Tears and Jackie Robinson

My young homeschoolers, Sunshine (7), Eby (5), and Little Man (3) have a special time each morning when we gather on the sofa to read our One Year Children’s Bible, followed by a story or two out of The Children’s Book of Heroes, and then some picture books.  It is a restful moment in the midst of a busy day.

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Today I opened our Hero book to the story of Jackie Robinson.  The intro at the top of the page read,

Here is the story of an American hero who won his fight using self-control.  Often, bravery means keeping your cool and doing the best you can in a bad situation.

As I read those words aloud, my heart sank and I knew I did not want to read this story.  My beautiful brown-skinned boys were looking eagerly at the illustration of Jackie in his baseball uniform and the last thing I wanted to introduce them to was racism. How could I possibly explain that there was a time in our nation’s history when black people  did not have the same rights as whites?  But this is their truth, the reality of the world they live in and one day they too will face racism — I won’t always be able to protect them.

I plowed onward hoping that the issues might skim right over their ability to understand.  At one point I paused and added my own emphasis about how horrible it was that there were people who didn’t think Jackie Robinson should play baseball with white players.

On I read, but then I got to this,

Some of the players said ugly things to him.  Some refused to stand on the same field with him.  Newspapers claimed he would not be able to play baseball well enough to stay on a white team.  He was locked out of ballparks.  In one town, a policeman even threatened to arrest him if he did not leave the field.

My throat got tighter —  my voice climbed a little higher and by that last sentence the lump in my throat prevented me from reading at all.  I paused and then Sunshine’s little voice flowed past mine,

These things hurt Jackie’s feelings deeply…

And on she read telling the story I couldn’t tell.  I’m not sure Eby and Little Man understood it, but sadly, one day they will.

Question:  Have you or your children encountered racism?  Have you found a positive means of dealing with it?

~Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Ann
    November 11, 2010

    I am crying just reading your post. Racism is so ugly and painful–especially when we know our kids willl face it. Strangely enough, my children with Asian heritage do not think they have ever faced racism. I am certain they have, although I haven't overtly seen it either, and I wonder if I am just too naive to see it? Either way, I know it is coming and will be a painful part of their lives. Sadly, because of our nation's history, African American children face more prejudice than Asian children. And that just brings those tears right back down my cheeks 🙁 On a more positive note, I do see big gains being made in prejudice/discriimination with the generation of our young adults. In our city there is lots of interracial dating, marriage, friendship etc. etc. which I think says a lot.
    Still, it only takes a few ignorant people, ya know? And that hurts deeply.

    Reply
  2. Rachel
    November 11, 2010

    Though we have not personally experienced racism yet, we talk about it whenever we can. I think that it offers wonderful gospel opportunities with your children. Because Jesus was despised and rejected of men for your sin He understands you deeply when you are rejected in that way. Better so, He did all of that to redeem you who didn't deserve it. When we understand His suffering for us it comforts us when we experience the same suffering.

    Reply
  3. Dustin Greenup
    November 11, 2010

    This past summer we were at a park, and I was playing in a softball game and my mom was with our son Ezra, watching him play on the toys. As Ezra went down the slide, my mom heard a little boy (no older than 4 years old) say, ‘Nig**r, Nig**r, Nig**r’. Thankfully Ezra did not hear it or understand it.

    My mom was in such shock, she just took Ezra from the slides and came back over to our softball game. My mom told me about this a bit later. I knew it would come, just didn’t know it would come this early.

    If I would have heard that little boy say that, I think I would have asked him to take me to his parents and have a discussion/conversation with them about this. (At least that is how I hope I would have responded).

    In a direct answer to your question, I would say that we are still on the search for good ways to respond. But this situation got us on our knees and praying for the Lord to grow our hearts and be well prepared for how to respond to such situations as they arise.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 11, 2010

      That would just rip my heart out. We live in north Idaho and we haven't experienced this yet, but I'm sure the day will come. I worry about racial profiling by police officers and other authorities too. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
      1. charity betts
        November 12, 2010

        I just wanted to take a moment to address your concerns about racial profiling by cops…i am married to a wonderful white man who has been a cop for almost 20 years, many of those years in Los Angeles and several times in places where he was the only white man there. As mothers we always will worry about things we can't control that will affect our children's lives, but my observation is that with regards to racial profiling, it definitely happens, but not in the way you'd expect. I would steer my children away from ever living in the deep south, where those attitudes still persist…but everywhere else we have lived, it is the blacks who struggle with attitudes about race, not the cops…almost entirely, the cops i know profile people into classes of people, not races of people…let me try to explain better.

        Reply
      2. charity betts
        November 12, 2010

        I don't know one cop who would pull a car over because the driver was black, i don't know one cop who wouldn't pull a car over if it looked like it was being driven by a gangster looking for trouble, of any race. Teach your children to be honest, courteous, to speak respectfully to adults, and to obey the laws of our land. There is a huge difference in how a stop is handled by officers who are addressed with respect, instead of hostility…it is common for blacks who are stopped by my husband to just start yelling at him before he has even told them why he stopped them, accusing him of being a racist, and ignoring the fact that they are breaking the laws…his favorite is the guy wearing no seat belt, who runs a red light, then takes my husband to court to argue that the stop was due to racial profiling! happens all the time. these officers are professionals, they usually know before they even stop the car if they are dealing with a criminal or a normal joe who just is being careless. .

