Compartmentalizing Racism

Paula O. has a fantastic post up addressing how racism superficially targeted towards one race is not diminished racism and still affects a wide range of people of color. Though you think your racism or your family’s racism is directed to a finite group of folks, the net it casts is far-reaching. Racism is not so neatly contained.

After hearing a “joke” (read sanctioned racist epithet) about African Americans, Paula, who is Asian, “felt hurt, disgusted and dehumanized by such ugly and hateful words.” Get that?

Paula writes:

I know for a fact that there are people I’ve encountered in my life who feel that I am white “enough” for them to expect me to understand their compartmentalized racist attitudes and beliefs about other races without me feeling offended or hurt, simply because I am not the race of which they are attacking.  That somehow it is excusable and even justifiable for them to hold racist views, as long as I’m not the one being marginalized. “Don’t worry, Paula”, people would say. “We don’t think of you as one of them.”  How was I to explain that I AM one of them?  That I AM an other.   That I am not white.

This is why when I hear the same old tired excuse from white adoptive parents that they feel comfortable adopting an Asian child but not a Black child, I feel a lot of compassion for that Asian child and immense relief for that Black child.

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7 thoughts on “Compartmentalizing Racism

  1. “This is why when I hear the same old tired excuse from white adoptive parents that they feel comfortable adopting an Asian child but not a Black child, I feel a lot of compassion for that Asian child and immense relief for that Black child.”

    Me too. And I hear this or read this (from home studies) on an almost daily basis.

  2. Her post was sad, informative and refreshing.

    i often wonder how many people feel the way she does but are afraid to speak up, or do speak up only to be ostracized. i admire her anti-racist approach to this situation, not based in hate or fear, but in power and understanding.

  3. In my experience, some good social workers do try and address this. But, remember that the adoptive parents at private agencies are the clients, not the children. My public agency can push harder to explore this statement because our “clients” are the children in foster care.

    However, we are limited because of MEPA and IEPA laws. That means, legally, we can’t disapprove a home study because of these kinds of blatant or hidden statements expressed by potential adoptive parents. We can try to inform pap’s but ultimately our hands are tied.

    I often read home studies that say “biracial but not African American.” To me, this could mean a number of things all on a continuum of problematic reasoning. Maybe the parents think biracial kids will be more accepted in their small, white towns. Maybe they think they won’t have to address African American racism or culture if the kids are only “1/2″ black. Or maybe they have outright bias against African Americans and they know this about themselves.

    However, it is difficult for a lot of pap’s to recognize that children who are biracial, API, Latino or Native American all have the same needs to be affirmed, represented and supported as full-on African American kids. Whether it’s skin color or perceived potential racism, racism exists and needs to be addressed.

  4. I am offended by racist jokes too, and I am white. I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to be told I shouldn’t be bothered by something because I “seem” like one of the group.

  5. In response to the comment about some parents feeling comfortable with an Asian but not African American/Black child, I was the opposite. Taking my BA degree in African American and Women’s studies and having studied in Tanzania, East Africa, as a Caucausian/white woman I felt more comfortable adopting my two African American/Black daughters than I would have an Asian child. Some of us have thought about it and are trying to do right!

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