All Articles Tagged "black children"
Telling Our Stories: Marjuan Canady, Author Of The Callaloo Book Series, Talks Diversifying Children’s Literature
Author and playwright Marjuan Canady, 29, has set out to address the desperate need for Black storytellers to produce narratives for our people. And most importantly, for our children, so that they can witness and learn more about their incredible history.
A 2014 study by Cooperative Children’s Book Center also analyzed by Lee & Low Books reported that 37 percent of the U.S. population is made up of people of color. Additionally, the U.S. Census predicts that by 2060, 56 percent of children under the age of 18 will be non-white. Yet only 10 percent of children’s books in the past 21 years have contained multi-cultural content. Canady’s Callaloo series addresses the disparity and allows this generation to take pride in where they come from and to love their Black and brown skin.
Canady recalls that her love for storytelling began as early as the age of three. Like many children, the stories shared with Canady as a child enriched her life and even shaped her dreams for the future.
“I had a love and appreciation for stories and the arts for as long as I can remember, which now I know has played a huge role in my artistry today,” Canady said. “I had and still do have a very wild imagination, and that was all cultivated as a child.”
Canady started her career in theatre after studying everywhere from the Duke Ellington School of Arts, to Fordham University and New York University. With theatre as the base of her love for storytelling, Canady started her journey off as an actor and then began playwriting. Unbeknownst to her, one of her plays would birth her first children’s book.
“Back in 2012, I didn’t necessarily intend to create a children’s book. I actually didn’t even know what I was doing, “Canady said. “I had just completed my second play, Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale, with two performances in New York and Washington, D.C. The play was full of carnival costumes, dance, jazz music and Caribbean folklore. The play was really an extension of my own cultural upbringing as a child born in the U.S. with Trinidadian roots. A good friend of mine and master visual artist from high school, Nabeeh Bilal, saw the play and approached me about developing it into an animated series and children’s book. At the time, I was living in Los Angeles, and he was living in D.C. and we orchestrated developing the book via Skype meetings and icalendar. We were deeply committed to this project, and it was such a fun and organic process.”
As Canady and her partner Bilal began researching and working together they discovered some harsh realities about diversity in children’s media.
“Neither of us had any experience working in the children’s publishing world, so everything was brand new. Once we really began to do the research, we learned of the shocking disparity in the children’s book world. Really, in all of children’s media, including animation, television, interactive games and books,” Canady said. “There is little to no content being developed by artists of color with children of color at the center. The more we got deeper into the work, the more we became so much more committed. For me, it’s not just about books, but about telling fully rounded, culturally accurate, inclusive and compelling stories in books, live performance, animation, digital content, games and classroom materials for all children to enjoy, learn and love.”
Out of this meeting of artistic minds, the Callaloo book series was born with Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale as its first installment. Callaloo highlights the adventures of a young dreamer named Winston, who is magically transported to the island of Tobago from Brooklyn after being sent to the store to retrieve ingredients for his aunt’s callaloo dinner. Blended brilliantly with traditional Caribbean folklore and present day inner-city life, Callaloo provides children with a myriad of learning opportunities in one beautifully crafted story. This was Canady’s goal.
“I want to use Callaloo as a tool for cultural literacy to not only educate in traditional methods — reading, vocabulary, math, geography — but to teach values. Such as tolerance, cultural difference and appreciation, kindness, diversity and acceptance,” Canady said. “I think these are values that are missing in the world, and we have to start instilling these values in children from an early age.”
In order to begin teaching these values through Callaloo: A Jazz Folktale, Canady is involved in community outreach projects at schools and libraries where she reads the story and discusses it with children. To aid in her storytelling, Canady has introduced puppetry into her live readings, bringing Winston to life, which further captivates the imagination and hearts of the audience. “Nabeeh performs the puppet of Winston while I read the book. The children and adults absolutely love him.”
Canady’s success thus far was not easy. It is an enormous task to develop stories featuring characters who are Black.
“I have faced discrimination as a new, young Black writer in this particular field, ” Canady said. “I remember when we first started developing the book. Many literary agents and publishers told me I didn’t have enough experience, and the story was not interesting enough, and there was just no market for these stories. This actually fueled me even more because I knew this was absolutely not true. The truth is there is a much bigger problem in the entertainment and publishing world when it comes to people of color producing their own content. Large companies don’t believe people of color’s stories are valuable because they don’t understand it, and they don’t see it as profitable. Although we have faced some challenges, my team and I decided not to let that stop us. I think we do need to discuss these inequities, however, we also have to create solutions and plans of action to create work and sustainable methods to compete in these respective industries. We also have to support artists who are combatting these stereotypes.”
