Monday, March 1, 2010
The first morning after we got our new dog, a black lab, I heard Mikias talking to the dog,
"Addis, say good morning to Mom, I know she's a white girl but she's our mom and now she's your mom too!"
As if the only thing that would make the dog think I wasn't his mom was my color. Species? Not so important.
Race comes up pretty frequently at our house. When Jemberu describes a friend to me it might go something like, "Well, he has skin like you, and he wears that blue shirt with the dinosaur? You know who I mean?" He always starts with race even though the population at their school is 94% white. He recently got a new classmate and he began Cindy's description with "She's like me." I knew he was talking about race. It is the first thing he notices, that's normal. Which is why I find it so strange when someone tells me that they don't see color.
A while back, I was having a conversation with a mom in the supermarket. She was asking me about my boys and adoption. Race came up and I told her that our town was mostly white and that in some ways it is hard for the boys. She looked at me in a surprised way and told me that she didn't think that was a big deal, in fact, she didn't see color at all. I told her that I notice color but even more so since becoming a transracial family. I suggested that she didn't think about it because she is a white woman with a white family. No, she insisted, she truly just doesn't see it.
A few weeks ago, I walked into Chili's to meet Kurt and the boys for dinner. I said to the hostess that I was meeting my husband and sons. She looked at me blankly, I said "handsome white guy, with two beautiful black boys". "Right this way!" she said with a smile What if the supermarket mom was the hostess, would she have politely informed me that she didn't see color and ask me to describe them differently?
When my boys play sports, I am sometimes asked which child is mine. When I was new at being the mother of black children, I was hesitant to point them out by race, so I would say something like "number 5 belongs to me". I would watch as the person looked and spotted my son, I would then see the look of confusion before being asked to repeat the number. I now save both of us that awkwardness and say something like "that good looking black boy wearing number 5".
I was on a flight alone this past August after getting Devyn settled into her college apartment. I was sitting next to a black woman who told me that she had just done the same thing with her son. We talked for a while and she told me that her son goes to Morehouse College. I told her how impressed I was, that Morehouse had a great reputation and I told her that I hoped my sons would consider it when they got older. She looked at me carefully and said "Sweetie, you know Morehouse is a college for black men, right?" I laughed and told her that I should have mentioned that my sons were Ethiopian. We talked further and I asked her what she thought of people who said that they don't see color. It was her turn to laugh, she told me that only a white person would ever say anything so ridiculous. She suggested that the next time someone says that to me that I should recommend a visit to the eye doctor. I think I will do just that.