Why He Will Never Be “Just Jack”
I sat down to write a story about waiting this morning. I was going to talk about waiting for college acceptances, waiting for my first boyfriend to call, waiting to hear if the sellers had accepted our offer on the house, waiting to travel to China for our son.
Because today marks my daughter’s first birthday. August 14, 2017. Through the years I have attended countless 1st birthdays. I have watched as tiny hands dug into colorful cakes. I have watched as parents, our friends, unwrapped new toys, books, and clothes to the ooos and ahhs of their audience. One is a milestone. It marks the ascension of that gentle arc from infant to toddlerhood. One is the first birthday celebration of a life yet to unfold.
But my daughter is half a world away. Still unknown to us as we are to her I have no idea what size she is, what she likes to eat, what makes her laugh, or if she even likes cake. For me, this day encapsulates all the frustrations of international adoption. A child who will become your own, but is not yet your own. A child known to you, and yet utterly foreign. A child for whom you have been waiting and yet must continue to wait. Timelines unknown. Weeks, months, and years utterly interchangeable.
But when I heard the news on Saturday I couldn’t write about waiting. When I saw eyes filled with hatred, bigotry, and prejudice in the same parks where I visited and played every summer of my childhood my heart sank. Domestic terrorism struck in the same streets where weeks before I had brought my son and two of his friends. All three boys, adopted from China, happily consumed mint chocolate chip ice cream as we wandered around town on that beautiful summer day.
I think about what those gathered in Charlottesville would see in our boys. For every family member and friend who tells me they “see just Jack” there are those in our country who will forever see them as “the other.” Immigrants. A minority. Categorically not white. I think about what it will be like to have both Jack and my daughter at the grocery store. One family, three different colors. Indian, Chinese, and Anglo-Saxon.
For our children I want to convey hope. I want to tell my son and my daughter that people will love them for who they are. But as a transracial adoptive parent such words do a disservice to our children. Even as one of the “good minorities,” as an acquaintance termed Jack at our local pool, my son has faced prejudice. Microagressions from safe places like our former preschool. And he is only 4.
I do believe “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice” but as the mother of two minority children, today as I watch the news unfold I see a very long arc ahead. Of course we will sow love where they sow hate. Of course we will answer prejudice with acceptance. And of course I will be there to listen and support both my son and my daughter whenever they encounter those who do not see or treat them as equals. Ours is a lifelong journey. And it breaks my heart.
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