Am I Creating A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy?

White friends often ask if parents of Black children (like me) create a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching our children about racism. Do they have a point? What if I replace “racism” with other words?

  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about bullying? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about communication skills so much.
  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about cavities? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about oral hygiene so much.
  • Are we creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by teaching kids about looking both ways before they cross the street? Maybe we shouldn’t color their judgement by talking about road safety so much.

To me, it sounds like blaming the victim. Nobody invites bullying, cavities, car accidents, or racism. And, the more all of us understand those realities, the more empowered everyone is to protect them self.

#theonlystupidquestion #istheonenotasked #openminds

Why Shouldn’t I Get A Parade?

Dear Parade People of the Universe:

PARADE REQUEST:

I would like to request a parade in my honor because I have been working really hard to be awesome, and it’s starting to work. I’ve hit a new high of awestasstitty.

REASON FOR PARADE REQUEST:

Yesterday, I found myself in a conversation with a woman named Drizella*, who is a lactation specialist. Am I more fascinated than normal by Drizella’s profession? Yes. Am I extra fascinated because, as an adoptive mom, I have no experience with lactation? Maybe. Plus, I’ve always thought of breast feeding as deeply miraculous. (There are bunches of paintings of the practice by great artists. Picasso created my favorite: Maternity (1909).)

We arrived at the inevitable point in the conversation when people indulge their need to tell me about their personal brush with adoption. Drizella’s sister-in-law, Greta**, tried to adopt a baby a few years ago. Drizella and Greta were able to get Greta lactating. Amazing! Not my choice as an adoptive mom, but… Amazing! In the delivery room, the birth mother changed her mind and decided to keep the baby. Greta was very sad. “But,” Drizella reassured me***, “Greta ended up getting pregnant several months later. Greta ended up being able to have one of her own!”

I smiled, nodded, and said, in a reasonable tone and pitch, “That’s nice.”

OTHER THINGS THE PARADE GRANTERS SHOULD CONSIDER:

I, Allison Garwood, did not give voice to my initial reaction when some dumb cluck box differentiated a biological child from an adopted child with the descriptor “one of her own.”

I, Allison Garwood, did not say: “Luc IS MY OWN, you asshole, honkey, cracker breeder!!!!!”

I, Allison Garwood, did not say: “Don’t ever talk to my ‘own’ son, because I’m scared the sludge ooze of your ignorance would get on his skin, and cause him to break out in hives, because he is allergic to stupid.”

I, Allison Garwood, did not say: “You’re head is a hide-a-key rock, and the key is your brain, but somebody forgot to put the key back.”

I’ve grown as a person! I’ve been keeping a journal (three pages daily! It’s helped my mood and temperment a lot.) I’m also reading a book on anger management (The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner). That is why I deserve a parade today, and why I will continue to deserve recurring parades for many years to come.

*Not her real name.

**Not her real name.

***For the record: It’s a hard disappointment for the adoptive parents, but a birth mother keeping her baby is a tragedy in NO ONE’s eyes.

What the #$@&, Mom?

My mother explained to me the other day why she’s still backing Trump, even after Charlottesville.

This was a rare conversation. White Fragility runs deep in that one. When I ask a question or make a fair point, she scurries out of the conversation like an angry goldfish from a kid tapping the glass.

Okay, so, in my Mom’s mind, there was a group of reasonable, down to earth Republicans who attended the “Unite the Right” White Supremacist “rally” in Charlottesville not knowing what it would turn into. And that’s why DJT said “on many sides.” I’ve tried to piece together her version of the events…

Roger, the Reasonable Republican, pulls into the parking lot of the Charlottesville Best Western. He’s giddy about the prospect of finally having a voice again! The details aren’t clear yet, but he thinks he has time for a late lunch at Applebee’s, and a quick tour of the statues in question before the meeting around 8pm. A weird time for a meeting, but oh well.

When Roger arrives at the meeting, everyone is warm and gracious. There is no yelling, just calm conversations about the symbolism and importance behind historical statues. Suddenly, some clown with an extended bed Tacoma pulls Tiki torches out of the 12 foot cargo trailer he’s hauling. Roger isn’t too sure about this. The attendees are starting to get excitable. This makes Roger even more nervous. Once the Tiki torches are lit, Roger draws the line, and heads back to his hotel.

