Parenting is tough enough without strangers asking insensitive questions about our children. After a Michigan woman assumed Jeremy Verdusco had adopted his daughter, he wrote about his reaction. How have you handled similar situations?
For more posts from Jeremy, visit his blog, blocletters.
By Jeremy Verdusco
© Jeremy Verdusco
I fathered a mixed-race child. Honestly, I don’t give her “mix” much thought, and don’t think twice about the idea of people marrying and (gasp) having children across racial lines. Mom didn’t raise me like that.
So, I was taken aback on a trip to a local hardware store this week by a comment from the cashier. I dashed in to buy light bulbs and trudged up to the register with the bulbs in one hand and my daughter in her carrier in the other. The older woman took the cash and began cooing. “She’s beautiful!” she said.
I’ve gotten used to the coos. I think my girl is beautiful, and regular comments from strangers just reinforce my bias and warm my heart. Then the woman said one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard.
“Have you had her since birth?” she asked.
I paused for a second, my brain trying to find a word. “Um … yes,” I responded. I found myself, for reasons I still don’t understand, not wanting to lecture or embarrass a stranger.
Adoption has a nobility to it. Taking responsibility for a child where the parent could or would not ranks among the more selfless actions I can think off. But obviously this woman, a nice white lady of about 65, reads too much People, and thinks brown babies must come from Malawi.
But beyond my daughter’s provenance, this woman questioned the idea that people of different races might marry or have children. In 2010, with a black president in the White House, I kinda thought this question was settled. The Supreme Court ruled onLoving v. Virginia in 1967, a generation and a half ago.
I fairness, I don’t know this woman’s background. Still, while Oakland County, where she at least works if not lives, has a population about 80 percent white, it’s hardly homogeneous. One in five residents counts as non-white. Surely she’s met whites who married blacks or Asians or Hispanics. Mrs. Blocletters and I enjoy the friendships of several interracial couples. It’s not rare by far.
And notice I said ignorant, not stupid. She doesn’t know my family. But, while ignorance isn’t its own excuse, I can’t wish it away either. I can wish, however, that ignorant people think for a moment before they speak. Even if you suspected a child was adopted, why would you ask a stranger such a question?
Clearly, ignorance is here to stay and I need to come up with a better response than a dumbfounded “yes” next time I get this question. How about: “No, I won her in a card game a few days ago. Cute, isn’t she?” I’m interested to hear other snappy responses.
Jeremy Verdusco lives in Michigan.
Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com