Our country is in a movement and we are all working towards making a brighter future for our children and their children and their children. Not everyday feels good but this isn’t that type of movement. This is based on centuries of oppression, exclusion, intimidation, anger, pain, sorrow, and hope. I won’t lie and say I know a lot of history or have had a lot of experiences but I will be honest and say that I am learning as quickly as I can. Through immense reflection, I’ve made a realization about myself.
For some this is old news: I am biracial and was adopted from Texas. My biological mother had blonde hair, blue eyes, and was white. My biological father is “unknown” but does not match those descriptors. My biological mother was the only parent present so my birth certificate says I’m Caucasian... and that, my friends is where the journey begins. This story of my conception, birth, adoption, and upbringing have propelled me in some ways and held me back in others. This story has kept me from not feeling “white enough” or “black enough”. This narrative held me back from joining the diversity groups in college, actively seeking friendships with people who looked like me, and feeling hurt when people labeled me as Black—not because I didn’t want to be but because I didn’t want to be told I was. I felt like I didn’t belong because I didn’t share experiences that seemed similar. I also didn’t want to be labeled by anyone else. See, I was the elementary student that colored all of the race/ethnicity circles on standardized tests because it angered me. How was this one label (wrongly misplaced in the first second of my life) going to help anyone define my achievement level when they didn’t even know me!?
This narrative also pushed me to prove people wrong. I didn’t just want a Masters degree, I wanted a 4.0. I didn’t want to be a professional, I wanted to be the professional with tattoos. I didn’t just want to be a musician (often confused as a saxophonist... right? Because someone who looks like me clearly only plays jazz) I wanted to be a traditional fiddler and dream to play baroque music... I wanted to prove to the world that my labels were not ME. What I do, what I love, what brings me joy is who I am.
But I’ve been hit with a plot twist in my narrative. Six years ago, I met the man that I would be blessed enough to marry. Amde has his own story of being Brown in America but I will not share it as it is not my story to write. I will tell you that through my experiences with Amde I have learned more about the world, lives of others, and myself and, without that, I can’t imagine how today would feel. There’s another part that didn’t strike me until recently. My identity has shifted.
When my family adopted me, they became a family of color (as explained by the adoption agency) and in some ways I saw myself as being sheltered in a family of white privilege. I would go shopping with my mom and people automatically knew I was the sweet, adopted child, of the woman going through the store so I should be treated with utmost respect. But as I grew up, got taller, and became an adult... I would subconsciously, but purposefully, and loudly say “Hey mom! Look at this!” This was only to make it known to the clerk on the side waiting for me to shoplift that I wasn’t there for that. Nothing has changed about me, I am just an adult now and implicit bias has an ugly face.
Then Amde and lived together, got married, and started to travel. I’ll never forget the feeling when we tried to buy wine at the NH Liquor Store. The clerk asked for ID. We gave our licenses. And she looked at them. She studied them. She looked at us. We asked if something was wrong. She didn’t give us an answer. She took out the “how to look at a license book.” We asked what was going on. She said, “I can’t find the birth date. It’s not in the correct place.” We showed her the birth date. She insisted that was wrong. It was obvious that wasn’t the issue. We spoke to the manager. They said they’d take care of it.
A year ago, I started to notice how my throat tightens up when we drive by a police officer. No, not every officer is bad but why are we continuing to support a system that allows for “bad apples” as if our lives depend on it? Fear. That’s why. Because systemic racism in our country educates children in a biased way, gives opportunity to some, holds it from others, plays on fear, builds hatred and bam... another BIPOC is harmed.
Most recently, our family has had racist remarks made towards us though they were jokes. Comments about not being able to breathe but not getting shot. Saying things about being brought back to slave days all because we have helped to start our own garden.
I watched the horrible murder of George Floyd, I read about Breonna Taylor, I read about Elijah McClain, I have thought often about Ahmaud Arbery. It was in these moments, I realized that just because of how I appear, how my husband appears, how my child appears things can happen to us. People can make reckless, violent, incomprehensible decisions that can directly affect our lives... at any moment, for no clear reason other than misplaced hate or unnecessary fear and worse yet, justice may not be found. It has been through deep reflection that I find myself realizing that I am now a “Black family” no longer sheltered by my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
So, making that realization, I parent differently. I participate in the world differently. I realize that I have a lot of work to do because our amazing daughter is going to grow up with a different experience from my own. I hope it is positive but I know in some ways it will be hard. I work to educate other educators so that my daughter and other children who are BIPOC can have an education that meets their needs... which, if you think about it, really is for everyone.
Thanks to Christine D’Ercole, I have adopted a mantra “I am, I can, I will, I do.” I have written it on a sticky note and added it to my mirror to reflect on each day. Today I write this:
About the blog
Facebook became my blog. A space where I shared the resources, experiences, and reflections with those around me. I hope that the same discussions can happen here and I hope you will share your reflections, experiences, and resources as you feel comfortable.