In the season one finale, I talk with White parents that adopted two Black children. They open up about the things they’ve experienced and how their lives have been forever changed when they welcomed their children into their hearts and lives.
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Host/Producer: Richard Dodds @Doddsism
Show Music: @IAmTheDjBlue
Cover Photo by Kindel Media: Pexels.com
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Richard Dodds 0:00
Coming up later in the episode, as a white mother of black children,
I don’t inherently know what he needs to know to be sick as a black man in America, that there are lessons that are passed down from generation to generation, and when and how and what those conversations look like. And I worry that my whiteness, my privilege, and not inherently being a part of black culture in America is making him more unsafe.
Richard Dodds 0:36
This is still talking to like a show about giving awareness and perspectives to issues that minorities face every day. I’m your host, Richard. Today’s show is the finale of season one. From the beginning of the season, I knew that there were some shows that I really, really wanted to do. And this was one of them. Today, I’m going to be talking to two white parents that adopted black children. I was very interested to get their points of view on the things that they learned from raising black kids, and also the struggles and the things that they have to face, the ways that their minds were open, and the things that changed from before they adopted. As you’ll hear later on, Ken and Laurie story is even more unique just because they have two biological kids and two adopted kids. So it’s a whole different set of things that they have to teach each kid. Before we jump into the episode, I just want to give a big thank you to everyone who’s listened and supported the show. And however you’ve done it, I really appreciate it. I really appreciate all the people who’ve reached out to me and told me that they love the show, and that they’ve gotten something from an episode. Pretty soon, I’ll be getting started on working on season two. And the best way to find out when that goes is to make sure that you’re following the podcast account, I still talking black on Instagram. And I made sure that I let everyone know when season two goes live. If you’d like what we’re doing here, I’m still talking black. The best way to show your support is by liking, rating and sharing our content. If you really enjoy it, please be sure to give it a five star rating on Apple podcasts. And a nice review telling us how much you enjoy it. And if you know anyone that will find this content useful, please be sure to share our episodes with them every little bit helps. And I want to thank you for your continued support.
I am Laurie. And
I am Ken. Yeah.
And so basically, Ken and I met in college. He was from the East Coast North. He was from North Philly. I’m from Metro Detroit. We met in college, came back to Michigan, I had always had some experience and I’d known people who had been foster parents. I had always thought that was an interesting way to support the community. I understood foster parenting for what it is intended to be, which is reunification. And then through work, I worked a lot with safety and security of women and children. And I worked with survivors who had been sex trafficked as children. And many of them had interacted with the foster care system at some point in their youth. And that system and their time in foster care, either was very, very helpful. And the first time they felt safe, or often exploited them further. And I really just had this feeling in this calling that we could be a safe space. And so that’s really how it started was I had a big interest in someday us doing foster care. And I think Ken and I talked about it a lot for for several years. And then we bought our first home. And we had two empty bedrooms. And my fear my personal fear was if we had started a biological family first, that foster care would be something that we always put on the backburner. So we made a conscious decision to become foster parents before looking to start a biological family. And so that’s kind of how we got started.
Yeah, I mean, I’ve always kind of been go with the flow. I mean, I think that’s about as close as you can get. But, you know, I mean, I grew up with a very contentious atmosphere with you know, extended family and you know, it’s one day was good and one day was bad and so I just always kind of knew on the inside that it just that didn’t show right and like we could be better My family could be better. And so when we actually were talking through this process, it felt natural, it felt right to give it a shot and provide that space that maybe I didn’t have when I was growing up. Yeah.
And so I think, you know, when we had those two empty bedrooms was really when we started to feel the, you know, this is the time, like, what are we wasting time for, we have these two empty bedrooms, let’s do it. So we went through the process, we got licensed, it took about six months to do everything. And the training, which is wildly insufficient, especially as it relates to respecting different cultures in the foster care system, what it means to be white foster parents in the foster care system. You know, the foster care system is its own system, that is the same as so many of our other systems in this country. So you can’t ignore the fact that race plays a role in it. And always has. So I would say the training was insufficient. But we did get licensed. And we had the best of intentions. And we were, we had been licensed for about 24 hours, and I got a phone call from our agency, and they were listing off kids who needed a place to go. And I literally had post it notes all over the desk with different descriptors of different ages, and what their needs were that they knew of. And that’s the thing about foster care, the information you’re getting is, is not you just you don’t know, you don’t know how good it is how, you know, if they’re fresh into foster care, they don’t have any information, if they’ve been in for a while the information could be really poorly portrayed, or they could have been labeled or diagnosed with something that isn’t accurate. They just found a home that couldn’t support them. So we ended up saying we would take a placement. And that is actually how our son came to us. He was three at the time. And we were told that he had a younger sister, but that she had severe medical issues and was probably completely blind, and would not be able to be placed with her brother. That was not true. But at the time, that’s the information that they understood. And they you know, we long story short, it took about three months, but we were able to get our daughter and his our son sister in the home. And so she was 18 months old when she came to us. And she’s not fully blind, she does have an eye injury from the previous from her previous home but and she has blind in one eye, but she’s otherwise completely normal and fine and and not delayed or, or any of the concerns that they had for her. And we were on the path of reunification, their biological father’s rights were terminated quite quickly. And that was due to the severity of violence in the home, their mother, their biological mother was working a plan to get back. And that went on for about two years before the court had decided that they would not be able to return to her. And there were many, many, many complicated reasons why. And so her rights were terminated. And then they asked us if we would adopt and at that point, they had been with us for two years. They came to us when they were 18 months old. And three, we had unexpectedly had our biological daughter. So they had a little sister who they fully knew to be their little sister. And so at that point, it was, you know, a conversation of are we going to re traumatize all of us? Or are we going to continue to be the family that we’ve become over the past two years. So we did move forward with adoption.
Richard Dodds 9:20
So just I just want to clarify just because I don’t know much about actually foster care. So foster care. The initial plan was just to keep the kids until their one of their parents could get into a situation that was conducive to raise kids and
yes, yes, they were on a path of reunification. When they first came in. They it was with both but on but bio father’s rights were terminated quite quickly and and it was understandable as to why under those circumstances but mom bio mom did work a plan for quite At some time and, and the plan was reunification for them to go home. And we really saw it as you know, it’s complicated. You love and you’re attached. That’s the job you’re supposed to, you’re supposed to be, you know, willing to love and say goodbye. If the kids go home, because that is the goal, and kids being adopted as a trauma. Foster Care is a trauma, not being with your biological parents is a trauma, regardless of the situation or not. But it’s not. They were not able to return to their biological parents and, and and again, at that point, what were we supposed to do? Have them start all over in a new home? You say, Okay, well, we tried, you know, like that, just, that’s not who we were at that point, we were mom and dad to them. They called us mom and dad, our son, who was three started quite quickly calling Ken dad Ken and then me not dad, Ken. And Ken was the hero. But then within a couple months, I was mumbling he was dead cat, and we were just mommy and daddy.
Yeah, you know, and even though, you know, the primary goal is unification for the foster care system. I mean, the reality is you get attached, right, like you go into a prepared with a knowledge and understanding that, you know, this could be temporary for in most cases, it’s temporary. And that you’re gonna, you’re gonna have, you’re gonna, you’re gonna love and you’re gonna lose. And just in this circumstance, you know, we loved and we were able to continue to love Yeah,
I will say though, by the time our. So we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant with our daughter, about a month or two after our daughter, see who came to us through foster care. When she arrived, we found out we were pregnant, about a month after she came. And by the time our daughter l was born, about which was a year, almost a year after I our son had come to us, we, we had kind of seen some of the writing on the wall as far as if they were going to be safe going back. And so that was one of the things I think we started to struggle with was, we had really been rooting for their biological mom, we really viewed our space as a place of worse reporting the family. And we are giving everybody a safe space so that everybody could reunite. But by the time we had hit kind of about a year into it, we really felt we really could kind of see that a safe place wasn’t going to or wasn’t being created in in this process for them. And that started to weigh on us because we do love and did love them quite quickly. And do you feel protective of them? So it’s complicated. And it’s very complicated.
Richard Dodds 13:27
When you two went through the foster care training or whatnot. When they started giving you the kids were the majority or were all of them minority are was a mix.