In spite of her challenges, Canady is grateful for the vast amount of support and love she has been shown on this journey. “The Caribbean and African-American community has been tremendously supportive from the beginning,” Canady said. “Teachers, parents and arts educators all see the value and need in what we are doing. Thanks to our local support, Callaloo is available at Barnes & Noble, over 20 national and international libraries, on Amazon, and other online platforms. The best part of this process is that we get to talk to our audience and find out what kids actually like and what parents want to buy.”
For those upcoming Black writers who are ready to share your stories with world, Canady says that your voices deserve to be heard.
“Live the best life you possibly can and discover your voice. Study those who have come before you and be open to new people, possibilities, and experiences,” Canady said. “The best thing about writing is that there is no formula. You can be free to say what you want in whatever way you believe. Black female voices have systemically been silenced in our history, but the strength, resilience, and vulnerability we possess are our secret weapons.”
One thing that never changes in the Black community is that no matter what obstacles we face, we are built with the endurance and dauntlessness it takes to press on. These characteristics are passed down from generation to generation. These are characteristics our children deserve to encounter early on in their childhood. It’s up to us to make sure it happens by supporting Canady and other young Black women like her who seek to share our stories with the world. Who else can tell our stories better than we can?
Visit callaloothebook.com for more information and to sign up for their mailing list.
Tags:afro caribbean authors, afro caribbean folklore, black children, black children and education, black children reading, Black children's book authors, black children's books, black female actors, black female writers, black writers, callaloo the book, Caribbean authors, children's books, marjuan canady, puppetry
It’s prom season again. And you know what that means: time to make fun of young adults because deep down, we are all horrible and unhappy people.
Okay, that may not be entirely accurate. But each year, websites dedicated mostly to Black celebrity gossip and even thought, contribute at least one slideshow to what folks deem as the unrefined or “ratchet” prom attire. These slideshows regularly feature pictures of young teens, usually young Black girls, decked out in everything from revealing dresses with open backs, stomachs, and high slits; long tuxedo trains that look like something Blade would wear; outfits made out of fake Louis Vuitton prints; and teens in dresses made out of old Doritos, Ramen noodles bags and whatever the hell these two have on…
For many folks who indulge in this sort of mockery, the clowning of prom attire has become almost like a sport, with folks debating and even competing over who had the most ratchet outfit of them all. But I never quite understood the enjoyment we get, particularly as grown ass adults, sharing pictures and laughing at what are essentially children – albeit awkwardly dressed children, but still children.
For one, there is obviously a class distinction at play within all of this mockery. In most instances, these are pictures of teens who hail from communities, which are often too poor to shop at high-end boutiques or even rental places for more “suitable” attire. They “splurge” the best they can to have the experience, which by most standards is the crux of normal teenagehood. And when they can’t splurge financially, they use their best creativity to come up with something unique and personal to them in the hopes of making their special nights memorable. That includes commissioning that one aunt who says she can sew, but ends up turning that sky blue faux leather alligator print material you saved up for weeks to buy into something that resembles a turtle shell and not the tailored vest that you had actually envisioned. Now, I’m not saying any full names, but my poor baby brother Eric looked like the disenfranchised Black member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for his prom…
But outside the class distinctions, there is something even more ugly about our mockery of the attire of these kids that bothers me. While we are laughing and sharing these photos for others to laugh at, we forget we are actually sharing pictures of young adults, if not minors. And we are often doing it without their expressed permission. And I can’t emphasize enough “the children” aspect of all of it.
Sure, these pictures are likely snatched from some young and dumb kid’s Instagram, who didn’t have the sense to set their account to private. But that’s the thing: these are young and dumb kids entitled to make young and dumb mistakes like we all did at their age. Meanwhile, the folks sharing these pictures are adults who are supposed to know and behave a little better in life. But obviously, we don’t.
