Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The body is marked with history, and so ripe for claiming by a community

I know.  Here I go again.  The thing is, I just can't help it.  I just can't.

But, before I begin, I want you to know there have been some incredible comments made on this post as of late and I think you should read them.

Onto more blather....

"The body is marked with history, and so ripe for claiming by a community"

(How's that for a title?)

That's right folks.

I'm here to process.  To dialogue.  To learn.  To document.  I hope to not get overly messy.

As I read through the comments from a couple recent posts, I continued to come back to the idea of "it's me, it's my family, it's my son... because of those reasons (and plenty more I can assure you!), I get to make the decisions when it comes to my child's hair style."

And it's true.  The woman at the merkato is certainly not my boss.  Nor is my social worker.  Or the woman next door. 

Truth?  When I first picked this book up, I decided to read it just because I got pissed off at a quote on the back cover:  "Is it a right for white parents to adopt African American children?"  I then went on to read what the author had to say and here I am, sharing yet more information that I think is worth thinking about. 

In response to the conversation regarding hair....  The reason why I believe an African American woman can grow her toddler son's hair into an Afro and I, a European American, cannot (or rather, why I am now choosing not to) is simply this (as stated in Weaving a Family):
It is a tangled, complicated relationship that exists between culture and the body.  It is not that ethnicity, the way of life, the community, the culture is carried in the blood, in the body, as racist essentialists would claim.  But the body is marked with history, and so ripe for claiming by a community.  Is that so bad?  Of course it has the awful flip side, the dark side of community:  some bodies are marked as not belonging, marked as other.  Victoria [the author's daughter] doesn't look Jewish [which the author is].

The marking of the body is a very powerful argument against transracial adoption.  It is a reasonable argument to make:  let any White family of any White ethnicity raise the child any way they want to, inculcate  him or her with all the cultural lore, values, way of life, songs and recipes, history, all of it that they have and want to share-- and if that child's body marks her as Black, if her skin and hair and face present her to the world as Black, she will have to live in this world as Black.

And she damned well better know how.  Race isn't just something we talk about; it's something we live.
The way I see it, it's pretty clear cut.  I'm not Black.  My husband is not Black.  My son, however, is.  Because of this, we need help in raising him.  I'm going to ask questions.  I'm going to read books.  I'm going to take advice.  I'm going to be as honest as I can when I am talking, inquiring, and pursuing discussion.

Life is different from what it used to be when it was just my beloved and the two cats.  It's magnificent and joyful and at times hard as hell.  (I wouldn't change it).  While I anticipate continued mistakes on my part, I hope I can always quickly get it back together and be the best I can be for those here right around me.

Like I said, this isn't about my needs.  Not even one teeny tiny bit.  It's about my boy.  Who will one day be a man.  And if I can't take a big bite out of humble pie and learn how to step down from my ginormous self-entitlement soap box, well, I'm not doing him any good. I'm just not.