Isn’t it surprising how passionate people are about their opinions? This is true with politics, religion, education, and even adoption. It really is surprising to me. And with the advent of social media allowing us to state opinions in relative safety, it seems we’ve gotten a lot more snarky, less reserved, and even cruel. It also appears that our regular exposure to extreme comments on social media has desensitized us to the point that we become bolder in real life. Our virtual lives have bled into our physical lives and we say things and react to things in a way that we never would have a couple of decades ago.
Even still, going back two decades to when our adopted son was just a toddler, I recall walking into a grocery store and high-tailing it out before I could make my purchases. You see, Bryan is brown-skinned and I am not. I had gone up to the deli counter to have some cheese sliced when the worker running the machine stopped what she was doing, looked me straight in the face, and told me that he did not belong with me. Never mind that I could have been married to a dark-skinned man (even though I wasn’t). Never mind that I could have been babysitting my nephew (even though I wasn’t). The worker made some assumptions (and happened to be correct), then made some judgements. And then . . . she voiced some very harsh opinions.
I learned from that experience. I decided later that day that I would never again just walk away in what could be interpreted as shame, but was really sadness. Instead, I would always react with a smile and a show of gratitude for my situation. Even if the accuser didn’t want to hear it.
From that moment on I would educate the accuser on adoption, love, and families. And I would celebrate the fact that we had attention given to us so we could use that opportunity to champion adoption. I did have more opportunities through the years, and I’m happy to report that I stuck to my resolution. By doing so, I feel certain that my reactions empowered my son to do the same. He learned, from a young age, that he can be proud of his situation and can help others to see the great joy of adoption.
So when faced with hateful comments, ignorant assumptions, and cruel stares, we can choose to be offended or we can choose to be proud. It’s all a choice.
Take a look at this blog post for some specific thoughts on dealing with everyday life in a transracial family.