Romney Photo: Media and online bullying hurts adopted kids

romneyI try to avoid reading comments that people leave on online news articles–especially anything having to do with something as divisive as politics–because whenever I do, I become so disappointed in society. For reasons beyond my understanding, some people thrive on being mean and hateful.

So, I wasn’t exactly surprised at the horrible comments made after an MSNBC TV host asked her panel of guests to “caption” the Romney family photo shown above with Mitt Romney holding his new adopted infant grandson, who happens to be black. The TV panel guests poked fun of the photo, with one guest singing, “One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just isn’t the same.”  [Seriously? A grown adult mocking a child for being adopted? On television? What?]

As sad as that was, the online comments I saw about the photo were far worse.

I didn’t vote for Mitt Romney but who cares?! My political views don’t mean I get to mock his family or that I don’t think the photo of him holding his new grandchild, front and center, is absolutely beautiful. With a biological grandchild on one knee and his adopted grandchild on the other, Romey is saying that, in his eyes and the eyes of his family, both are equally his grandchildren. It’s a sweet photo and you can tell that baby is lucky to have been welcomed into such a seemingly warm and loving family (even if they’re wearing a bit too much plaid). He is surrounded by love.

That love is what people should have commented on. But instead, people left racist, hateful comments that were difficult to read. I can only imagine how the Romney family felt upon seeing them. It’s awful. I mean, what is wrong with people? We talk about bullying in our kids’ schools, but where do we think they learn it from?

A response to the MSNBC segment, Why Romney Adoption Jokes Hurt, was written by a transracial adoptee–a biracial child raised in a white family. The writer says: “Against this backdrop, the misbegotten MSNBC jokes hurt. They don’t help. They are another reminder that adoptive families need to be always at the ready to support their children on matters of race and adoption. White parents will never fully understand what it means to be black or brown, but they can and should do their best to support their children.”

As Jamie and I prepare for the possibility of raising a child of another race, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the issues our family will face. I’ve realized that we will need to prepare for racism and ignorance and that we need to learn how best to empower our child against those things–to empower him or her to rise above negative comments and hurtful jokes and to embrace what makes our family unique.

I agree wholeheartedly with the writer of the article when she says: “So often, the thoughtlessness and carelessness of others results in deep pain for adoptees, who are already faced with navigating a life-long search for identity that begins with losing their original family. Insensitivity, ignorance and intolerance will fuel negative comments. The answer is to better to prepare and educate adoptive parents, practitioners, educators and the media to the sensitivities of adoption and race. Transracially adoption children should be protected and empowered, not singled out and mocked.”

I’ve been trying to get as educated as possible. I’ve been reading accounts of transracial adoptees to get an idea of what it felt like for them and what they wished their parents knew. I’ve joined a small online community of transracial adoptive parents who have recommended books and articles to read.

Unfortunately, though, no matter what I learn I know that Charlie’s experience will be his/her own and that at some point he will read or hear comments like the ones about the Romney family. And that will be hard. But we will do our best to instill self-confidence, self-worth, love, and empathy in our child so that, hopefully, hurtful comments will roll off his/her shoulders as much as possible. I will also teach him that people who say hateful things are the ones we should feel sorry for. Because, surely, anyone who willfully hurts another person based on the way they look, the color of their skin, or because of what makes them stand out in a crowd (or their own family!) must be a very sad, lonely, and desperate individual.

I can only hope the truth of that will sink in instead of the insensitive comments some people make.

4 thoughts on “Romney Photo: Media and online bullying hurts adopted kids

  1. Love your response to this!!!! Couldn’t have written it better myself! We decided not to do transracial adoption, but mostly because of how we were afraid our predominately white community/families (with a small exception) would react and cause hardships/hurt on the child and on our biological child. It saddens me that we, as a society, as still so focused on skin color that it even matters. They should have been focused on how great it was that a family in such a spotlight has chosen transracial adoption and use it as a door to open the world’s eyes. Instead, they chose to make fun of an innocent child? OK – rant over but great post!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Holly! Totally agree with you. I think the spotlight, despite some people’s idiocy, is ultimately good for transracial adoption. MSNBC made a big mistake and they have apologized. Hard to believe it happened but hopefully people will learn from it. For the most part, I think we are evolving as a society even if some people refuse to come along. Good luck with your adoption, by the way!

