The Angrier Adoptee, part 1

The Angrier Adoptee: I have some feedback for you, Professor. Meaning no disrespect. But some of us think you haven’t gone far enough. I do appreciate the energy shown in your recent posts. But we thought we’d give you a chance to explain yourself further.

John: Um, okay? I always welcome feedback from other adoptees. Even the ones who might disagree with some of what I’m saying. And by the way, you can call me John. You don’t need to call me “Professor.”

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The Angrier Adoptee: Okay, cool. Well, John. To start with, do you think all the people at that rally in Nebraska voted against Trump? I was looking at the voting patterns data in your state. And I’m pretty sure there must have been a ton of people at that rally who voted for him. It could be that they just decided that their president crossed a line when he told ICE to lock kids in cages. Even though they disagreed with him on that one decision, they could still vote for him again in 2020. Especially if they mostly like the other stuff he’s doing.

John: Yeah, I didn’t think about that. And that would explain the lack of real outrage expressed at the Lincoln rally. We also have this dynamic called “Nebraska Nice,” where we don’t like to treat our neighbors disrespectfully. There may be a gendered and class-based element to that. I mean, it seemed like there were more middle-class female protesters, and speakers, at the Lincoln rally. I know some immigrant friends who told me they couldn’t attend, because it would violate their visa status. Or maybe they are undocumented. So the diversity among the protesters wasn’t representative of the level of outrage and anxiety throughout the community. But you make an excellent point. I wanted to believe that I was among friends and allies. Which to me means committed anti-Trump folks. Now that you mention it, the publicity for the rally did say that it was open to people of all persuasions, not just people in one political party.

The Angrier Adoptee: Next, I wanted to talk to you about gender issues. To start with, why are most of your images on your blog boys and men? I don’t see a whole lot of women. Or girls, or non-binary people. But you write a lot about women, such as birth mothers and grieving moms, for instance. Or in your example of the traumatized adoptee keeled over in the fetal position, why did you make her female?

John: That’s a fair observation. The reason that my original artwork features guys is because the people I ask to pose for my photos are friends, or people I know personally. As a gay artist, I tend to make art about other males. That’s just my preference, where my interest lies. But yeah, I could do a better job including more images of women, girls, and gender non-conforming individuals. If that was your criticism.

The Angrier Adoptee: What about that traumatized adoptee? Why did she have to be female? You’re not female. As a male writer, isn’t it dangerous for you to talk about the experience of a female adoptee, as if you know what that feels like?

John: I guess I was thinking about the movie, Adopted. That movie, which everybody should see, by the way, was made by female adoptees,. You get to hear some powerful stories about adult adoptees. For me, the most poignant ones described the experience of adoptees who happened to be women. And let me add that I would hope that writers are allowed and even encouraged to write from various perspectives. We shouldn’t have  to limit ourselves to writing from one particular gender, should we?

The Angrier Adoptee: If you’re a good enough writer, yeah. Then maybe you could pull it off. Moving on, why don’t you come right out and offer people some concrete solutions? Where’s your sense of urgency? Your writing is very cerebral. It’s like you’re living in your head. What are readers supposed to do? Are they supposed to just think their way into social justice? When are you going to come down from your academic ivory tower? Children and families are suffering, yet you just blog.

John: I think about that, every day. I ask myself if doing research, teaching courses, and offering a few workshops and keynotes, when I’m invited, is doing enough. And I’m not sure what the answer is. I know that blogging is one action I can take to resist. But I also know that blogging isn’t enough. One thing I can do is put more energy into healing myself and strengthening my family. So I’ve been working on that, for a while now.

I did notice, at the rally, people seemed to get really riled up when a few speakers encouraged them to “remember in November.” As if voting for a better candidate will make much of a difference. They seem to forget that President Obama was the one who intensified the round-up of families by ICE. Obama deported so many families, and caused family separation when he deported thousands of parents out of the country. The Democrats have as much blame as the current administration, which calls itself Republican.

The Angrier Adoptee: But why don’t you tell people to conduct civil disobedience? If the adoption business is so immoral, as you claim to believe, how can you tolerate its existence? How can even you go to their agencies and give trainings? We should be chaining ourselves to the gates, and disrupting business as usual.

