Saturday, November 26, 2011

Now that I think about it, The Saturday Evening Post didn't seem to think racial diversity was that awesome

Tesoro and I built our house in this dreamy little mountain village a few years back.  It happened around the same time we were finding out that we wouldn't be able to conceive a child without tons of infertility treatment.  What we thought was an incredible opportunity -moving to a town we fell in love with when we first came out this direction- just sort of jumped into our laps.  Needless to say, it didn't take long until we decided to run with it.  I remember thinking how absolutely lucky we were- this was the place we wanted to raise our children.  This was the Norman Rockwell town I had dreamed about for forever and ever.  This was our little piece of Heaven.  This was going to help make everything okay.

Without going into every little detail of our circumstances, we chose to buy a wee little plot and got busy designing and building.  We both had jobs that were steady, that seemed promising, that we enjoyed.  We had signed up with an adoption agency and were spending spare moments putting together paper work and fingerprints and this and that in order to become parents.  We were tired and exhausted but damn, were we happy.  Things were just clicking along.  Dreams were coming true.

I'm not really sure how to transition here, but the thing is, I'm scared out of my mind that this little haven of ours could end up being just the opposite for our boy.  I look out all of our windows and see mountain tops, snow, trees.  If I were to open the front door I could hear the river from across the street.  Depending on the day and hour we might see a band of elk or mountain sheep, some deer, the local fox, or a bear walking down the Boulevard.  The horse-drawn sleigh will make a couple rounds each day carting around some tourists throughout the winter season and the smell of wood-burning stoves will permeate our nostrils for the next several months.  We can grab a quarter and make our way down to the General Store whenever Leone needs a peppermint stick, and if the timing is right we'll be able to listen to the church bells ringing to signify a new hour.  It's beautiful here.  Absolutely beautiful.



Dreams have changed.  What Tesoro and I want now has nothing to do with our wee little house.  I mean yeah, we still want this.  But what we want even more is for our son to grow up with compassion, kindness, awareness, smarts, and a healthy dose of confidence intermingled with humility.

When we built here, when we carried one piece of siding from this place to the other place, we were sure we were doing the right thing.  We were sure that having two beautiful neighborhood children adopted from Cambodia would make this one-street town diverse enough.  And when we looked at the extremely high number of Latino children at the school where I worked, we were even more sure that our son would not feel alone with his skin color.  And when we searched within ourselves and thought about our ability to reflect and problem-solve and love, we were confident that everything, everything, would be okay.

I no longer feel that way.  And now that my son has begun to talk about his skin color versus the skin color of his padres, I feel even less confident.  And when he calls every brown-skinned child he sees in a book "Leone," I want to shrink into my shell.

I recently shared my concerns with an Ethiopian friend who lives upvalley.  She and her brother said we have nothing to worry about.  That all Leone needs is to know we love him and care about him and that everything, everything, will be okay.  As I pushed her a bit more, she acknowledged that while she might notice stares directed at her brother around town, she also thinks that this valley is one of the most easy-going places she has ever lived.  She tells me again, not to worry: "it's better for him to live here, around white people who aren't racist, than in the middle of some city where racism is a part of every day life."

The thing is, whether I agree with her or not, we can't just up and move to the middle of some city.  Real estate.  Jobs.  Finances.  Life.  Reality.

No magic wand for this one.  No easy answer.  No quick answer.  Just wishes that we would have had some foresight before settling down in the land of Rockwell.  Some understanding.  Someone to slap us around a bit and say, "look.  Look around you in a way that you have never looked before.  These glasses of yours?  They're focused through the lens of white privilege.  Things could get tricky so you damn well better reconsider before someone gets hurt."