Morning of Day 2: Roger, the Reasonable Republican showers, neatly repacks his Samsonite Spinner, and heads downstairs to the Days Inn Complimentary Continental Breakfast. Roger didn’t love what the Unite the Right meeting turned into last night, but there are hooligans in every group. As a Christian, Roger is determined to give this group a second chance.

When he arrives at the Red Roof Inn Conference Room B, he’s met with hugs, hope, and hot tea. The meeting kicks off with an encouraging speech peppered with optimism and no shouting. Maybe Roger the Reasonable Republican doesn’t notice the Nazi salutes because he’s distracted by an influx of texts from his teenage daughter. She thinks it’s totally unfair Mom won’t let her drive her friends to the Phish concert in the family van. Maybe he ducks out to use the restroom before the South African apartheid flags are set up. Whatever happened, he just had no idea where this was heading.

I’m trying REALLY hard to make all of this fit, but it just doesn’t. Trump never said in any of his “on both sides” comments that he was referring to the reasonable folks who bowed out before things got crazy. And if the reasonable folks bowed out before it got crazy, doesn’t that mean there weren’t “very good people on both sides”?

There is plenty of video footage, social media, and photographic evidence to show there was certainly not “hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.” Because self defense isn’t violence.

But AniFa! Come on. Who are those punks? They’re at every dang rally in every dang city all over the dang world. What do they stand for? Well, we don’t really know. So guess what. We’re not going to assume they are aligned with Black Lives Matter and the general public’s push for social justice and racial healing. Their behavior fits much better with the White dudes (now minus their reasonable Republicans) packing assault rifles. No?

A friend of mine has had a hard time talking about current events with her family, especially since meeting us. But she felt some hope (and I did too) when they denounced Trump after Charlottesville.

What the #$@&, Mom?

Why Does Media Feature Only Caucasians?

Nothing against White people, some of my best friends are White, but images of children in kids’ books are suffocatingly Caucasian. Tonight, Luc finished yet another book with all White characters. The art in the children’s section at the Pasadena Public Library includes no children of color. All their images are 1950’s Hummelesque garbage. (If you’re wondering why I’m making a big stink, you’re White, and you need to do some research.)

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How Do I Fix White Privilege?

Most conversations about racism with White people end with: “Well, how am I supposed to fix it? Quit my job? Sell my house? Give all my money to Black people?”

I think this question reveals the reason White people resist opening our eyes to racism. The perceived choices are:

  1. White people are all horrible evil monsters who should feel guilty every time we enjoy anything ever.
  2. White people can only be perceived as good if we fix racism by 5pm today.

For White people, our Step 1 is unconditionally acknowledging racism existed, exists, and will persist if not acknowledged. We won’t worry about Step 2 yet. We’ll just work on Step 1. We’ll know when we’re ready for Step 2.

Racism existed.

Racism exists.

Racism will persist if not acknowledged.

Grandma Lee’s Funeral

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

Dress covered in wrinkles and iron juice, I try to seem as put-together as my cousin.

My weekend might have been worse than yours. We flew to Athens, Georgia, for my grandmother’s funeral. Reed calls me the velcro member of “The Family” (the core family: my two sisters and our parents). I am the detachable/re-attachable obligation.

24 hours until the funeral:
Reed, Luc, and I arrive at Bob Hope International Airport relaxed, ready for caffeine, and determined to make the best of a funeral weekend. Michael, our Southwest ticketing agent, cringes as he breaks the news that we are at the wrong airport. Our flight will leave from LAX as scheduled, and we would need teleportation to board on time.

22 hours until the funeral:
The Great Wrong Airport Debacle of 2015 resolved (thank you, Southwest!!), we scuttle through security where I nervously present an expired driver’s license and my antique passport. A text from my sister pings that we should not stop by our parents’ house (both of my sisters are staying there) when we get to town because Mom is stressed. I figure she must only want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait. I am family.

