Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Truth of the Matter

Just because we have settled on transracial adoption does not mean I do not worry that we will be able to handle the racial issues that will come up in our and our child's lives. Often the true conversations about race we should be having in this country are pushed under the rug because they are uncomfortable. Often they should be about class and poverty because like it or not the racial divide is deeply integrated into the economic structure our country has built.
I can go from panic to bravery as part of the Waiting for a Black Child. I found that this article/blog entry states a lot of the concerns I have while also making me feel that is a challenge I want to face. It highlights the new transracial culture that we as a country are trying so hard to ignore and can no longer if we want to move forward. I also disagree with things in it. I think that using the blanket statement "black culture" is in itself racist. It makes all blacks other by lumping them into one great big group. Obama's election is not the end of racism, but I hope it is the opening to conversations we have not been willing to have before.

I choose to be the uncomfortable one. I remember when I lived in Maryland and rode the metro on a daily basis that I could often look around a crowded car and realize that I was in the minority. That is one of the things that I miss about DC. I miss the cultural diversity. I miss the fact that in my apartment building black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Asian, Hispanic, were all represented. I worry that I will be bringing a black child to a white neighborhood. I am glad I am bringing a black child to a diverse school. I am glad I am bringing a black child to a city with a large black community. I wish that community were more integrated with the city as a whole. I hope to be part of making that happen. I worry that in that hope I will be setting my child up for a larger social role that a small one should shoulder. I must make myself the uncomfortable one to make my child the strong independent and open-minded person who will not be afraid of all of his or her heritages and will stand and will want to stand among those who can have the necessary conversations to make us the most self aware and proud diverse nation in the world.
I worry that this blog entry makes me sound like a blow-hard white privileged woman. I am still glad I had the courage to put it out there.


KelseyChristine said...

"I think that using the blanket statement "black culture" is in itself racist. It makes all blacks other by lumping them into one great big group"

WARNING: This is going to be looong-so feel free to wait and read it when you have time :)

I definitely see where you are coming from. I do however, think in can be dangerous when we take the "color-blind" approach. I learned in my civics class in highschool that race doesn't scientifically exist, so technically all our issues with race are issues WE have created. Yet I also learned some sociological concepts this semester that I think apply as well. The first being "The Thomas Theorem" which states that what we define as being real will be real in its consequences. Even though the many of the issues we attach to race cannot be scientifically proven, we have made them "real" by our own symbolic interactions. Ok sorry, I'm sounding super college-y right now (yup, I know that's not a word!).
I don't think acknowledging black culture is racist (although that definitely depends on how you define it and where that definition comes from--I suppose it could be super racist under some circumstances). Again, back to my sociology class from this semester, culture is defined as the language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors, and even material objects passed on from one generation to the next of a particular group. The majority of my friends are black and I think they would laugh and may even be a bit offended if I suggested that their language, beliefs, values, norms, behaviors,etc... were the same as white people's. They often explain things I do or the way I talk with the disclaimer "it's because she's white" and often talk about the differences between white and black culture. They are PROUD of their culture. I do believe that there is a main base of values that seems to be cross-cultural, cross-generational etc... but there are also values and norms specific to certain cultures, largely dependent on their history. Obviously, African Americans have had a very different history in the U.S. than white people. Because of that history a lot of values, beliefs, norms etc... have developed that are very specific to African American culture.
I believe cultures are beautiful and something to be CELEBRATED! The diversity and variations between cultures as well as acknowledging the core values that connect us as humans is a beautiful thing.
There are more broader definitions of culture such as "American culture" which all races in this country fit under (although to be honest when people refer to 'American Culture' I feel like a lot of times its focused on white culture, not America as a whole) but there are also more specific definitions...Korean culture, Philipino culture, Ethiopian culture, black culture, white culture, etc...
I don't think its fair to say that just because both white and black people are American, our cultures are the same. Sorry if this is repetitive, but I really believe cultures are shaped by history and black and white people do NOT have the same history in this country.
My 12 year old biracial sister and I just had an interesting conversation about this. I really value her perspective because she is both black and white, and has grown up in an urban environment where her peers are literally from all over the world. When I asked her if there was a difference between white and black culture her response was something along the lines of "DUH!" She kept saying "I'm not trying to be racist or anything Kelsey", and would tell me things she was especially proud of in regards to being half black, including that they were more "loose" then white people (haha), and have different music etc...
Of course all humans are different. Just as every Korean person doesn't live out every aspect of what is widely accepted as "Korean culture" neither does every black person (or white, Ethiopian, Mexican etc...), but there are similiarities that apply to enough people to define it as a culture. And there are even sub-cultures regarding black and white culture based on class, gender, location etc...
Many black people in the U.S. (I keep having to clarify that because African American culture is certainly different than Ethiopian culture--something we learned very quickly in our house!)have specific traditions, foods, music, etc...that other cultures do not. Also, there are definitely cultural differences that adoptive parents become especially aware of, the most talked-about being Hair Care. The general white attitude of "Oh just leave it, she's a kid she'll look cute no matter what, I was too busy to do it this morning" absolutely does not cut it among African Americans.
Like I said, I think the differences are a beautiful thing that we should celebrate and admire!!

