Monday, 25 January 2010

Minor Adjustments

Remember in that previous post on "being famous" how I mentioned that we rarely found ourselves in insulting situations? Well...

Right before we left for Christmas we attended a wedding in a very small town in Illinois. We went knowing very few people, and were one of a handful of people from out of town who were not relatives of the bride or groom. The bride and groom have very different heritages, so we felt safe assuming that although we were heading to a small town, no one who was overtly bigoted would be attending the wedding, because if you objected to inter-racial families, this was not the wedding for you.

When we walked into the sanctuary I noticed that it was not a diverse crowd, but, we really hadn't expected one, nor did that matter. We just notice it more now, because now we stand out when it isn't. There was one woman whom I believed, based on her dress which looked very much like the church clothes we saw in Uganda, to be African. She also had a daughter, who was probably in late elementary school or early middle school. We were seated across the sanctuary from them. The distance between us grew greater as I ended up having to leave during the ceremony because Tommy had a little incident (think pee all over me because Target diapers are LAME) and needed to go outside. We managed to get cleaned up in time for the reception. The room was fairly crowded, and Tommy was a bit upset, so he spent most of it either trying to grab at the food (all chock full or sugar, gluten and lactose and therefore none of it allowed) or nuzzling on my neck and playing with my hair. We were never very near the African woman- separated by rows in the sanctuary, then crowds at the reception. At one point I got tired of holding Tommy, and went to the side of the room to sit down. The only open chair was next to the African woman, and she motioned for me to have a seat.

She turned to me and said, "A woman just came up to me and asked me why you were holding my baby. She said he must be happy because he probably never gets to touch a white woman's hair. I told her he wasn't my baby, and she said to me 'but you know him, right?' I told her I didn't. So since everyone thinks I know him, let me get to know him."

We ended up having a nice conversation. She was indeed from Africa, and, apparently my eye for fashion is good because she was an East African from Kenya. We talked about what brought Jeff and me to Uganda and Tommy, and her to Illinois, and jobs and faith. Eventually she asked how diverse of an area we were living in, and if we had had issues before with people's assumptions, bringing the conversation back to the comments that had been addressed to her earlier.

I know that she was more offended by the statement made about Tommy being hers than I was. Jeff and I chose to adopted across racial lines. In doing that, we made the decision to stand out, to endure questions and comments, and occasionally some ignorant assumptions. This woman did not. We were trained to expect people to not recognize us as Tommy's parents. She probably never took a class on what to do when people assume she is the mother of all the black kids in a room.

And, let's face, it, the comment about my hair was terrible. Happy to touch a white women's hair? Seriously? As if my hair was more desirable to touch than her hair. Yuck. And, what a weird thing to say randomly.

When Tommy and I are out and about it isn't uncommon for people to misunderstand our relationship, and when it happens it doesn't offend me at all. But I have never experienced that mistake along with such a rude comment, especially one directed at someone other than myself. It was uncomfortable.


mary said...

Some people do not think before they speak. What a weird thing to say. I feel so bad for that woman but because she is a woman of faith, hopefully she is forgiving.
I always think of what Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they do not know what they do."

Jim and April said...

people never fail to amaze me with their rude or weird or ignorant or just plain silly comments they make! Your right choosing adoption we chose to stand out and be noticed and have those comments said...oh well! Let them! :0) I think you handled it great and in the process got to know another wonderful person! :0)

Katie said...

I'm so glad you had a chance to talk with that woman- I agree, she didn't have a choice in terms of people's assumptions about her. Its cool to read your reflections on this- I'm happy Tommy has such good parents:);)