Worse, we forget that behind what we deem as bad dresses and suits, are indeed children with stories, aspirations, hopes, fears, angst, and yes, insecurities of their own. Young adults and children, who were looking to have a good time and possibly feel good about themselves at least for one night. Young adults and children, who felt good about themselves in the attire they had selected, suddenly being the butt of the entire Black blogosphere. Again, young adults and children.
Now, you may not see them as children, and that is understandable considering most of society has a hard time seeing Black kids as actual kids. I’m not bullshitting you here. There are actual studies about this. In particular, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology published a study last year, which suggested that Black boys in particular “may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their White peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime.”
And the same sort of dehumanization happens with our girls. How could we forget last year’s scandal involving GOP staffer Elizabeth Lauten, who had to resign from her post after making disparaging comments about Sasha and Malia Obama’s short skirts, which they wore to the White House’s annual Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon ceremony? Despite the Black blogosphere being in an uproar over the dehumanizing treatment of our first daughters, the truth of the matter is that we engage in the same sort of dehumanization with other less protected Black daughters – and sons – each time we share and mock their prom pictures.
I’m not trying to shame anyone (too much) who both passes around and laughs at images of these young people’s prom attire; but I hope I have inspired some folks to think about what we are actually doing when we do share and mock these photos. There are enough people in this world waiting to harm our children. And because they are Black, they will have a lifetime of people making them feel inferior. So why do we, as grown Black adults, need to compound that? In short, our children deserve way more protection and respect than this.
I have spent my life, living, working, loving and hating in largely Black enclaves. The one exception is the four years of my middle school, which was spent in a racially-mixed, but predominantly White, school in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
My presence at the school was by chance. My neighborhood middle school, which served a predominantely Black, Hispanic and new immigrant Asian population, was severely overcrowded and underfunded. At the same time, the School District of Philadelphia, which was trying to mitigate the severity of a 40-year-old school desegregation case, decided that it would kill two birds with one stone by bussing a bunch of Black kids out of North Philly into White areas. According to the Philadelphia Public Notebook, at the height of the voluntary busing program, “some 14,000 students were bused to schools outside their neighborhoods to improve the schools’ racial diversity.” I was one of those pioneers who got the privilege to wake up extra early in the morning just to take a nearly hour-long bus ride in search of more equitable education opportunities.
While interacting with Hispanics and other new immigrants was nothing new to me, this was my first time actually meeting a bunch of White people, who weren’t just teachers or representatives from some government agencies. Needless to say, that I was excited about the new experience of meeting new kinds of people, particularly in their own spaces. And as I rode the yellow bus on my first day of school through this foreign neighborhood, I had all sorts of burning questions about the mysterious ways of White folks. Did they all live in big houses with live-in maids like on the the television show, “Mr. Belvedere”? Did they really eat pumpkin pie during holiday meals instead of sweet potato pie? Did they skateboard and really say words like “gnarly” and “totally rad?” I would find the answers to those questions and more when the yellow bus finally stopped and dropped us off in front of Webster Middle School.
As I piled off the bus with the rest of the elementary school-aged Black and Hispanic kids, the first thing I noticed was that the neighborhood didn’t look that much different than the one we came from. Sure the streets were nicer and much cleaner and there were actual trees along the curb line. But the White people didn’t look as refined as the White people I’d seen on television. For one, they lived in rowhouses, just like we did in North Philly, and said weird phrases like “youse guys.” The boys were more obsessed with street hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers than anything having to do with skateboarding. While the girls were into dodging plume clouds of Aqua Net and mimicking hair bands. Plus, just about the entire student body smoked cigarettes. Fourth grader, fifth grader, sixth grader, didn’t matter. White kids were pulling out whole packs of Marlboros and chain smoking them up right outside of the school’s front entrance. In short, these White people were kind of rough.
In spite of White people being nothing like I had imagined them to be, it was still a different world than where I came from. And it would get even more different during my first gym class. The teacher, who was handing out assigned seats on the gym floor, told me to take a squat across from a White girl with a brownish-blonde mullet and the stench of a half-smoked Marlboro Light on her clothes. We stared at each other briefly before she smiled and waved at me. Of course, I smiled and waved back. And when she asked for my name, I told her that too before inquiring about hers. It was Dani.
“Hi Dani,” I said grinning from ear to ear. We sat quietly for a few moments, staring and smiling at each other. I thought for sure that I had made a new friend and had already begun daydreaming about all the fun girlfriend things we were going to do together. She was going to teach me who “youse” was and I going to introduce her to some real pie. But then, in the most sincerest of tones my new friend asked me, “Why don’t you go back to Africa, Black monkey?”
