pray that I will handle it like you did.

Becky said...

UGH! You handled it perfectly!
Becky

Kristen said...

I am so sorry this happened. I have had similar things happen but not that overt. My son is really affectionate and physical with his little sister and I often find people scolding him to "leave that little girl alone". I know that would not be happened if they looked alike.