I've always been proud of my southern upbringing - the charm, the hospitality, even the heat. The spotlight has recently been placed on a part of my southern experience that I'm not so proud of. Racism. It's an ugly word, an even uglier truth. It's the embarassing piece of my heritage. The proverbial skeleton in the closet.
Growing up, I was taught to be respectful to African Ameicans, but not too respectful. Be kind, but not too kind. In other words, I was to treat everyone with the good southern manners I was raised with, but it was also understood that I should choose my friends wisely. I was never told not to make friends with black kids, but it was a silent rule in my house. I should be nice, but not nice enough to invite them over for dinner. I think my family represented the biggest obstacle to defeating racism - the silent warriors of the cause. The people who are racist but don't know it.
I'm happy to report that I have grown beyond my own ignorance. When I got to that time in my life when I realized that my parents WEREN'T always right (what a revelation) I made my own decision about the importance of skin color. I began to embrace differences. I can't speak for the rest of my family - I don't know what is in their hearts. I can tell you that if you want to find out where people really stand on the issue, announce to them that you are considering transracial adoption.
My mom and sister are incredibly supportive. I don't know what they truly believe about transracial adoption, but I know that we have their support. I believe my inlaws will also be very supportive - maybe they will just hold their tongue, but I"m okay with that. I am fully confident that these members of our families will love any child we welcome into our family. Sure, it make take some of them some time to get used to the idea, but once they get to know the person, I know they'll stop seeing the color. The man they call my dad is another story.
I knew he would be opposed to it, but some part of me believed he would still be supportive. I was wrong. The words he said were so outrageous - it was hard to believe he was serious. He told me about a couple he knew that had just adopted a beautiful anglo boy and how precious he is and how he lets dad hold him and play with him. I asked him if he really thought it would be different if that child were black instead of white. His response burned my ears and made me ashamed to be his daughter. He said, "I don't know what it would be like because I never would have picked him up." The man they call my dad kept urging me to "do the right thing" and "go the extra mile" so that we could adopt an anglo baby. My heart is still trying to make sense of it all.
There was much more to the conversation, but none of it any better than that. This man they call my dad has a disturbing way of withholding his love and affection when he is angry or when he doesn't agree with you on something. It isn't uncommon for him to go years without speaking to members of his family so I'm expecting the silent treatment from this point forward. The thing is, it's not even about the adoption anymore. We don't know what child we will be lucky enough to adopt - black, white, tan, purple, green.....we just don't know yet. It doesn't matter. Even if we end up with a child the man they call my dad finds acceptable, I'm not sure I want him around my child.
Is it ever okay to just close the door on a parent and walk away for good? I mean, I don't expect him to change his beliefs, nor will I fight that losing battle. I do expect and demand support regardless of whether or not I get agreement. This is an ongoing two-step of love and rejection that we've been dancing for thirty years. I'm tired of the tears, the waiting, the walking on eggshells. I'm tired of expecting him to be the dad I never had but always wanted. Mostly, I'm just tired. My heart is filled with joy and I won't let him rob me of even one small piece of it.
The man they call my dad has been in and out of my life since I breathed my first breath. I only see him a few times a year and we have been talking maybe once a month or so. It's not like there would be this void in my life if he were gone. You'd think he'd at least be able to fake it for that long, right? Stubborness runs deep. I'm not bitter, i'm not even angry - the best way to describe my feelings on the subject is to say that I feel cleansed. I am not walking away from this man they call my dad; I have opened to the door and allowed him to freely go, if that is what he chooses. The last message he received from me set my boundaries and I intend to stick to them: "Anyone who treats my family in a loving way is welcome in our home and in our lives."
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim that you have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people more than others? NLT