I was stunned. For one, she was still wearing that same warm smile she had when she asked me my name. And secondly, while I had heard of such racism in those old Civil Rights movies, which used to come on the local PBS station, I truly thought those days were over. Mom never once mentioned the possibility of racism; she just told me to behave and not embarrass her in front of the teachers. And Mr. Belvedere damn sure never said anything about it neither. In all the planning and rehearsing I had done that morning before school to prepare me for my close encounter with the pale kind, I had no idea of what I would do in event someone said something racist.
Still, I wasn’t no punk. So I said the first thing that came to my mind: “Shut up, b**ch! Why don’t you go back to the North Pole.” Because I was 11-years-old and from North Philly (hence the familiarity with cursing a person out with ease) and the North Pole was the whitest place I could think of. She laughed and shook her head at the ridiculousness of my comeback. And so did some of the other White kids, who had been listening and mocking me also nearby. I however shrank a bit into myself…
That incident came across my mind after reading the story of the little brown skin girl who too was also forced to shrink after facing similar degradation. According to the Grio, Tomeka Fisher was left speechless when she recorded a video of her 4-year-old daughter Londyn crying her little eyes out after being told by her class mates that they didn’t want to be her friend because they didn’t like Black people. If you can stomach it, you can watch the heart-wrenching video here. Fisher had also posted the video to her Facebook page with the caption: “My 4-year-old is crying her heart out, and so am I. I don’t know what to do or say.”
Nor would I. Already scarred by the Africa incident, among others, I probably wouldn’t handle that entire situation very well. And to be totally honest, I probably wouldn’t even allow my kid to be put into that situation in the first place. And not that I’m blaming Fisher for any of this at all. Just like my mom, and so many other Black parents who have steered their children towards more “diverse” educational experiences, the end goal is to better position our children so they have a greater chance in a society, which is still deeply rooted in White supremacy. With that said, how better of a position can we really be putting our children in if it makes them feel ashamed of their color and accomplices to their own oppression?
After the Africa incident, things at Webster got better. And I actually started to make friends with some of my other White classmates. I found out that in spite of our differences, we also had some things in common, like our love for “Mr. Belvedere.” However our friendships were definitely on their cultural terms. I couldn’t even sway them with a slice of grandmas homemade sweet potato pie. And I often felt like I had to overcompensate when I was around them. I had even gotten to the point that I was rocking the “Stairway to Heaven” bangs and talking about “youse” people. Although I had lots of White friends, culturally I felt isolated. And after a while, I started hanging out more with the bussed-in Black kids at lunch and recess. They too felt some kind of way about their new friends…
I was raised by a Black family. I go to a Black church. I live in a Black neighborhood. I did my undergrad at a Black college—finishing my master’s degree at one, too. Teen Girl has been educated in schools where White students are welcome, but none ever enrolled. We are surrounded and cushioned by Blackness aplenty. I never saw anything wrong with it. I still don’t. We celebrate, enjoy and appreciate other races, cultures and communities but, when it’s time to come home, we revel in our own. The other day, however, she brought up an interesting point during an otherwise fruitless conversation about her plans for New Year’s Eve.
“Last year, I hung out with you and your friends like I was one of the ladies in Waiting to Exhale,” she snarked in her teenage drawl. “This year, I want to spend the night at Beth’s house. Like a cultural exchange.”
Beth is her one White friend, a girl she met at summer camp at a very ritzy and very privileged private school in a very monied section of the city. My child was there on a let’s-make-a-conscious-effort-to-be-more-diverse scholarship. That wasn’t the official name, of course, but it surely was the intention. Female. Check! African-American. Check! Single-parent household. Check! And, according to their old wealth and upper income bracket standards, we’re also considered po’ folks, so check for that too, thank you very much. The costs of camp are no joke, so if it wasn’t for that come-up, homegirl would’ve surely spent her days schlepping through the Janelle Harris You Gonna Be Anything But Lazy Internship Program. We were both thankful it didn’t come down to that.
Beth, on the contrary, was there on the strength that her parents could afford to send her on a whim simply because she decided at the last minute she wanted to go.
