Listen, guys, I’ve got a fly on the wall moment I need to share.
I’ve tried tamping it down, even told a few friends in the hopes that it would stop nibbling around the edges of my blogging brain, but it just will not go away. So here we are. Putting it out there. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
(I fully acknowledge that sharing this might make me look like a total B, and I’ll take that rap if you feel so inclined. But I had a FOR REAL what the hell?! moment that simply won’t sit.)
One of the workshops we attended at that adoption conference was for transracial families. It had a biracial presenter who’d been adopted into a white family as a child, a perspective that I thought would be insightful. Which it was.
Fast forward through the presentation, though, and we reached the open discussion part of the session. That was really interesting because the presenter opened the floor to questions – any and all questions – which was where the rubber met the road, so to speak.
It might be helpful for you to have a visual of the room’s audience. There were a handful of adoptive couples like us, some parents who were fostering children, and a large number of child advocacy professionals (such as social workers). Interestingly, the presenter was the only adoptee present. Racially, there were forty to fifty people in the room, the majority of whom were black. There were maybe six white people and an Asian woman present.
At any rate, this was when Sweet Young Thang (SYT) first came to my attention. (And I mean that in the most endearing way possible.) She was a perfectly adorable, incredibly young (to my 40-something eyes) white woman sitting up front with her husband. I’d guess twenty-something or so. At any rate, they have a biracial toddler and are embarking on the adventures of girl hair (bless), so she bravely raised her hand to ask about that.
We’re still on solid ground here. This was a perfect place for questions – an environment supportive of transracial families where they were basically saying you gotta know what you don’t know. Which SYT did. She then followed up her hair question with one about language: specifically whether the people in the room (presumably not me) preferred the term black or African American.
Another excellent question, one worthy of discussion, and really…who better to ask than a room filled with people who’d like to help you not look stupid when you’re out with your kid? Feedback bounced around the room for a while, giving SYT a few different points of view. That’s when one of the comments derailed this train.
The presenter had just finished explaining why she preferred the term person of color when Sweet Young Thang (bless her heart) exclaimed, “So all black people aren’t African American?!”
I have to admit I had a brief out of body experience while I processed the room’s vibe. I mean, I was surrounded by all these women – black professionals who I’m sure have seen plenty of crazy things in their life – including that time one of six white people in the room said she thought all black people were African American.
My brain was busy shrieking Did she really just say that?!
This was quickly followed by Seriously? and FOR REAL!?! and Okay, who the hell was in charge of prepping this girl for a transracial adoption? Because she needed a lot more resources than whatever she got.
To the room’s enormous credit, no one said a thing to make this young girl feel dumb. (I kept all my shriekiness inside and no one else showed their cards.) They simply educated her on how many different countries a dark skinned person might actually come from and we all went on our merry way. It just goes to show the enormous potential white parents have for Open Mouth Insert Foot syndrome when they don’t prepare for transracial families.