Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We Can Bridge the Divide

I remember being so excited that so many people were interested in adopting children of color. It wasn't long before I became aware of what many of those challenges might be. I never had an opinion about transracial adoption. Like anything else what maybe right for some will not be right for others. I've come to learn that there are some amazing families with the courage to jump in to cross the divides of race and culture. They are determined to develop positive self-image in their children of different races without negating the historical and cultural realities of our times.

I write about race and adoption not because I am hampered by race but because I am hopeful. I want to have those difficult conversations because these children deserves our best. That means doing the hard work so that it allows them to just be kids. I become somewhat uncomfortable when I hear families talk hope that having a dark child in their family will soften the hearts and open the minds of others. I know what they mean but as Dr. Phil would say, "Children don't need to come into our families with a job." It is not their job as children to open hearts and minds, it might be the result but it is not their job.

Can I say that I don't like the term transracial adoption. What I hope is that we can build culturally fluent families. That's my term -- cultural fluency. When you are other than, the cultural awareness and skills that you must develop to raise an Ethiopian child, an African American child, a Korean, or Guatemalan child are the same. Once a family becomes culturally fluent they can transfer those skills as they experience other cultures.

WE can create a better America (not wanting to be over dramatic but you know what I mean) and a better future for ALL of our children. Black, Asian, Latin, or Indian children are not the only ones hurt by lack of diversity. White children growing up in a bubble don't reach their full potential either. Growing up in a multi-cultural world, white children need to move beyond the limits of comforts, be more open, knowledgeable, and self aware. Not only can we do it, we are the only ones who can! It's the grown-ups that need to bridge the divide that will enable children to create better opportunities for more full lives.

Why did I write this post? I was inspired to write this post because I received a response to an earlier post that I wanted to share. It is responses like this and others that I receive that keep me encouraged.

First, I have to say that I am seeking out more and more information as I journey through the Ethiopian adoption world as a Caucasian person. First, let me say I am a bit angry at myself at my lack of knowledge. What don't we all know about one another, why is there so much divide? I, myself, yearn to learn more about people and I want to look back at myself to see why it is that it took our China adoption and now our Ethiopian adoption to become "interested" more in diversity. Shouldn't we all want to know more about each other and cultures, etc. I am in a wheelchair and I often think how "stupid" people can be when it comes to me. But that gets grouped into the whole diversity thing. I can't wait to learn more about black culture and I hope you keep sharing for all of us so that we can pass it along and share with (others), ...the new Disney Princess, but I was a bit disturbed myself that they had her portrayed in such a way. How odd when there IS so much black history they could have gone to to form this character.
Thanks for writing. Keep sharing with the community.


Signe said...

Thank You so much for posting your insights. I am a caucasian adopting from Ethiopia (funny, I don't usually describe myself that way). I have been wondering how to reach out to people of color to learn from them about how to deal with people like me. You have given some great suggestions, very concrete, and easy to do physically, but challenging mentally. Please keep posting, you are an answer to my prayers. I also loved the line about the limits of comfort, that is such a great phrase. You are a very gifted writer as well! I wish you lived near me, we could have coffee. Blessings on your adoption, and I am thankful to have you on this journey with me.

Elizabeth Lyons said...

Valarie -

Love it! Thank you for such an insightful post. I love the term "cultural fluency." That is so positive and I think right on the mark of what we should be seeking. I love reading your blog - keep up the great posting!


Aimee said...

In my daughter's room is a poster that says,

"Every child instinctively knows what many adults have long since forgotten:Our differences are not something to be tolerated; they are somethign to be celebrated."

My goal is for my little family to celebrate all that we are.

I LOVE the idea of cultural fluency.

kn said...

I've been visiting family (Detroit, Chicago, Lake Geneva) and have missed so much. Your posts on the big board and then here are extraordinary and so very needed! You may never know how your gentle words will change the lives of these children who really do need you to be a guide to more cultural fluency.

You go girl!

Can I greedily ask you to post as much as possible now - as very soon you are going to have very little time!


Original Court Date: April 18, 2009
Final Court Date: May 18, 2009
[607 total days & 165 days w/IAN]