|The Romney's Christmas card 2013|
The short version is that MSNBC host, Melissa Harris-Perry, held up the Romney's Christmas card, pointed out the adopted African-American baby on Mitt's lap (his grandson) and asked her panelists to come up with captions.
Let's just stop right there. Here's a white family with an adopted black child, let's come up with some captions? This would be wrong at a dinner party but as discussion for a panel on national television? Seems like a bad idea to me.
Panelist Pia Glenn began singing the Sesame Street classic "One of these things is not like the others." Anyone one who has ever had, or been, a Sesame Street loving kid, knows the next line to that song, "one of these things just doesn't belong." Ouch.
Adopted kids, especially in transracial adoptions, get enough of that kind of message. The bus, the playground, sitting in a restaurant with their parents, but on a news program? Educated adults decided that the Romney's Christmas card, because of a black grandchild, was okay to pull out and make jokes about. Melissa Harris-Perry, went on to say that the baby is beautiful and made a dumb joke that he would someday marry Kanye West's daughter. But that joke was just lame and the damage was already done.
Apologies were made after outrage was expressed my many viewers.
As my boys (12 and 9 adopted from Ethiopia) have gotten older, I have blogged less and less because their stories are more private now, their issues are deeper and harder. It is no easy thing being adopted. It gets harder as you get older. That was true for me, and it is even more true for them, as they deal with racial issues that I never had to. They have heard some truly rotten things from their peers ("your skin looks like poop" is an example). They are more aware of people who blatantly stare at our family (thinking up funny captions perhaps?). Recently, Mikias and I were walking together and a man looked at us a couple of beats longer than normal. Mikias leaned into me and quietly joked, "Yes sir, she's a white mom with a black son." I am thankful for his sense of humor but that episode let me know that he is hyper-aware of how people react to him and to us as a family.
These things are part of life for kids who aren't the same race as their parents. We can't stop it or shield them from it. But we will not make excuses for it. We won't say, 'He is only looking at you because you are so handsome'. Or 'She was only making a joke, she didn't mean anything by it.' We won't try to make them feel good about what they feel bad about. We will let them tell us how to help. Sometimes it's calling someone's mom to share about a conversation on the bus, sometimes it's just being there and listening. But always, it's just being a family, even if someone is trying to think up a 'funny' caption for you.