So Much To Learn

Adoption Journey – Day 58

I have been reading quite a few international/transracial adoption blogs these days, as we slowly move along in the process towards one day meeting our Mystery Baby. The more I read, sometimes I feel, the further I have to go.

Today, thanks to that wonderful voice of adoption experience and wisdom, Mary, over at Owlhaven and Ethiopia Adoption Blog, I read a post on Mayhem and Magic in which Amanda discusses the unique challenge of raising black boys in the U.S. Amanda talks about what parents face raising their boys to be black men in American society, and the challenges those boys and men will face. And it got me thinking.

Potentially, BDH and I could be one day raising a black man here in Canada. I read the posts and have to admit, my first reaction was to think “oh, that’s so hard”, but ultimately that it’s THEIR problem. I mean, it’s the U.S., and there are so many more racial problems in the U.S. between black and white, and Canada is so much more racially accepting, right? We’d never have those problems HERE, right? And that’s when it hit me how woefully unprepared I truly am.

I must be incredibly naive. I honestly, truly, have NO IDEA about the black person’s experience here in Canada. I mean, I associate with black people in my everyday life, and because my dealings with them are just as people — medical professionals, work associates, friends, neighbours, business people, students — I had never really given thought to the fact that their experiences here living in Canada would be any different than my own. I expected just the regular human differences of familial culture, religion, and family. Any differences I had considered certainly never contained any sinister undercurrents, any danger, any fear.

But where I live, here in small suburbia, the black community is small, so I would imagine there is a feeling of apartness, of difference. But is there more to it? Is the black person’s, and more specifically, is the black male’s experience here in small-city Canada — in Canada in general — one of disadvantage and discrimination because of the colour of his skin? I really, truly do not know the answer to that question.

I have so much to learn if I am going to raise a child, any child. And initially, when I considered adoption, I was aware that as a parent in a multiracial family, I’d have to become more culturally aware, more diverse in my thinking and teaching and experience. But until reading these posts, I think I was still in the honeymoon phase. I thought only superficially of the little things that would have to be done. I had never truly considered that there may be these sorts of obstacles in my child’s life. I had never encountered thinking like that, never experienced it, never thought this way myself — and so never considered it would be something my child would face.

Now I realize just what kind of research I have to do. How much learning I have ahead of me. How many people I need to meet, and talk to, and ask questions of. I cannot just look at my OB and see a wonderful, professional black man and just make assumptions about the respect he receives in his job and his daily life. I need to ask questions about what it is like to be a black man in Canadian society. I cannot just expect when I see the young black teenage girls at practice that their experiences are typical of all teenage girls I know. I need to ask questions about what it’s like to be a teenage girl of a different race in a predominantly white high school.

I assumed that if we raise our child with love and self-respect and values and humour, that he or she will be alright. That they will be prepared to face the world, and go out and play their part in it. But there may be so much more to it than that. Because it may be that once they walk out the front door, the world is not as we assumed it to be.

I have so much to learn. It is so scary. I am so not ready for this.

We have so much to learn.