Monday, May 14, 2007

Racism and Family

It's interesting to me the subtle and not so subtle ways racism pops up in our lives. I know for a fact that almost all of my family members consider themselves to be anti racist and yet I am consistently surprised by the comments that they can make. I think most of it is truly ignorance of the issues of minorities and the forms that racism can take. For example, not long ago I had a very in depth discussion with my uncle about college quotas for minority admission. He firmly feels that this causes reverse discrimination against white people. What! Nothing I can say will convince him that this is not true; because as a poor white male he didn't receive a scholarship when minorities with lower test scores did. He is not a racist but expounds on ideas I consider to be clear signs of entrenched discrimination in our society.

Some family members are from the older generation and have use non-PC terms without realizing the connotation. My very elderly grandmother asked me a few weeks ago if my child would be a Negro. I assured her that my child would be Ethiopian. The question took me aback because, one, my grandmother is the least racist person I have ever met, and two, because we have been talking about the adoption together for a least 8 months and it only just dawned on her that my child will be black. I know that times change and when my grandmother was younger that was how you referred to people with dark skin. She doesn’t mean anything more by it than I do when I refer to my future child as black, but I do wonder how my child will feel about either of those descriptions. (Hopefully Grandma will learn not to say that by the time she meets the baby!)

Other family members are more open. Several of the older generation in Z-mans family fall into the blatantly and uncompromisingly racist category. We had heard some comments that have shocked us into next Tuesday. We have had to lay don the law with some of them about what is acceptable to say in front of us and our children... and this was before we knew we were adopting. Some family members we will have little or no contact with because of their racist views.

Our family is a small cross section of the world at large and I can see a little bit of how my child will have to face this kind of thing everyday. In subtle and not so subtle ways racism is all around us.