I think I've had my first brush with racism.
I mean, I hear plenty of racial comments regarding our son, and it is what it is. Like the time the lady saw Jameson playing with a football in a store and looked up at us and whispered, "Football is just in their blood." While she could've been a little more tactful and thought before she attributed a generalization to an entire ethnicity, I don't believe her intentions were meant to insult my son.
As a transracial family, we know to expect these things and we seek to be gracious with others who don't always know the appropriate things to say. (because we're still learning along the way, too!)
But the other day felt different. The day when Jameson and I popped into our local Goodwill because we had a few minutes to kill before picking up Caroline.
Jameson wanted to look at the toy section, and I wanted to look at the houseware section 10 feet away. He was in my eyesight the entire time, and ironically, I didn't get to look at a single houseware because of what happened next.
An older woman shopping there appeared around the corner and she must have noticed my son standing at the toy section alone. I watched as her eyes searched down the aisles trying to figure out who might have left this little preschooler by himself. She didn't see a brown-skinned mama to match him.
Little did she know he was completely safe in his mother's care at that moment. (It kinda feels like I'm an "undercover mom" at times like those! Ha!)
But instead of becoming concerned for the safety and well-being of a child who might have been separated from his parent, she became irritable. She looked around wildly, catching my eyes. Her eyebrows furrowed. She shook her head quickly in judgment. She was visibly becoming disgusted. What misperceptions is she believing in this moment? I wondered. She continued to stand there, her tension escalating.
It was surreal to be an onlooker to what was appearing to be a racially-motivated situation. Perhaps I was just reading race into it. So in my mind, I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt and I kept watching.
Her gestures and reaction continued to increase, and when a Goodwill worker walked by without saying anything or noticing this woman's conundrum, she looked directly at me in utter disbelief and anger, still shaking her head.
"What?" I asked. She was wanting me to join in with her disgust of the situation, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was about.
She then looked down at my precious little son, who was magically engrossed in a toy, and pointed at him with a look on her face that I will never forget. It was a face that showed no care or concern. Only condemnation and judgment.
That was all I needed.
Maybe it wasn't outright racism. She knew better than to say anything. Thankfully the past 50 years have taught our society to condemn blatant racism.
But now in our day, that is a form of racism. It's subtle, but it's there. (As a white girl, I never had eyes to see or notice how much it was there like I do now.)
But here I was, feeling the weight of this woman's racial microaggression towards my own son.
I took a few steps towards Jameson as I was having this weird, out-of-body, Mama Bear moment. What. do. I. say. in. this. moment.
She saw me walking towards him and suddenly had an idea. "Oh! Is he with YOU?"
"YES. He's mine," I slowly replied as I looked in her eyes. Looking back, I wish I had said, "Yes. He's MY SON," but oh well.
Cue the self-justification.
"OH!!! Well, I just came around the corner and didn't know who he was with....." she continued quickly spouting off her self-defense, expecting me to laugh it off nervously with her.
But it was already over. I knew she was embarrassed. I hope it taught her a lesson.
I love my son. FIERCELY. I want to protect him from all of the stupid and harmful perceptions and comments he will have to learn to endure in his lifetime, especially as he grows older and he's not perceived as quite so little and cute.
It hurts deeply when I hear white people discount the experience of minorities or even go as far to think that by talking about race, it's minorities who are creating our country's race problem. Why can't my culture own up to our own stereotypes, call them for the sin that they are, and seek the difficult road towards reprograming our mind towards what is true, that all skin colors and all cultures are equally beautiful and designed by our Creator?
On most days, I'm just worrying about the typical mom stuff. Did he pee in the toilet. Did he get enough to eat. We need to work on counting today. He needs to understand the concept of sharing. You get what I'm saying.
But both of my kids have some "extras" that God has given to them. Things that require a little extra measure beyond the usual parenting. I've got a bald daughter, and that has it's own set of issues. But a major difference between my children is that while my daughter's difference draws a reaction of empathy and admiration from strangers, my son's will at times draw suspicion and negative judgment.
May God give me and my son the grace to face these challenges and press on towards the beautiful plans He has for us.