9 years ago today, we learned about this baby boy and, in that moment, our hearts clutched around him, somehow convinced that we were meant to be together. That first day, we were so absolute, so steadfast in figuring out what we needed to do for the adoption that no darkness entered in my mind. And then, the next day, the darkness arrived. Were we fools to bring a baby boy from Africa to this country, to possibly subject him to racism, something that he might be more protected from in his country of origin?
Stricken, I called one of my dearest friends, one to whom I could always talk candidly about race and ethnicity and she heard me out through my sobs and terror. She relived the personal- my own experiences with being spit at, shunned, profiled and belittled for my brown skin, and the more political with me, helping me to move through the hard stuff to remember our interconnectedness, my own growth, when others stood beside me through the hard stuff, when I stood up for others. On the other side of that conversation, I felt compelled to choose hope, to choose faith and love and progress and connection.
A few months later, Barack Obama was elected president and I went out and bought a newspaper to put in a keepsake box for the baby we would soon bring into our lives. And, then, as my years as a mother ticked by and as often happens when there is historic progress, there was a backlash to that election. Backlash too numerous and vast to number here but it has been harrowing and heartbreaking over these years to watch the beauty of otherness- whether it be race, ethnicity, religion, gender, orientation, and more- be devalued, vilified, condemned, and erased.
We were on vacation at our favorite beach last week when news broke about Charlottesville. Overwhelmed by my feelings, I concentrated on the little boy in front of me and I was reminded of a scene on this same beach when the boy was a toddler.
He was at the age where his exuberance exploded out of him and had to be shared. Most days on the beach, we were positioned right by the families we had seen all week. Dear friends were with us and we played bocce, built sand castles, jumped waves, and collected seashells with the children over the course of each day. One day, there was a change in the groups around us. A group of younger adults with a confederate flag sat down and one of its members removed his shirt to reveal a confederate flag tattoo. Of course, our exuberant boy chose that one man for show and tell that morning, running towards him with every seashell find. My stomach churned as I went after my little boy and redirected him.
“We got you,” our friends said, putting their arms around our conspicuous little family with our three distinct ethnicities, loving us through the discomfort, making sure that our belonging was clear to those around us, easing our alienation and fear.
This is what alliance looks like. Whether it is in the quiet of a friend moving closer to you and putting his arm around you when you feel vulnerable or in the energy of a group of strangers standing up for what is right, we have to use our access to bridge distances, offer companionship, insure protection.
And so here I am, exactly 9 years later, tamping down my own fear in order to once again choose hope, to choose faith and love and progress and connection. Thank you for being connected to me. Let’s keep extending our hand.