I don’t begrudge the girl her money or her privilege. She was unknowingly born into both. I do resent her effort to counter it by trying her darndest to pretend her way into Blackness based on what she absorbs on reality TV and World Star Hip-Hop. Between her fledgling Ebonics, her little colored, cornrow-wearing boyfriend and now a friendship with my daughter who, bonus! has dreads and lives in the ‘hood, she is a certified carrier of the storied Black pass. She’s all set.
Skylar thinks my apprehension about their new girlfriendom is the rearing of some sort of reverse discrimination. “You don’t like her just because she’s White,” she accused.
I sucked my teeth. “Oh, on the contrary,” I retorted. “I suspect she only likes you because you’re Black.”
That girl has my blessing to be friends with as many people who represent as many differences as the wide world offers. I just don’t want her to do it at the expense of being the token Negro friend for folks who just want to live the vicarious life for curiosity’s sake. Everybody wants to be Black until the cops come or the paychecks are cut. Then it stops being hip and trendy. It becomes an inconvenience.
Read more at Essence.com
Just the other day, I was talking to a man who described himself as “as white as he could be.” We were discussing the Kieran Romney adoption. I was explaining that although I have my concerns, I’m generally happy about the Romney family adopting little Kieran because far too often black children are the last children to be adopted. The likelihood of them finding a permanent family becomes even more slim as they get older.
This was news to the white guy.
And though, it’s something I’ve known for quite some time, associating a human face to what often comes off as just a numbers and percentage issue, makes it all the more real and all the more heartbreaking.
In a beautifully written story published on NaplesNews.com, we learn about 15 year old Davion Navar Henry Only, an orphan who’s looking for a home.
The reporter, Lane Degregory of the Tampa Bay Times writes that Davion’s names mean “beloved, brown, ruler of the home and the one and only. He’s memorized all of them. Though one of his names means ruler of the home, Davion told a St. Petersburg church on a Sunday morning in September that he’s never had a home of his own.
“My name is Davion and I’ve been in foster care since I was born… I know God hasn’t given up on me. So I’m not giving up either.”
This was the beginning part of the speech Davion delivered to the members of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, in which he petitioned the congregation to adopt him.
Davion, who was born while his mother was in jail, says he can’t count all the places he’s lived in; but right now, he resides in the Eckerd Carlton Manor, a residential group home for teenage boys.
While Davion has a place to stay, he wants privileges and even standard allowances other children take for granted.
From Naples News:
“Davion wants to play football, but there’s no one to drive him to practice. He wants to use the bathroom without having to ask someone to unlock the door. More than anything, he wants someone to tell him he matters. To understand when he begs to leave the light on.”
In the past, Davion has had issues with anger management. He had thrown chairs, earned poor grades and pushed people away. But all of that changed when he searched and found his birth mother, this past June. Davion went to the library and found a mug shot for La-Dwina Ilene “Big Dust” McCloud, age 55. Shortly after that, he found her obituary. The article on Naples News explains that Davion learning of his mother’s passing and that she wasn’t coming back to get him, made him change his behavior. Davion’s caseworker said after he let go of hope of his mother’s return, he wanted to show everyone who he could be so someone would want him.
Throughout the summer he worked on his temper and dropping his defenses. He lost 40 pounds and as a current 10th grader, he’s earned all A’s except in geometry.
As he was speaking to the congregation, he said, “I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.”
After hearing that God helps those who help themselves, it was Davion’s idea to appeal to the members of St. Mark. Before he spoke, he told his caseworker, Connie Going: “I know they’re out there. Maybe if someone hears my story…”
At the time the article was published on Naples News, on October 15, there had been two couples who asked about Davion. But no one has come forward to adopt him yet. If you want more information about Davion, or other foster children in the Florida area who are awaiting families, you can call Eckerd at 866-233-0790. If you’re unable to adopt but want to donate time or money, you can call Eckerd at 727-456-0600.
In 43 states, child poverty has increased significantly since The Great Recession settled across America. The only states that saw a decrease are Texas and Illinois. African-American and Hispanic children under six, according to The Children’s Defense Fund, have suffered the most through the nation’s slow-moving economic recovery.
Thirteen states have a child poverty rate higher than 25 percent, according to data pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau. In Mississippi, 34.7 percent of toddlers live in poverty and 29.3 percent of New Mexico’s children live with hardship. Both states have the highest rates of child poverty.
