I recently sat in a diversity in the workplace course. The course discussed all types of diversity – age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
At some point in the course, I used the example of my family brought together through adoption with a son who may be of a different ethnicity then his parents, but also may not be.
The example served two purposes as we are an example of both being a diverse family and racial diversity. I shared how our family doesn’t fit the mold, as we have been brought together by open adoption, which many people still do not understand. And, I shared that as a Caucasian women I am now truly seeing a side of the world I was naïve to in respect to racial prejudice.
Like normal I was protective of many pieces of our families personal information, but I do believe my family gave a real life example to a room full of largely 30-50 year old Caucasian individuals. Probably a much needed example considering the demographics of those in the room.
On the first day of the class I shared the following:
- Strangers are more respectful of our son’s possible ethnicity then family and friends are. Family and friends seem much more willing to cross lines and ask insensitive questions. And strangers actually always comment on how Little MPB looks just like Mr. MPB or just how cute he is. His possible race just isn’t something people ask us about (likely in part due to the fact that it’s not obvious).
- Strangers who we tell that our family was brought together through open adoption are more respectful then family and friends. Again, family and friends seem much more willing to be insensitive with comments or questions (we think this is likely because they don’t take the time to think through their questions).. And they also seem much more likely to continue to discuss it, constantly.
- Difference attracts attention. Both positive and negative. And what the sender views as positive may not always be received as positive. I shared that Mr. MPB and I are constantly told how amazing we are for “saving” a child and how lucky he is to have been adopted by us. And that this is a very troublesome comment to hear all the time because our child should be no more grateful to us then any child is grateful to their parents. And by constantly hearing how lucky he is may set him up for some very challenging emotions later in life, as can be common in the adoption community. I also stated that our answer to this is that we are the lucky ones because we are the lucky ones!
- We’d rather people ask questions then not ask questions and make false assumptions and have incorrect information. But, with 2 caveats – the questions must be respectful and socially appropriate. What matters to me is why are you asking. For example, if you want to ask why we chose open adoption, I’m happy to share that. If you want to ask did your son’s mom smoke crack or drink alcohol well pregnant, I’m probably going to decline to answer and I may even ask if your wife smoked crack or drank alcohol while she was pregnant with your children to demonstrate how that question is inappropriate.
At the end of the two day class a women, who I hadn’t really chatted with, came up to me and simply said:
You are a beautiful mother and I can just tell how much you love your son. Your son’s not lucky you adopted him, he’s just lucky you are his mother. You really are amazing, I can just tell.
Yup, I nearly started crying, right then and there. I thanked her and one again said:
I’m the lucky one. I couldn’t imagine my life without our little boy, he truly is an amazing child.
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