Two white women sitting at a Chinese buffet, eating our rice, using our chopsticks and having a good old chat about……ethnicity. Now, that is not our normal dinner conversation! But, it has spurred my thinking.
Even though I am white – I have lived the life of being the minority. I chose to live in Asia – with my stunning red head of a husband, charming tow headed children, and my pale skin and blue eyes. We didn’t exactly blend in. There is nothing like being starred at all the time, being singled out, being different. But, that was the life we chose.
Our adopted children haven’t had a choice.
Growing up I really thought if you pretended ethnicity didn’t matter – well, then it didn’t. I took the good old fashioned “color blind” approach to life. I was the blind one. Ethnicity does matter. It does affect our families and I feel like my journey to understanding that has only just begun.
“Where is she from?” a well meaning father asked me over the top of Little Monkey’s head. She pipes up, “Kentucky.” I smile at the man and hope he will move on. “No really. You know what I mean,” he clarifies. Yes, I did know what he meant. But did he understand the meaning behind his question?
She is not a foreigner. She is my daughter. She belongs here.
The next week while eating at a Chinese restaurant (theme here, yes we eat Chinese a lot.) Little Monkey has a totally different perspective. I am chatting with the owner in Chinese when I notice the frustrated look on my dear girl’s face. “What is it sweet pea?” She wails in response, “How can I not understand what you are saying? I AM CHINESE!”
She has a foot in both camps. She is a Kentuckian – but she is Chinese. She is my daughter – but our heritage is different. I am in the majority. She is in the minority.
For her sake I need to explore ethnicity. What is it like to be an Asian American? How does it affect how others view her and treat her? Taking it a step farther – How does it affect her when others realize that she is adopted?
More than anything I want all of my children to be secure in who they are. I want them to understand that their identity is rooted in Christ. They were made special in His image. They are His children, fearfully and wonderfully made. The lesson is the same, but their journey in figuring that out will be different. For our adopted children I know that ethnicity, adoption and growing up in a white family will affect their identity. I am not color blind any more. But how do I help them?
“My skin is dark. Yours is peach.” Little Monkey said to me in the bathroom as I did her hair earlier this week. “What is the same?” I asked her. “You have two eyes. So do I. You have a mouth. Me too. We both have ears. We love each other.”
For now our journey is about embracing the beauty that diversity has brought to our family. We love more deeply because we are not the same, but we are a family.
The conversations about ethnicity have only just begun for this momma.