Monday, April 9, 2012

"I'm not racist but..."

Have you ever heard that phrase before?  You know, when someone prefaces a racist comment by saying "I'm not racist but..."

It drives me a little crazy.

Mainly because if you feel it's okay to make a racist comment at all, you are in fact racist.  Or at least you are acting like you are. Declaring yourself "not racist" doesn't undo your actions.

We live in the South with a capital S.  It's a place where racist comments are often considered okay as part of normal conversation.  When we first moved here, I was told which schools were better because they "don't have as many minorities."  I was told about certain youth who made bad decisions because they "dated black boys."  These were comments from people who love my family.  They didn't know at the time that those comments bothered me, they were sincerely looking out for family since we were new to the area.

I don't hear those comments from the people I love anymore.  I don't know if our family becoming multiracial has changed some attitudes or if just people know not to say those kinds of things to me now.  We are so blessed in that almost everyone in our family and circle of friends has been supportive of our adoption.  Any weird comments I've gotten have been from strangers and honestly, I don't care too much what strangers think of my family.

But I wanted to share a cool story.  We didn't ask our extended family before we started an Ethiopian adoption. We told them after we'd made the decision.  But since Amani's been home, I've asked some of them what they think about having a black family member. All of their answers have been wonderfully supportive. They love him, just like they love our bio kids. Our family's pretty cool like that.

Anyway, my brother just shared a great story with me. He said he was out with some folks and a girl was making some racist comments. He didn't say anything at the time. The next day at work, he was talking about how he was going to see his niece and nephews. She asked to see a picture. He said, "I'll show you, but you're going to feel pretty bad about the stuff you said last night" and showed her a picture of the kids.  He said she started backpeddling and trying to explain her comments from the night before. He said he just told her that she should be more careful, because you never know who might be listening to what she says.

What I love about that story is that he didn't have to do anything to make her feel bad. He wasn't a jerk, he didn't jump down her throat (which is possibly what I might have done), he just let the natural consequences of being caught do their magic.  I'm hoping it made a difference for that girl. And I'm so proud of my brother.

I do think one thing is important that I'm learning more recently: it is not my job to educate the public.  My job is to be a good mom to my three kids.  That means I may need to leave some opportunities to educate the ignorant in order to protect my children. I'm okay with that.  It's hard for me sometimes to let comments go, but in some instances, it's better for me to do what is best for Amani, not necessarily what's best in terms of educating a random stranger in the moment.

But be aware, if you tell me something that starts with "I'm not racist but..." I just might not be able to keep my eyes from rolling. :)


  1. I'm proud of your brother too....we've all fallen head over heals in love with Amani...along with his brother, sister, mom, and dad...The Cassell family radiates love far more expansive than anyone's words can impact negatively.
    Missing you all daily!!! enjoy your upcoming 'grandpa' time!!!
    lots of love,

  2. Oh yes, I know of this South with a capital S. :) I have to remind myself everyday to pray for the ignorance some people have in making assumptions based on the color of someone's skin. One day (in Heaven that is) we will live in a world that sees no color. What a day that will be.


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