5.19.2015

Our New Personal Connection

I'm reposting my guest post at HapaMama which was first posted there two weeks ago.

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America still has a long way to go when it comes to matters of race, gender, and sexual orientation. But we have come a long way too, and in a remarkably short amount of time. I am barely 40 but still plenty old enough to remember (and, I must admit, participate in) some awful stereotyping of people. We’ve made some incredible progress. I think it’s because we have more regular contact now with people different from us. Where once we huddled with others like us and let our biases harden, now we have normal discourse with a wide range of people at work, at church, and in the neighborhood. Those seemingly innocent human interactions not only break down walls between us but also enable us to empathize with those different from us. Not only do we not think ill or make fun of others anymore, but when we hear of racism or sexism or homophobia we become angry and protective. It’s because those being hurt are no longer some vague concept of “them” but rather a very real “us”: our own friends and loved ones, with whom we have a personal connection and with whom we hurt when they are aggrieved.

My wife and I are in an interracial marriage: she is white, I am Asian. We live in a progressive and diverse urban neighborhood in a big East Coast city, exposing us and our children to a wide range of people from all walks of life. We adopted our first two kids from Asia: Jada from China in 2005 and Aaron from Taiwan in 2007. We talk about race freely and often, as befits its importance in their understanding of themselves and of the country they live in. They have friends of all races and ethnicities, and have traveled around our city enough to see how race, ethnicity, income, and power intersect in this country. My wife and I are grateful that they have had these early exposures, and we pray they will carry these experiences into an adulthood that is marked by respect for all and a desire to participate in the progress we are seeing in our nation.

Recently, we added a third child to our family. Asher is our first domestic adoption and our first newborn. He is also our first African-American child. He is an absolute angel, and in this adoption journey my wife and I have been buoyed up by the prayers, encouragements, and kind words sent to us by so many friends and family members. All of us are aware of the tragedies and complexities that make up the current experience of so many black men in this country. But adopting Asher into our family has, for my wife and me, lent these tragedies and complexities a new relevance. We now process news stories as not just journalism or statistics or social commentary but also with our new personal connection. Maybe our friends and family members will grow along with us too. With these greater human ties, may there be greater compassion and greater connection and, ultimately, greater healing.
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