Um, so I know the statistics, you know, of, of foster care tend to lean towards it is it affects minorities or are disproportionately in the foster care system. As far as the post it notes of children that I had, it was a mix, it was mostly boys. From what I remember, I think I had about five different kids that they had listed off. They were all boys. And I and I vaguely remember to were white, and I think the other three were black. Um, we the reason why we accepted placement of our son was because he was so newly into foster care that they were looking for something quite quick. And he had been with a biological grandmother who was who was having severe health challenges. So we kind of felt like this was a quick and you know, a quick way for us to take our first placement. And also for us to probably we assumed it would be relatively temporary because they were trying to figure out things within the family. And we were brand new. And so and I don’t even I think so I will say where we lived at the time is mostly black suburban area. And so we were comfortable that if we had taken children who were not white, we were within a mostly black public school district, and had a lot of cultural resources where we were when you’re asking foster care, during the process of the interview, they ask you, what will you accept and what you won’t let it from, you know, from a child that’s been known to abuse the animals to different, you know, disabilities to ages, gender, you know, gender identity, you know, all of these things that you literally have to basically say, where are my bias? What will I not take, right, when you’re, you’re these new, idealistic, you know, foster parents who are trying to do what you think is right in the world. So that’s part of the process. And I think, I can’t even remember, I know that we didn’t say there was any race or gender, we wouldn’t take. I think we said we wanted to start with 12. And under because we had never parented before. And we felt like if the kids were too close to our age group, that would be a challenge. But ultimately, you’re sitting there in this process, and like, you know, I can’t imagine being like, oh, we’ll only take the white kids. Right. Like, I couldn’t imagine answering that question in the process that way. Right. So it was we would accept anybody who needed to be here. We just had some age restrictions, because we were young, too.
Richard Dodds 16:48
Yeah. So so it seems like before you guys got into foster fostering kids, that you had a pretty good idea of kind of what to expect just because sounds like law or you. You’ve seen some stuff already. So what are the expectations that you have good or bad? How did those expectations match up with the reality of going from not being parents to being a foster parents, to having two foster kids, then adopting those kids and having a biological daughter? All? That seems like that was all what within a year?
Um, well, this is what I always say, when people ask me about foster care. If I had known before I did it. What it really was, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But having done it, I could never not do it now. Wow. So it you and I think that if anybody who isn’t in it, when you’re not looking at the children, participating with the family, knowing who these people are, and loving them as your your extended family and community. Um, I think that people get into it for idealistic reasons. And I don’t think that we were, you know, immune to that. But I think reality is hard. And I think trauma is real. And I don’t think most foster parents are prepared for what that really means and what that looks like. And then there are all these additional complications. And I think that there are a lot of white parents who get involved in the foster care system. And they are not doing right, by the children of color that they are bringing into their home. And I think we learned lessons along the way too. But I think some are avoiding those lessons completely.
Yeah, I would say that there are definitely two different aspects to this, when you’re looking at it, there’s the complications, and the, the bringing of children to the family, right. And then there’s the institutional complications and just broken this, that the system is. And there’s a lot of things that as a foster parent, you are restricted from doing Yeah. Even things as simple as as getting a haircut. For a child, it has to be signed off by a parent by a quote unquote, parent, the legal guardian. Because you’re really not looked at as a parent you’re looked at almost as a glorified babysitter. I hate to say but, but it kind of is the case because you really are a warm body and a home to place a child and that’s really how the system kind of views foster parents is here’s here’s a bed Yeah, you know, there’s there’s a it’s very emotionally void. Um, And there’s a, there’s not a lot of support that’s given there’s there’s a minimum level of support in terms of classes and groups. But, you know, there’s a lot of kids out there with, with trauma. And there’s not a lot of support for foster parents in the role of trauma, and learning how to understand it and, you know, help a child work through it. There’s also a lot of just purely antiquated laws that I think now at this time they have been updated, but at the time when we did it, and it wasn’t that long ago, you know, one of the rules was, we had to have a hardline phone in the house. So this is like, you know, just a handful of years ago, people don’t have, you know, everyone’s got a cell phone. How do you even get that anymore? It was it was very difficult to accomplish. Yeah. But we needed that to get our license signed off. Yeah. You know, a roll that was probably written in the 70s or 80s. And it was just there, and no one updated it, right? Because it just, we’re just flowing with it. So yeah, so there’s a lot of things that go on from all all aspects that just come at you. When you have this romanticized like version of, I’m gonna bring in, you know, a child or these children, and we’re going to help them and this is going to be a great experience and a healing experience. And, you know, they’re going to feel loved and safe. And then you’re just piled on by a lot of barriers.
Yeah, barriers and systems. And, and the same thing is happening to the biological family, maybe even more so. And that is something I want to acknowledge. I mean, it is complicated. And I have tremendous love for the person who birthed our children. But the things that are expected are, are it is a lot to like, you know, there were several barriers on her. Something that happens very commonplace in foster care, and especially when it relates to there being domestic violence in the home is so often the biological mother will be will suffer from being charged with failure to protect. And I think that that is a huge problem for the reality of what domestic violence is and what it is in the home. And there was actual safety planning that happened in the home before they ended up removing the kids before our daughter became blinded in one eye, where the safety plan was that the biological father was not allowed to be alone with the children. He lived there, he did not work bio mom was the only income and may not support them getting appropriate childcare. So what was how was that a possible solution or safety plan? Right? So um, you know, there’s the kids are in foster care system because of additional barriers because of illogical expectations. And the yes, our our children, were in a home that was not physically or emotionally safe for them. That is true. But there were other ways that that safety could have been supported before it hit before it got to the point of no return. And I don’t feel that our systems have really, really tried to adequately address how to actually solve those problems.
Yeah, that’s a great point. I mean, there are a lot, I mean, a vast majority of of parents that are really fighting to get, you know, their kids back, they don’t want them in the system. Right. And they’re, yeah, the there’s no support for them, or the support is also very limited on there and to get them back.
Yeah. I mean, they you’re going to court once every three months and getting a court order that’s telling you what you need to do. And that involves financial house stuff, like Job stuff, getting certain things put together going into a certain amount of classes, therapy, there’s, you know, so many kids with so many needs, getting to all those appointments, and you’re dealing with all of these things, and all these expectations at once plus getting to all your visits plus all of these other things. Now, of
course you have to work right you have to live you have to be a person do on top of all this. Yeah. And provide for yourself and provide for a family and make sure that you have the means so they can come back because that’s going to be checked. Yeah, they have to make sure that your house or your place of residence is ready to go with each other. So how are you expected to hit this litany of items and still be a human being working and survivor?
Yeah. And so it is it is it is very, very complicated and there are tremendous barriers put on the biological family Thinking in this process and in the system, and there are many who there are ways in which the agencies working with the families are trying really hard to support them in those solutions and providing them with transportation and support and all the resources and trying to help make sure that visits and therapy can all happen together. And there’s a lot of problem solving that goes in because there’s a lot of moving parts. And but it’s a lot. It’s a lot, and it’s a lot for somebody who’s also grieving because their kids were taken away from them. You know, so I think that there’s a huge amount of compassion that is due. And one of the things you know, that that has bothered me in this process is so often Ken and I are looked at as like, Oh, our kids are so lucky. Oh, they’re so lucky. Right? Like, they must be so grateful you guys have, you know, like we’re white saviors, right. Or, you know, they just, they’re so lucky to that we rescued them, right. And like, you know, and, and for me, they didn’t ask for any of this, none of it, right. They don’t owe us anything. They haven’t asked for any of it. And it’s messy. And it’s complicated. And our whole family is a story of trauma. It is a story of racism. It is a story of violence, violence against women, violence against children. It is a story of all sorts of failures in our society. And it’s a story of people trying to make the best of a messy situation, that and trying to make the best for two kids who deserve the best.
Richard Dodds 26:42
So it sounds like the two of you are as prepared as you could be for foster care and adoption. But you know, a lot of times with a lot of things. What I’m hearing is that what you prepare for is does not always match the reality of it. It’s like playing a video game versus actually going and doing a thing.
Yeah, yeah. And I want to know, we had a few other, you know, placements in this time to our, our son and daughter were not our only foster children, but they were only long term placements. And they were the only ones that you know, we chose to adopt. And once we had completed our adoption, we did shut our license down to really focus on at that point, we had had four children by the time you know, our two that we adopted two biological daughters. And so we really had our hands full. But we do maintain close ties and relationships to other foster parents, one of our closest friends in the whole world is a foster mom, she is on her. She has had seven foster placements now. Three of them have returned two or four of them have returned to biological family to more will likely be returning to biological family in the very near future. And she just took another placement of a child. So we are very exuberant and committed foster aunties and uncles. And we love them. And we know the kind of the special challenges and so whenever we know anybody’s on this journey, we try to wrap our arms around them as much as we can. Because people who haven’t seen the insides of this aren’t always helpful. And people who have know that. You have to take it as it comes.