11 hours until the funeral:
We hobble into the Holiday Inn of Athens, Georgia, at 1am. Luc is asleep. I am 18% alive. The empty bottle of saline surprises Reed anew, and he makes his monthly dash to a 24 hour drugstore.

4 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should not go to our parents’ house today before the funeral because Mom is overwhelmed. I figure she must want family around her at a time like this. Oh wait…

3 hours until the funeral:
A text from my sister pings that we should absolutely be on time for the funeral. The Family will arrive promptly at noon, and I’d better be there waiting. Or else. I silently question 5 hours of flying, 4 hours of laying over, and 3 hours of driving for this.

1 hour until the funeral:
The hotel iron is a union member who already worked 40 hours this week. My dress, covered in wrinkles and large ovals of iron juice, has reached a new level of suitcase chic.

11:15 AM:
We arrive at the church and debate parking in the spaces marked “Funeral.” My husband insists we can’t park there because “those spaces are for family only.” Really? Really?? Velcro Girl growls.

Noonish:
The Family arrives. Mom moves and speaks with a quiet fluidity. I think she is medicated. We file into a gargantuan sanctuary. Ambitious choice for a 99 year old’s funeral. Surprise baptism! My sister scheduled an adult baptism for herself. Today. An hour before our grandmother’s funeral. The Family is pleased and does not offer an explanation.

12:15 PM:
Miraculously, energetic, excited-to-see-each-other-after-a-whole-year 5 and 7 year-old cousins remain quietly pretend-somber. Sort of. Mom invites everyone to view a short, silent slide show of Grandma Lee through the years. It loops. And loops. For 45 minutes.

Grammy promises her fading grandchildren tiny, mysterious presents if they behave. Desperate parents hiss time-outs, shoot stink-eyes, and issue death threats to bring the impossible to fruition: happy, hungry, bored, quiet, calm children.

Post Funeral:
The service lasted in the neighborhood of 136 child-years. We file into a room with finger sandwiches and cookie platters. Luc takes a finger sandwich for show, and then shovels 80% of the cookies onto his plate. I pretend not to notice because, frankly, he deserves them.

Eventually we are dismissed and return to the hotel for food and swimming. A stressful, mandatory, The Family style dinner closes the day.

24 Hours Post Funeral:
Reed packed with an air of time abundance. We arrive at our gate hungry and just in time to board. Hopefully trail mix will satiate us for the next 5 hours. “Attention please: we have a passenger on board with a peanut allergy. No peanuts or peanut products will be permitted today. Thank you!” We survive on millions of pretzelito packs and thimbles of orange juice.

Was my weekend worse than yours?

Hammy the Hamster: My Inner Demon

Hammy.

Hammy.

Hammy is the belligerent, alcoholic hamster who runs on my brain-wheel. He claims his “PTSD vet” status excuses the violence, blackouts, and emotional abuse. (It’s especially offensive because he was never in the military. He’s an imaginary hamster in my brain.) Hammy suggested I compose my “blog prattling” in Word to avoid accidentally publishing “so much typographical puke.”

The folder with all my would-be posts is like a zombie cemetery. Hands of unexpressed ideas burst out of graves and try to wave me over. Meanwhile, at The Only Stupid Question, crickets and tumbleweeds…

I’m resuming writing directly into the blog. And I’m giving myself a time limit.

Hammy: “So what? Who cares? Why did you write that?”
Me: “Zip it, Hammy. I need to make excuses for my writing.”
Hammy: “You are a loser.”
Me: “I know.”
Hammy: “Grab me another bottle of whiskey.”
Me: “Okay.”

HBCU is okay, but not HWCU? Why?

“For most of America’s history, African Americans seeking a college education could only get one from an HBCU.” –Thurgood Marshall College Fund (tmcf.org)

HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) were established through Title III of the Higheer Education Act of 1965. “Congress officially defined an HBCU as a school of higher learning that was accredited and established before 1964, and whose principal mission was the education of African Americans.” (tmcf.org) The United Negro College Fund website claims Cheyney Univeristy in Pennsylvania as the first HBCU founded in 1837.

In my opinion, the “H” (representing “historically”) removes wiggle room to argue discrimination in the term HBCU. On top of that, HBCU’s do accept non-black students.

