As I wrote in my last post, we’ve been fortunate enough to spend the past week at the beach with the whole family. Overall, it has been a lovely trip, and I plan to share some highlights with lots of pictures tomorrow. But now, I need to clear from my system the one unpleasant experience from the past week. Because the ills of the world don’t always get a notice that they’re supposed to stay away from vacation.
As you might expect, we’ve gotten some rather interested and curious stares from people this week as they’ve tried to figure out the family dynamic of two black guys chilling on the beach with folks so pale they blend into the sand. You can see the wheels turning even more while trying to figure out how our little curly-haired, bronze-colored chunk fits into the picture.
I get it. Our family picture looks different from what people are accustomed to seeing. I too love people-watching, and from behind my sunshades, I’ve thought…..Is that old guy her husband or her dad? Are all five kids hers? That dude should NOT be wearing that swimsuit! Speedos for Ryan Lochte only, please!
Interest is fine. I love talking about all my kiddos and how we are fortunate enough to have them all as part of our family. I don’t mind explaining to the curious family next to us how it is we all ended up vacationing together.
What is not fine is treating a member of my family unkindly because you don’t think he belongs. So, to the group of ladies that decided to make one of my guys so uncomfortable that he felt compelled to leave the pool this week, I’d like to say the following:
Dear Ridiculously Stupid Ladies:
Count your lucky stars that I was not near the pool area when you decided to point, whisper, and stare. See, while I normally tend to avoid conflict, I would have kindly made an exception for your blatant racism, and I would have conflicted with you all they way down the beach!
Becoming a mother has made me brave, and becoming an adoptive mother of an increasingly transracial family has made me fierce. The hurt boy who told me how you looked at him weird while muttering to your friends made me want to roar…and punch you in the face. He had every right to swim in the pool, relax in the hot tub, and soak up the sun. Lest you wonder if he somehow snuck into the resort (because black teenagers are always suspicious and couldn’t be paying guests, right?), he was wearing the appropriate identification bracelet.
Of course, this isn’t the first time he’s had to deal with ignorant people like you, and sadly, it probably won’t be the last. Perhaps you thought you were being subtle, but he felt your eyes, your questions, and your disapproving judgment. He has a peaceful heart, and he ignored your stares and moved on. But he shouldn’t have to spend a single second of his vacation that way. He deserved better.
That boy you targeted with your stares and whispers…he’s amazing. He speaks four more languages than you and has seen parts of the world you can’t pronounce. He works full-time while doggedly working his way through school. He calls my sweet baby “Little Buddy” when he scoops her up for a hug. He is considerate, thoughtful, generous, intelligent, funny, and kind.
But you didn’t see all that. You just saw a black kid in a resort largely populated by white people and wondered why he was in your pool.
I’m going to pray for you, and hope that you stop viewing the world through a racist lens dictating who belongs where. I’m going to hope that the next time you see something that doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps you will introduce yourself, strike up a conversation, and take the time to meet someone new.
Or, you know, take that pointing finger, wrap it around another cheese stick, and leave other folks the hell alone. That works too.
The remainder of the week was better with lots of fun times. But the incident made me consider how having a transracial family might impact things like vacations in the future. Both the guys are older, and I know they can handle themselves. But how would those stares have affected younger children? Charlie and I plan to adopt African-American and/or biracial children from foster care in the future. Will we have to worry about them exploring a resort without us? We’ve thought about the racial demographics of school options, our church, etc. but not vacation destinations. I’m not completely naive; I realize that racism still exists in far too many places. I was just surprised to encounter it in this circumstance, and I realize that I’ll always have much to learn.
For those of you with transracial families, do you think about how your family will be received in different locations before you plan vacations? Is race a factor when planning where to go or where to stay? How would you counsel your teenagers or young adults to deal with this type of ignorance?