Richard Dodds 28:37
So I know that you two are eager to be foster parents, but how they specifically can because you can seem like you alluded to some some stuff that happened and your extended family. Like as you were growing up. So how did your friends and family react? One one, you told him that you guys wanted to be foster parents, and then to you know, like, you guys are white. So we’re we’re Did they have any objections? i Oh, you’re you’re bringing black kids into the house?
Yeah, so it was an enthusiastic No, but my family. You Yeah. And I expected that, right. Like, I you know, we had complications growing up. You know, I haven’t always, you know, had the same vision as my family, my parents or my, you know, extended family. So, they really didn’t understand why, you know, we were doing this or why I was doing this and then understand what it meant. And, you know, definitely, you know, race was a question that came into it, for sure. You know, and it’s just one of those things is like, you know, if you’re, you know, I was committed and we were committed and determined to do this. And it’s like, Thanks for your opinion. But next, you know, like, we didn’t it wasn’t it was wasn’t something that we were going to take, you know, to heart because we knew what we wanted to do. You know, and again, you know, given the, the relationship at that time with my family, which was contentious at best, I wasn’t too worried about their opinion at that point.
Richard Dodds 30:19
Did they ever get the opportunity? Have they ever had the opportunity to interact with the kids? And how have they interacted with them?
No, they haven’t. And for a lot of reasons, we, you know, we’ve decided that’s just not what we’re going to do. But I, if it were to happen, I would perceive it as a pretty poor experience. Given their their value systems,
yeah, yeah, absolutely. You know, these beautiful,
yeah, and one thing, you know, even just going beyond family, you know, we’ve, we’ve lost friends during this process, too. I mean, when you start, when you embark on this journey, you really see, like, who’s with you? And who’s not? Yeah, you know, to your point earlier about, you know, picking, you know, having the option to pick, you know, the features and characteristics of the foster children, you know, you really start to see, you know, the features or the characteristics of your friends and family, and who and who just cannot handle it and why. Yeah,
Richard Dodds 31:23
I think it’s really crazy. Because for, for you to never had the experience, like little things and little things that maybe even, like, no offense that everybody does, like, you might think something is innocent, or you might think something is not harmful at all. And then now you have this entity, where you have to think about things from their perspective. And for the first time ever, you see, some of the jokes that you made with your friends might not have been as appropriate as you thought they would, and might not have been as harmless as it seemed, when you were doing it, and you start to see the way that the world is made up, it just makes you look at everything completely different.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s like, when you buy a car, then you see that car everywhere, right? It definitely opens your eyes or shatters the glass.
Yeah. Yeah, it um, you know, I was fortunate in, in my upbringing that I did not grow up in a complete void of diversity. Now, where I went to school was, and I saw things there. And that I still remember to this day, as shocking me, and, and very much confusing me, because I didn’t see things like that in my home, my parents put us in places. And, and we had people and I lived, who loved us deeply, who were people of color. And so I was, you know, influenced by and loved by and around people of color, broke bread with people of color had different cultural experiences. And I’m grateful my parents did that for us. And I will say, when I look back, there’s ways that they did it that were cringy. There’s ways that they did it that were very, like white people in the space. Right. And I know and understand things differently now. But I’m, I’m grateful that I was exposed to diversity in a way that very easily I could not have been, and most of my peers are not. I think the challenge in my family when we embarked on this was some of the distant relatives who, you know, I think when we talk a little bit more about politics recently, those were some hard lessons learned. But my family had a hard time with the foster aspect of the fact that they were loving and attached, right, we signed up for a questionable journey. We didn’t, you know, we signed up to love and probably let go, right? They didn’t, but then they were forced to have to be vulnerable in that space, too. Right. And so I think that was the bigger challenge for them. And then also, as we learned more, you know, doing education with my parents, or my parents, I would say, would have considered themselves to be very woke for I can’t think of a better term for it. My parents did racial healing groups, through their church when I was in like middle school and stuff. So my parents had done some white people work, but it was still so surface level. And there was still so many. There still was that kind of element of we don’t see color, right? Like, that’s the loving thing. Everybody’s equal. everybody’s the same. We don’t see color. And so I think as we have on deeper into our journey of learning and unpacking, we’ve had to have those conversations with them that at times have been challenging, but I will say, my parents have continued to try. And that is, that is all I could expect. And a good illustration of this is my, my father was very close with an older black woman, that he would help support and take on events and and she wouldn’t, he escorted her to a few Kwanzaa celebrations a couple of times, like, just like the this driver and he she was older and blind, and he was just helping her. Um, while my son recently over the past few years, he had asked to celebrate Kwanzaa. And so we as a family really are giving him leadership of it and supporting him in you know, what does that mean? And how do we learn? And how do we do it together as a family and sharing it, but let him lead it right. And so the first night of Kwanzaa this year, my dad was here. And our son asked my dad, if he would like the first the first Kwanzaa night candle, and talk about what it was, I had no idea. But my dad knew at all, he, I didn’t even have to put the book in front of them. He knew it all. He just had this, like knowledge and history, and he was prepared and ready. But he totally followed our sons guidance and direction through the whole thing. And it was a moment where my dad doesn’t always get it, right. But he got it kind of right in that moment where, where our son was the leader of it all, but my dad was a full participant who was, you know, in this moment with him. And so those sorts of things I really appreciate, while also recognizing that we, we can’t just replace it, all right, like we can share in it, but it would they have to be in spaces where they’re able to experience these things, not just with their white parents or their white grandparents.
And that’s, I think that’s one thing I’ve always like, appreciated about your family too, because, you know, I grew up in a predominantly white, you know, middle class neighborhood. You know, I’m Jewish, you know, my, we were raised before him. So, not super religious, we weren’t walking around the town with a hammock design. So we could still hide, right, we still didn’t look like white people walking around. But, you know, we did have some issues being Jewish in the community. And I think some of that lended itself to the overall picture of foster care and wanting to just be a helpful, safe space. And I do want to say that, you know, I think historically, you know, the black community and the Jewish community have been very collaborative with each other. And so I think, for my journey, it was a little bit of a surprise, with my parents, and my extended family, and the cognitive dissonance of, you know, you’re not supportive of this, but people aren’t supportive of you either. Right? You should, you should understand that fact, right, being a much smaller group in this country. But again, it’s very easy to hide, because we just look like, you know, regular white people. And you can’t, you know, our son can’t hide from that.
Richard Dodds 38:42
So many things that you learn about, about yourself, when you’re growing up being around, you know, like, is culture is one thing to be black, but it’s like a black culture, and it’s things that you understand this side of that culture that you have to explain outside of the culture. And, you know, is this is this something, you know what I mean? So, it’s like that extra layer where you have to try to understand the culture, to emerge your kids into that culture, but still being kind of, I mean, just still being an outsider in our culture. So what was the biggest lesson that you that really surprised you? When you first got your kids?
I think so. You I’ve listened to some of your your podcasts and in one of, you know, your earlier podcasts, you said that being black in America is exhausting. And, and it is, and, and I don’t know if I truly could have understood your sense your statement. Had I not been through some of what I’ve been through with my children. It is exhausting to to see How we have to interact with the world and how they have to, um, people are so incredibly comfortable with their racism, and, but so incredibly offended by it being pointed out. And I think like, That’s exhausting, it’s exhausting. Um, I would say some of the biggest things, you know, and it starts small it’s the it is those micro aggressions it is the fact that Ken and I were the heroes of this story that nobody is a hero here. Um, this is just how we ended up this is just the messy narrative that brought us all together. I’m navigating, and I will say, you know, I want to be I want to be honest, that we’ve lost white friends in this, but we’ve lost black friends too. And we’ve gained some, we’ve gained both, right? Because, but it’s for two different reasons, our white friends are just I’m just genuinely uncomfortable with I honestly think being around people of color. And black friends, few few, I don’t want it to sound like there was many. It’s too painful. It’s too painful. And I respect it, I’m not mad at them for it. They weren’t ready. And it is hard, and US parenting black children is it brings up a lot for them. And I’m not going to judge that trauma, or them needing to protect themselves from the pain that that brings up for them in but it is sad though, because the more community we can have for our kids, the better, right? Um, my biggest fear, as a white mother of black children, specifically a white mother of a black son is that and I will be emotional talking about this. That I don’t inherently know what he needs to know, to be safe. As a black man in America, that there are lessons that are passed down from generation to generation that black people inherently know, to teach each other and when and how and what those conversations look like it is inherent, right? It’s the same way I may discuss the changes in my daughter’s bodies when they start, right. But that is a biological, this is a survival. And I don’t know all of those things. And Ken doesn’t know all of those things. And I worry that my whiteness, my privilege, my you know, not having experienced the world and, and not inherently being a part of black culture in America is making him more unsafe. Because I’m not going to teach him something, or he’s going to assume he has a privilege by proximity. That’s going to make him less safe. And I worry about that a lot for him. And it’s hard to it’s it’s it’s hard to communicate that now I have some wonderful, wonderful black men and women who are in our life who I can go to and talk to you about these things. But it’s got to be exhausting for them to write and triggering for them too. So that is one of my biggest fears is is safety. The safety.