John: It could eventually come to that. But first of all, I try not to tell people what to do. And I tend to think we need to educate a few more people, first. Without education, our neighbors aren’t going to understand, or care to understand, why direct action is being used as a tactic. They’ll just write off the adoption abolitionists as a bunch of loudmouth anarchists and malcontents. I want people who have been touched by adoption to look inside their hearts. I want them to reflect deeply on what would be just, and right, and fair, if they found themselves in dire circumstances. Facing the kinds of decisions many desperate women have faced, that too often leads to losing their children.

The Angrier Adoptee: Did you ever stop and think that maybe some women don’t want to be mothers? They have a right to choose what to do with their bodies and the babies they bring into the world. Sometimes you sound like it’s okay to deny women their reproductive freedom.

John: I do struggle with this, I admit. It’s complicated. Setting aside the issue of abortion, for a minute. I will say that, as a feminist, I support a woman’s right to control her own body and destiny. As a parent, I have also tried to imagine what I would do if I found myself unable to care for my child. Or if I could not guarantee the safety of my child. Then, too, I think about my enslaved ancestors. We know that many anguished parents literally threw their children overboard on the slave ships. They must have thought their children would be better off dead than trying to eke out an existence as slaves.

But I’m here today because my ancestors did not make that choice. I am descended from survivors, from strong individuals, who endured and persevered. Our ancestors chose not to end the lives of their offspring. Instead, they raised children as best they could, under exceedingly difficult circumstances. They taught them how to struggle, how to conspire, and how to survive. So the next generation would have a fighting chance. I think that’s worth remembering.

The Angrier Adoptee: If my birth mother had aborted me, I wouldn’t be here, either. But thanks to her, I had to grow up with all the crap that comes with adoption: the trauma, the pain, the questions and insults, and the not knowing. The second-class citizenship. The denial of rights to our personal information. Some days, adoption trauma feels so unbearable that I actually wish I had been aborted.

John: Wow, that’s intense, Angrier. I want you to know that I can relate.

The Angrier Adoptee: Last question for now. John Brown or Harriet Tubman? Since you’re so fond of equating anti-adoption abolition to the anti-slavery Abolitionists, pick one to follow.

John: Hm, interesting choice. I have always admired both of those committed Abolitionists. John Brown, as a dedicated person of faith, and as a man of conscience, decided to lay down his life for what he believed in. He armed and then fought alongside enslaved Africans. He did way more than just give rousing speeches against slavery. To me, John Brown epitomizes what it means to be a genuine ally in anti-racist struggle. But Harriet Tubman was another incredibly brave and daring activist who led countless runaways away from slavery and into freedom. She risked life and limb, time and time again, to take those who wanted to flee away from the plantations on the Underground Railroad. So, for me, she’s another heroic example of what it means to be an ally.

I’d rather use the power of persuasion than violence in the cause of abolition. I do believe that history is on our side–the side of justice, which is the side of abolition. The tide of public opinion will turn against child removal and family separation. People are waking up to the crime of human trafficking, and making the connection to adoption. People will come to reject the entire child removal /foster care /adoption industry as an evil, money-making institution. Especially younger Americans, the children of the Baby Boomers.

The Angrier Adoptee: Real talk. At least we can agree on that. The Boomers have had their day. It’s just a matter of time until you Baby Boomers die off and relinquish power. Meantime, young people are making other choices about the kind of society we want to live in.

John: Right on. You all are going to figure out another way.

The Angrier Adoptee: Word. Alright, John, thanks for your time. I’m off to meet up with my DA posse.

John: DA?

The Angrier Adoptee: Yeah, man, direct action. We got work to do. Later.

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An adoptee view of adoption trauma

We’re moving into the second week of Summer, at least for those of us here north of the Equator. So much is happening. It feels like something momentous is taking place. Does anyone else feel this, or is it just me?

Old issues are surfacing in new ways. People are trying to come together. It feels like communities are gathering strength and reaching out to other communities. In a few hours, I’ll be participating in one of the nationwide protests against family separation and the detention of refugees and migrant children and parents.

Our world spins in crisis. Trouble seems to be everywhere: Another black teenager has been murdered. Another Native woman has gone missing. Another youth is locked away needlessly, pointlessly.

Another grieving mother weeps for the loss of her child–to suicide, to drug overdose, to police incompetence, to deportation, to detention at the hands of so-called border protectors.

