Like any child, I grew up wanting my extended family to love me, to be happy to see me at family occasions, and to let me have cookies when Mom and Dad said, “No.” It wasn’t until the summer of a particularly popular double-murder trial (you know, what’s his name?) that I realized my expectations of my extended family reached further than confections and play.
Before I go any further, let me tell you that I was transracially adopted at birth. All of my extended family is white, and I am black. The summer of the trial, my aunt and I began discussing it. I naturally brought up the racial issues involved with it– issues that were pertinent to me on a personal level. And then my aunt asked the question, “Why would you think that race is a part of this?”
I tried to explain my point of view. I was shocked when I suddenly understood: my aunt, who loves me with all of her heart, found it impossible to see that my experience and views of the world differed from hers because we are different races. Her shock that I saw the world as a black woman, that racism is a pertinent issue in my life, and that I couldn’t see the trial in the same way that she did, hurt me deeply.
Since that conversation, I have resolved to be more conscious about helping others be conscious. Conscious that points of view can differ from yours. Conscious that it is not only acceptable, but important, that those differences exist. Conscious that race and color play a strong role in how we see the world.
My aunt believed that because we are family, we would see the world in the same way. I wouldn’t know if that’s true in families where everyone is the same color, but in my family, that simply isn’t the case. I’ve learned that, because it is important to me, I have to help my family understand my point of view and respect it.
Because we are a family, the lenses through which I view the world must be acknowledged and respected, not challenged simply because family members cannot see things the way I do.