Tag Archives: racism

Some Thoughts From Our First Adoption

I became a first-time, adoptive father in August of 2002, when my wife and I traveled to the People’s Republic of China to meet our new daughter, Aimee. I have been loathe to write much about the experience as I didn’t feel it was my place to wave her life, and the circumstances (as I knew them) of our adoption, in public. I did, however, spend the first few years communicating a great deal with other parents of internationally, and transracially, adopted children. I’ve decided now is the time to start sharing my thoughts and recollections. This is an email, dated October 13, 2005, I sent to a Yahoo group used by most everyone who used the facilitator we did – U.S. Asian Affairs – to help us with all the issues our adoption from the PRC required addressing. Most of the people who adopted Chinese children are white, and the issue of racism was even more difficult for many to discuss back then than it is now. Anyway, here’s what I wrote in response to a statement by a fellow AP (adoptive parent):

Mimi:

As my father used to say, “you hit the head right on the nail”. While abandonment issues are the most obvious, they exist because of something that happened at a time certain. That isn’t to say they don’t continue to affect our kids in numerous ways as they grow; just that the fact of abandonment is something that happened in the past and must be dealt with in that context.

Race, on the other hand is (unfortunately) an issue our children will almost certainly continue to deal with all their lives. How we approach it is of paramount importance in how they will cope with it. My research tells me (as do my gut instincts) that parents who choose to believe they can ignore it, or that it really isn’t a major issue, are setting themselves and, tragically, their children up for some major problems.

Once again, I urge all adoptive parents and all prospective adoptive parents, especially families where both members are Caucasian, to learn as much as you can about the realities of racism. I am talking here not merely about the most obvious aspects (such as outright bigotry) but also about the institutionalized and insidious aspects of racism. Those of you who have not given it much thought (this is not an indictment, merely a recognition of reality) will be shocked at some of the things you learn.

Additionally, I can’t stress enough how important it will be to let your children lead the way with respect to their lives. I believe love consists of two major components; affection and respect. I know you will show great affection for your child. It’s important as well that you show them deep respect and you can do this by learning how to listen to them. Children should not be seen and never heard. They should be heard first and foremost. Trust them; listen to them; make sure they will always talk to you and you will become their allies in a battle they will have no choice but to fight.

Know also that you are not in this alone. There are numerous resources out there for you to learn or gain strength from. We should all be thankful for Rick, Karin, and all the folks who contribute to the discussions here on China33. Traveling to China to receive your child is just the beginning of a lifelong journey and you have the opportunity to take it with a large, supportive community. Take advantage of it. Your kids will thank you.

Rick Ladd


We Shouldn’t Even be Discussing This!

I can’t believe we still have to protest this crap!

The sad reality is . . . most white people don’t have a clue what it means to be black in the U.S. Sure, there are prominent and successful black people. We even have a (half) black POTUS. For the vast majority, however, the effects of racism are still stark and very dangerous. Not always deadly, but always dangerous . . . or destructive. Unfortunately, privilege is not something most of us seem to be willing to give up. We don’t wish to accept the weight of responsibility our nation’s past has bequeathed us, but we’re more than happy to enjoy the disparities in treatment and opportunity that comes with it. Maybe speeches are what’s needed more often. Here’s a succinct statement of the real, underlying issue, stated far better than I’m capable of:

 


A Wonderful Response to Hate

When was it? A week or so ago? Remember that Cheerios video with the beautiful little girl and her interracial mom and dad? Unfortunately, cute and entertaining as it was, it brought out a vocal contingent of hateful bigots, prompting General Mills to suspend commenting on the YouTube video.

It even made it into the International Business Times, and is (as of this date) still being discussed extensively.

Well . . . a gentleman by the name of Kenji America has produced a video in response to those hateful people who, IMO, represent a dying breed spasming as they approach the demise of their narrow-minded, backward, disgusting ways. Check it out!


You’re Privileged to be Playing the Game

Levels of Difficult

You Can’t Choose This Difficulty Level!

I think I received my first comeuppance regarding white privilege around 1973. I was not quite 26 years old and had been a very active member in the anti-Vietnam War movement in Los Angeles. I had attended, organized, publicized, and provided security for a number of demonstrations and events.

Now I was preparing to spend a couple of months in Cuba as a guest of the Cuban government. I was a member of the Sixth Contingent (Sexto Contingente) of La Brigada Venceremos. I was excited. However, nobody was allowed to travel without first undergoing some rigorous training in how to not be an ugly American.

We Americans (even the term American is somewhat arrogant, as the U.S. is only one country in an entire hemisphere referred to as America), especially us straight males, have got it way better than we like to think. Unfortunately, due to the concept of American Exceptionalism, we really do like to think our shit doesn’t stink and we are in a class by ourselves.

Well, actually, we are in a class by ourselves – but it’s really not something to be all that proud of, in my less than humble opinion. But I digress.

Part of my ongoing training (which lasted several months) was learning about white privilege, i.e. the numerous and subtle ways in which being white gives those who sport the color (or lack thereof) a leg up on everyone else. The training was excellent. I was not made to feel guilty; merely shown how it works, the evidence of which was impossible for me to deny.

As a Knowledge Management professional, one of the things that’s important to me is the avoidance of re-inventing the wheel. That means, among other things, using the work of others to build on, where appropriate. I think this is an appropriate place to do that with a blog written by John Scalzi who, frankly, I don’t know much about. Nevertheless, this blog he wrote is absolutely brilliant and draws an analogy I think useful in understanding the concept I’m talking about. I want to share it with my small group of readers.