I think yeah, safety for sure. I mean, we this past summer, we dropped off our daughter at camp. It was just a short overnight camp. But it was 30 miles north of where we live. And it’s not very diverse up in that area. And when I dropped her off, the first thing I was looking for was how many people of color are here? Yeah. Right. So she’s not the folding pond. Yeah.
And it was it wasn’t the first thing he texted me after drop off wasn’t Oh, she’s excited or she’s nervous or she’s fine or this. It was how many people of color he saw. That was number one, because that’s safe. That does say safety. That does say safety. Putting your brown child in a space that is mostly white is really scary.
Richard Dodds 44:40
I think you do too or really seem to be tuned in just because I think it is a lot of non minorities who don’t understand what is like to have to experience that type of thing. Like I remember the day that my mom came ahead you know like in a Black community, I’m sure you heard it, my mom came and had the talk with me. And it’s like, hey, like, you know, people are not gonna, it’s gonna be some people out there that don’t like you just because of the color of your skin. And you have to present yourself in a way that doesn’t make them see you as more of a threat. And it reminds me of a is a television show. They do a lot of they deal with a lot of issues like that. The father is black, and a mother is white, and they live in Beverly Hills is called All American. But it was an episode where the guy from I think it’s Crenshaw, a guy from Crenshaw, the boy from Crenshaw, was with the mix boy from Beverly Hills, and they were riding in a drop top car. And he had came and picked him up, and Crenshaw, and the police pulled him over. And so they were they were teenagers. And he was like, you know, put your head down, be respectful. And and the other boy, the mix, boy, he had been raised in Beverly Hill, his dad has never had a talk with them. And he’s like, What are you doing? Like, we weren’t doing anything. And then like, man, just be quiet. They ended up getting pulled out of the car and handcuffed and whatnot. And so the black man who was from Crenshaw, he wants to the Father, so why haven’t you had this conversation with him? And I think just because the father’s response, and this was really well, well written, because I can see this actually playing out he said, You know, I thought I had more time, that I didn’t have to have that conversation with him, I thought I have more time. But like situations like that, like as a black person, and you could die from the situation like that. And just being able to acknowledge that, being able to know that I feel like that’s one step closer. That’s a lot of a lot of non minorities who don’t even understand that they like, why don’t you just comply? It says, even if you can apply, you could still become a t shirt. Yeah,
you could do all the right things. It’s never the right thing.
You know, our son is doing extracurricular activities this year, and he’s going to be doing them after school almost every day. So we ended up giving him a cell phone, you know, and for us, we thought it was like, way too early. We were gonna wait to, you know, kick that can down the road and a couple years from now. But we did it for two reasons. Really. It was, you know, safety, given all of the issues we have with school violence. Yeah. But this could be a whole nother topic of conversation. Yeah. But also, you know, so he has a way to communicate if he is by himself at a practice and something happens, and, you know, police show up, or, you know, he needs to get a hold of somebody, right? We don’t want him being there. With no way to communicate.
Yeah. And I don’t know that it makes him any safer. It just gives us this false sense that we have something, right, something that he can use to get a hold of us. And, but it is it’s, um, you know, I it is it’s so I envy black parents, I respect black parents, I respect black mothers, I know that I can go to a target by myself and just be a white lady at Target, and I can get a break. And they can’t, you know, and, and that’s why I also understand why being around, you know, other black people is so important, right? It’s a space that our kids can take a breath, and not stand out. And our kids now that they’re a little older, our son’s 10, our daughter’s eight, you know, they’ve started to, like, he will ask before we’re going somewhere, are there gonna be other black people, you know, like, and that is important to him, or we just went to meet the teacher at their school, and they’re going to a different school this year. And, you know, as soon as we got there, he was like, I don’t see enough black people. Right? And it there. It isn’t. It isn’t diverse school. He’s okay. But then we’re having a whole nother conversation where he’s loudly like, I don’t see very many black people, and he’s real upset about it. So I’m trying to, you know, give him that space to feel that. And then our well meaning six year old white daughter is counting black people for him. No, that’s a whole nother conversation, right. And so, and then also, that’s the other thing, like our younger two are almost four and six. So we’re also starting to get into this place where they have black siblings, they are not black. And I think about what happens when my son is driving his white, younger white daughter home from school one day, right? Are people going to make assumptions about the black boy in a car with the younger white girl? Right? Like, I worry, I’m already thinking and worrying about all of these things and how to navigating them and making sure that I also am teaching my six and four year old as they get older to not make their brother and sister less safe, too. What does it mean? for that?
We are we’re best friends with everyone in our neighborhood, because we need them to know that our son is black. And when he’s older, and he’s coming home, that they don’t need to call the cops thinking that someone’s breaking into the house. Yeah. Right. So we are very loud and proud about who we are as a family in our in our own community. Just for those very reasons, just for survival reasons. Yeah,
Richard Dodds 50:28
that’s insane. To really think about that, you know, when you go out, like, Do you Do you still get like, looks? And do people treat you differently? Just because like you have a mixed family?
Yeah, I think we do still for sure. And when we first started with foster care, it was very, I was very aware of it. You know, I would take my son or my daughter to like the grocery store. And I guess it didn’t matter who it was, you know, but I get stares from everyone. And I think you you toughen up, you know, you get a little callous with it. And it kind of rolls off now. You know, and you know, we love our family. And we’re very comfortable with our family. And so like, now it’s like, okay, whatever, like you can go fill your your feelings over there. But yeah, we definitely get it for sure.
Yeah, I would say we were really, really aware of it. In the beginning, for sure. I will say we’re in a community, where there are some other families that look like ours, or in different ways, we have a very good friend who is a black woman who adopted a white, so I’m from foster care. And then she had a biological black son, right. So you know, she has kind of reverse reverse situation. And I think it is a whole lot less dangerous for white boy to rope and a black house than it is for black children to grow up with a White House.
Richard Dodds 51:57
I think it’s more I think is safer for the kid, but maybe more dangerous for the parent, just because I wanted the reasons why I asked is just because like especially Can you wit your black daughter? And they’re like, how did he get this black girl? Like, what is he doing? And that could Tacko raise alarms. But imagine now the way that the media and politicians and just people in general in America treat like a black woman with like, a white child? Like, are you the nanny? Are you the nanny? So it’s dangerous for so dangerous on a different side?
Yeah, you’re right, where the danger, who is in danger is
different. No, everything is good with the ages that we’re at. But I would say when our kids were a lot younger, you know, and they would throw tantrums in a store or get fussy. Then it’s like, oh my god, you know, people think and I am trying to abduct a child or you know, do harm to somebody. And that was horrific. And we still, you know, well, when we when we fly, you know, we’ve flown a couple times with them. And we still bring oh my gosh, in paperwork, all the paper just in case. Yeah. Because you just never know what they
do. But as they get older I do you know, it is it’s starting to change. Right. And also, I will say that the assumptions are interesting. Like, for me, I get a lot of different kind of, like people assumed either I’m with a black man and I’m like, you know, trying to get in good with this kids. Or I’m, you know, I’m somehow like trying to pretend I’m mom to my black partners, kids or something, right? Like, there’s this kind of thing with Ken, when I’m not there, or when I’m away. And I’ve observed especially when the kids were little there was almost this like sweet softness towards him. Right? Like, oh, look at this nice man held, you know, like he must be dating a black woman look at him trying to be dad to these kids. Oh, bless his heart, right. So there’s some misogyny and all of this too. But as the kids are getting older, one thing that I’ve worried about, or I’ve noticed, in this just happened when we were on vacation, we were on vacation, we were all at the hotel pool. And the girls started to make some choices that we had told them not to that were not safe, and they were almost drowning each other. And Ken Like snapped in and like yelled at all of them. But the first one he yelled at was our black daughter. Right? And in that area, nobody knew, like necessarily that we had all come in together that we were all together. So for this brief moment moment, I noticed like people looking at Ken’s warning, you know, in parenting, telling his daughter to follow directions. Don’t be unsafe, you know, don’t get hurt. I’ve told you 100 times very normal parenting things that you do, but I noticed everybody like kind of stopping like what is happening? Why is this man yelling at this little this little Laughter All right. And so I quickly tried to make it clear that we were a family to kind of like, get people to stop being like, what is going on. And so it’s those sorts of things to where we’re just being normal, just doing our thing, right, just parenting, we’re conscious about it. But our parenting is very noticeable.
