When we are little, and cute, and quiet, and saved, our lives matter. Our black bodies are a fetish often to the point of abuse. There is so much jealously from the white counterparts. So many misconceptions, myths, and untruths are believed about the black body, that we cease to exist as humans and begin to be compared to a strong, violent, oppositional animal. Maybe a monkey.
Our bodies matter to a point. Our bodies are loved and worshiped until we speak up, speak our truths. Our bodies matter until we say NO MORE!
This is where we are today. Black and brown people are saying NO MORE. And white people are saying:
“can you please say that nicer”
“Please use a different tone.”
“We want to be on your side but we can’t when you are saying we are part of the problem.”
You ARE part of the problem.
Adoption is complex as it is and yet white adoptive mothers and fathers are still failing to see their part in modernized colonialism and oppression. Like slavery are names are often changed to make the captors feel better about themselves. Birth certificates are altered. Identities practically erased.
When you raise a child in complete racial isolation (the race that matches you only), and then you expect the adoptee to fit back into society, you are setting them up for massive failure.
You tend to forget that though YOU may not see the color of your adoptee’s skin, the rest of the world does and thus, will be treated as such. The white card disappears the minute they leave your front door. Believe it or not, even your relatives see them based on the color of their skin. And this does not mean they are “racist” this means if you don’t, then you are!
I grew up with two white parents, 2 white adoptive sisters and a couple other siblings who were lighter skinned and also darker than myself. It all started in Haiti and ended in a country where blatant racism was so present, leaving my front door was painful to say the least.
My adoptive parents didn’t see it. It didn’t effect them directly. They failed to comfort me when I came home from school telling them that so and so would not let me sit beside them because they said I was the color of poop.
“They are jealous” one would say.
“Just pray for them” the other would chime in.”
As if this was the first time I had heard these phrases. But how was that to help me deal with the everyday bullying, mocking and hate that was spewed in my direction? It didn’t. So I became bitter.
Though there were layers of different colors in my family, the people who I looked up to the most were white. So I would try to emulate them. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be….yep…you guessed it. White.
I didn’t see my white siblings going through what I did. So I prayed so hard that God would work his magic and I would wake up in a white body.
But I always woke up black and oftentimes in my own urine due to the built up anxiety I knew would follow the next day.
As I got older, I realized that one of the biggest issues with the way I approached this pain has more to do with not being able to relate to the black and brown people at my school or in my life. Yes, I was several shades darker, yes, the white kids didn’t want to hang out with me and this was super painful. But my biggest frustration was more focused on learning how to assimilate with my own people.
Due to the nature of my AP’s work, I learned to think I was superior to the other people of color in the area. They created an environment of dependency, not of self-sustenance. I can remember being around 17-19 years of age and I would pull up to one of the villages in one of the stick shift pickup trucks and hand out food, and toys, and medicine. I would tell my own people what to do, how to do it, when to do it and even where to do it. Then I would go to the house int he center of the village that was surrounded by some kind of gate to keep the white people “Safe” at night and watch my own people from the roof.
Empowering the people in the village was never the focus and nothing was ever really “free” when it came to the things we gave to them. There was always something we asked of them in return.
The family I grew up in was toxic and I never learned to properly assimilate with my own people. Their black bodies, looking EXACTLY like mine, didn’t matter. What mattered was whether they appreciated what we were “doing” for them.
When I moved the the US permanently, my mind made a huge shift. Though married to a wonderful white partner, I still struggled to understand and figure out where and how my black body fit into this new existence. I was not only trying to figure it out for myself, but I was doing my best to help our black daughter feel safe. Yes, I am her racial mirror, but being raised by white people can really change the way your mind works. Adoptees raised by white parents are often whitewashed.
The Black Lives Matter movement really hit me when we vacationed in Maine the first year I was there. I found myself getting upset that the shootings that were occurring in 2016ish were not being spoken about by my white counterparts. This enraged me as it should, but the deeper concept here is that I WAS NOT SPEAKING about it either.
Here I am, black and beautiful as the night sky, and not a peep came from me.
It was as if I was expecting them to do something, to feel something but I failed to realize that I was doing nothing about my own people, and I was feeling nothing except for anger….at the wrong target.
It is not the job of black and brown people to educate white people about racism. But it IS/WAS my job to at least educate myself. My APs didn’t do it, but not I’m an adult and I have the full responsibility to get in there and do it.
