With our Foster classes completed, my husband and I know we will raise brown boys when we open our home in June 2015.
I realize now, I have no clue where to begin. We cannot hide our faces from the realities of our community or the world at large. And anyone raising brown kids who isn’t clued in, is failing them. And those who are clued in are at a loss for words.
As I clutch my copies of books by Douglas, Baldwin, Hughes, and Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow”, and as I seek out modern day disciples and allies like Anne and Carl Braden, I wonder if Christian and I will find their courage?
How do you teach your son to save his life without teaching him to fear? How do you teach him strength in heritage while letting him know the history of hate, collective short-term memory, denial, consumerism, and apathy fighting for equal footing to erase him?
Already, I pray. And I pray. And I pray for the children I do not yet know. In so doing, reminding myself to seek Him because we are in this world, but not of it. But, the bullets, and hate, and oppression, and denial are breathing down our necks reminding us that yes, we are in it. We have stepped right in it and we can’t scrape it off.
How do we explain to our brown kids that we didn’t care about bombing them but now we care about others beheading them, and all the while they’re wondering which army will try to annihilate them today? Will it be people raised in a culture right next to them, smelling the same air and eating the same foods? Or will it be some fickle people from a foreign land who have a sense of justice that blows anyway the wind carries them?
I can’t turn on the tv to consume and forget my way into comfortable numbness. We are starving yet we have no appetite for revisionist history and a forgetful present. My brown kids I do not yet know, can’t afford that.
In my state (Kentucky) hurting, abused, and neglected children of color are valued less than white children, and the stench of that chokes me.
“The majority of SNAP (Special Needs Adoption Program) kids are considered hard to place or having special needs. Special needs can include white children older than 10; African-American children of all ages; members of sibling groups of three or more school-age children; and children with moderate to severe physical, mental and emotional disabilities.” KY Cabinet for Health and Family Services
Since when did being brown constitute a “special need” when it comes to being loved but not when it comes to job training, college entrance, and the tax dollars “those people are mooching off of us”. When the very beginning of your existence is not valued in a state of equity with others, you are already behind the curve.
And, I also notice with a sting, who is not mentioned. Erased from the page as if they are invisible. Just as hard to place but not even an honorable mention, Hispanic children. Should I be thankful that at least black kids are mentioned?
My husband and I have worked as subs in public schools of great affluence in our city, where educators keep carafes of Starbucks in the break room, only to be called the next day to an underserved neighborhood where high school teachers don’t assign homework because the school has so little money that textbooks cannot go home with the children for fear of loss or damage, and teachers can’t copy out of the book because paper is too expensive. And, do we pretend that this passes for college readiness when we graduate them, send them out the door to the Community College where they cannot pass the most basic qualifications to enter, and then remind them about those bootstraps they need to be pulling themselves up by and by.
And, I see some people who bravely defy the norms, and summon the love enough to be “do-gooders” and adopt brown kids, who have no people of color in their own lives with whom they call family. Oh, they watch the youtube videos to learn about their most pressing concern: “How do I comb their hair”? But, they have no plan for how they will introduce culture from those living through it, rather than books and conjecture. They, themselves, have failed to cultivate relationships with people who are different than them, but feel called to raise brown kids. You know what I mean by cultivating relationships? Those friends who need no invitation to your table, and don’t get a lecture when they just show up on your doorstep because they were in the neighborhood. Friends who are chosen family. So, they raise these kids to be comfortable in their cocoon and when they go out into the world, the reality of the baton and the eyes that follow them through Macy’s to make sure they aren’t stealing something, and the cabs that refuse to pick them up on the street corner when they are alone, becomes a shock to the system. (Thank you to my friends who get it, and are being an example to others. Those of you who have adopted children of color and have embraced their cultures and helped them to do so as well).
So, I guess I begin with reading blogs like this:
and having hard conversations with people I trust, who will allow my words to fail, without thinking me a failure. Who will allow me to wrestle and vent, and who will wrestle and vent with me.
My children will read Zinn and learn about Ella Baker and Diane Nash. They will sit at the feet of Claudia Munoz, Marco Saavedra, and Pedro Santiago, because they are our friends and we have so much to learn from them in life. They will hear about the time mommy and daddy rode on a 21st Century Freedom Ride bus with Brother Vincent (Dr Vincent Harding) and learned about what it smelled like when the dogs bit into the skin of children marching for equality, and what it sounded like when college students sang louder, even though their knees were shaking, when Bull Conner met them with a mob that would just as soon lynch them as look at them.
We have so much to learn, and no matter where we begin, I hope we always end in faith, hope, and love.