Watching America cities burn has really triggered me. It makes me really sad and anxious about the future. I recall my own worst experience of racism. It is by far less dramatic than the actions of police officers on unarmed black people. But still difficult. I was trans-racially adopted and when i was growing up I was the only black person I knew.
I experienced “low level” racial name calling on the bus to and from school every day going to my first secondary school. I was in a single sex school and the girls I spent time with were a problem. But at the time we shared transportation with the next door boys school. every time I went to school some boys called me “jungle bunny”, “nig nog” and occasionally the N word.
However in some ways I found this manageable, because it was a relatively short journey and the abuse stopped at the school gates. However one morning we had a temporary driver. He called me a awful racial name as I walked onto the bus. I was distraught. Because this was an adult who was supposed to keep me safe, not make me feel so bad.
The second incident I remember was when a girl in school, who I didn’t know very well started calling me racial names. The school was my safe space and I retaliated, and we got into a physical altercation. My parents blamed me for the argument. Young though I was, I felt this was hugely unfair.
interestingly the girl and I actually became friends after the argument and I realised that she was actually very sad and unhappy. She had pulled both her pierced ear-rings out of her ears as an act of self harm and I realised that she was clearly also in pain.
I tell this story I guess as a reminder that however many white adoptive and foster carers of black children wish to believe that “they dont see colour”, and “love is enough”, its not. Nor will it ever be.
My advice is be vigilant and ask. Your child may not feel able to volunteer that they are being bullied.
Speak to the school and hold them accountable, to manage the situation. Even if the bullying occurs outside of the school.
Build your child’s confidence, teach them how to keep themselves safe, how to get help from the school, police and possibly learn self defence skills. But also BE HONEST with your child. Talk about race and racism, acknowledge and understand you will probably feel uncomfortable, but this is what they will need.
If you don’t, you leave the child to believe that the hatred shown towards them must be instead because of them, and who they are. And that this antagonism is personal to them.
This is untrue and unfair as it will not prepare a child for their life in a community which can be occasionally hostile and rejecting.
make sure you learn about racism and discrimination, and that your children have adult black or ethnic minority mentors, teachers and role models. That they learn about their back ground and family.
I am developing online courses for prospective adopters and if you are considering caring for children from a different race to you, you will find the exercises helpful.
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