Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Racism is a Reality"

…I guess I’ve just been blind to it all these years. Within my circle of family, friends and acquaintances no one has ever given me the impression that he/she believes that his/her race is superior over any other. As far as I could tell, racism was a thing of the past. God created all men in his image and offers forgiveness of sins to each one without regard to skin color. But, somehow I’ve been blind to the fact that as a society, we still segregate ourselves.

During my research on transracial adoption these words stopped me in my tracks, “racism is a reality.” I had to stop and think back over past experiences to see if there had been any proof in my life that this statement is true. I mean, I’ve always noticed that most friend groups are people of the same color. I remember wanting to leave high school early one day because there was a threat of a racial fight, but none of my friends were involved. I’ve seen racism on TV and heard stories, but they were all at a comfortable distance from me. I mean, my first roommate was black and we were alike in so many ways. We used to joke that we were the same person living in different bodies. But, apparently everyone doesn’t feel the way we do, especially in the south.

In my research I’ve heard and read stories about white adoptive couples out in public with their adopted children of another race when some opinionated bystander boldly spoke out against the union of a transracial family. On some occasions these families had to move north to protect their children from an emotional ambush.

When I teach, I notice that kids usually aren’t aware of their differences until around second grade. I always wonder what makes them aware. Is it their parents? Is it simply their own observations of how people tend to group themselves in society or is it color itself? Either way, I wish we could always have a kindergarten or first grade mentality when it comes to skin color.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I teach I have to be careful not to favor my little black boys. I love them. They know that, so they love me. I am intrigued by their culture and energy. When we do hip-hop, they can’t believe a white girl can move like that. They say, “Yo, Ms. C, that was tight! Teach me, teach me!”

Long before I was married I used to joke that one day I would have a black son. I would let him have a fro or cornrows or dreads if he wanted. He and I would do hip-hop together. My friends and family have always known this about me, and no one has ever made me feel that it would be inappropriate. But, as I’m researching a world outside of my comfort zone, I’m finding out that there’s still a lot of animosity over the color of skin.

In the 70s, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) started a movement against placing black children in white homes. Still today, they consider it “black cultural genocide.” The problem with this is, while there are fewer African-American newborns available for adoption than Caucasian newborns, there are also fewer couples seeking to adopt African-American children. When they put a freeze on transracial adoptions, these children got stuck in the foster care system. Fortunately, in the 90s, laws were passed stating that race could no longer be a roadblock if it delayed placement. (“The Complete Adoption Book” pg 299-301) Interestingly enough, however, I’ve learned that in 2005 The South Carolina Department of Social Services was found guilty of denying white families the option of adopting black children. Hopefully this has changed since the investigation was made public.

Besides the fact that our children will grow up in a racist society, there are other things to think about when considering transracial adoption which I will talk more about in two weeks. Next week we will be in Guatemala for our first mission trip! Too bad international adoptions to Guatemala have been shaky lately or we could have brought a baby back! ☺

Next Post: 8/2/2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Quest for Happiness

At different times in my life it has been obvious to me that God was trying to pound a message into my head and heart. I’ve noticed a recurring theme this summer that makes me believe I have a new lesson to learn. The message has come to me through books, sermons, conversations with others and revelation. The message is two-fold: it is unreasonable to think that perfection will be achieved before heaven, and God is not a genie.

I’m reading a book called “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb. In it, he suggests that our life goal is to be happy. He then goes on to discuss the types of things many of us might expect to make us happy: personal health and health for our family, enough money to be comfortable, obedient children, etc. All are good things. We’re not asking for frivolous, material possessions. We pray for these things. We feel that having these things is what God meant when he promised us abundant life (John 10:10). If God grants them to us, we are happy. If He doesn’t, we are confused, troubled, and even angry. Crabb points out that perfection is not guaranteed until heaven. He argues that “abundant life” is a deep and meaningful relationship with God that can only be realized through suffering and the denial of earthly perfection.

Later in the book, Crabb talks about Christians who pray for these blessings and when their prayers aren’t answered they determine that God is teaching them patience (or some other lesson). They believe that God will grant them their wish in His time. It is never an option in their minds that He wouldn’t give them what they want. Isn’t that what He meant when He said He would give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4)? If He doesn’t give it right away, they believe that God will eventually give them what they’ve asked, and not only that, but it will be even better because they had to wait for it. They hold on to hope and faith as long as God grants them what they ask in the time frame they deem appropriate. Crabb believes this way of praying equates God with a genie. He says that at some point in our lives God denies us something we want which brings us to a place of suffering and weakness so that we realize our helplessness and need for Him. The premise of the book is that God wants to give us a gift greater than any earthly gift we could imagine: Himself.

When I read that, I had to put the book down. I was immediately convicted. That was me exactly! All this time I’ve thought that since God hadn’t given me a child, that when He finally did, everything would be perfect! The child will love and serve the Lord all the days of his life and we will live happily ever after. I guess I thought that He owed me that since He made me wait. I had suffered! I repented immediately for thinking that God owes me anything.

I realized that I’ve had unreasonable expectations for a perfect life and family all this time. Again, I was romanticizing things and setting myself up for disappointment down the road, because nothing can be perfect in a fallen world. But, by realizing that the ultimate goal is a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God, it may be easier to accept when things are challenging.

Learning this lesson has had a profound effect on our prayers for a child. We are no longer praying for a perfect child—there isn’t one out there. But, there is one perfect for us, one that God will equip us to care for. As we’re seeking the route we need to go to get to this child, we’ve been researching all types of adoption, including special needs adoption. We’d stayed away from thinking about this because we know of many families who have struggled in profound ways with children who have special needs. Frankly, it’s scary to step into something knowing there’s no chance for perfection. But, there are no guarantees that a biological child wouldn’t also have special needs.

God did not adopt perfect children. He saved us in spite of our imperfection (Romans 5:8). We wonder, if everybody seeks to adopt the “perfect” child, what happens to the thousands in state agencies? We’re asking God to guide us if our child is in the care of the State. Maybe he/she will have a broken body, maybe a broken mind or heart. We don’t know if this is the route God would have us take, but at least He's opened our hearts to it in case He chooses to lead us there.

Next Post: 7/19/2007