"But Mom my hands are white"
Last night Avery and I were snuggled up as she was reading several books about her favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. This particular book emphasized the slave trade and brought up the issue of how slave families were ripped apart. Through that concept Avery’s mind began to wander and our conversation quickly turned to her adoption and her ethnicity.
She had questions about her birth mother and birth father, many that we couldn’t answer because we know so little. I asked her what she would want to ask her birth mother if/when she is given the opportunity. Her first question for her birth mother: “Why did you want me to be adopted?”. Her second question: “What color am I?”. This question, rooted in her curiosity about her race, stemmed from our talk about slavery.
Avery, April and I had a really good conversation; a conversation that I think went well considering the subject. Yet, my heart broke when we were discussing race. I asked Avery how she would respond if her birth mother told her that she was white. Avery responded with a huge smile, a smile that filled up the room. When I asked her response if her birth mother told her she was black her smile quickly turned into a frown and her eyes became bleak. Avery told us that she wanted to be white—really white.
Where had our daughter learned that being white was the best and having brown skin is undesirable? Why did she feel disheartened over her brown skin and curly hair? Avery kept saying “but mom my hands are white” as she kept pointing to her palms almost hoping to convince us (and mostly herself) that she was white.
As Avery and I were reading about Abe Lincoln she mentioned that all but one US president has been white. She wanted to know why. That’s a tough conversation. Our first task is to expose Avery to more successful African-American and bi-racial people. We need to flood her little brain with the accomplishments of individuals with diverse backgrounds.
We want Avery to be empowered as a person of color. We want her to love and be proud of her heritage. Most importantly we want Avery to be comfortable in her own skin. This is our new mission.