We are born into stories…

I went to a lecture in London earlier this year that was presented by Professor Helen Milroy. Helen is a descendant of the Palyku people and talks about using art as a form of healing and about her research/ work around Aboriginal mental health that includes recovery from trauma and grief. 

Reflecting on her experience, and the experiences of the other Aboriginal stories that she told, Helen mentioned that “unless you hear the stories and give some sense of validation the womb will remain open…” “…stories need to be heard in order for us to be understood…” Helen talked about the need to understand the cultural context around peoples stories and the need to strengthen cultural knowledge especially when children have lost their elders, their language, their generational stories and their culture.

Helen presented her observations from the experience of the Aboriginal community who have the tragic history of child kidnapping and ethnic cleansing (much like our history of slavery) to better the Australian race. As Helen spoke I found myself identifying with the generational trauma she was talking about. I felt like she was describing my experience as a black woman in the UK. My experiences of being seen as the angry black women , being dismissed and over looked because of my gender and/ or skin colour or being told that I’m being over sensitive (to what I perceived as a racist situation). Now I realise that not every white person is being intentionally racist towards me (or other black people) but when I think about the genetic memory that black people carry (as a result of slavery) I wonder what genetic memories white people carry that then impacts on their unconscious treatment of us being different to them???

I spoke to a white women recently (not that this is unusual for me) who relayed her experience of a black women (as she described it ) ‘playing the race card’ – I’ve been accused of playing the race card in my past – lets face it, what black person hasn’t? I have a tendency to reflect on conversations days after I’ve had them, and when I thought about this conversation I realized how dismissive the term ‘playing the race card’ can be. The term (which may actually be over used) can stop us from fully exploring the back-story to the situation where that person felt that ‘it’ was racist. If you think about Helen Milroy’s comment “…stories need to be heard in order for us to be understood…” especially regarding their cultural context you can see how we can miss the truth to someone’s situation especially when you take into account that transference (a situation where the feelings, desires, and expectations of one person are redirected and applied to another person) plays a part in our everyday interactions.

I understand how unjust it can feel to be accused of something that, for you, is just not true but unless we take the time and care to deal with our feelings (in our own time) we will not be able to listen to the story in front of us, we will not be able to validate that person’s experience. Without asking, how can you understand the cultural context around that persons experience that reminds them of their past in that present moment. Ok yes I realise that it also relies on emotional intelligence – from the person asking the question and the person providing the answers without blame or being in victim mode – but I hope that you get where I am coming from here???

People need to be able to tell their stories so that they can move from surviving to thriving” and this means making a long-term investment and committing to listening and understanding. As Helen Milroy said in her talk “…bearing witness to someone’s pain is part of their healing too”.

Should White People Adopt Black Kids?

I saw Jada Pinkett Smith’s latest Red Table topic talk today with Kristin Davis from Sex and the City – I just love both these shows. The title ‘Should White People Adopt Black Kids?‘ did intrigue me as it’s something that I’ve questioned myself over the years. As a black women and facilitator for the Gateway Women Reignite weekend workshops I have come across black couples who have been rejected from being adoptive parents so I do get angry when I hear that (or even see) white women have adopted black children. Ok yes I get the ‘its about love’ aspect of this argument but is love enough when the black child is being subjected to racism and the white parent can’t help them, or the white parent doesn’t get it so plays it down because their white privilege is preventing them from truing seeing what is right in front of them.

I saw Jada Pinkett Smith’s latest Red Table topic talk today with Kristin Davis from Sex and the City – I just love both these shows. The title ‘Should White People Adopt Black Kids?’ did intrigue me as it’s something that I’ve questioned over the years.

As a black women and facilitator for the Gateway Women Reignite weekend workshops I have come across black women/ couples who have been rejected from being adoptive parents so I do get annoyed when I hear that (or even see) a white woman (or couple) have adopted a black child. Ok yes I get the ‘its about love’ aspect of this argument but is love enough? What happens when the black child is being subjected to racism and the white parent can’t help them, or the white parent doesn’t get it so plays it (the racism) down because their white privilege is preventing them from truly seeing what is right in front of them.

I guess my question is do white people really understand the complexities of bringing up a black child? Do they get what is involved? Will they disregard that childs’ culture?

Listening to the interview it was good to hear Kristin say that as a white person she doesn’t understand what a black child culturally needs or experiences. White people can only look into our lives (as black people) but their white privilege can (at times) prevent them from seeing the reality of that child is experience. White privilege can make people say “we don’t see colour” which can be such an undermining statement in itself. For me being black is part of my beauty that is disregarded if you chose to not see me for who I am. White privilege can silence my experience.

This is a hot topic that has many layers and after listening to the Red Table conversation I realised there is a layer to this that I had not experienced before. One of my concerns is that the black children being adopted will, at some point, loose their identify because they are being or have been brought up in an all white environment. From the conversation I now realise that there are white people who see that it’s not just about love (although it’s the start) it’s about embracing all who that child is and knowing their own (cultural) limitations leading them to putting in place the support systems for their black children to also know who they are too.

Here are some other links on this topic…

Red Table Talk: Ellen Pompeo Opens Up About Raising Biracial Children

The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race – Time Magazine

5 Things Adoptive Parents Need To Know About Growing Up Black