When my blog suddenly got over 500 hits yesterday, I knew something was up. It seems yesterdays post was linked on another blog, and started quite a debate.
While some people understood my anger at the ignorance I witnessed yesterday, many thought I was jumping to conclusions, and being overly sensitive.
I have learned in the past three years that it is a very thin line walk as a parent of a black child. You want to be there to protect them, and to prepare them for the racism they may encounter in life. But you also want to teach them tolerance, acceptance and trust. I certainly don't want Pipo to be expecting people to judge him... and yet I don't want to raise him to be naive either.
It's hard posting things on a blog... so much is left to the interpretation of the reader. There's no good way to convey tone, inflection or attitude. I am sure that the woman yesterday had no idea Emma and Pipo were siblings... I wouldn't expect her to know that. But the tone of her voice, the expression on her face said everything to me when she spoke of the "African American boy."
Even before Pipo arrived, I had seen much ignorance. Having a big family puts us out there, so to speak, and leaves us vulnerable to peoples public (and sometimes very vocal) opinions. But I've learned over the years to listen carefully when people speak... and not just to their words. Two strangers can say the exact same thing to me, and have totally different meanings. When finding out we have 7 kids, I often hear, "Are you going to have more?" Picture these words spoken by someone with open curiosity and a smile on their face. I love talking to people who are genuinely curious as to what its like to raise a crew. Now picture those words spoken with a sneer, and a look of disgust. It's very hard not to read in the implications there... I'm overpopulating the world, I am irresponsible, I am creating tax burdens on those with smaller families, I can't possibly have enough love or attention for that many, and am therefore neglectful.
When we are in public, and Pipo yells "Mom!" to me, I get lots of reactions. I am the first to say that the vast majority of the reactions are positive. But it's the same deal. It's not the words, but how they are said. "He's your son?" with a smile and a curious look can often lead to a cool conversation about adoption. "He's your son?" with a look of disgust makes me wonder what the person is thinking. I actually had one person say straight out to me "do they all have different fathers?"
But I also know this ignorance is the minority, at least from what I have experienced. And even many of the most ignorant comments are from well meaning people. People who have just not been around different types of families, different types of people. (Don't even get me started on the dreadlock comments I have gotten!) But just because it is rare, it doesn't mean I should teach my kids that it is out there. Pipo needs to know, he needs to be aware. By not teaching him this I would be doing him a huge disservice. And so I walk that fine line, and try to teach him to not just hear the words, but the way they are spoken.