Friday, November 02, 2012

Transracial Adoption & American History, Part Three

(Read Part One and Part Two.)

I thought this series was finished with Part Two, but an unexpected "teachable" moment occurred in our household yesterday and I felt it was fitting to add a postscript to this series. In truth, I know the series will never really be done because we will continue to live out these conversations and revelations as the children grow in their understanding of their current world as well as its history.

Even before the "teachable" moment occurred, we did have one brief discussion of slavery during social studies class. I should preface this by saying that Owen was born in Jacksonville, Florida and for some reason has always felt very loyal to his birth state. If Pedro is watching football, Owen will ask about the Jacksonville Jaguars (this may have something to do with the fact that the hospital where he was born gives each newborn baby their own Jacksonville Jaguars onesie!) 

At any rate, Owen often talks about Florida almost as if it were his own country. When the topic of slavery first came up in our studies he was quick to ask, "But not Florida, right?" And when our Gettysburg museum visit led us to a computer exhibit where you could look up individual states and their position on slavery and secession, he immediately clicked on Florida. To his heartbreak, Florida was listed as a slave state. His face fell and it was so sad to see his bubble burst. 

Yesterday I was reminded of this when one of the girls said, "But there's not slavery anymore! It's illegal." In response Owen bitterly burst out, "Yes, there is ... FLORIDA!" It was humorous in a bittersweet sort of way, but I quickly assured him that all was well in Florida these days and he need not continue to worry!

Going back to our Gettysburg museum experience, at the very end we stumbled into a video presentation which I thought was on the life of President Lincoln. I quickly understood my mistake as the dialogue led into reconstruction and specifically the schism between whites and blacks even after the Civil War. The film discussed how initially there actually was a biracial integration in politics, but wealthy whites were determined to find a way to segregate once again. I realized uncomfortably that this wasn't a subject I wanted to tackle with the kids right now, and the minute the KKK was introduced (complete with a black and white photograph of members holding a human skull) I promptly suggested we meet up with the cousins and leave. (Thankfully the kids were rather bored at this point and more than willing to do so!)

I thought that was that, until our "teachable" moment yesterday. It started as innocently as can be, with a family movie that the seven of us gathered to enjoy after a busy day of home school. The movie "The Pistol" is based on the pivotal 8th-grade year in the life of famous basketball player Pete "Pistol" Maravich. It really is a great movie; in fact, my husband commented afterwards that he doesn't think he's ever seen one with a stronger positive father/son theme (and what a needed theme that is!) At different parts in the movie it was hilarious to watch the kids' faces as they were so intently engaged with the scenes and the experiences Pete went through as the scrawny "underdog" who rose to stardom with his amazing ball handling skills.

But what rudely interrupted this idyllic moment was when the movie introduced the topic of segregation and how "white" teams and "black" teams were not allowed to play one another. Again, the movie handled it very carefully and I appreciated that; but I wished we hadn't had to enter into this discussion on a relaxed family evening. I actually found myself referring back to the piece of the movie we had watched at the museum in order to give the children a context for this. In so doing I felt my heart sort of sigh, as I realized that with our family dynamic we always need to be ready for occasions like this one. I also felt a twinge of guilt as I considered how I had taken for granted my own "white privilege" that sheltered me from having to think about these things for so many years.

In the end we certainly enjoyed the movie, and later at dinner we asked each of our children about their own dreams in life and talked about how they can be achieved and what is God's place in them (at the very center.) I'm thankful for these opportunities to talk and listen and grow together. And, I'm sure there will be many more to come!

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