Duffy Batzer said...

Thanks for the food for thought. You have a great way of summing things up and putting ideas and opinions into words that make me think That's exactly what I think! I just didn't know how to say it!
In my comment, I meant that you can't assume that all black people have had the same cultural experiences. There are just as many differences and nuances as all other cultures. I didn't mean it in a color-blind sense. There is an equally "miaguided" view out there that assumes all black people share the same experiences. It's like asking a tall black boy what position he plays on the basketball team, or who is his favorite rapper. Like what your sister, (Younger siblings are great. I have an 11 year old brother, and he constantly cracks me up with his views on the world.), not all black people are "looser" than all white people. It's a generalization. A harmless one, and one she probably knows isn't true. But a view like that in the wrong people can be a form of racism.
It's the kind of thinking that lead to things like black history month. Don't get me wrong, I think that is a step in the right direction, but again, assigning a group a month is a separation. History should not be departmentalized like that. It still makes it other. Black, Hispanic, Asian, Women's, Gay, etc. history is all intertwined with the social norm of history.
We all have our stereotypes and prejudices. When I meet someone new, I compartmentalize things about that person based on many physical things, race included, but I do my best when I interact with him or her, not to let those observations dedicate how the interaction goes. Someone's race inevitably has had something to do with the person he or she is, I can't assume that someone's race manifests in their personalities the same way as other people of the same race.
I hope that adds more insight into my comment.
Thanks for your comment. Dialogs like this are very helpful to me in our quest for a family. My hope is that it will be one as loving as yours sounds. I like to keep growing as a person.
Merry Christmas!

KelseyChristine said...

I totally understand what your saying! The generalizations drive me CRAZY...for example I hear this one ALL the time where I live: "White people can't dance" (which actually seemed to be affirmed at all of our school dances since the majority of the school danced to hip-hop and that didn't seem to be white people's specialty haha, but there were CERTAINLY exceptions! Some white kids were amazing dancers and there were a few black kids who clearly didn't have a sense of rhythm---the hard part about disproving the stereotype was that in MOST cases it seemed to be true...I'm not sure what the appropriate response should have been)
I think all of the different "history months" can be a good thing to help foster cultural pride and awareness, but like you said, just the fact that we have to have them says something about the racism in our country. They were created to try "fix" a very messed up social atmosphere.
I definitely think there are many people who use "black culture" as PC language to cover up racist stereotypes, but I also think a real black culture exists on the same level as Korean, Ethiopian, Phillipino, etc... cultures exist.
I agree that everyone has a story and different life experiences and we should never assume we know what those are until we get to know that person. Generalizations are soooo hard to avoid but they are dangerous and almost always wrong!It's such an internal battle...
Merry Christmas to you guys too! :)