My daughter is not 100% white.
She's part Caucasian and part Hispanic. It's possible she may be part African American, as well. We don't know for sure. We will never know.
I've written before about some of the racial comments we've received from strangers, but we don't make a big deal about her race. It isn't an issue for us. We don't look at her and see the color of her skin. We look at her and see our beautiful baby. We still get the occasional comment or question from strangers - maybe now more so than when she was younger, because she looks much less like us the older she gets. But, thankfully, all of the recent dialogue has been incredibly thoughtful and polite.
We read her books about diversity. We watch clips of Sesame Street that talk about how we're all the same, but different. We say, "Yay! It's great to be different!" We surround ourselves with a diverse group of friends who believe in teaching their kids the same values - values that remind our children that they don't need to fit into a certain mold.
Most days, I feel good about the future. I think we're setting our daughter up to be protected from and prepared for any potential negative comments she may receive about her appearance. And then, I see things like this.
Many Americans don't feel this way. I get it. I do. I get the people who say that highlighting these comments only makes it seem as though this is the sentiment of the majority rather than the minority. I get that it's much easier to ignore this type of behavior. I get that it takes much more energy getting riled up about it than it does just to sweep it under the rug and move on. It's true what they say: ignorance is bliss. Let's ignore it. We can all be happy and pretend like there aren't people who feel this way.
What does that say about us, as a society? What kind of message does that send to our children? What kind of message would it send to my child if I simply ignored the fact that people still judge others by the color of their skin? Or their sexual orientation? Or their gender? Or the way they talk, walk, breathe?
Do you know why I don't ignore it? I don't ignore it because there will be a day, sometime in the future, when someone makes a comment about the way that K looks. This person will comment on the texture of her hair, or the color of her skin, or the many ways in which she looks differently from Joey and me. And we will not be there to protect her or defend her. That day will come, and it will hurt my heart. It may hurt her heart, too. But I want her to be able to look that person in the eyes and, instead of shed tears, provide an intelligence and educated response. Maybe the response is humor. Maybe it's a sympathetic smile. Maybe it's a simple, "fuck you."
Whatever the case may be, I want her to be ready for it.
I don't want her to be knocked off of her feet by hurtful words. I want her to be able to withstand the blow. I want her to come to the defense of her friends who are teased on the bus or bullied on the playground. I want her to stand up for what she knows is right and just. I want her to be a strong, independent woman - and this means being prepared for whatever is thrown her way. Ignoring bigotry will only set her up for failure. It's setting my adopted, minority, female child up to believe that she's less of a person because she is adopted. Or because she's a minority. Or because she's female.
The odds are stacked against her already. I don't want her inner voice to be stacked against her, too.
Next month is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Many of you already know the words, I'm sure, but this quote in particular rang loudly in my ears this morning as I read the hatred in the article above:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I'm saddened that, nearly half a century later, we are nowhere closer to making this dream a reality.