As I sit down to write this over 10 hours after it happened, my blood is still boiling, my mind is still racing, I’m still at a loss for words and still in disbelief. We always knew that raising a son in a transracial adopted family would have its challenges, but not much can prepare you for the prejudices, judgements and racism that lies in our world that randomly arise when you least expect it.
Sure we’ve heard comments underneath people’s breath, we’ve gotten unwanted “advice and opinions”, we’ve seen looks of disapproval from all races and felt tension from people all because our family is transracial, but it’s never affected me in the way it has today. Maybe it’s because other times it wasn’t direct or because things were said out of good intent or maybe because Shamoree wasn’t around or couldn’t hear.
The grocery store seems to be the place where most judgement comes, both good and bad. Today as we navigated through the store, Shamoree sat in the back and I filled the cart around him in a hurry. As we got to the apple sauce Shamoree made a request. “Mommy?! Can I please try that kind this time?” As I examined what it was, I noticed it was on sale, organic (because that seems to matter to me even though he eats an abundance of junk) and it came in three fun flavors. I agreed and as I stood there he directed me to which flavor he wanted. “Mommy I want the blue one! No no no, the green one, how about I get both mommy!” I told him to pick one and what flavors they were. “Mommy I would like the sour apple one PLEASEEEEEE. Yeah! The sour apple is my choice because I love sour things!”
Just then a lady walked past our cart and gave Shamoree a dirty look. I thought it was rude but in that moment I honestly thought that she just looked at him like that because he was very expressive about his love for things that are sour and she felt differently. I quickly realized her look had different intentions when she stopped a foot past our cart as she walked by and turned around to look at him and then I again. “Is that your son?”, she asked.
First of all, what an odd question to ask a stranger. I thought do you just go around asking biological families that all the time? No, no I’m sure you don’t. Second of all, you just heard him call me mom about four times right? And third of all why would you care or is it any of your business. Holding back as I tried to be respectful and not make a big deal about anything, I simply stated “yes he is.” Just then she looked at me in disbelief. I’m not sure what she expected me to say but she stood there still at the end of my cart and looked at him, then me, then him and back at me, “oh yeah, he looks just like you” she sarcastically responded.
In that moment I immediately became livid. Trying to keep my composure a million things ran through my mind. A million responses ran through my mind. Within milliseconds I contemplated going off and bringing out the inner feistiness in me, I contemplated responding with a just as snarky and sarcastic comment like “thank you so much! Everyone says he gets his smile, blonde hair and blue eyes from me”, I contemplated ignoring her and addressing the situation to Shamoree loud enough for her to hear but every time I came up with a response I quickly thought how Shamoree was watching my every move and how detrimental my response could effect him or trigger him. I simply stated (ok there may have been some attitude in my tone) “Adoption is a beautiful thing, THANKS!”
Immediately I pushed the cart past her and moved over to the next aisle to ask Shamoree if he was ok. Immediately I questioned my response, wondering if I said enough to stick up for my son, and defend our family. Immediately I regretted not addressing her underlying racist judgment. Immediately I wondered if her dirty look wasn’t a look of disapproval that he was being raised by a white mother but rather it might be a look of shock and recognition from a biological family member and wonders if the question came from a personal place.
It wasn’t the last time we ran into her or the man she was with during the shopping trip and it wasn’t the last question they had about my son.
The rest of the shopping trip (and the night for that matter) was filled with wonder, anger, disbelief and assessing how it may or may not be effecting a Shamoree. At some point a realized that all I can do is pray and try to prepare myself for the “next time”.
A next time that is sure to happen, but a next time that hopefully gods word can shine brighter through me to bring awareness. A next time that allows me to be content in my response. And a next time that Shamoree can be proud in my character, advocacy and know that it’s great to be like his parents in character, regardless if he looks just like us or not.