Thursday, June 18, 2015

Of race and Rachel Dolezal, pt 2

Some international adoptees are not too happy about the horrible Rachel Dolezal.
Transracial adoptees and their allies are speaking out about Rachel Dolezal's and other's use of the term "transracial" in conversations wrestling with her identity, arguing that it does not mean choosing to change one's race, rather it means the adoption of a child, usually a child of color, by a family of another race, usually a Caucasian family.
A number of trans-racial adoptess have written an open letter on the subject.
This past weekend the world took to social media to dissect the events surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the former president of Spokane’s NAACP chapter who came under heavy scrutiny for falsely representing herself as black. As part of this real-time discussion, the term transracial is being co-opted to describe Dolezal identifying as black despite being born white.
As members of the adoption community — particularly those of us who identify as transracial adoptees — we are deeply alarmed by the gross mischaracterization of this term. We find the misuse of “transracial,” describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of “blackness” in order to pass as “black,” to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.
About the rest of the letter I will say nothing.  I am familiar with several of the signers and find their views about trans-racial adoption... a little extreme.

Nevertheless, this is another dimension to the sorry tale of Rachel Dolezal that is important to those of us in the adoption community.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Of race and Rachel Dolezal

The now-resigned president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, Rachel Dolezal, has been much in the news lately because it came out that she, born to white parents, has been representing herself as black.
Dolezal's estranged parents have spoken to the media about her supposed misrepresentation. 
"We are her birth parents," her father, Lawrence Dolezal, said Friday. "We do not understand why she feels it's necessary to misrepresent her ethnicity." 
CNN contacted Dolezal last week, and she declined an interview. She said she stands by her record of service. 
Her adopted brother, Ezra Dolezal, said she took him aside three years ago and asked him "not to blow her cover" about her alternate identity. 
"She said she was starting a new life ... and this one person over there was actually going to be her black father," he said.*

Dolezal then and now

To put it mildly, I am outraged.  Quite aside from the issue of this woman lying for personal gain (I think I may be excused for supposing that, had she identified as white, she NEVER would have gotten a presumably high-paying position in the NAACP), what am I as a trans-racial adoptive parent to make of what she's done?

From our first classes as prospective parents of a non-white child, we were warned of the problems that race can cause.  Trans-racial adoptive children often report feeling "somewhere between": they feel part of their (usually white) parents' culture, but when they are not with their parents, nobody automatically assumes this (the term, I believe, is "borrowing whiteness").  Now we have a very prominent case of somebody outright claiming to be another race and being supported with the frankly ludicrous idea that race is something that one can simply select as he would a suit of clothes.  Dolezal "made" herself black by lying about her past, co-opting others to do so, and disguising herself by dyeing her skin and changing her hair.  Familiar?

FILE - This 1927 image originally released by Warner Bros., shows Al Jolson in blackface makeup in the movie "The Jazz Singer." Historically, blackface emerged in the mid-19th century, representing a combination of put-down, fear and morbid fascination with black culture. Among the most prominent examples: Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. Today, there’s a fine line between mockery and tribute. (AP Photo/Warner Bros.)
Al Jolson in blackface, 1927

We have spent decades in our country trying to get past the idea that race ought to play a role in how we deal with each other.  We have spent decades trying to convince ourselves that people of a given race ought to be proud of it (Black History Month?  HELLO!).  Now, we're told that race is not only vital to how a person ought to be seen, but that it's a matter of personal preference.  Presumably, a person can be whatever race he chooses on any given day.  Might come in handy for some job interviews, I suppose.

Let me be blunt: Dolezal is a horrible, horrible person.  Her disgraceful efforts to wear blackface - to PROFIT by wearing blackface - are a slap in the face to every person in our country, especially those who have felt the lash of racism.  I hope that she is roundly condemned for what she's done.



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Discrimination against Asian-Americans in college

I have written before about discrimination against Asian-American students in various colleges.  This, apparently, is an ongoing problem, so much so that businesses have opened to help prospective college students... look less Asian.

From the Boston Globe:
Brian Taylor is director of Ivy Coach, a Manhattan company that advises families on how to get their students into elite colleges. A number of his clients are Asian American, and Taylor is frank about his strategy for them.
“While it is controversial, this is what we do,’’ he says. “We will make them appear less Asian when they apply.”
[James] Chen founded Asian Advantage College Consulting 20 years ago in response to what he considers bias against top Asian students in elite college admissions. His firm, which is based in Alameda, Calif., also has clients on the East Coast, he says, including Boston.
“The admissions officers are seeing a bunch of people who all look alike: high test scores, high grades, many play musical instruments and tend not to engage in more physical sports like football,” Chen says.
If students come to him early in high school, Chen will direct them to “switch to another musical instrument” or “play a sport a little bit out of their element.” 
And for the college essay, don’t write about your immigrant family, he tells them: “Don’t talk about your family coming from Vietnam with $2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks.”
To put it mildly, this sort of thing makes me see red, and I like to think that it would do so even if my daughter wasn't Asian.  We tell kids to work hard in school, to get good grades, to take harder classes, to study, to go out for sports and other extracurricular activities, to volunteer after school, all with the goal of getting into the best schools to give them a leg up when they enter the job market.  