I had to choose to become more active in the Black Lives Matter movement for the sake of my body and the teenager we were raising. This should have been a natural inclination.
The more I explore where this anger stemmed from, the more I realized it was directly tied to my upbringing. I was furious they didn’t seem to care. It was unfathomable how you can adopt kids of color but not protect them when they are being racially profiled, bullied and so on. I was angry and I was spitting my anger out onto the wrong people.
I cried because I didn’t understand why they had to die and I found myself scared to leave the area. I was “technically” safe because I was surrounded by whiteness, but I didn’t feel safe in my own body due to the very fact that I was surrounded by whiteness.
I cried because I thought the people I was with didn’t care. I made an assumption about their character without actually pushing the button to see what would happen. I wanted THEM to instigate, but as we know, it is difficult for many white people to have conversations about race, especially if a person of color is present. Whether this was the case or not, that was not the point. The point was I allowed myself to be part of the problem.
How can Black Lives Matter if mine really didn’t after I was no longer a cute little baby that was “saved”? So why should I even care about black lives when I don’t even really understand my own?
When white people adopt black and brown children, they often commit a genocide. This is a hard pill to swallow (about as hard as the friggin prenatal pill I have to take each day). The genocide involves the killing of not just their blackness but their parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts and even the friends for each of these groups. An entire family line is dead and trying to revitalize this relationship is nearly impossible. Not only are you no longer legally part of them, but due to the legality, you can never sponsor them in court.
In the summer of 2016, I was contacted by my biological aunt; a beautiful woman who was my mother’s sister. Everything went well at first and then I began to see what adoption had really done to my family members. I once again became very upset. I could not relate to them, I didn’t understand their culture, and I found myself being pulled into several directions. The loss of 30+ years without my bloodline can’t be recovered in one day. And though I believe they knew that, they hoped all the loose strings could be tied and all would be fine.
I had to process so many feels. Adoptees should never have to meet their birth families for the first time. They should never be expected to just “fit” into them, or the family they are being raised in. They also should never be expected to be welcomed back.
Hollywood LOVES reunion stories but they rarely delve into the emotional impact adoptees experience pre-post and even during. The idea is to get many viewers and sadness keeps them at bay.
My aunt and my family’s black bodies mattered, but then I kept wondering why I was not raised with them…did my life not matter to them?
As complex as adoption is, we have to understand that the process and end result will always contain some form of loss and pain. Even in the most ideal situations, there is still loss.
I know that Black Lives Matter but I was taught to not see color. So essentially, when you don’t see color, it is assumed that everyone is white and everyone has the same privileges. But we don’t all have the same privileges because society has created separations that only really effects minority groups.
“Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” But what if you don’t have boots? Or even straps?
“I worked for everything I have.” But privilege is not about not working, it’s about being born favored.
“I didn’t choose to be born white.” No, you didn’t. But you are choosing to be an asshole about it.
“I don’t see color.” Here, wear these glasses.
“How can I be racist if I have adopted black kids?” You answered your own question.
“But I am married to a black man.” Tell him to talk to you about his REAL experiences.
The funny part about all of these conversations is that 98.9% of them are from white people and the rest is from people like me and other adoptees who were raised by…yes, you got it-white people. Or, people of color surround by an all white environment.
My partner, teen and I went to a protest when DT was elected president. I was invigorated by this protest but realized it did very little to further the movement. It did very little because it was co-oped by white people. It was supposed to be something organized by people of color and yet, it became about white body parts.
So how does Black Lives Matter currently affect me? My focus continues to be for our now 18 year old and what she will experience day to day. I am active in making sure she is heard at school, and at her her workplace. We are welcoming a baby boy who will be Black and Indian. The conversation about how to deal with the police will begin very early.
I find sadness though with my siblings who don’t publicly speak on Black Lives Matter issues. I am not sure why but it is hurtful. When Derek Chauvin was convicted and charged, one sister responded with approval and that made me realize she was listening. But I ask myself why I had to bring it up.
I will continue to bring things to my own attention and the attention of others as we can’t spread the movement if we don’t talk about it.
As a Black adoptee raised with white parents, my black life temporarily mattered. Speaking truth to my every day experience should have mattered. Understanding why I struggled to grasp what it meant to be black in a country that called me a monkey, disgrace and ugly, has taken time, energy, tears, and lots of sadness.
My life matters as a black woman. I’m learning to accept that. My brain is no longer bleached by white society but is continuing to be rinsed out with the pleasures of speaking up and out and with my people!