You Didn’t Just Say That
Back when I decided to adopt my daughters, part of the process involved being educated in how to deal with becoming an interracial family. My daughters were going to be Chinese, and with the exception of having my eyes, clearly they were going to look different than me.
That difference is almost certain to bring out comments from people who do not understand just how potentially hurtful their words can be. You can call it ignorance, perhaps even bigotry. I would just call the comments and questions unnecessary. After all, no one ever asks a family with biological children “so where is your child from?” or of the siblings, “are they siblings?”
But that is exactly what happens, and I cannot vouch for when the children are adopted by the same ethnic parents, but when the family is going to be mixed ethnicity, white/African American/Chinese/Latino, for some reason, people need to know.
So it is not unusual for me to hear at least a half a dozen times when I am in public with my daughters, I will hear, “Are they sisters?” to which I always reply “yes.” Because they are. That is all they need to know. My daughters know that they have different birth mothers and fathers, but have the same adoptive mother and father. Another question that I usually give a smartass response to is, “where are they from?” I can give only a smartass answer because when you see my daughters you can see that they are Asian. But I give the answer, “from Lansdale.” But then that gets followed up with, “no, I mean what country are they from?” which my reply the United States. No, I do not have to play this game, but I have grown tired of it after all these years. Their mother and I, while knowing that are daughters were adopted from China, simply look at our daughters as just that, our daughters. We recognize and celebrate their Chinese heritage regularly. But to us, our daughters are no different than if they were our birth children.
But the worst possible comment that I heard actually came from a co-worker, a comment that while I knew the person was capable of saying bigoted or self-righteous comments, all in the name of Christianity, I never saw this comment coming.
The conversation started in the breakroom during my lunch period. My co-worker said to me, “you know, I don’t really approve of what you are doing,” making reference to the adoption of my first daughter (I never gave him a chance to make another comment like you will see in a few moments). I looked at him, knowing his personality, that his opinion was going to be in the line of “being unable to have kids, maybe I was not meant to have kids as God had planned”, his God, not mine. I have heard this said be some before. And perhaps I could have accepted his comment without any reaction from me if that had been his comment. But for whatever reason, I allowed the conversation to continue like I was trying to educate the ignoramus.
“Why, what do you mean?” I asked like I needed his approval.
“Well, I just don’t think it’s right. We send all of work over to China. We sell nothing but Chinese made products here. And you are bringing the Chinese here making it worse.”
It is not often to make me speechless, but this asshole did it. I stood up, pushed my chair in and walked away. I never entertained any other personal conversation with him ever again. I never, ever thought I would hear that comment from him. I understand the rhetoric by uneducated people who feel the blame for all the ills on our economic relationship with China, but the children of China are not. My daughters are US citizens and when of age will pay taxes unlike many US corporations. But when I heard that comment come from him, I could recall that I never once heard him complain about that last fact, only that I was bringing the Chinese to the country, under the guise of creating a family for me, to take over the US economy.
There are many other stupid things that I have heard, and many families I know who have heard worse.
When you see me with my daughters, if you feel the need to offer a comment, and though I am biased, I do expect to hear how beautiful they are, but I do not want to be asked where they are from or if they are sisters. Trust me, I like to talk. And if I feel it is appropriate, I will bring up that fact.