Richard Dodds 55:20
It’s crazy that you actually have to notice that now. And we were talking about a little bit earlier where someone was saying, like, how many other black people are there. And I had a conversation that was a, it was a black conference. And it was only two other it was two white people in the whole place. And that was like everybody else was black. And I was having a conversation with the white guy, the one white man that was there, we’re having a conversation. And somehow we came to the conversation of like, how I used to think that his black friends were like, We’re tripping, when they will say like, I was not many, you know, other black people around or it’s no black people around. And for him, it didn’t click with him until he was in like Haiti, I think he said he was in Haiti. And he said, he looked around, and all of a sudden, he realized that he wasn’t only black for only white person around and how uncomfortable it felt. And then he understood how important it is to see people that look like you where you’re at. And that is only really is only really super important to them, to the minorities, the majority doesn’t care. But the minority has to pay attention because especially as a as a black person, not having enough diversity that can signal danger, especially with the current political climate right now, that can be very, it can be very dangerous to be in a wrong place. And for the first time, I was out with some of my family, and we’re going to an event. And we were going down the street. It was a whole bunch of American flags on all of the houses and those Ooh, okay, here we go. Like, I mean, I love America, I used to see what American flag above my bed. But you know, like, like, with the climate now, like seeing a whole bunch of flags. It’s not like the best, the most welcoming thing that’s a minority. And then it was a fair, and it was tons and tons and tons of people. And we’re just like, trying to look through the crowd before we got out of the car. And we were like, we don’t see any black, brown, yellow, nothing. And that was the first time I have felt so uncomfortable that I didn’t actually go to an event. Yeah, we just drove off. Yeah. And that’s kind of a different. So how has your thinking changed, like now that the political climate and just American climate because it’s a very American thing, is the way that it is is on full display right now? How does your thoughts and minds changed with everything being the way that it is now?
Well, you know, for me, you know, being Jewish, I kind of get a similar vibe, when I see that, if it’s a very throwback to the 1930s. And so it’s a real shame that, you know, these far like groups have really co opted the flag. But that is definitely something that we’re aware of. And when we were looking to buy our next house that we’re in now, you know, one of the things we were scoping out was, what are the political signs in the area, because it was the height of everything, and we, you know, knew that a certain sign could mean a level of unsafety that just, you know, we didn’t want to take the risk.
But and that’s the thing that, you know, I think, again, right, because I’ve navigated the role, but mostly as a white person as a white woman. Um, uh, things were not things were not a threat to me. They didn’t mean that they were I didn’t know or understand or, or comprehend, like, racist dog whistles the way I do now, right? I didn’t, I didn’t, I lived in this like, little bubble of like, everybody can just love everybody. And, you know, just this kumbaya fantasy, right, that everybody was equal, and all the stuff that we, you know, believed when we sang certain songs in the 90s with other white kids. And so now, what I really had, what really hit me so hard over the past several years was that racism is not a deal breaker. It’s not. For some people, it is a motivator. You know, like people can be like, people are so Okay, with their comfort being more important than literal safety and lives and the way people can spin things. Something as simple as I am aware of a time in school, when my son picks something up off the floor that somebody dropped and was accused of stealing it. Not picking it up to give it back. To the person who dropped it, right? Those things mean something, I am so aware of my daughter being her body and her hair being policed as young as kindergarten, going to school with her hair out one day, because we were in between, like, styles, right? So she wanted to wear it out one day with a bow. So big, beautiful curls, and a bow, and takes up a lot of space very present, right, gorgeous. And the little white girls are telling her Oh, your hairs in the way we can’t see, you need to control your hair, like, immediate policing of her space, right. And her hair being its self. Right, just being just being when we,
when our son was a lot younger, you know, he didn’t have as good a handle, as he does now on his emotional, you know, abilities to regulate through some of the trauma. And so, you know, he would act out at school. And, you know, we our school at the time did have a principal of color. But, you know, when the principal saw him and saw us, it was just assumed that he was just this wild kid out of control. You know, but these two parents just don’t know how to handle them. Yeah. And, you know, we we had to almost, you know, prove our, our worth through our experience and go through the history of our children, which seems completely unnecessary to be able to explain that. No, he is a great kid who is learning how to handle some serious trauma. Yeah. Right. And he’s out of control child that, you know, white parents, that’s why parents, we need some other school that has other studies for other abilities.
Richard Dodds 1:01:52
As crazy, something that the stories that you’re telling are highlighting is. I mean, we see it every day media, when when you’re black, the story is portrayed a different way, the assumptions are different, you know, like your son picking up a pencil, or something that fell on the ground. Oh, he must be still in it. But if he was white, then it would be like, Oh, he’s just helping out? Yeah. So those assumptions now, like you to as white individuals are starting to see how the world views black people, and blackness so differently than whiteness. Is this a complete difference. And for me, like once you kind of wake up to it, because even as black as a black man, I had to wake up to it I thought the world was was this beautiful rainbows and sunshine until my mom had that conversation with me when I was younger. Like I said, I remember the day I remember crying. And I remember asking her why. And that was a moment where my innocence got taken away a little bit, because I saw the world is beautiful. And now my mom who I trust, like more than anybody else in the world, right? It’s telling me that this world is also very, very ugly. So like, the more and more I get aware, the more and more I look, and I analyze the things that I take in especially like, you know, the older stuff was written so much differently when we talk about books and whatnot. So when I look at media, I’m looking at a story I’m looking at, it was a movie that I was watching. And it was very subtle stuff, like, the black person got punched, or, and the black person was stealing it. It’s like very, very, very, very subtle stuff. But it’s really changed the way that I enjoy fiction and nonfiction just because like, I know that the news is gonna portray us on one way. Like, what if something happens to a black person, there was a man who was killed in his own apartment, they made him like the accuser. Like it was like the he had weed in his house and this and this and that. They’re trying to find dirt on them. And then like a white of a white person does something like Oh, they need to help. It was something going on. Like, they find they try to they try to reverse it. So now that you have like, you have minority people that are a part of your life, they’re a part of your family. Does that change the way that you analyze? Like maybe the Marvel like I only want to say a particular movie, but the movies that you go see, do you look at them differently? Do you pay attention to different things that maybe you did before?
For sure? For sure. One we definitely seek out diversity and representation you know, in a way that we didn’t before, right? We just didn’t to when we look back at a lot of movies we used to enjoy they don’t hit the same. They don’t hit the same as they used to right. They don’t they you know, there’s things I really I used to love a lot of old movies. And they don’t. They didn’t they don’t age while And then never should have but this they’re from a time where things were so normal and common. And then it just illustrates how fundamental these these systems, these beliefs, the roots of everything are set up in this country, right? So it’s all part of, again, this big circle of systems. Seeking out really good role models for my daughter is something that is really important to me, having conversations with my son, about having conversations with my son about being black in America is particularly challenging, right, like to be the face of, you know, the oppressor, right? To not walk his journey, to have these conversations with him and try to help educate him and try to help him really know and call out racism, because one of the things I also feel as this extra pressure on him, is, I want him to be armed to know it. And he needs to be really sure he can’t call out racism when it’s not. And because he it is so serious, and we have to all be able to go after it. Right. So it’s so complicated, and it’s so big, but I’m having these conversations with him also about black women. And here I am as a white woman trying to explain to him his responsibilities. And, and his need to, to understand what this country has done and treated and, and cause for black women is huge. And explaining to him as a black man that he needs to know this history, too. He needs to respect this too, right. And he needs to understand the extra protection and love that he should give to his sister, because he’s helping to set an example of how she deserves to be treated. And so then again, it’s like having these conversations are would have been hard enough with any child, but then you had all these different layers, you had my whiteness, you had Ken’s whiteness, right? You have, you know, all these different elements and layers, I don’t want to over educate him in a way that he takes this information and it makes him feel less than right. So empowering him in this and having him see good role models having him see representations that are important, sharing them with him, but letting him have his own things. It’s all so complicated. And parenting is already hard.
