On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I read a friend’s Facebook status that really made me think. This person posted about how differently they now thought of this holiday after adopting their child. How it took on more of a meaning to them now that they were raising a child from Ethiopia. I also read another friend’s status quoting MLK and talking about how we have not yet fully achieved his dream of living “in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”.
Truthfully, before adopting EJ I had thought little about race. Although raised right outside of Boston, I grew up in a community of mostly Italians. We had one African American boy in my class from 3rd-8th grade and in high school we had very few students from different cultural backgrounds. I have never even had an African American friend. I was extremely naïve in my thought process about race. I just assumed everyone liked everyone regardless of skin color. That is what I had been taught and since I had seen very little for myself, it is what I assumed to be true.
Then we adopted a baby from Ethiopia. After about a week home I realized that I had been very sheltered and very stupid. I started to read more, notice more, and learn more about race and cultural identity and how our society perceives it. It was eye opening. The first time Mike and I took EJ to Target together and had a man stare at us, shake his head and walk away, I actually felt rage. The first time someone said to me, “Oh his skin isn’t that dark.” I wanted to be sick. The first time I read a news story about an African American teenager being wrongly accused of a crime I grew very fearful. When I searched for the “dark skinned” Elf on the Shelf this Christmas and could not find it in most stores, I became outraged. Where have I been? What rock was I living under?
We recently began thinking about where we want to settle in RI and what school system EJ will attend. I can’t help but be angry that the diverse schools we would like him to attend are not academically acceptable and are not where we would choose to live. This is a huge discrepancy in our society, one that never affected me before so I didn’t pay attention it. As we look at towns that have the best schools systems, we face raising him in a town where he may be the only child of color in his class. It just doesn’t seem fair to him. Private schools are very expensive and we are not yet sure if it will be a viable option since I stay home part-time.
This decision continues to be a struggle for us. It has made us more keenly aware that there will be more struggles to come that we need to prepare for. It is our responsibility now to ensure that we look at the world the way EJ needs us to and not the way we have our entire lives. We don’t look at him and see an Ethiopian child and truthfully, most days we don’t even think about him being adopted. But the world looks at us and him a little differently and it has completely changed the way I now see things.
Lauren Jordan is a part-time stay at home mom. She has been married for 7 years and is the mom of a very energetic, hilarious 2 year boy! She hopes to some day get a full night of sleep.