HWCU would indeed be racist for many reasons. Many, many, many reasons. First, most colleges and universities are historically white. In fact, they only admitted white students until the 1960’s. More progress is still needed to achieve equal opportunities for people of color at most colleges and universities. In addition, to HWCU being redundant, highlighting “White” would send a message that only white people are welcome.

We white people don’t even need to acknowledge the existence of white priveledge to reap the benefits. And it is that white priveledge that tricks us into thinking that HBCU’s are in some way offensive or dangerous.

More (better) reading:
Howard University’s First Students Were White And Other Little Known Facts About HBCU’s

Do We Still Need HBCU’s?

** Please comment with your opinion. Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? **

Everything Bagel Life

Raisins ruin Everything bagels.

Raisins ruin Everything bagels.

I want an Everything bagel life. When onions, sesame seeds, salt, poppy seeds, and garlic each add their unique contributions, the result is an extraordinary bagel. The world is a richer place because of that collaboration.

But sometimes I feel like the raisins. Raisins aren’t invited to the Everything bagel party. Everybody knows that raisins would ruin the Everything bagel.

I found an interesting group created for inclusiveness in literature. It was thrilling to read their mission statement. “We recognize all diverse experiences…” They understood that having more books with a rainbow of characters would benefit everyone! This was the Everything bagel I’d been hoping for! But as I read about various grants and contests, I kept bumping into a familiar exclusion:

“Please note: … Being … a parent of … a diverse person will not qualify an otherwise ineligible applicant.”

It made me feel like a foolish raisin for once again trying to find acceptance in an Everything bagel.

My situation is tricky. I’m white, and so I have all the privilege that goes with being white. Is it because of white privilege that people judge me negatively for adopting a black child? We are routinely stared at, yelled at, scolded, mocked, threatened, harassed, bullied, dismissed, and excluded (see above).

What do I want? I’m not sure. My bio says: “An adoptive mom and former comic strip creator, I want to add to the diversity on the bookshelves by telling silly stories through a family that looks like mine: transracial and full of love.” I want to be a part of desensitizing people from the curiosity of uniqueness, and sensitizing them to a life of collaboration.

But, I keep getting scolded and told to go back to my Raisin bagel. On top of that, the Raisin bagel isn’t too sure about me anymore either. The raisin bagel thinks I wish I’d been born a poppy seed.

It always leaves me wondering, “Am I doing this right?”

Life Questioned: Did You Buy Luc?

When a conversation seems headed toward "orphanage," Luc shuts it down. Firmly.

When a conversation seems headed toward “orphanage,” Luc shuts it down. Firmly.

The other day, Luc and I were hanging out with a 7 year old family friend. Kind of out of the blue, she asked a blunt question. For the rest of the conversation, my only thought was, “Am I doing this right?”

Julie: “Did you have Luc in your tummy, or did you buy him?”

Me: “God brought our family together through adoption. Luc was not in my tummy.”

Luc: “I don’t want to talk about this.”

Me: “Fair enough, Luc. Is it okay if Julie asks me questions with her Mom when you are not around?”

Luc: “Not if she’s gonna come to me afterward with even more questions.”

Me: “OK. Julie, can we promise that I’ll answer your questions, and that you won’t try to talk to Luc about this unless he says it’s okay?”

(Silence.)

Luc: “She’s not promising.”

Me: “Julie, have you ever been through something in your life that was really hard, and you don’t want to talk about it?”

Julie: “Yes.”

Me: “That’s how Luc feels about this subject. Does that make sense?”

Julie: “Yes.”

Me: “So, can you two agree that you won’t ask each other about the hard stuff you’ve been through that you don’t want to talk about?”

Both: “Yes.”

Me: “Thanks, y’all. And by the way, Julie, I want to be clear about one thing that is absolutely true. I love Luc exactly as much as your Mom loves you.”

Julie: “I don’t know about that. My Mom loves me the biggest number.”

Me: “I know! And that’s how much I love Luc, too!”

Then Julie and Luc argued over which amount of love was bigger: infinity or googleplex. But how many zeroes does googleplex have? We would need to google it. “We need to Google googleplex.” Giggles. And we closed the conversation giggling about Googling googleplex.