I think you’re absolutely right. And along the lines of, you know, the innocence of it all. You know, like, there’s things that to your point of of, of them just playing with each other and just being normal siblings, you know, they don’t see it any other way. They’re just goofing around, you know, sibling fighting sibling rivalry. But in the back of our head, you know, it’s like, you need to make sure that you’re doing this, that or the other, right, like, you need to make sure that you are respecting black women. They’re just goofing around. Right? Like, there’s that. Yeah, to your point, there’s like that extra level of being aware and, and being, you know, paying attention and, unless innocent. And, and to, to your point, which would have lose a little bit of innocence on that day when you had that talk. You know, Laurie always says that I’m like, the fun parent. And like, I always want them to have like, the childhood, good childhood. And I think part of it is like that, right? It’s part of it’s one day the party is going to end. Right? And the innocence level is going to change. And so, you know, especially for them, and trying to prolong the ability to have a childhood feel okay, feel comfortable. And not not be bombarded by a world that wants to take you down. But also to your earlier point, being able to know that the time is right to have this conversation. So we do try to you know, weave them into conversations. Sometimes it’s very informally, sometimes it is just a, you know, typical sit down we need to have this conversation. But yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s hard It definitely there’s definitely an extra layer of complication to it
all. Yeah. There’s so in we, you know, I think we’ve talked about this to where we will look back on things now and still cringe, right? We are constantly learning, they’re constantly getting better. We’re constantly unpacking our own whiteness and understanding, you know, all sorts of things and in growing and learning and trying to also give our kids space to be who they are and have their own journey. Um, but I, I remember, early on, when I was trying to learn really how to do my daughter’s hair. And it was very challenging because there were things we could or could not do because she was in foster care. So if the bio mom didn’t approve of something, I couldn’t do something. And so getting like, any like it was, it was there was a lot of barriers in my ability to properly care for my daughter’s here. And I was like this very stressed crying YouTube mom trying to learn everything I could to properly take care of her hair, and feeling really overwhelmed by and feeling really burdened by it. And I had a good friend kind of call me to the carpet on it. And she really said, You are being burdened by your daughter’s blackness right now, you are allowing her blackness to become a problem to you. You are you are stressed and overwhelmed by how much work it is to just take care of what is naturally her. And I am so grateful that that friend called me out like that, because it definitely, like hit like a wall of bricks, like I just sit with that. I had, of course, I was kind of defensive. At first, I was also really angry, I was angry at some of my black friends for not doing more to help me, like Teach me and you know, but they, you know, that everybody was kind of everybody’s processing a lot, when I don’t think that inherently it is best for children of color, to have white parents, I don’t categorically believe that that is what is best for them. I think that if you have, if you are raising black children, you have additional responsibilities, all white people should be doing this work. But you have to make sure you’re not raising black children in a white home, you are raising black children in a multicultural, transracial home, right. So there’s a lot of things that had to change. But I remember that and so then I really started to change learning how to do my daughter’s hair into a joy into time with her into something I hope she remembers right into I learning about it a few steps ahead of her so I can help teach her but then also, as soon as I was able to get permission to I made sure to find out, you know, black female spaces for her, that would be a very normal experience as a black girl, right. And then also recognizing now my whiteness art is in these black spaces that I really believe are are somewhat sacred and special, right? Like, it is a space where where women are vulnerable, and they take down their weaves and their braids and you they’re who they are. And it is a sacred space. And so I always try to remember, there are spaces that I have navigated my whole life that very much were meant for me, because so much of this world was set up for me. And there are spaces that are not. And I tried to be as respectful in that space as I can, because my daughter is too young for me to leave her alone. But recognize that my role in that space is to slowly see myself out of it and let her habit. And so she’ll be able to have these memories of my mom, you know, did my hair. And, you know, I sat in between my mom’s knees and she did my twists, and she didn’t my braids. And she did you know my deep conditions and all of that stuff. But she also will know that I then also gave her those spaces. And so hopefully someday if she has children of her own, she’ll know she can come to me to help with the baby’s hair. But she also will know and have the resources to navigate for, you know, whatever she chooses to do. But the other thing I was really strict about with with her hair, when I was able to have some control over it were some people had suggested you know, just get it pressed, just get it planner and just straighten it just bla bla bla. And I’ve been really really really strict about the fact that so long as she’s in between my knees, her hair will be treated in a natural way. So I will not try to alter it. We do protective styles. We do add hair for braiding, but I’m not going to try to make her hair do something that is in alignment with white cultural expectations of black hair. And I’m gonna let her know that her natural hair and her natural beauty was always you know, loved and embraced by me but if she makes a different choice for herself, I will fully support that too,
Richard Dodds 1:14:50
because it means something completely different as a white mom trying to stray in your black daughter’s hair than it would if a black mom was trying to shape But I mean, it’s all interconnected, really. But you have prime time to look and analyze, like, why why is this the thing? Why are people forced that have natural hair that does a particular thing? Why are they forced into this European beauty standards just because, like, our hair does that easily, but their hair doesn’t do that. So they, we have to make them look like us, instead of letting them be them.
Yes, absolutely. And in these sorts of situations, too, like, I can’t relate to the inherent black experience of it, but I can relate to being policed as a woman, right, and, and those effects on me, and they’re not fully the same. And they’re not all rooted in the same things, and misogyny and race and all of this have intersections and separate. But so, and I try to remember that too, like, making sure my daughter has really good black female role models is just as important as making sure my son does too. And letting her have these black female spaces are really important. And, you know, one of the ways we’ve tried to accomplish that is my daughter loves dance. So she is in a black owned, mostly black dance studio. And that is her space. And that is for her. And, you know, our son is in like many sports, but Currently he is in football, and he has black coaches with mostly black, you know, teammates. And so trying to make sure that we’re giving them every opportunity that they can to engage with black culture and be embedded in black culture, and that we are mindful of when we enter those spaces, I feel that there are some that we you know, naturally as his has their parents have a right to be in and should be in. But there are times where we need to see ourselves out of them. And there are also I think ways in which we need to respect the culture of the space and not dictated. So we can be there. But it’s not ours. And it’s not for us. And that’s in Boston, we keep learning. It’s it’s a lesson we keep learning.
Richard Dodds 1:17:18
It seems like it’s such a learning curve. And it sounds like you’re doing the best you can and trying to make sure that your kids are exposed to black culture in different ways. And I remember going to an adoption party of two of my white friends. And aside from the child, I was the only other black person there and I was like, Oh, they go have a stiff learning curve coming from, you know, being around like mostly white people. And I mean, obviously I was there that they’re the they’re friendly people that are very open minded. But it’s one thing to be sympathetic to something. And it’s another thing to have to, like, once you have a child you have to especially your child as black, you’re gonna have to like live through their eyes. So the weight that black people carry every day, just like intrinsic weight that we just have. It’s a little bit of that weight that y’all have to pick up. And you’ll have to realize, like, ooh, like, life, and as easy as I thought it was like, now I have to think of stuff that I never would have had to think about before.
