(I’m blogging about our experience adopting a pair of siblings from foster care, in the hope that it will inspire you to adopt. The series starts here.)
I am speechless about what has happened this week. About these shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis; about my friend who today told her black teenage son to take off his hood as he went outside; about what to tell my kids about how to navigate this insanity.
I haven’t posted in this series for a month & a half because the next conversation in our adoption process was about race. God help us, things keep getting worse in our nation around this issue, and I haven’t known how to write our story in a way that acknowledges the larger story.
But as things unfolded over the past couple of days, I realized that the only way to share this is to jump out of the narrative and be honest about what we’ve experienced this year as a mixed-race family. To put it bluntly, it divides up pretty clearly into two types of encounters: people who know us and people who don’t.
The people who know us have been incredible. Our families opened their arms and hearts and lives and treat Cy & Reena as if they’ve been with us all along. Our neighbors stunned us with their open generosity: Our kids integrated our white neighborhood…and our neighbors never blinked. Kids came over to play, their parents helped us navigate school and sports and middle school life, I hear compliments from the senior citizens on our street about how great they are, and the little boy next door wanders over to play basketball with my son in our driveway. In the circle of our personal relationships, I can honestly say that race has been much less of an issue than I anticipated.
The opposite is true in places where people don’t know us, and I guess that’s what this post, and so many of my thoughts right now, are about.
In one of the first visits after we met the Cherubs, I took them to Target to get clocks for their bedrooms. Clocks are in electronics, which was about 100 feet from the door. The kids walked ahead of me, so I saw the security guard FLY across the store and position himself at the end of the aisle where they stood. I walked up to the kids and engaged them in a conversation about which clock they each wanted. The security guard walked away slowly. I went around the corner to check on something for an upcoming birthday – I was gone for less than 15 seconds – and the security guard was back to watch them. The kids weren’t near anything steal-able or breakable, nor were they misbehaving. I don’t think the kids even noticed him. But I walked out thinking, “Wow…is that how it’s gonna be?”
Not too long after that, my daughter and I were shopping in Marshalls. We were in the back, looking for a bathrobe. As we were walking, a security guard emerged out of a doorway I hadn’t noticed. I smiled and said hello. Then, as we looked at the robe options, I thought, That’s weird. He’s not moving. And then, Oh wait. He’s here because of US. My heart fell. And I was angry. We were not doing anything even slightly suspicious or unruly. We were looking at clearance pajamas. We selected a fuzzy pink robe from the rack and went to the front to pay for it. We were watched until we left the store.
(A week later I was in the same Marshalls alone. The sewn-in security tag on my new pants set off the alarm going into the store, and then again on the way out. Both times, the sales team looked over at me, apologized, and waved me on.)
Then there was the vacation we attempted to New Hampshire, which we now refer to as “That time we took our black kids to the White Mountains.” People openly stared at our family everywhere we went. Aggressively, and without even the least hint of subtlety. Rest stops, restaurants, the grocery store. Kids swam by our kids in the pool, eyes wide with wonder. A waitress came up to our table, said, “Oh I just can’t help myself!” and touched my son’s hair, commenting on how soft it was. We abandoned that vacation the next morning, feeling like we’d accidentally wandered into the deep South in the 1950s.
I have no idea how to tell our kids to think about or navigate situations like what we see happening over and over again in our country right now. Our son turns 14 this month, and we might tell him not to wear his hood up when he goes out. I’m not sure. I don’t know that it would matter.
But here’s what I do know: God loves my kids. He loved them (and Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile, and Treyvon Martin, and Eric Garner, and Michael Brown…) before I even knew their names. That has not changed. That will not change. Death is not God’s will, or the end of the story. Jesus brought new, abundant, eternal life. I believe that. And so I will not be afraid for my son (or my daughter) because fear is not of God. I will love them, pray for them, and teach them everything I can about how to navigate this world. But I will also teach them that this world is not our home, and that right now is not forever. We live in this tension between heaven and earth. It’s a battle, and we’re in the crossfire in ways we hardly understand. But in that we choose to live, and love, and work to make things better.
Now I’ll make a blatant plug:
Want to stand up and show that Black Lives Matter? Adopt a black kid.