These statistics will be sure to rise if the proposal to cut $40 million SNAP benefits over the next 10 years is signed into law. (More on that in a coming story.) “How is it possible when millions of children are poor, Congress could for one minute consider cutting their food assistance,”asked Marian Wright Edelman in a press statement, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.
Elise Gould, an economist, would agree: “Now is no time to be considering cuts to the safety net.” Gould’s analysis using data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the important of federal assistance for curbing poverty. “In 2012, 1.7 million people were kept out of poverty by unemployment insurance and 15.3 million elderly Americans were kept out of poverty by Social Security,” Gould added.
“All Americans including those in Congress have to recognize that Black and Hispanic children already are a majority of our babies and are the face of our future. We need them to be productive,” Edelman said. “Every year we keep over 16 million children in poverty we are losing hundreds of billions of dollars. Children did not cause the recession and they should not have to suffer from the recklessness of others.”
Between 2009 and 2012, only the wealthiest five percent saw income gains. For more than a decade now, poverty levels have been on an ascending trajectory. “The poverty rate increased between 2000 and 2007 from 11.3 percent to 12.5 percent, then continued to rise through the Great Recession,” according to Gould’s report.
With the recession leaving 24 states with a quarter of impoverished children (under the age of six), Edelman concludes,”[c]hildren’s ability to survive, thrive and develop must not depend on the lottery of geography of birth. A child is a child and should be protected by a national floor of decency. We can and must end child poverty.”
We love watching fights. Whether it be Tami Roman on “Basketball Wives” or someone fighting on World Star Hip Hop, our culture thrives on viewing a beat down. Sometimes these fights get too graphic, even for our numbed out minds, and petitions are drawn up and a channel like CNN reports on it. But sooner or later, we are right back to where we started, supporting the violence; using something so alarming as a form of entertainment.
Most who use these television shows and viral videos for escapism will admit that they are having profound negative effects on our youth. It’s common knowledge that high school and middle school students are notorious for filming schoolyard and neighborhood fights just for a little cyber fame. But a few weeks back, I realized just how dark this new found culture has gotten. Flipping through news channels, I stopped to watch a news reporter on Headline News where they discussed a YouTube video of a young mother cheering on the physical altercation of two toddlers. My heart sank for about five minutes as I watched the news segment in disbelief.
It was reported that the mother filming the ordeal is from St. Louis. She can be heard in the background egging on the inappropriate behavior with exclamations such as, “Y’all better ball up some fists!” A friend of the mother reported the video to their local television station, and Social Services got involved. As I shook myself out of my state of shock, my mind began to race with thoughts of how much we have embraced barbaric physical acts as a norm. We fight over comments on social media, celebrities fight over the women they’re sleeping with, and every reality show gains viewers by allowing cast members to haul off and slap the crap out of one another. The culture of fighting is being embraced on these shows, and it’s not only making young men and women think that getting violent to solve disputes is cool, but it’s painting us all in a horrible light. It’s bad enough we have Erica scrapping in a parking lot with her man Lil Scrappy, but to have a real-time video of a black mother urging two babies to fight? What is the world coming to when your thirst for entertainment and fame allows you to go so far?
I know that reality shows with violence aren’t going to go anywhere anytime soon. Petitions will be drawn up, people will protest, but these programs will be here to stay as long as there is an audience that desires them. What I am concerned about is how much of these shows we have internalized. This video of the two babies fighting screams that our appetite for violence and using it as a way to settle issues is bigger and more complex than we ever imagined. I can say, with a heavy heart, that common sense, tact and maturity for many has flown completely out the window, and the more we say this ratchet behavior is just “entertainment,” the more we can expect scenarios like this to happen again. We’ve become too desensitized to the violence, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is not a good thing.
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By Rachel Garlinghouse
I’m an adoptive parent. I’m white. My two daughters, ages three and one, are both black. It’s glaringly obvious that my kids and I don’t “match” and that they are adopted.
We have been asked a slew of questions. “Are you girls REAL sisters?” “Did you hear that Katherine Heigl adopted another baby?” “Are your kids full or mixed?” “Why didn’t their birth parents keep them?” “Why couldn’t you have your own kids?”