But not if they are Asian.

The article continues:
In a 2014 lawsuit against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the nonprofit Students For Fair Admission allege that both schools discriminate against Asian applicants in favor of less qualified African-American and Latino students. The suit cited a 2009 Princeton University study of seven top colleges that concluded an Asian applicant needed an average 1460 SAT score to be admitted, while whites with similar academic qualifications needed 1320, Hispanics 1190, and blacks 1010.
Harvard’s general counsel, Robert Iuliano, defended the school’s admissions policy. “As the Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, including on race, transforms the educational experience of students from every background and prepares our graduates for an increasingly pluralistic world,” he said.
Ironically, that our daughter is adopted and has an Anglo name may work to her advantage: no admissions officer will automatically shuffle her application to the bottom of the pile as he might if her last name was Chen or Liang or Qi.
We come then to the question presented: does segregation of children in public schools solely on the basis of race, even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors may be equal, deprive the children of the minority group of equal educational opportunities? We believe that it does.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

Who knew that we'd gone back to 1953? 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

One year

A year ago, my wife and I, still very tired from a long plane flight yet unable to sleep from excitement, boarded a bus outside our hotel with two other families and took a short trip into forever.

What can I say about the year that's gone by?  Magical?  Miracle?  Wonderful?  There aren't words enough in the English language.  Caroline - our daughter - has been nothing short of a blessing for us.  She's playful and affectionate and loving and smart and adventurous and sometimes obstinate.  A smile from her makes my day.

Almighty God, thank you for my little girl, and make me half as good a father to her as she is a daughter to me.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, May 15, 2015

What she's up against (pt 3)

I have in the past written about the problems with "beauty" I expect Caroline to face as she grows older.  At risk of once again sounding like an old fudd, I wonder about the pressures that girls face to be "sexy" and worry about what my daughter will face in another ten or fifteen years.  For example:

Female students at a Connecticut High School are furious that dresses bought for this weekend's prom are being banned because they have exposed shoulders, backs, sides and legs. One mother—whose daughter had two dresses rejected—said, "They've suggested the girls wear T-shirts under their dresses. My daughter won't wear a T-shirt. She would be mortified."*

I leave it to the interested reader to look at some examples of the prohibited dresses in the linked article.  Some, frankly, I didn't find too objectionable, though I might feel differently if it was MY daughter wearing them.  Others... "Not only are you NOT leaving the house dressed like that, young lady, but consider yourself grounded for the next ten years!"

It's a pity that girls feel - are MADE to feel - that they've got to make displays of themselves (though I confess that the ghost of the eighteen year-old Jim is saying - rather loudly - "More display, please!").  Chrystal and I have talked about this sort of thing, and we both think that it's possible not only for a girl to dress attractively without dressing provocatively, but also that we HOPE to teach Caroline to do the former without referring to us, so that Ol' Baba hasn't got to tell her that she's NOT leaving the house dressed in a certain way.


(*) Via Hot Air.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A month

I see that a month has gone by since last posting.  What a month it's been!  We took a family vacation to Disney in Florida, took Half-pint to the local science museum for a day trip, and have celebrated my wife's first official Mother's Day.


I now understand why we never took many family trips when I was a child as they are EXHAUSTING!  Caroline, I'm happy to say, does well in a car: keep her in snacks and water and give her the occasional DVD to watch, and she's pretty content.  I add at this point that I'm very glad that many gas stations have coin-operated vacuum cleaners!

She also did quite well at Disney.  We were afraid that she would not enjoy the rides (more exactly, that she would throw a screaming fit at the very sight of one), but, happily, this was not the case.  Far from it: she seems to enjoy rides and, in fact, demanded to ride them.  Funny thing: I would have to say that her favorite ride was the parking tram! (She thought it was a train)

A few of the many pics from the trip:

Ready to go on the first day.
Our first major event was breakfast with several of the Disney characters.  Caroline LOVES the cartoons "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" and "Minnie's Bow-Tunes", so we thought that she would love to meet the characters.  Well...

"I know who that is.  But... he's a lot bigger than I thought!"
She quickly got used to seeing them.

"I love Minnie Mouse!"
We were lucky that another very special guest was able to attend breakfast with us.

My grandmother and her youngest great-granddaughter.
After breakfast, it was time to hit the park for rides and the Moment of Truth: would Caroline be terrified of them, rendering our trip to Disney a sleeveless errand?