Yeah, and all the ways I worry that we are, you know, like I talked about earlier, like, we I don’t want what we haven’t experienced, and we don’t inherently know to make our kids unsafe, right. But I also want to say, some of the really beautiful things and things that have been I’m grateful for, I truly believe that colonialism and racism and so much of the history of this country has has harmed all of us. More, some than others definitely have created more systems on others, but it has harmed all of us. And even as you know, a white woman. There’s an old indigenous culture that I’ve been separated from, right, there’s so many roots to all have our history that we have lost because of the way this country was formed. And because of the powers that be because of the systems that have maintained control and continue to try to mean control. We have been robbed from so much richness for all of us, and so much of the things that are inherent to us. And I think that that you see that manifested further and lack of connection with the earth and climate change. And you know, the way we don’t have community the way we used to isolation allows for there to continue to be a certain sense of control and a lack of, you know, community. And so I think that it harms all of us. Not in a way that it threatens all of our lives. But it harms all of us. And it has robbed all of us from so much richness that we we could be having and we could have had. So I’m grateful that at this time in my life, because of my kids, I am intentionally digging deeper, I am intentionally learning more, I am intentionally, you know, becoming anti racist, and continuing to understand what that means. And I’m recognizing respecting when spaces are not mine, and I’m learning to let go of, you know, things that were ingrained in me in judgments that I recognize now I’m like, Whoa, that that’s not right. Like, that’s not, uh, you know, why did I believe that or think that. Um, and so I’m grateful for those things. And, and I’m grateful for my children. I, you know, you had mentioned the adoption, you know, celebration like for us, like we’ve fully are rooted in the sense that adoption is a trauma. It is it can have positive outcomes. But adoption is a trauma, it doesn’t matter when it happens, it is a trauma. And so, you know, we had kind of, we did, like a private celebration with our kids, just us, we didn’t do like a big like celebration. And I respect that people do do that, because it’s a whole hell of a lot work, you know, that you go through to adopt, but our lives are so much richer, because of our children. My life was richer, you know, because of my husband being Jewish, and I and I now have, you know, two half Jewish children as well. And we’re navigating what that means for them. And, you know, it’s it’s different, but there’s still things that we need to process with that. But again, there is there is such by my ongoing fear is their safety. My ongoing fear is their resiliency and their happiness, and their ability to just be, you know, free and joyful in this world, and walking this line between educating them to be safe and not also making it so they can’t take a deep breath. It’s so complicated,
Richard Dodds 1:22:18
I think you too, especially the situation that you’re in have a really difficult journey, just because there are going to be lessons that you have to teach your two black kids, and that there are going to be lessons, those lessons are going to be different than the lessons that you teach your two white kids. And so not only are you teaching both of them life lessons, which are, in some cases drastically different. You’re also trying to teach your white kids how to be respectful of black culture and understand black culture and understand that being different is okay. But then being mindful that the way that you’re going to be treated is going to be different from the way that your brothers, your brother, your other sisters gonna get treated as a lot, how do you manage all of that
I haven’t a lot of crying now. And one day at a time, you meet them where they are. Some days are so simple, and you just you’re just being a normal parent, my, my son, my son came to me the other day and told me that he needed to talk to me about something and it wasn’t appropriate for sisters, and I was real nervous. And it was just a very typical, like, son wanting to understand things, you know, science and biology. Right? Um, and it was a very normal conversation. And there but there are layers, and that that may change over time. And in there may be other points of information. And, but we have very normal moments where we’re just a normal family, whatever that is. And we also have really bizarre conversation sometimes, like when we celebrated Kwanzaa recently, I was explaining it to my, one of my white daughters, and explaining what Kwanzaa was. And she was getting it confused with Hanukkah. And I know this and I was explaining it again. And her response to me was, I don’t know any black people. And then I was like, Wow, that’s some information we have to unpack and like I was shocked and then I started explaining and she said, No, they’re brown they’re not black. And when you are explaining these things to children, you realize how absolutely stupid it all is and how absolutely man made complicated rap it can be, um, and and it’s, it is so complicated, and so But I feel like we learn a lot through them and their questions. You know, when you had talked to us about possibly during this conversation, we talked to the kids about what does it mean to them to have white parents and be black? And, you know, I think they’re at an age right now where they, they have some feelings about it, but it’s not fully verbalized, or fully, you know, understood yet. Our son has said that what’s hardest for him right now is the fact that he’s adopted, and not so much that we are white, and that he’s kind of embarrassed by that. And he’s embarrassed about people knowing that, um, you know, he told me once that the kids at school don’t know, he’s adopted, and I was like, oh, and he said, I just told everybody that you’re one of those miracle moms who has different colored kid. And I was like, oh, and I was like, Okay, well, when, like, let me know what the story is. So I know, to back it up, like, if we’re gonna have a story, let me know. Because I do want to be able to give him whatever kind of sense of control he can have over the narrative. Because if we had adopted a white child, nobody would assume that they were adopted. Right?
Richard Dodds 1:26:10
You could hide it a lot longer.
Yes, our kids don’t get that. Right. A lot of presumptions are made when you see our family. Um, so you know, it’s, it’s, we’re navigating it. And it’s complicated. I will also say, though, you know, he had said that he would like to talk more about it, that he would like to talk more about what it means to be black with white parents. And that, and he was very envious, that we, we got to talk to you, and he wants to talk to you. And I had told him, I was like, you know, I think that that’s something that you can decide and have that conversation. Without Me and dad overtop of you, you should be able to do that in a safe space for yourself and not feel like we’re there to to control that, right. I don’t want to project on him, I don’t want to control on him, I’m not going to tell him what it feels like to be a black child of white parents. I’m not going to, I’m going to do everything I can to not, you know, gaslight, those experiences for him. And but in some ways, you know, I think like, he also knows it’s a weakness. And so as children do, they will go after your weakness. And so sometimes when he is receiving a natural consequence for something, he will tell me, I’m being racist. He will, and he knows that that’s a weakness, and I have to pay, like through it, just like he, you know, any other thing that they can use, they will, um, one time, I was frustrated with him because he was not properly taking care of his hair. And I had said, like, listen, like you want to grow it out. But if you’re not going to take care of it, you can’t grow it out, we’re gonna have to go to the barber, we’re gonna have to get it cut. Because you’re not taking care of your hair. And, and he was like, You’re a racist, you’re trying to control my hair, you’re cutting off my hair. Right? So then there’s that whole extra element in the parenting to his, you know, this is this is something that he can use, and one of the many ways to fight back against our parenting. And we have to honestly question if there’s merit in what he’s saying, or if there’s not, right. And so it’s a learning thing. And he also, you know, as kids will do, he’ll be like, you know, you’re not my real parents when he’s mad at us. And I’ve told them, like, there were times when I was a kid, and I was mad at my parents. And I would be like, I wish I was adopted. You know, I hate that. You’re my real parents. Right? So you’re my biological parents. But it’s complicated and kids are smart and he’s smart. Oh, is he smart? So you use what you can and so in some ways him doing that is a normal kind of kid thing for him to do because he knows it’s a way to try to assert control and win a fight as kids would
Richard Dodds 1:29:10
mean that’s that’s a lot to for kid to unpack because you know, it was already you remember being a kid being a kid is hard. And then being adopted, I imagine will be hard as well. Being black comes with its own set of hurdles, especially being black in America. But then you think about being black with white parents. That’s like a whole nother hurdle. And for for him and your your daughter to go through that. That is stuff that they’re gonna navigate, they’re gonna have to navigate and it’s like, they’re gonna have to explain stuff. So that conversation that he had with his classmates, he’s gonna have different conversations, because oh, it was weird. Like your parents are white. Are your are your sister, your sister as well? is not your sister in law? Yes, that is my sister. It’s just gonna, you know, it’s just so much division that you get reinforced, because you even think about stereotypes you talked about, like some of the things that you had to overcome, like, as a white person, like, it’s stereotypes against black people that black people have to overcome, because you hear so much, you start to believe it, even as someone as a part of that community. So,
you know, a few years ago, thanks to the miracles of DNA testing, I found out that, who I thought was my biological father wasn’t. And so, you know, finding out like, being mid 30s, at that time and finding out, you know, it was still difficult to wrap your head around and just understand, like, your experiences that to that point, and just knowing like, who you thought was someone I didn’t turn out to be. So I, I do try to carry that into, like, my thought patterns and my, my experience when I’m trying to talk to my kids and trying to, you know, making sure that they’re understanding different lessons and values, and just remember, like, Okay, if I was them, and obviously, I can’t be them. Because that, you know, taking my experience of learning about having different periods, and then adding the fact that I’m a child, and then adding the fact that I’m a child of color, and then adding another fact that I’m a child of color with white parents, I mean, that’s taking that experience two times 1000, right, like, that’s out of the ballpark. But I do try to carry my experience into the thought and try to put myself the best I can into their shoes, to say, if I was my son, or I was my daughter, in this moment in time, you know, how would I react to this statement? Or how would I react to this question or this situation? And then just kind of work it from there. Sometimes that works out. And sometimes it doesn’t, you know, and, and there’s many lessons that we’re going to teach them, you know, they’re going to teach us just as many if not more,
