>The Race Card

>She did it.
My daughter, she played the race card.
I guess I knew it was coming.
And it’s not like we haven’t had all the usual discussions over the years, comparing skin tones, talking about history and social aspects of racism historically and now, current events etc…
So I was kinda hoping, in my heart of hearts, to get a “bie,” a pass, on this particular, barbed, targeted lob.
Oh foolish me.
Because this is part of, a huge part of, transracial adoption.
Some will argue that it shouldn’t be, that we should be ‘colorblind.’
To which I say, “Baloney.”
You can’t be colorblind if you have a multiracial family.
You shouldn’t be colorblind any way; but you sure better not be if you are raising a family of many hues.
Because if you are a white mom and are raising kids who have skin color that is different: brown, nutmeg, mahogany, ebony, dark, light, pink….whatever…..then you have to deal.

It’s easy to deal with when they are little and adorable and just so darn cute.
But, what’s so easy to ignore is the looming fact that kids grow up, into the people they are meant to be, and if you have a brown skinned baby, that person is going to be a brown skinned teen and adult.
As they should and will.  
And then you are going to, not might, not could, but you WILL get to deal with a teen that looks different than you.
Overstated, you think?
Think again.
It might seem like nothing, when that teen is still a baby or toddler and looks different than  you.
It might thrillingly radical or like you are making a stand for something, that we are all God’s children and such.  Well, yah…….
And might not seem like a big deal since you loooong ago, as a wee one, knit this now teen into your heart and soul and very fiber of your being and she’s just your kid who has a messy room and hates math but makes you laugh with the way she shuffles in to say goodnight.
But this teen is gonna be a teen with teen attitudes and fussing and pushing boundaries and all the usual teen standard issue, expected, and even on some levels necessary, drama.
But this teen, she’s got a little extra ammunition.
And if you don’t know it yet, you will soon enough…but teens, they like to stockpile what they can -ammunition – to lob at you when they are irritated or angry or feel like they are being unjustly asked to do, oh, anything.  Like dishes or homework or chores or ________ (insert request here).

Our kids are savvy.
By which I mean, kids these days, are very savvy and tuned in to the culture at large.
I swear they have a usb port somewhere on their person that is a direct connection to the http://www.worldOteendom……that feeds them a constant stream of teen and/or early adult content somehow.
This is to say that, no matter how limited and guarded you think you are about keeping your kids sheltered from the pervasive cultural attitudes that float about, from the net, from tv maybe, from MTV, whatever….some of it does drift in, more than you realize.

This teen, she’s actually a PREteen.
But she knows enough to know she could play the race card, she could give it a try if she’s angry.
So she did.
I asked her to fold her laundry.
I know!
Horrible.
She was so angry that she stomped and shouted at me, “Just because I am black doesn’t make me your slave.”
What?” I said.
You heard me,” she said, arms crossed glaring.
Nice try,” I said. And I should’a then just probably repeated, “So, fold your laundry please now,” and walked away.
But I”m not that good.
So, I said, instead, “Come with me.
And we went to talk to the cool headed Dad, who never really gets his buttons pushed by the girls (the boys did that, not so much the girls…you can see the fun we have ahead with four teen girls at home now, but I digress).  



I made her repeat her declaration; mumbled this time.
He gazed at her and said, “Nice try.”
Then he said, calmly and well, “You are our daughter. Ever. Period. You are the daughter I walked the floors with when you were swaddled.   You are the daughter we have kissed and fed and tickled and hauled to sports and schools and kissed your booboos and wiped your tears.  You are the daughter who is part of the team of this family and who has responsibilities because you are old enough to have them, along with the privileges that go along with that too.  You have brown skin and I have white skin and God gave you to us as our daughter, and us to you as parents.”
Now, please go fold your laundry.”

And so she did.
The race card.
Prepare for it.
It’s gonna happen.
This won’t be the last time, I’m quite sure.
Maybe it shouldn’t even be, maybe I shouldn’t wish for it to be the last time.
I write this post not to show that we did any good job with this fired lob.
I’m sure we could’a should’a handled it better and/or differently.
I write this post because so many families now have adopted transracially, and so many of those families still have only smalls.
It’s easy to forget or dismiss the reality that you are charged with raising every child to adulthood, not just into kindergarden and we are charged with teaching them how to navigate this world as a person of color.
And it’s not a nothing.
The world is not colorblind.
Not only should we as parents not be so, but we need to remember, always, that our kids are not either.

17 thoughts on “>The Race Card

  1. >And it could just as easily have been, "Just because I'm a kid does not make me your slave," or, "Just because I'm a girl does not mean I have to do all the stupid housework around here." Hooray, teen years, eh? They're still young enough for tantrums (and the world is expanding as fast and as frighteningly as it did when they were toddlers), but this time they're big enough to hurl explosives … and to aim.

  2. >Stephanie. You're right. And often enough it is one if those other versions. But this was the first calculated use of this one – loaded aimed and fired to see how it played. They are growing up fast these kids and the issues only get more complex. Thanks for commenting!

  3. >thanks for sharing this. you both are so wise in how you handled the situation. i'm tucking this way in a safe place in my mind to remember in the future but hopefully in the distant future! ;)Meggan

  4. >Another excellent post; thank you for sharing! Should be required reading for transracially adopting families! Because when we adopt littles, and we are navigating the world of a 3 year old who loves to (loudly) point out which people "match" her in line at the grocery, or the world of the 7 year old who is trying to figure out how to respond to the question "why doesn't your sister look like you?"… we need to remember that it will probably get much more difficult before it gets easier. And this is ALL preparation for the teen years! And it's no reflection on our parenting abilities or how well we have loved our children. It's just part of this painful growing time. It's normal. We should expect it. And we should be prepared.

  5. >Great read. And love the way you both handled it. (Is it horrible that part of me though her comment was even a wee bit funny?) This is an important reminder and I hope I'll remember this down the road!

  6. >zoe, it was a wee bit funny, and looking back we can laugh a bit at the drama of it. But she was dead serious when she threw that one. So, we had to address it as such then. And to Anonymous, SURE I get angry often enough… This one didn't' make me angry tho, it was a new tactic so it didn't push my buttons as instantly as some of hers (and others) can. Parenting can be such fun at times…..(said w/ tongue in cheek)

  7. >So great! I, too, feel like I'm holding onto your shirt tales a bit, so thank you! We actually got the race card pulled on us this weekend by our almost 5 year old son. After 3 times discovering potty all over the toilet seat and wall and floor (in a 12 hour period) after never having this problem, we decided it was time for him to sit to go. His response, "Well we did this in Ethiopia." Ours…"We don't do this in our home or in our family and you are able to hit the toilet, so come help me clean and this is how you will do it from now on." His new response, "But I'm a little black boy!" I actually did laugh out loud (probably not a good idea, I know) and I grabbed him in a bear hug and tickled him and smothered him with kisses and all sorts of comments about his skin color while he laughed hysterically. I'm sure someday it won't be so funny, but that one sure was.

  8. >Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. And preparing us for the road ahead. You and coffeedoc handled this beautifully. I can't thank you enough for writing about this!

  9. >Oh wow! I will not complain about profuse poopy diapers, I will not complain about profuse poopy diapers, I will not complain about profuse poopy diapers.Thanks for this post! And it seems to me like you handled it wonderfully.

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