“At the beginning of each school year I send an email to my son’s teachers and ask what they will be teaching their students about African American history. I ask them how they will advocate for and empower my son (likely the only black student in the class) when his classmates start to hear words like slavery, segregation or Negro, and look over at him.
I will never forget his fourth grade teacher who called me, so excited to share his plan for that year. He invited me to come for one particular lesson when he would be teaching about slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise. Which, in 1787 determined that in the southern states, only three out of every five slaves would be counted as a human being to determine the state’s total population.
I was sitting in the back of the room when, in the middle of his lesson, Eli’s teacher suddenly jumped on the nearest desk. He started walking across each one to make sure every single eye was on him – he told the class that, ‘under NO circumstance should a human being be treated this way.’ I’ll never forget when he read a line from their history books that said, ‘slavery would have to continue,’ then told the class to gently throw their history books on the ground, and go home and tell their parents that the book was wrong. Because slavery did not HAVE to continue.
He told them how the Constitutional Convention got it all wrong that day, and made choices that would come back to haunt them. Tears silently streamed down my face as I imagined how different life could have been for the generations of enslaved people that lived under that system. How different life could have been for my son had the racial injustices of early American history not lived on in our attitudes toward African-Americans today.
I am no historian and there is so much I do not know, but becoming his mother 10 years ago required of me a commitment to learn about and engage in a history and race I was ignorant of. It still requires emotional support on a subject I don’t know everything about.
In our home, we don’t just talk about Black History for one month a year and call it good. And I hope you don’t either. Hopefully one day, the entirety of it will be included in American history and taught from the same books the other 11 months of the year. Until then, I am working on learning this complex and hard part of our country’s past and present with my boys. The deeper we go the more they will begin to see not just a history of slavery and civil rights movements. But a history of artists and dreamers. Doctors and Scientists. Mothers and Fathers. Real individuals who were kept from their full potential because others decided their skin color made them inferior, and their opportunities in life were diminished.
Friends. It does not take becoming a mother of a black child to examine your own heart and habits and challenge your own subconscious biases that have stuck around for the last several hundred years. Educate yourself by reading the uncomfortable, have the hard conversations with your kids. Jump on their desks even, to get their attention when you tell them that we’ve done it all wrong and we need them to help us make it right.
Transracial adoptive parents are given the unique opportunity of seeing both sides. The privilege and the prejudice. But I also believe that it does not take becoming a parent of a black child to examine your own heart and habits and challenge your own subconscious biases. This is not just a parenting job. But a human one. Talk about this beautiful world full of differences every day in your home. Get outside of your comfort zone and take the time to get to know people who look and live differently than you, so our children can experience firsthand the beauty in learning from the unique differences and experiences of others.
And let’s help the amazing teachers in the world who are making sure children of color are being represented and emboldened.”
Read about Eli’s adoption here:
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