Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pet monkey...on being adopted.

I came across a website last night that really got me thinking. The site is called Harlow's Monkey. The site takes a look at the adoptee's perspective of being raise by parents other than those that gave birth to them, something that I find uncommon. Being an adoptee, most of my life nobody bothered to listen to my perspective, which I have no doubt added to the list of teenage angst's I felt growing up. It was nice to see for the first time that my experience is one that is shared. That its one that is finding a voice, and that there are people out there willing to vocalize their feelings about their experience, and make no apologies for it.

My entire life, I always felt that I was the one who was some how the burden, while the woman who adopted me was praise as being some sort of pseudo saviour. It infuriated me, because I never felt that my mother had ever done anything spectacular in adopting me, nor even that she was the model parent, doing everything right. There were plenty of things that I felt she could have handled better, but didn't. And yet, she was seen as the saviour, my so-called "white hope".

The name of the site struck me too. I've witnessed people referring to Madonna's adopted children as her pets, and have had even more disturbing reference made about me in relation to my situation. Not too long ago I received an email from a girl who had been an acquaintance of mine for years. She had been roommates with another girl I'd known and from time to time she would send me something interesting. This message however was incredible racist, and derogatory towards Black people, so I politely let her know to not send this sort of bullshit my way. Her response was basically to get over it, that niggers are worthless trash, and I should be happy that my white mother saved my monkey ass.

This coming from the same girl that I had invited into my home, and cooked an entire Thanksgiving feast for one holiday, because she had no place to go.

The thing is, as upset as I was having to be subjected to that sort of abuse, I was angrier still at my mother who still came off as the "great white hope".

It makes one question oneself as an adoptee as to what the hell sort of space we are to occupy. As alarming as it seems, it sometimes feels that becoming an adoptee equals a loss of ones own status as a dignified being of colour only to go occupy the place of being massa's pet.

To Black people, I'm not and will never be one of them. Despite the fact that we share the same struggles, to them I could never really understand the way the world works like they do. Newsflash: I don't go around wearing a sign proclaiming that I have a white mother. People see my dark skin and my nappy hair and treat me the same devalued ways all Black women who have dark skin, or nappy hair get treated. There is no difference.

To the white folks that do happen to know that I was raised by a white parent do, I will admit treat me differently than other Black folks. This is when I get to play my least favourite role...the token.

I loath the token. Even while I understand the benefits of playing her up, she is only used as a last resort. Some people take pride in being the token, I'd prefer to bury her deep.

So much of my issue with my mother growing up was that she raised me Canadian, a fact that she was proud of, and would boast to me from time to time. What she didn't realize was that raising a child "Canadian" was in fact synonymous with raising them as if they were "white".

I am not white. By looking at me, it is very clear that I am not white. So one can only imagine when reality kicked in how very confusing the world became. I will give myself credit, I began to understand the way race worked at age 8. Until that point with one or two exceptions I would venture to say that I was ignorantly unaware of how it worked, and would affect me later on in years to come.

I have gotten to the point in my relationship with my mother that I make it very clear that I am a Black woman, and she is a white one. I make sure that she realizes that the worlds that we live in are very, very different. She is learning to see the things her people do to those of different races, and she is making an effort to reevaluate her white privilege and see how messed up this world really is.

I made it to the Caribbana parade for the first time this year. We snuck in through a hole in the fence, and managed to end up right in the middle of the parade. I was so overcome with emotion I actually had to take a minute and sit down. Here was the culture that I was missing, presented to me in the most beautiful array of colours, glitter, sights, smells, rhythms, and sounds. I felt like for the first time I was allowed a glimpse of home. This is what should have been a part of me. It will never authentically be me though, despite the fact that it's in my blood and I've always secretly wished it to be so.

I highly suggest that anyone interested in the real reason behind Harlow's Monkey being named as such should go to the site and take a look around. Its really a great site!


Anonymous said...

Well-said, sweetheart. If you haven't had a chance, please also check out Anti-Racist Parent and Upside-Down Adoption. Both offer interesting takes on raising children of color and self-education about racism, and not just from White parents. I'm so sorry that this is something you've had to struggle with. No child should have to bear the terrible weight of racism. (And no adult for that matter...)

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

I sometimes wish I had chosen a relative or friend of the family and asked them to take responsibility for me when I was a child, because it just wasn’t working out in my dysfunctional home.

I'm sorry that being adopted and people ideation, emotion and behavior with regard to your being adopted has been so troubling.

I can certainly imagine how maddening it is for you when people give credit to your adoptive mother for having adopted a Black girl, as if this courageous and admirable. If it was courageous and admirable, it was not because of who YOU were but rather because of the oppressively color-aroused ideation, emotion and behavior.

Since this was too long to post as a comment here, I posted it as an article at my own Francis L. Holland Blog.

Anonymous said...

very glad to have found your blog... i'm always interested to find other black Canadian adoptees. i love Harlow's Monkey. she has written so many amazing things that i've felt but couldn't articulate... keep writing - i'd like to read more about your experience.

BLACKkittenROAR said...

Its ironic that you left this comment today. An adoption post has been festering inside of me for awhile. Your blog is fantastic write very honestly and from your soul. Actually, everyone that has left comments so far has fantastic blogs. Thank you all for commenting.

Von said...

Had to link this, hope that's ok, it's such a good post.

BLACKkittenROAR said...

Oh wow, thank you! Its an honour to be linked and mentioned!

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