A Different Kind of Anxiety
Naomi Raquel

Well said, Naomi. Though I am not a mom, I have an inkling of the frustration you’re describing, but not anywhere near to the same degree.

As a kid growing up in Alaska, all four of us kids were adopted by white parents. My baby brother and sister were adopted later, as infants, while my other brother and I were older, and came as a package deal (and we are both “white”). My baby brother and sister are both part Alaskan Native. My sister was only a 1/4, and was born with strawberry blonde curls, blue eyes and light skin. My baby brother came two years later, and not only was he 3/4 Native, but he was only half Alaskan Native — the other mystery quarter was from a tribe from the Lower 48 that was darker than Alaskan Native tribes.

I was 8 years older than my baby sister and 10 years older than my baby brother, so as we grew up, I was often taking care of them and taking them places, like the public swimming pool. When I was with my sister, no one ever questioned that we were related — they just doted on her and told me how adorable she was. But almost without fail, anytime my baby brother and I encountered people in our small community that didn’t know us already, people would ask me whose kid he was, assuming that I was babysitting. When I said he was my brother, they insisted on an explanation as to how that could be (as if they were entitled to it). They said the same to our parents too, always assuming that they must be his grandparents, not his parents. And then they always wanted to know “what he was.” It was the late 70s and early 80s, so people were even more clueless then, than they are now.

It made me mad, as a kid, because it was clear that the color of his skin eclipsed any recognition for the emotional bond that we had and how close we were as siblings. I wished we could enjoy the freedom of walking by strangers without them asking any questions at all.

But the frustration must be so much more intense as a mother and a woman of color in this racist world, and I can only imagine that you must wish at times that the world would be struck blind, so everyone would be forced to actually observe what you and your son say to each other, and how you interact, so that your bond would be obvious to anyone you encountered, and the assumption would be the opposite of what it is now.

Thanks for having the patience and determination to share your story publicly, so that others can learn from it. It must take an awful lot of energy to constantly be teaching the world at large.

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