Hashtags are so common it's easy to dismiss them.
I've used hashtags as a joke, as an editorial, as a snarky way to comment. I guess they're like a lot of things in the world of online communication – useful sometimes, powerful sometimes. We see #blacklivesmatter a lot these days, and this particular hashtag has become, for me, very personal.
When I was growing up in Olympia, Washington, the city, while beautiful, was hardly what anyone would call diverse. There were pocket communities here and there, but not a whole lot of integration. Throughout school, I was one of a handful of Asians, and there were even fewer Black kids.
While I definitely experienced racism as a kid, it pales in comparison with the culture my son has been born into. Arguably, it has never been a "good" time for any people of color in this country. And violence toward and between racial and ethnic groups is nothing new.
But the violence against Black men and women, in particular, is a systemic disaster. These two poles - a Black President and Black men gunned down while handcuffed present both hope and a profound bleakness.
When Corey and I stated we were open to any race and ethnicity in our adoption process, we didn't come to the decision casually. We had several discussions about what it would mean to us, our child, within the context of our community, our culture.
I was raised by two white parents, and was lucky to grow up feeling an appreciation for my country of origin. My mom, in particular, always made me feel like my Asian features were beautiful. And while I didn't always agree, that kind of gentle support was truly a gift. I definitely had struggles with what it meant to be Asian in a predominantly white area. I got called all kinds of terrible, racist slurs; was even spat at; experienced aggressions both micro and macro...all I wanted was to hang out with my friends, get a spiral perm and the latest Guess jeans.
I have a bit of insight into what it's like growing up not looking like your parents. And it's very true – how S jr will be treated when he's with us will likely be different than when he's not.
So how do we equip him with the practical tools, sensitivity and courage to grow into a confident, kind, educated Black man?
First, we hope S jr will be able to be in any situation and act with grace and insight. Since this starts with how he is treated, we're very aware of surrounding him with images, experiences, people and places that reflect the diversity he will exist within. We are so lucky to live in the second-largest city in the U.S., surrounded by so many different ethnic groups. And to have friends from diverse and international backgrounds as well. I am so grateful for this.
And I want to stress: adoption takes more than love. As an adoptee and now an adoptive parent, it's something you hear - All you need is love. No. You need a ton of education. And humility. And the desire to learn. And the courage to be uncomfortable.
Corey and I expect to learn so much as we raise our son. It's an ongoing, never-ending process. But at the very least, I hope, as he looks into the white face of his father and the Asian face of his mother, and into the mirror at his own beautiful Black face, that he will know that he is valuable. That he matters.
The following are writings, media and websites I've found to be powerful and helpful: