Sunday, April 12, 2015

Repost: Thoughts on Race From a Pale Papa

Every other week my blog will feature a reposted work. I had been a contributor on two different sites that have since closed or no longer include blogs. I will be reposting pieces that had originally been featured on one of these two sites.  

This was originally posted June 28, 2011

I’ve been thinking about how people interact with each other and how we can understand where others are coming from and what their circumstances are specifically in the area of race.  I have read White Like Me by Tim Wise and I have had several conversations with people of different races than me.  I recently stated reading Why Are All theBlack Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum. Lately I have read about this issue in articles and opinion pieces in adoption magazines. 

Up until a few years ago I thought my life experience (specifically stemming from my race) was “normal”.  I have read and have come to realize/agree that (1) there is a White experience and (2) it is one of privilege whether I am conscious of the benefits or not.  All sources I have gathered knowledge from seem to agree on these two points.  They also agree that open conversation with whomever is “the other” in one’s life is one good way to begin to change the tide of systematic racism in one’s sphere of influence.  Everyone has different life experiences even regarding race.  I cannot assume that a person of color has the same experience as another person of color whom I have had extensive conversations with.  However, I shouldn’t be afraid to humbly and genuinely ask him or her to share those experiences with me.   

Beverly Tatum and Tim Wise highlight some of the situations most White people do not have to experience.  These include, but are not limited to, being watched carefully by security while shopping in a department store, fearing that a person in authority is judging you or your children on the basis of their race, having to shop more widely for hair-care products and makeup (not to mention Band-Aids), etc.  Some aspects of the White experience regarding race are, feeling awkward about bring up the topic, fear of being considered a racist, uncertainty about how to start friendships and conversations with non-white people, etc. 

I must confess, I have experienced all of the typical white feelings sited above.  I am thankful for the polite encouragement of friends and acquaintances over the last few years.  I hope that I can continue to humbly learn from others.

I do not know how or when I will bring this issue up with my son.  I do not know if there is a correct way of going about that.  Something I read in an adoption magazine keeps coming to my mind; an author stated that when your kids go to school “you may have come to see them as part of your family and completely equal regardless of their race, but their teachers and other kids will not.”

One parenting situation I have found awkward lately is taking my son to public restrooms.  Isaiah will often say he needs to use the restroom, then change his mind either halfway there or once we get there.  As a parent I want him to stop this ruse, this attempt at attention.  I try to take him at his word no matter what; I try to teach him not to cry wolf.  I tell him, “you told papa you had to poo-poo, so you need to sit on the potty.”  At this point, he usually starts screaming like crazy “no, noooo, NOOOO!!!”.  This is where my own insecurities, my own psychological “stuff” comes into play.  I’m a white guy in a public bathroom stall with a little kid that looks nothing like me who is screaming like he’s being horribly mistreated. 
Where does my convictions about being a good parent give way to my embarrassment?
Do I want to teach my kid that when he screams he gets his own way?
If I am part of a  "scene" in the restroom, will I have to look the other men in the eye when Isaiah and I leave the stall?

Somehow this situation is tougher than him simply making a scene in a restaurant or grocery store.  I have no problem taking him aside and talking to him when he’s having a fit and the general public can see me.  I don’t get a sense that I’m being silently judged when the scene is out in the open… or at least not as much.

This situation is probably just the first of many issues that I’ll have to deal with as a White parent of a Indian child.  I look forward to the time that I can openly talk to my boy about these issues, but I struggle with what to do until then.

I don’t know if I have any thought provoking questions here. 
I don’t know that there is a right way for me to handle that situation
You can tell me the right way if you know it.

Maybe it's enough to open up a general discussion of race and parenting and embarrassment and so on. 

I know that’s a conversation that needs to happen….

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...