After you have a child, the world looks much different than before. Things you otherwise didn't notice or care about before suddenly become exciting. "Look up there, buddy! A plane!"
The same is true for me after adopting a black son. The world looks much different than it used to as I see it now through his eyes and through his cultural lens.
In many ways, it's exciting. It's enriching and beautiful.
I see color, and I feel connection. And pride. Those are my people now, too. (though I'm sure they don't think that when they see little pale-skinned me coming!... he he he....)
I see their camaraderie, their solidarity, and their strength amidst struggle, and it draws me in.
I see the way they would do anything for one another, and I'm convicted.
I see a fighting spirit against tumultuous circumstances, how they persist and never give up hope, and I admire.
I see them in "menial" positions often times working harder than the professionals.
I see their laughter and joy, and it's highly contagious. Things don't feel so stuffy and serious anymore.
I see the depth of their faith through the trials, the way they call out to the Lord, and I am truly humbled.
It's so beautiful to have this new world opened to me. But, you know, it's also a curse as well.
I'm learning there is a very sad and dark side to this world my little Jameson will experience that I honestly didn't know much about before. Simply because his skin is brown.
But now that I'm putting on his lenses, it's like an entirely new world comes into focus.
I see endless children's books, movies, television shows, and it's overwhelmingly a white world. (This week, I saw a fact that in 2013, of 3,200 children's books published, only 93 were about black people.) Almost 100% of the time, the "hero" of a story is white. My little boy's lenses are literally scanning the pages and the screen. What is he to think? Where are the "heroes" that look like him?
Through these lenses, I begin to see an underworld of systemic oppression that is so big and far-reaching, it can never be fixed.
I see privilege I never knew I had before.
I can't help but see my own culture differently, too. I see the deeply implanted blinders that cover our eyes, and how unaware and often un-accepting we are to those outside of our own color. Somehow we think racism is a thing of the past. We don't seem to understand how hundreds of years in our nation's history could still hold such widespread ramifications today.
It's funny, I feel the smiles that the sweet, white mamas on the playground give Jameson while he's cute and innocent. But every mama of a black son knows this reaction will change the older he gets. They're prepared. I am not. What will you think then, sweet, white mama?, I can't help but wonder. Will he be so cute when your daughter wants to date my son?
I see a society where my son will be held to a stricter standard, judged a little faster, and believed to be guilty until proven innocent. He'll have to learn to dress a little nicer, smile a little wider, know where not to be after dark, and display his best behavior if he cares to be "accepted" into the white majority.
These lenses, oh these lenses. Good and bad, everything is so different through them.