Sunday, September 6, 2009


I like words. I love scrabble, crossword puzzles and most other word games (hello, pogo). But words can slice through you. I still find it hard to believe that something that a complete stranger took about 10 seconds to say is still churning around inside me. I am such a nerd that I even looked up some words this morning. Like race. Is that really based on color? Not necessarily. "A group of persons related by common descent, blood or heredity." Does that mean that it bothers these ignorant people when people marry people of any other heritage? Just processing here. I thought that I had processed my feeling on this as we considered adopting. It is just not the same as when you are faced with this discrimination, prejudice, ignorance..... I also looked up the n word. Prior to the definition it says, "offensive and disparaging". Yah think!!! Mostly I looked it up to see if by definition it referred to African-Americans or all dark skinned peoples. It is the latter.

That's another question I have about words. Is my daughter an African-American? I know she will be perceived as such. I know by birth she is Ethiopian. She is being raised in America, by Americans. Ethiopia is in Africa. So doesn't that make her African-American?

One more weird thing. When I told my 17 year old what happened, he was like "so?". I think as in "duh, mom, she is". Apparently he didn't feel this was a "offensive and disparaging" comment. Apparently he hears it often at his high school. Is this his ignorance about the feelings attached to the word? Or has it generationally become less offensive? Sometime I would like to have a more in depth conversation with him. Not sure if that will ever happen:)


A Stafford said...

As the parent of a toddler adopted from India, and as a woman who lives in a VERY small town (70), I can tell you that no amount of preparation can help you deal with these situations. I have found when I am in a store with my husband, and the adoption is obvious, we get a lot of smiles and positive comments about what a good thing we are doing (which is a whole other topic). When I am alone, however, I sometimes get stares. Sometimes, there is whispering. They're probably trying to figure out what race she is and how I might have ended up with her. Many have asked if she is a foster kid, some if she is Hispanic or biracial. I have received "compliments" that we are lucky because she "isn't that dark".

I do know, from my studies in Anthropology, that amongst some groups of AA people, the "n" word is a term of endearment or belonging that they use lovingly within their group--however, it doesn't sound like this individual in your situation was anxious to bond with your daughter.

As far as if your daughter is AA or not, I would say, no. AA people are primarily identified as the decendants of slaves in this country. African people who immigrate here, are known as Somali or Kenyan, etc- not AA. I would say she is Ethiopian-American. She lives in America now, but her heritage is not shared with AA people- it is with the Ethiopians. Just my opinion.

BTW- I have a hard time figuring out my child's race/ethnicity to fill out on forms. She is from Asia, so she should be "Asian", but most people think of Chinese or Korean as Asian. She is actually Caucasian, but most people think of that as being white or European. It does get confusing sometimes.

I pray you will come to peace with this situation, as every few months a challenge like this is likely to occur as she grows. All we can do is arm ourselves-and our children- with as much knowledge (and ammunition) as possible. Good luck!

(friend of theMom)

Christy said...

Diane, I am so sorry you had to go through this!! I have often thought about what I would do or say in this same situation and it makes me sick just to think of the possibility of it happening. I am pretty cool headed but I think I would lose it on that guy. It's also sad that kids think the n word is so casual.

And I agree with the previous post. I would classify our kids as Ethiopian-American, although on paperwork etc. the proper box to check would be African-American just as Japanese-Americans would be lumped together with all other Asian-Americans.

Lynda said...

Hi A Stafford,

We also have a young child from India and get the same responses, most are positive. As far as your forms go, I like to write in East Indian. Lots of times the people who have the forms don't really know what to put down either.

Diane, Interestingly I was wondering the same thing today about if we would call our future child AA or Ethiopian American. I think I like the later, just as it is more identifying for our children. I think this will be a mouthful though, as we will be an Indian, Ethiopian, American family. Or should it be Ethiopian, Indian, American family? Like the order that we adopted in?
Wow! I like it!
Your little girl is beautiful. Don't let anyone tell you elsewise.
Hope things are going well with you guys.