        Reply
        1. charity betts
          November 12, 2010

          Likely, in a community like ours,CO, and in idaho as well, your boys may still be stopped while driving your car, if it is a nice enough car…if they politely explain it is their parents' car, they produce a license with the same last name, and the proper paperwork on the car…and yes, it might help to explain they are adopted…all without getting angry, treating the officer disdainfully, or yelling…the officer will likely apologize for the inconvenience, and five minutes later you will be on your way. The reality is that they are supposed to look for things that seem out of place, if that's a black boy driving a nice car in a mostly white neighborhood, that may result in a stop…but that's also what helps keep gangsters out of our suburban communities

          Reply
          1. charity betts
            November 12, 2010

            …also, even in large departments, most officers work the same parts of town for years, they will get to know your family and your sons and they have great memories…if your children are polite and keeping the laws, they will probably not be stopped again. trust in the good in most people, same goes for cops as anyone else. also remember the dynamics of cops are changing all over the country, there are more black cops now than ever before…and more adoptions, i think that is helping open people's eyes and increase awareness

          2. One Thankful Mom
            November 12, 2010

            Charity, thank you for taking the time to write this great response to my concern about racial profiling. My brother-in-law is also a cop, so I know not all officers are assuming that a young, black boy is breaking the law. I also recognize that the media loves to draw attention to the instances where this does happen. Growing up white in a predominantly white town, I never thought about teens and race. But sometimes I feel vulnerable knowing that I won't be able to protect my children from racist assumptions. I'm still learning so much and growing in my ability to understand things that are new to me. Thank you again, I appreciate your comment.

  4. lauradodson
    November 11, 2010

    Yes. Unfortunately for us, it is not a stranger, but my step brother. I could make a list of excuses for him: he's lost, he suffers from bipolar disorder, he's an addict, etc. Truthfully, I don't really care that he's any of those things. There are many lost souls who are not racist. There are those who suffer from mental illnesses that do not hate people with different skin color. There are addicts who do make racial/ethnic slurs. Because of this plus myriad other reasons, we no longer associate with him at all.

    On a different note, a few weeks after arriving home from Uganda our oldest son had a baseball game. As I was watching our 3 youngers play on the playground I overheard, "What are these BLACK kids doing here!?" My blood boiled. I remained very calm. I approached the boys who said it, asked if they said it, and then proceeded to tell them the owed our family an apology. These were my sons, brothers, etc and how would they feel if someone mocked one of their family members? They apologized. I said, "Don't ever say those ugly things again." They responded, "Yes ma'am." I sure I scared them half to death but maybe next time they'll think first before they say stupid things like that.

    Those are the only 2 nasty things we've experienced thus far. For that, I am so grateful.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 11, 2010

      Laura, it sounds like you handled that very well and I'm quite sure it made an impression on them. I'm so sorry about your step brother. When Dimples went to school for the first time, two little girls told her that she didn't belong there. The principal handled it very well as did the families. Since last year a number of other children of color have been added to the student body — in Honeybee's class there are three African (ET and Nigeria) girls, and one Native American girl. It's quite nice.

      Reply
  5. @mkgivler
    November 11, 2010

    Wow, this was a tough post to read. I burst into tears, and Andrew (sitting on the other side of the room) thought he had done something wrong, poor guy. I reassured him that he hadn't made me sad.

    Mimi

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 11, 2010

      Thanks sweetie. I love that Andrew.

      Reply
  6. Lori
    November 11, 2010

    Sometimes racism isn't quite so overt or even with a mean intention. My beautiful brown skinned girls from India were in the shower at swimming lessons and a little girl, probably six years old, asked my youngest daughter why her skin was brown. I was close enough to hear her answer. She was very sweet and said that she was from a different country and that was the color of skin that people have there.

    I talked to her later how that question made her feel. It embarrassed her, made her feel conspicuous. I told her how her Daddy and I had felt when we were in India to get her and her sister and that everyone stared at us and so we knew how she felt. We kind of laughed about it, but we also talked about what else she could say.

    continued in next comment –

    Reply
  7. Lori
    November 11, 2010

    It really does break your heart when you think your child is hurt by other people's words or actions. Our main intention is to help our girls to feel secure in who God made them to be – special creatures made in His image. We talk about the fact that there are people in this world who do not understand that everyone is the same underneath that skin – and all are deserving of respect and kindness. I can't control what other people say or think. I can prepare my daughters to be confident in who they are and not to show hate in return.

    Reply
  8. GrandmaG
    November 11, 2010

    My biracial granddaughter age 7 was watching a PBS special about a slave ship and asked so many questions. We told her it was wrong and it was hard to explain how people had beliefs that are so wrong. Then she said, "Why can't people all just get along?" She also had a boy at school -2nd grade -tell her he did not believe my daughter was her Mom because they did not look alike.

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      November 12, 2010

      We haven't even gotten to the topic of slavery – but Sunshine is doing a two year study of American History, so I know it is coming. Interestingly, the child who has had the hardest time believing that I am Honeybee's mother is a little girl in her class from Nigeria.

      Reply
  9. Ali
    November 12, 2010

    Our little guy is still just 5 months old, but I often run through scenarios in my head, preparing myself for that day when the topic will be brought up.

    Reply
  10. Stacy
    November 18, 2010

    Thank you for this post. I know we will run into it too, as I have 5 kids from ET and one little girl who is bi-racial from the States. When my older (bio) kids and I read our Civil War books, it broke my heart. I have one more year before we would hit those books again with our newest kids. My husband and I are praying through how to teach our kids about the Civil War. Unfortunately, the kids have already been exposed to racism, but in ET, not here. They had darker skin than most of the other kids in their orphanage, so they heard many mean comments, comments that make them cry, now that they are safe at home with us. Now that they're here in the States we turn a lot of heads at home, but no one has been unkind to them. I'm sure the day will come, though and we are working hard to prepare them for it.

    Reply

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