Saturday, July 21, 2012

I just wanted some beads: A lesson in racism

I'm white. No way around it. Any way you look at me, I am white. 

My daughter is brown (as she puts it). She's gorgeous. Her skin is perfect, silky almost. Her hair is a mess at times, but I love it- tangles and all :)

We are family. It doesn't matter that our skin doesn't "match". It doesn't matter that society's picture of a family is that all members be the same color. That child is mine. Plain and simple. And as any good momma would, I will fight for her. For the record, I'll do that for both of my kids, but this post is about racism, and I digress. 

Yesterday I went into a hair supply store because next week Ellie is getting her hair done, and I wanted some new beads to put in it. I JUST WANTED SOME BEADS, PEOPLE. I was minding my own business, picking out my beads when I overheard a lady in the back of the store say, "Oh great. Here we go again. Another ****** white lady who thinks she has the right to raise one of our black babies. I'm so sick of this". 

I ignored her. It wasn't the time or the place, and she obviously wasn't interested in hearing the statistics of the orphan crisis in Ethiopia and the world.  I JUST WANTED SOME BEADS

I went to the check out counter with my beads, and the lady came to the front of the store. I can't write here what she said to me because my momma reads this, and she'd freak out to hear that language from my hand. To be honest, I'm not sure I remember everything she called me or screamed because I JUST WANTED SOME BEADS! 

I paid and made a dash for the door to get out of there. After all, I wasn't interested in hearing anymore of her ranting, and I JUST WANTED SOME BEADS. But she followed me out the front door into the parking lot. I got into my car, and she went to stand behind it so that I couldn't leave. 

Y'all... I JUST WANTED SOME BEADS. Yet here I was thinking that this lady was gonna lose it completely and try to kill me or something. I sat in the car for a few minutes, hoping she'd get tired of screaming and leave me alone. But the store worker called the police because the lady chased me out of the store while holding merchandise she had not yet paid for. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up! 

I JUST WANTED SOME BEADS, but here I was now waiting for the police to come so I could go home. Luckily, there was a police officer next door at the gas station who heard the chaos and came to check things out. He tried talking to her, and she was screaming that I was stealing a baby, that I needed to go to jail, etc etc. He handcuffed her (for shoplifting) and then actually checked my car to make sure I didn't have a baby hidden in there. I told him "I just wanted some beads. She went nuts". 

I was pretty shook up at first, admittedly. But then I was angry. And tonight I'm even more angry. I'm not angry at her per se, but I'm angry at the perception that I'm not good enough to parent my beautiful daughter because I'm white. Now hear me say this: Most people have been amazingly supportive of our journey. But the truth is I don't need the approval of others for this. We did this because Ellie deserved a family, and God led us to her. And I'd do it all over again, even if every single day was like yesterday. Because Ellie is worth it. Her life was no accident, and her being in our family isn't either. 

Ellie belongs here in this family. And if I were green, she'd still belong here. My son happens to be white and look like Jeff and I, and he belongs here too. We see no difference, and I'll defend that with anyone who wants to argue otherwise. I don't know everything there is about raising a brown skinned girl or taking care of Ethiopian hair, but I'm learning. I mess up, and sometimes she goes out with uneven pony tails and messy braids. Sometimes I forget to put lotion on, and her skin gets ashy. Sometimes I forget to put her nightcap on her hair at night, and sometimes I remember but we can't find that darn cap! 

And guess what? I don't know all there is about raising a white boy either, yet here I am doing that too. I screw up with him just as much, if not more, than I do with her Ellie because he's a guy, and well... I'm not. 

But this I do get right: I love my kids. Fiercely. I'd give my very life for either one of them, and never even have to think about it. I love them. I'm not their buddy; I'm their mom. I tell them I love them all the time (sometimes more than they want to hear it). And I mean it. I'm not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I love them.

 And there is no color to love. It just is. 

So, for those of you out there who may be thinking that this white girl has no business raising a brown girl... keep it to yourself. Because I am tired of hearing it. I'm absolutely done with that kind of garbage. If you could see the things I've seen, the looks on the faces of children who desperately want to belong to a family, you'd understand that color doesn't matter. And you'd stop putting all of this energy into attacking those of us who just want to raise our kids and put it into something that matters in life. I'm absolutely certain that if given the choice between no family and a white family, Ellie would have chose family over color. 

That girl is gonna look awesome in those beads next week!

5 comments:

MrsLeigh said...

I love how you kept your calm and kept your focus on the task you came for... beads! I think your daughter is beautiful in each and every way and it does not matter what skin color she is... all of our blood is red and we all are God's children just the same! One of me and Chad's desires is to adopt a child! I fell in love with Sudan and Uganda children because they all are so beautiful! and I know in Kisses from Katie, Katie talks about this as well.

I am anxious to see a new pic of her and her new hairdo. And I know God is very proud of you raising her!

Pastor Brent said...

Holly, keep on being that great Mom to Brian and Ellie. She is so beautiful and we are so fortunate to have her as a part of our family no matter what some racist (white or black) has to say about it. Love you guys.

Look I said yesterday, to quote Ron White, "You can't fix stupid."

KentuckyAngel said...

Tears running down my cheeks as I read this. People say I am racist all the time. Am I? No...I truly do not believe so. I am strong in my beliefs of things, and sometimes the people are of diff. culture than my own that I speak about, but no, I am not racist. I know this in my heart, as much as I know that Ellie is a part of our family, is where God wants her, and has a Mommy & Daddy who worship her. As God wants for her.
This lady was unfortunitly using you to get out of the store for shoplifting. She needs serious help in many ways, and I will pray for her. She is one for sure who will need them. She needs a whole lot of help.
I do hope that they store keeper is who called the police???!!!??? If not, I would not patronize this store. They took your money for THE BEADS, saw the problem, and should protect their patrons.
And I am so praying that ELLIE was NOT THERE to hear this!!!???
I wish I were more like you, Holly. I wish it soooo much! To have had this happen to me, I would have not have been so lady like.....I know you were praying hard, and mostly for her. That is YOU....at the time!
How you handled it, and how you will continue to do so will be amazing. All I know...Ellie & Bryan are 2 of the lucky ones. How we wish all the children of the world could be this lucky. How sweet and wonderful our world would be.
I love you, Prosser Family. And I love M & M'S.......

Vic

Bird's Words said...

Vicki, it wasn't me. It was totally Christ in me that allowed me to stay calm. You can have that just the same!

As for the store... They are great. I'll definitely keep going there. Sweet folks and very helpful to me.

But this one thing I have to correct. We don't worship Ellie or Bryan. They are our kids, our greatest legacy, but not the object of my worship at all. That all goes to God, who has redeemed my life and given me incredible joy. Couldn't let that hang without saying something.

Love you too!

Aja said...

Yikes, I am sorry that you had to experience this. I am always surprised to hear stories like this in 2012, but these things do still happen. Not that it changes anything, but for all she knew your daughter could have been our bio child. I am impressed at how you were able to remain calm in the moment.