One question that I found incredibly interesting, and one that the media is asking more than ever is, “Why didn’t you adopt one of your own kind?” (Yes, this is exactly how the question was asked.) It has been implied that there are plenty of white babies who need good homes, so why would we, as whites, pluck a black child out of the mix of available kids? (This is actually not true. Many adoption agencies have a tremendous need for families to be open to adopting black children, including sibling groups and kids with special needs, as many white parents only want to adopt healthy white infants.)
The media and the public are asking these questions of transracial adoptive parents: Are you trying to capitalize on some sort of trend? Why are you stealing a black baby away from her racial culture? Are you trying to make your child white? How in the world can a white family raise a black child properly?
The increase in media attention on celebrity adoptive parents, particularly transracial adoptive celebrity families like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, and Katherine Heigl, has brought transracial adoption to the forefront of pop culture. I have read, much to my dismay, article after article that begins by prompting the public to question the integrity and intent of such parents.
I have to admit, I don’t necessarily blame people for their assumptions and skepticism regarding transracial adoption, particularly white parents who are raising black kids. Whites have a long history of treating blacks and other races in degrading, dehumanizing manners. There is a seemingly natural and underlying distrust between whites and all other races. Despite people claiming to be “colorblind” and spouting that “the world is a melting pot” which is magically full of harmony and unity, I know otherwise.
You might question if parents are adopting minority children because it’s the trendy thing to do. Here are some truths, from my experience, regarding transracial adoption:
1. Transracial adoptive families are double-minorities, facing endless discrimination.
Until we adopted our first daughter, I was, unknowingly, enjoying white Privilege. No one ever looked twice at me in a shopping mall or restaurant, no one questioned my motives, no one asked how authentic my family was, if we were a “real” family or not.
But when my husband and I brought our first daughter home, we were quickly inducted into the life of a minority. We have been asked by an airline to provide our youngest child’s birth certificate to prove that she is actually our daughter prior to us boarding a plane. When we went to obtain a social security card for her, the attendant gave us several glares, making it clear she didn’t approve of our transracial adoption. She then asked, quite judgmentally, a question that had nothing to do with the application for the social security card: “Do they [our daughters] have the same parents?” I’ve been asked about the girls’ “real” mom, as if I am the fake mom. A cashier at a local store asked why the hell my girls’ birth parents would “give them away” because after all, the girls were “so pretty.” My family deals with, on a daily basis, discrimination related to adoption and race.
2. Transracial adoption is a path to parenthood.
Individuals and couples adopt because they want to be parents. Maybe they couldn’t have biological kids, couldn’t have more biological kids, had always wanted to adopt, didn’t want to wait for a partner to have children, or chose to adopt to avoid passing a genetic condition on to any biological children. The reasons are many.
When I was twenty-four years old, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease: type I diabetes. I am dependent on insulin for life; without it, I will die. Type I diabetes can be accompanied by a slew of dangerous side effects, all of which can impact the life of the diabetic’s unborn baby. My husband and I chose not to have biological children because we felt the risks outweighed the benefits. So we filled out paperwork to adopt, marked “open to a child of any race,” and waited. We were chosen, twice, to adopt black children. Without adoption, we wouldn’t be parents. We wanted to be parents. So we adopted. It’s really that simple.
We’ve all criticized BET for their less than stellar programming and decisions; but when they get it right, we have to give props. And yesterday BET did a great thing by transforming their hit show, “106 & Park” into an hour long special with Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin and Trayvon’s younger brother, Jahvaris Fulton.
Being that “106 & Park” speaks directly to young people– it was actually a favorite of Trayvon’s– it’s only appropriate that his parents speak to their son’s peer group. They sat down with BET’s newest talent, T.J. Holmes, to offer advice to the young audience members, share memories of their son and their hopes for the upcoming trial.
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The way people grossly underestimate children never ceases to amaze me. Children are people, with brains that develop at a much faster rate than ours. Sure every once in a while they may say things that will catch us off guard but we should never underestimate what they are and are not able to comprehend.
We re-learned this lesson in the clips from CNN’s upcoming special, “Kids On Race: The Hidden Picture.” In this video psychologists and even some of the CNN journalists, including Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brein, spoke with a diverse group of children and even their parents to discuss the issue of race in their schools, in their friendships and in their homes.
Check the video clip below:
The video found that while both children recognize differences in race, black children are more likely to be open and optimistic when it comes to interracial friendships.
Are you surprised about the results from this video?
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