Saturday, July 10, 2010

Oh, I See Color!

I've had a post about colorblindness percolating for awhile now. Ever since I first read the comments written about my family and me in a certain corner of the Internet world, really. I chose not to defend myself against the hate speech because, truthfully, I saw very little point in doing that. We adopted transracially. There are people who are angry about that. We fought a contested adoption. People hate us for that. I'm not going to change minds and, slowly, I'm coming to terms with that. But when one person states one untruth, completely in opposition to anything I've ever written on this blog, and someone else tweaks it ever so slightly, it becomes a game of telephone and suddenly the truth has become so distorted I cannot recognize my own details in the calumny.

Such is the way it was when one person claimed that I said I was colorblind and another took it a step further and said that I'd written that I didn't care if my child was covered in blue polka dots and then another was incredibly appalled that I'd make such a claim--which I didn't. I have zero recollection of making such a statement and certainly can't find it in my archives. Please, if you find it, bring it to my attention. I'd like to retract it on account of the fact that, if I ever said anything of the sort, I was clearly delusional, not firing on all cylinders, and, to put it mildly, had a major case of the crazy cakes.

I am not colorblind.

And though a post about this has been percolating for some time, I ran across this today, put so much better than I ever, ever could. And, in the event that you don't click on the link, I'm going to include some of it here. Written by Amie Sexton and appearing on The Livesay (Haiti) Weblog, it is something that we all need to hear--whether we're a transracial family or not. say that love does not “see color” is as ridiculous as saying that because I love dogs they are all exactly the same to me. Suppose you stood before me with a Great Dane and a Chihuahua and I insisted that there is no difference between them –that I am blind to their genetic traits. Any one of you would argue my insanity in a court of law because clearly one of these dogs is a 210 lb. mini-horse and the other could be mistaken for a rat. My love for dogs does not change my ability to recognize their distinct attributes. My love may allow me to impart affection to both critters equally regardless of their size but it will not cause me to ignore what is obvious. And taking it even further –if I insist these two creatures are practically the same in every way and therefore I cram my Great Dane into a crate made for a toy breed I’m no longer just ignoring the difference but overlooking their specific needs and inadvertently causing damage.

...When your adopted minority child looks in the mirror he/she sees black, brown, peach, yellow, tan, etc. skin looking back. For that child to hear us say that our love is “colorblind” can be far more hurtful than any of us would dream. What we mean is that our love for them transcends color and ethnicity. But what they often hear is “I don’t see part of you.” We so desperately want to affirm our children in the security of our unconditional love that we miss the point. What if Tara came to me tomorrow and said, “Amie, I’m going to overlook the fact that you are a red-headed freckle factory and continue loving you anyway”? Besides how completely ironic that would be given our shared features, it would also hurt me deeply because the very nature of such a statement implies that my traits are unbecoming and undesirable and something to be overlooked in order to find me acceptable. Our children want to be accepted because of who they are –inside and out- not in spite of it.

Love that overlooks is belittling. Love that acknowledges is accepting.

Amen. No, I am not colorblind. I see my son's color. I see his curly dark hair. I see his features, the one's that make me identify him as the color "black" even though he is intrinsically "brown". I see it just as I see my oldest son and identify him as "white" even though he is the color of a not yet ripened peach. And Matthew's color matters. It matters deeply to who he is, where he has come from, and what that means culturally, socially, and personally.

Certainly I've made the mistake of saying that his color doesn't matter. When we were filling out our adoption information packet, we were given the option of checking (or not) several different ethnic markers. At some point I said, "It doesn't matter to me what ethnicity the child is." When we turned in our paperwork with every ethnicity checked we absolutely did not mean that his color, heritage, and culture was unimportant anymore than we meant that it didn't matter if the baby was a boy or a girl. Of course gender matters--it matters a great deal.

So, yes, at some point in the adoption process we said that gender and ethnicity didn't matter. But to look at my child and say, "It doesn't matter to me that you're African American," is as ridiculously devastating as looking at him and saying, "It doesn't matter to me that you're a boy." Of course it matters. Attempting to make him "white" or trying to make him fit into a "white world" would be as devastatingly wrong as attempting to make him a girl and putting him in a dress. I have an African American son. And that matters. And, certainly, polka dots would have mattered. For crying out loud, polka dots would have made a big difference.

But my love would have been the same.

And that's the point.


  1. How little I have been concerned about your transracial, contested adoption: so little, that I mainly wanted to comment on your use of the word "calumny" instead! Thanks for a thoughtful, insightful, heartfelt post. Forget those people.

    I am in love with 2 black children in the TARE gallery for Texas. I have a feeling that these words will come in handy if my life changes like I hope it does. I'm going to bookmark this post and also forward the link to my foster care certification teacher (that's what I call her until she becomes my "case manager").

  2. Well said! Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such a poignant post.

  3. How sad that you had to go on the defense. My friend, you are a loving, caring mother and that is so evident in your words. Please don't ever forget that truth.

  4. I must confess I had to look up the definition of "calumny."

    So just wanted to say thanks for expanding my vocabulary!

    And of course always send my prayers.