Encountering Racism

February 27, 2012

  The "just Marshallese" lady struck again this weekend.  We were at a kemem (a traditional first birthday party) for another adopted Marshallese child and she (lets call her R) was there with her family.  Sky had been playing with her son all evening and because of that, we'd hung out together for most of the party.  We'd spent most of the time talking about the kids and parenting, like you do, but just before we took Sky home, R started spouting off to me, while I had Sky in my arms, about how it was better that Sky was adopted, that she'll be better off with us and then started saying a bunch of disparaging stuff about the Marshallese.  D and I were ready to leave so we just ignored her comments, said our goodbye's and left.
  I have wondered since I heard R's previous comments second hand if she'd actually said them.  Now I'm positive that she did.  To say those things, not only in front of my daughter, but at a party full of Marshallese, isn't just thoughtless.  There had to be some kind of motivation there.
  Since Kwaj is a small island and my daughter is friends with her son, I would prefer to just let this pass.  Unfortunately, I don't think we can.  As long as we both live on the island our children will be in class together and we'll have to see each other.  Sky is getting old enough to understand what R said, at least the tone and implication if not the exact words, so we're going to have to address it.  It's really too bad that we didn't say something in the moment. Her comments caught us off-guard and it was more public than I wanted, but I wish I had.   Now I have to try and find the right moment to ask her not to talk about adoption and the Marshallese like that in front of Sky and who knows when that will be. 
  I will admit that there are things about the Marshallese culture that I disagree with, actions that their culture condones that are unacceptable in my culture, but there are also aspects that I respect very much and want to encourage.  What I want most of all is for Sky to discover all of these things and to judge them for herself, not to have her impressions shaped by small-minded people who have no real idea what they're talking about.

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