so many, so many. One, I also want to say, you know, I a lot. We know other people who have adopted, but most have adopted, you know, other white children. We know, you know, of a handful of people who have adopted, you know, girls from China. And I remember having a conversation with somebody, a friend that had adopted a white daughter, she’s white, but her good friends had adopted a baby from China, and they were moving to a area that was like an hour away from where they had originally lived, that was moving an hour away from where their family was to be in an area that had more people of Chinese descent. Right. Then I remember, you know, my friend had said, like, that’s crazy. Like, you can’t just uproot your whole life and do that. And, and I really, like, felt this, like hit was on it in the sense of like, no, not everybody can. Right? Not everybody can, from a financial standpoint, do that. But do they have that responsibility when they sign up to do this? Yes. If they can, they need to? Our kids should not be the only kids that are ever uncomfortable in a space. We should be in spaces with them that is for them and not for us. We need to make sure that they have a connection to that. And they’re going to miss some of it inherently because we are white, and they are not. But yes, we have a responsibility to that. When we were moving and looking at the political signs. And all of that we moved in this was a really hard decision for us. They were in a mostly black community and a mostly black school. And our son was the only one that had was in elementary school at the time. The rest of our kids were all in daycare preschool. When our son’s teacher, talk to us and said he is he needs more than we can give him. He is incredibly brilliant. He’s advanced in math, but he’s also processing all this trauma, and he’s gonna get stuck behind with that. He needs more and she recommended the school district that we’re in now and she was like, it’s very diverse. This school has a black principal and a black vice principal. They have all of these programs. Like if you can get him into that school, that would be my recommendation for you. And so we adjusted our whole life and got him into that school and it is more representative of the US population and is not mostly white. It is not mostly black. It is really diverse school and I’m grateful for For that, if I can’t give him a mostly black, you know, experience, then I’m glad I can give him a really diverse experience. And so when we did that, though, like we were not living in the school district, my husband’s job was in one direction. My job was in the other, we had two younger kids, I was pregnant, like, and it was complicated. And we did at that half hour, haul back and forth every day and got all the kids until we could, you know, put our house on the market until we could move and now we have them in the school district. But again, when we were looking at the move and looking at the schools, our top thing wasn’t how well is the school rated? Our top thing was, how many people of color are in leadership? How many people of color are teachers? And what is the makeup of the student body? Those are the first three things we look at, then, will it have programs that will support our children to write? Is it a well rated school is it you know, but those are the things that we’re looking at. And I do believe that if you are going to bring people of color in your life, your kids should not be the first people of color to break bread at your table. And they should not look outside their window and not see anybody like them. Ya
know, I had a co worker who also adopted his daughter from China. And you know, he, he’s a Trump supporter, you know, he lives in a predominantly white neighborhood. And I just I don’t get it, right, I just see this this level of cognitive dissonance and to your point, not, not even considering any level of change in your own life and your own comfort level to make your daughter comfortable. Right, and voting against her best interests. Yeah. Because you don’t want to take the time to get educated, you don’t want to take the time to feel uncomfortable. You don’t want to have any elasticity in your life, you just want to be fixed in one space, because that works for you.
Yeah, yeah, I also have gotten, I think I have a much bigger wall for who’s allowed into, to this to our family to our life, I’m very, I think we all are protective of our families. But I think we specifically have some extra layers of protection. You know, finding out that for certain relatives, racism was not a deal breaker for them, they are fine to hug my children and say that they love them, and then go and, and you cannot, like you can have political beliefs around the economy, and international security, and you know, tax code, whatever. But you cannot put those things above safety and security and direct inherent right like you like anybody who who voted for Trump has to live with the fact that for the rest of their life, that they sided with white supremacists and Nazis, and you don’t get to undo that. That isn’t forgivable. It’s done. It’s fact you showed that right? That is a deal breaker for me, it is a broken value for me, you don’t get to undo that. So I don’t care that you bought my kid a Christmas gift and you hug them and love them and, you know, had pizza with them and came in, you know, visited with them. That was nice. But you showed me that your comfort is still more important than their life, I would never do that your child no matter their color, right. So I have literally lost relationships with family members that I was once close to. And that has been hard. And it’s been disappointing that they didn’t come around and make their own no knowledge and in wake up to it. The other thing that’s been hard, there’s so much responsibility on us out as white people to educate other white people, right? Like that is our job, like my son and daughter should not have to grow up teaching white people to not be racist, or what it means to be racist. And I have done so much of this conversation. And Ken has done so much of this conversation. And I’ve really removed myself from it in a lot of my extended relatives and really have said to my cousins who are their children, this is your job. And if you’re going to allow it, you’re complacent in it too. But it is exhausting to me to have to fight with my uncle or my aunt, for the value of my child. They don’t get to win that they’re not going to win that there’s not going to be a compromise. So I can only give so much of that energy. Now what I try to do as a as a white person who still owns responsibility to these things, things is, where else do I have spaces that I can make a difference. So I am in a leadership role at work. So I have created policies and worked with, you know, our staff to try to remove barriers and make things less racist and really do root change and transformational things where I have the ability to do so. But also where it is not literally sucking my soul dry, because I’m screaming for people to believe that my child safety and personhood is more important than gas prices. Right? And so I just didn’t like trying so much to to navigate that, and then having my own frustration and anger and then guilt are not doing enough, right? Like, oh, I’m not talking to this uncle anymore, because, you know, the ABC and D, but it’s also like, he’s got three educated kids who claim to love my kids who didn’t vote for Trump. That that’s got to be their ownership, right? I can’t have that fight with everybody. So we’ve lost so many people that we you know, that I, that I would say honestly showed tremendous love to my children, but you can’t love them and then spit on them when you go into vote. Right? And that those Trump signs, don’t say to me, oh, you know, I’m a conservative Christian. It says to me, I am complacent with racism, sexism, and anti semitism, like I am complacent in hate. And I more I care more about myself than anybody then somebody else’s like,
Richard Dodds 1:41:44
Thank you, sir. I think you said it. Well, what you said just like, like, racism isn’t a deal breaker is like, Oh, you’re racist? That’s fine. Right? That’s fine. Yeah, that’s tough. And that’s something that some people have the privilege to not have to think about. And that’s something now that you will always think about, and I think that’s kind of like the beauty in being it being so close to have to think about something other than outside of yourself. You know, like I always say that black people have to adjust to the white world. But it’s always about us doing things to make sure that other people feel comfortable. But when is the time for other people to feel uncomfortable? And that’s to feel at least a little bit normal? And that’s kind of like what you are starting to see now. Is that like, oh, yeah, like my son and daughter, they have to be uncomfortable. And all of these rules that were made up that I thought were like, Fine, like, why can’t everybody follow these rules that don’t work all the time when you’re not white? So I think you I think you caught on a lot of good points. I just want to get you guys is like last by closing thoughts. And I’ll start with, I’ll start with you, Laurie, what are your closing thoughts?
Well, you know, I’m grateful that you welcomed us into this space to have this conversation. And, and I always want to be respectful of the fact that, you know, you are making a podcast, you know, as a space for black people and black voices. And I recognize that this is a white boys in this space. And I appreciate that you welcomed us into it. I will continue to, you know, I will probably look back on this and have things that I grow and change from it. And so I hope that everybody will accept the grace of where we are right now in this journey. But ultimately, if black people don’t need me to validate for them, or tell them how hard and exhausting it is to be black in America, you all you know, but just know that there are, you know, white people who recognize that we have a huge responsibility because we have what is most precious, and that is your children and black children. And that we are doing, at least Canada are doing the best that we can to love them and learn and keep them as safe as we can. And it’s an honor to be their parents.
I mean, hello, I thought what that I’m love my kids. I love all of them. I’m always going to fight for them. I’m never going to stop learning. They’re going to teach me a million things along the way. But I’m going to be there for them. And there could be a million eyes looking at me thinking I’m the weirdest guy in the world, but I am the happiest guy in the world. Yeah,
Richard Dodds 1:45:01
I really appreciate you to coming on and being vulnerable and sharing your thoughts because you have a view that a lot of your peers don’t get to have. You actually are not minorities, but you, at least partly have to experience minority life. So I really appreciate you to coming on and telling me about your experiences. And thanks a lot for coming on.
Yeah, thanks for having us.
Richard Dodds 1:45:28
Thank you everyone for listening. Still talking Black has a crown culture media LLC production is produced by me Richard dot, and our theme music was created by the DJ blue. Please make sure to rate and subscribe to the show on your favorite podcasting app. You can follow us on Instagram at still talking black. So again, I want to thank everyone for listening. This has been an incredible season one I can’t wait to share what I have for you in season two. But until then, keep talking