"Why don't you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride"
I'm happy to report that, though she had a little initial trepidation, she enjoyed the rides.  We were especially gratified when she saw the "Barnstormer" roller coaster from the "Dumbo" ride, pointed, and said, "Ride that!" Indeed, there were several rides that she wanted to try but is still too young.  Given that her grandmother is already planning a return trip in a couple of years, I think she'll get her wish.  Eventually.

We didn't confine ourselves to Disney.  We drove over to Clearwater to see the aquarium and the tailless dolphin, Winter.  About this trip I will say little beyond that the traffic caused me to announce my intention to write to my senator about exploring the possibility of getting Spain to take Florida back.  Honestly, when you've got less than a mile to go and the trusty GPS tells you that it's going to be ANOTHER twenty-four minutes... Well, I may have threatened that, "If I'm in a turn-only lane, so help me, I'm gonna lose my sh!t" at one point.  Suffice it to say that I'm trying to put Clearwater behind me.  On the plus side, Caroline petted a sea urchin and tried very hard to pet a stingray.  She's pretty fearless.

We also visited the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa for their Chinese Lantern Festival.  It was gorgeous, especially after dark.  Well worth a visit.

The weather in Florida was generally good throughout our trip: cool, sunny, and usually a nice breeze.  Quite a pleasant difference from other Florida trips we've made when the weather has been hot, muggy, and hot.  And hot.  Did I mention hot?  We did get a bit of rain for two days.  On the second, while Chrystal was stuck in the hotel room doing work (it's very hard to own your own business), I got Half-pint wrapped up and headed for the park.

First boat trip on the Magic Kingdom ferry.
Honestly, I might not have gone (the sky DID look quite threatening), but we had lunch reservations at Be Our Guest.  I will give Disney full credit: while they charge premium prices for food, it's very good and they don't stint on the portions.  Caroline had a double-chocolate (what else???) cupcake for dessert.  It was a thing of beauty... for about five seconds.

Naturally, what Disney vacation with a little girl in tow would be complete without princesses?  We had two breakfasts with them, one in the Castle, and the other at the Norway pavilion in EPCOT (again, I must compliment Disney: the meals were not cheap, but the food and the service were both absolutely first-class).  Caroline didn't quite know what to make of the princesses at first, and we were... a little worried.

"Look, blondey: there's only room for ONE princess in this kingdom, and you're looking at her!"

But, our fears didn't materialize, and Caroline eventually became almost as comfortable around the princesses as she did the other characters.  I was gratified to find that her favorite character is also my favorite.

Unlike at their first meeting, she RAN to see Donald when we were at the Mexico pavilion in EPCOT.

During our last few days in Florida, we were joined by my niece, on leave from her military service in Washington State.  My grandmother was very happy to see her two youngest great-granddaughters.

And, eventually, it was time to head home to No. Carolina.  The trip was good.  It was also very much a learning experience for me and Chrystal.  Caroline, as I have indicated, is a pretty easy-going child: keep her in Goldfish crackers and something to drink and she's usually content.  We DID learn, however, that a mid-afternoon nap is a must.  Otherwise, she gets punchy in the early evening, and punchy quickly gives way to whiny, which rapidly turns to screaming and crying.  Happily, our hotel was not far from the parks, so it was fairly easy - once we learned the warning signs - to zip back to the car and get her to bed so that the evenings would go well.  We had to give up several dinner reservations, Fast Passes, and other events simply because we knew that we'd be pushing the Red Line if we went.  Well, such is life.  I'm pretty sure that Caroline enjoyed the trip, and that's the important thing.

Even if it meant that a certain long-suffering Ol' Baba had to endure "It's a Small World" FOUR friggin' times in a row.

Long-suffering, but oh-so-proud of his little girl!


Nothing to say here but Happy (first) Mother's Day to my wife, with hopes and wishes for many, many more to come.


(*) I would like to put in a plug for our hotel.  We have stayed twice at the Sheraton Lake Buena Vista Resort in Orlando, and I definitely recommend it as a good family hotel.  By using our hotel points, we were able to stay for a very low cost, and they let us up-size our room to a small suite at no extra charge so that my niece didn't have to get a room of her own.  The hotel is very convenient to Disney and is surrounded by a number of restaurants and shops.

I add that one of the nearby restaurants is Sweet Tomatoes.  This is an all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar that provides a pretty reasonably-priced way to get a meal heavy with fresh fruits and vegetables while on vacation.  Even I get tired of McDonalds.

Friday, April 10, 2015


I think we all know this one:

Child has his meal.  Begins to get full.  Parent, perhaps after urging / ordering him to eat more of his vegetables, asks, "Are you done?"

Child replies that he is; he wants to leave the table and go play or watch TV.

Child then discovers that there is dessert in the offing and magically recovers a full appetite!

Out daughter is no different.  Her vocabularly is getting larger each day.  One word she clearly knows is "pie".  Which she loves.

"I flipped it over.  What's this brown stuff?"

"Mine is pretty good, but what have you got over there?"

"You're going to blog this, aren't you?"