  3. What a beautiful reply to something so ugly. My husband and I are also a pre-adoptive family, and fully anticipate adopting a bi-racial or minority child. It feels good to know that there are people in the world like you: ready to educate the world through the love of your child. Thank you.

    I look forward to following your blog 🙂

    1. In an effort to keep D a kid as long as possible there is so much in the news that I just don’t know that happens. As we don’t have on the TV or radio. And we are careful about what we read, because she reads and will pick up anything we read and well read it. This was fun when I was reading the 50 Shades books for book club. But that’s another story. Frankly if someone doesn’t comment on FB about something I have no idea. And I have to say I had NO idea this was happening. First my comment is what an incredibly cute photo of these grandparents (regardless of who they are). Second how horrible and incredibly cute of the parents and grandparents to dress them alike and so horrifically. And where does one get that much blue plaid? Really? Lastly, people are just stupid… people will just say stupid things, sometimes out of malice, sometimes out of ignorance, and sometimes the connection between brain and mouth just doesn’t work well. And sadly most have no idea that it’s stupid. Eric always chooses to get upset by this, and I keep being reminded that D will follow our example and take a couple of different paths (1) offense, (2) anger, (3) disgust, (4) choose to teach and education, (5) roll with it, (7) find humor in it or (8) something I haven’t considered yet. Our dentist who lives in our neighborhood who is white is married to a Thai woman, her Thai brother seems to live with them for several months out of the year as well which is relevant to this story…. they walk our neighborhood at night and it seemed in the summer months would walk by our house while Eric and Dana were “washing” the cars… I use the “washing” in quotes because it seemed to me to be an excuse to spray each other with the hose. Anyway our dentist was aware of our adoption as was his wife, and I assume brother (in-law). Anyway Dana dropped a nap and started going to bed earlier and Eric occasionally was forced to actually wash cars – without her. One night the dentist-wife and her brother were walking (the dentist has MS and occasionally can’t do the walk) and she asked my husband if Dana was showing any signs of being Asian yet. …. pausing for dramatic effect…. the Asian brother pulled her away and scolded her for asking personal questions or so that’s what it seemed as we don’t speak Thai but it sounded pretty guttural. The brother knew it was a stupid thing to ask, yet the woman appeared clueless as to why. Eric was furious and found no humor in this. I however was in hysterics that the Asian woman wanted to know if the bi-racial child was showing signs of being asian. I of course asked him…. “did you ask her what she meant?” Perhaps she wanted to know of Dana’s math aptitude, or her driving skills (she was 2 and her driving sucked), or if she appeared smarted them other kids (she is the most brilliant child on the planet). So I did what every responsible 40 something parent did and open it up to friends on face books. Eric was furious with me. We got quiet a fun dialogue of stereotypes running in I think it was like 40 comments. One friend suggested that perhaps the question was in relationship to Dana being thrifty. Who knows. Really what this woman wanted to know is if Dana looked Asian which sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn’t. She is the whitest Asian baby around and in her early years she alternately had Black, Brown, Reddish-Brown, and Blonde-Brown hair. In the first 15 months of her life she had blue, green, grey, and finally light brown eyes. Her eyes are slightly almond shaped but not overly so. We often get questioned if she is slightly downs syndrome bc she is a white asian kid and has a unique look – then she opens her mouth and describes how electricity works and well we get other questions. My point to Eric was that we needed to arm Dana to handle these things when we aren’t with her. So I make a conscious effort when we get little old grandmotherly ladies asking about her heritage to reply like this…. “we have a rich and diverse family history thank you for noticing we are very proud of it, I’m Scottish-Welsh, Eric is Swiss-Hungarian, and Dana’s Irish-Indonesian.” It usually shuts people up as they try to remember their world history and geography, I smile broadly at them. It teaches Dana that even her Dad and I aren’t of the same background and gives her a way to answer nosey questions without becoming angry. Now her dad has gotten better at not getting angry but getting funny about it and I hope Dana absorbs that as well. Cause face it people are stupid… frankly I’ve said 12 stupid things since I started writing and I don’t even know about it. As for the media… really do we expect anything less? The last time I turned on the news there was both a twitter treading segment, and a YouTube segment… that’s not news. And as for the Romney’s – seriously where did they get all the plaid?

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