wait, what did she just say?!

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?!”

Wait, what?

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.

8 thoughts on “wait, what did she just say?!

    • You know, I was truly surprised that it didn’t. So either these women were used to really dumb assumptions or they’re used to young white folks being clueless or they’re just really good at suppressing that moment of “holy crap, REALLY?” None of those look like great things to me….

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I knew!! We were in Charlotte, which has a large black community, and most of the people we met that day were from the area so you’d think there’d be a bit more (ummmm) understanding of the subject.

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  1. Here’s the thing : yes, she asked something that showed her ignorance. But in this society that often punishes people for saying the wrong thing yet also punishes people for asking questions, I’d much rather have someone admit their ignorance and then learn then assume they know everything. We know there is a ton of ignorance in this country – hell, look at who the Republican nominee is for president- but I think the safer we make it for all people to ask questions and get the right information is tremendously vital. Yes it can suck to hear these questions, but imagine if she had never asked in the first place. I grew up in a 99.9% white suburban community where there was nearly zero education about the experience of people of color. I feel like I was incredibly fortunate to have had outside experiences away from school that allowed me to ask questions and get more educated and have a more global perspective than the town that I grew up in. And as someone who is adopting from Ethiopia, I can say that education on transracial adoption is primarily focused on things like how to deal with other people who ask stupid questions… it assumes people already have basic knowledge that this woman you referred to did not have. I’m glad to hear people gave her a break on this… we should never punish someone for wanting to be *less* ignorant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was definitely impressed with how everyone there handled it. Honestly, once I got past the shock factor, the thing that really got me was wondering who helped her during their adoption. Our case worker had a number of recommended resources (books especially) once my husband and I said we were prepared to adopt a child of another race. Thank you for taking time to comment, and good luck with your adoption!!

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