Your Smiles Make Me Smile

If you really want to get the most out of my blog, it's best to start with the first post written in July to the present since some blogs refer back to earlier posts; but any order is just fine... Thanks for visiting! Now scroll on down to the good news! ~Renae~

Sunday, August 28, 2011


We have not come far enough, and the road that we travel for equality is long, but it has been shortened by the great men and women that have stood up against the forces of ignorance and fought for that which is right. 

The day before kindergarten my mother told me to fold my hands together and keep them on the desk in front of me, and to listen to the teacher when she spoke.  If I followed the rules, I would never get into trouble.  I took these words seriously and knew I would never ever ever get into trouble, because in my little world that would be soooooooo shameful.

Then came the first grade. I got into serious trouble.  Mrs. Mills, my first grade teacher at North Star School was a by the rule-book old school style teacher.  Mr. Norton was the principal and very well loved; you never wanted to be taken into Mr. Norton’s office, because that, in and of itself, would be shameful.

As usual, Mrs. Mills lined us up in her classroom, girls on one side, boys on the other, and led us to the bathrooms at the end of the hall, directly across from the principal’s office.  We were to meet back in class in five minutes. Unfortunately, I was a dilly dallier; another of my problematic genetic traits or maybe just some textbook dysfunction.  Even now, I have trouble getting to work on time, but I have trouble leaving, so in my world of equality, I make up for being ten minutes late by staying ten minutes later.  I dilly dally. 

On this particular day, in the first grade, I was dilly dallying in my grade school restroom.  At that time we had one sink; it was large and round and we pressed a foot pedal so that we could all wash our hands at the same time while standing around the circle.  There were only two other girls left in the bathroom and we three were washing our hands at the same time.  The girl in the middle was “black”, and the girl on her right was “white."  All I know from that point on is that I heard the "white" girl say to the "black" girl “I can’t talk to you because you’re black!” I felt my hands tense into fists and quicker than I could stop myself, my mouth opened, and in my angry six year old voice I shouted “What does that have to do with anything?????”  Before I knew it, the “white” girl and I were in a shouting match in the bathroom in front of the circular sink.  The “black” girl, (and let me clarify that I won’t refer to her as African American because I do not know where her roots were from and in all fairness and for the record, I am equally color coding), snuck out during the argument and said not a word.  Suddenly, the school secretary thrust her King Kong self into the bathroom, looked down at us and shouted “Into the office NOW!!” We marched into Mr. Norton's Office.  I was so scared I wanted to pee in my leotards, but thankfully I had already peed in the toilet.  It must have been our lucky day because instead of Mr. Norton, it was the Vice-Principal who scolded us and sent us back to class.  He didn’t even use the paddle. I’m sure I spent the rest of the day with my bottom lip sticking out as it always does when I am about to cry. I couldn’t concentrate the rest of the day.  What if my parents were called? What if I get in trouble when I get home?  The day seemed to last forever.  When I finally got home I scrutinized my parents’ faces to see if they knew.  I looked at them sideways, I looked at them up and down, I searched hard for hints of any clue that they knew that I had gotten into trouble. Nothing.  I know now that they would have been proud of me, my dad would have said "That's my girl" but then, I wasn't so sure.

Fast forward to the 1990’s when my husband and I began the long and grueling process of adoption; we wanted children and I couldn’t have them.  Through all the hurdles, the paperwork, background checks, references, fingerprints, home studies, classes, and proving of ourselves to be worthy parents….you know, the typical laundry list that any girl with a decent egg on meth would never have to go through – we endured.  But there was one little itty bitty thing that disheartened me; the three page checklist we had to fill out of “Would you accept…” (i.e. Would you accept “a child without a leg?” Yes; “A child that has cross eyes?” Yes; “A child that has facial scars?”; Yes).  But where were we given the option that we would accept a child of another race? There was no box for that. 

The one question that no one had dared ask or even cared to ask, I asked in the midst of our home study in front of a large group of future adoptive parents. “May we adopt a child of another race?”  The answer was not a mere “no” but indisputably “NO! We keep whites with whites and blacks with blacks because a parent of one race can never understand the tribulations faced by a child of another race.”  I was shocked. Pissed. Sad.  But I didn’t push the subject.  I wanted one of their children after all; yet I didn’t understand the logic. “Okay, so leave the black children in foster care because the ratio of black parents adopting was like 1% compared to the white parents adopting.”  That seemed like an unfair advantage or disadvantage if you were an innocent black child since they were predominately the children in foster care in our County at that time. Uncharacteristically, I kept my mouth shut and played “The Adoption Game” thanks to the book Beating the Adoption Game by Cynthia D. Martin (1988).  On April 26, 1990, we were rewarded with two beautiful children, Monica and Nicole, who were from the same birth-mother and only ten months apart.  

Luckily, the birth mother had listed the girls as “Hispanic” on the birth certificates or they would more than likely have been split up.  Unbeknownst to the County, one of my daughters was (ghasp!) mixed.  Actually she still is.  I am unsure of either of their exact origins, and I really do not care.  We are a patchwork family.  In my eyes, we are a beautiful mix of golden brown, cinnamon, and white and we love each, and that’s all that really matters anyway.

One day when my girls were in high school I individually took on their school for what I believed to be an infraction to students with disabilities and of various sexual orientations.  I embarrassed my daughters. This had not been my battle to fight, but I saw an injustice, just as I had in the first grade.  It may have not been my business, but I wanted to right a wrong.

“Mom!” they declared with their usual frustration when I was in warrior mode, “Why do you always have to fight for justice?”  It was a bittersweet moment; a moment when we sometimes question the necessity of our own motives.  But my fight for what I believe to be right is deeply ingrained.

I had two answers for my girls.  (1) If it wasn’t for Rosa Parks, my beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, dog loving, rule following child who happens to be ½ black, would still be sitting on the back of the bus; and (2) If it wasn’t for those who fought after the 1990’s for equality, others like her would be growing up in foster homes.  We were lucky, she had slipped through the cracks of ignorance.They had no response and although they don't always understand my passion, they respect it nevertheless. 

Today I want to say "thank you" to Martin Luther King, Jr. On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther delivered one of the most powerful speeches on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  …When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last… 
I’m sure when he said “all” people, he meant “all people...
And that’s the GOOD NEWS.
Sweet dreams and always GOOD dreams,


awana tell you a story said...

love love.... makes the world go round.
i took in 4 girls ages 15 to 8. i know what uou mean!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jamie! You are awesome. When you get rid of the assumptions, the ignorance, the hatred, the negative -- all you have left is love. Thanks for reading it! ~Renae~