Here’s the link to his post – http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

I also want to share a video that’s a nice supplement to it. Enjoy!


On Being an Idiot!

Roles and Privilege

Privilege Allows One To Be a Bystander With Little Consequence

One of the most amazing and wonderful things I dearly love about social media is the serendipity, the seeming randomness of connections, that brings certain things to one’s attention; things you would not otherwise have seen or been aware of. For instance, my friend Trisha shared a link to an excellent post by someone I had never heard of before and likely never would have discovered otherwise. She was enthusiastic about this particular post so, naturally, I had to take a look.

I ended up reading not only the post she pointed me to, but four others that preceded – and were related to – it. The issue Joe was writing about is one that is near and dear to my heart; that of privilege and how little most of us understand its presence and power. He was specifically writing about the privilege that inures to men in a patriarchal society and, even more specifically, about how many men don’t even see the privilege we enjoy and, therefore, become bystanders to (and enablers of) gender-based violence and injustice. You really should read his stuff. Start here!

I was moved to add a rather lengthy comment on his final post and I’m hopeful I made sense to him. Sometimes I have so many thoughts stirred up by posts like Joe’s I have a hard time focusing on a simple, coherent answer. I did have some difficulty with this one, in part because it reminded me of something that happened to me around 25 years ago. It was something that made me feel like an idiot, I think in the same way that Joe refers to himself in his post. I’d like to relate that experience and try to tie it in somewhat to his premise.

Privilege can be seen in many different ways. In matters of race and ethnicity there is the reality of “White privilege”. The essence of any type of privilege is a bit of a paradox, as those who enjoy the privilege have the most difficult time seeing its existence. So it is with White privilege which is, just in case it’s not painfully obvious to you, inextricably intertwined with racism. Furthermore, racism and bigotry are not quite the same things – the former being far more insidious and bound up in cultural norms and social institutions.

But enough of that! I make no pretense to being a scholar or academic and it’s not my intention to delve too deeply into such matters, though I’ll circle back around to it in a bit. In my early twenties (keep in mind I turned 20 years old in 1967) I was very active in the peace and justice movement. I organized, participated in, and many times provided security for numerous demonstrations, marches, and other activities in opposition to the war in Vietnam. In 1973 I was lucky to be chosen as one of 100 people (half from the U.S. and half from Canada) who were to travel to Cuba as guests of the Castro government. I was a member of the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. Our mission was to work and learn, as well as deliver a shipment of books and educational material.

The group was very diverse; far more so than the anti-war movement – which was primarily white. In addition to left-wing members of the Democratic Party, there were representatives of the Black Panther Party and the Brown Berets. One of my travel mates was a “Pinto” a Chicano who had spent some time in prison. He would later become the only human on which I have seriously used my martial arts skills, but that’s another story. As part of our preparation for the journey to Cuba we received some fairly extensive education in the nature of racism; not from some academic or a tome written explaining it, but rather from those who were at the receiving end of it, the people of color who were part of our group.

We also spent a lot of time looking at and working to understand cultural chauvinism in an effort to not be what so many Americans are capable of . . . insensitive, ignorant, “ugly” Americans. One specific admonition I recall came in the form of a story of a woman who, when looking at a worker struggling to complete a job with simple, human-powered technology, remarked at the quaintness of the scene. It was one that, in reality, was of appalling poverty and destitution, but she saw it through the lens of her “privileged” upbringing and parsed it as “quaint”, which it certainly was not to the person doing the struggling.

Now, to circle back to the event that happened around 25 years ago, and which I mentioned earlier. I bring up some of my experience merely to point out that I had been struggling against my own racism, and confronting that of others, for close to 15 years when this happened and I considered myself reasonably far down the path of understanding and overcoming racism, sexism, and other prejudices I (along with so many of my fellow citizens) had been raised with.

I was at a friend’s house, sitting at a dining table chatting with another mutual friend, a woman named Cheryl. Our friend was (still is) Caucasian; his wife Chinese. They had two kids. Cheryl is Sansei, like my wife, third generation Japanese-American. Cheryl and I were talking about our friends’ two kids and I mentioned how strong I thought the Asian genes were and how obvious their expression was in the children’s facial features. Cheryl cocked her head slightly and looked at me like I was someone different than the Rick she had known for quite a while. She offered how she thought just the opposite; that Caucasian features were strong in both the children.

I don’t remember if I had ever considered it before (probably not), but I was suddenly made aware of how insidiously my belief about race had entered into my view of those children. The reality was that they were a mix of both their parents’ racial and genetic heritage. However, I rather unthinkingly considered them White, with an overlay of Asian. I was stunned at my stupidity and casual, unthinking racism.

There are two main lessons I believe I got out of this. The first is that racism can be very subtle and, for those who have benefited from the privileges that come with it, exceedingly difficult to recognize. The second is that racism and bigotry are not the same thing. They may sometimes be congruent, but not necessarily – and therein lies the difficulty many have. I felt nothing but love for my friends and their children, but I nevertheless brought subtle prejudice to the table when thinking about them. It had little consequence for our relationship but, for me, it carried a great deal of weight in terms of understanding how privilege works.

I’m not even addressing Joe’s issue of how it empowers those who are the beneficiaries to become bystanders and, therefore, enablers of prejudice. I’m only pointing out that privilege and the isms that it flows from run very deep and are often silent and difficult to recognize. Fighting racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice requires constant vigilance in order to recognize when we’re finding ourselves standing side-by-side with the perpetrators. For me it has been a lifelong battle and I know now it’s far from over. Do you question your beliefs regularly? Do you understand what’s behind your view of the world?


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