Somewhere, a wealthy adopted child, triggered by widespread discussions of family separations in the news and everywhere on social media, cannot find the courage to give voice to the words that would convey her acute anxiety. In her mind she may understand that it’s not likely to happen to her. That is, she tells herself she probably won’t lose her family.

Except that, once upon a time, she did. The little girl inside her remembers the feeling of utter panic when she lost her family the first time.

While concerned adults around her march to protest the detentions of migrant parents and the breakup of families, the adopted girl fears that she might once again lose her parents, this time, her “forever” family, her adoptive family. Just like she lost every other adult that ever told her they loved her: her foster parents, the kind ladies back in the orphanage, her group home parents, her birth mother.

But what can this adoptee say if she cannot find the words? Depending on her age, she acts out: She cuts. She hordes. She rebels. She hits. She wets the bed. She throws tantrums. She throws her toys. She pushes away the ones closest to her.

Or perhaps if she’s older, she runs away. She sleeps around. Or steals. If she’s off at college, maybe she isolates. She skips class. She skips meals. She fails her classes. If she’s living on her own, maybe she doesn’t return phone calls. Maybe she self-medicates. Maybe she stays in bed all day. Maybe she quits her job. Maybe she simply stops trying.

Sometimes, she’s curled up in the fetal position. But no one knows this, because outwardly, she’s a successful over-achiever. She has been taught that she’s special due to her “chosen” status. She’s been told to feel grateful that she got adopted. She hears, again and again, that adoption was the best thing that ever happened to her. She’s so lucky that she’s not stuck in some orphanage or group home. She’s blessed to be an American.

So the adoptee hides her tears and forces a smile. She shows up at family functions, feeling anything but functional. But who notices? Who really cares?

The caring people in her family are all out protesting family separation, while inside her adopted heart, she’s the one living with the separation from family. When no one notices her anguish, when nobody can help her name the trauma she inhabits, she wonders who her family really is.

But let’s keep pretending that all is well in Adoption Land. After all, adoption is always in the best interests of the child.

Or so we choose to believe. And so the delusion–sheer madness–continues.

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I mean this, Adoptees: I hope you are staying connected to your circle of support in these triggering times. Stay strong, and don’t hesitate to reach out.

“I really don’t care. Do you?”

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Why did the First Lady, a fashion-conscious former model, decide to wear this particular jacket to tour a detention center for immigrant kids? Did she think she was going to the Hunger Games?

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Kids have to look at this mural inside a Texas detention center, a converted Wal-Mart building… But hey, at least it’s bilingual, right? That should make them feel welcome.

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When kids are labeled “illegal” and “undesirable,” and nobody is paying attention, what could possibly go wrong?

 

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Detaining “undesirable” children is becoming normal again. We are being conditioned. And we accept this conditioning at our peril. How will history judge us?

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Your grandchildren will wonder, why didn’t you stop the madness?

R E S I S T

 

Resisting family separation

Current events are calling us to respond with compassion and/or outrage. Here are some follow-up thoughts I’ve had since my last post.

World Refugee Day was observed June 20th. (Check out Democracy Now!’s coverage here.) Its observance, along with the media spectacle of the crisis at the U.S./Mexico border, have prompted much reflection and discussion.

One thing I’m clear about: The proper response to the current tragedy is NOT swooping in to “rescue” kids, as North Americans are prone to do, for example, after disaster strikes. Adoption industry professionals should take a hands-off approach and curb their self-serving child-snatching tendencies.

Predictably, at least one cable news anchor, Mika Brezinsky, voiced the naivete of many well-meaning Americans, when she said she is thinking about fostering one of the refugee kids, as if that will solve the crisis. Keep in mind how eerily reminiscent of the Native child-snatching “maternalists” (documented by Margaret Jacobs) such a naive  response actually sounds.

Our immediate goal should be to reunite families, and keep them together. Our goal is NOT to feed the adoption, foster care, and detention industries that profit from keeping kids “in care”.

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No More Tears, Let’s Do This

Today, I found myself surprised by actually crying in reaction to Donald Trump’s remark about so-called “shithole nations.” I feel compelled to tell my readers–especially those living in other countries– that I speak for many Americans when I say I’m sorry. Many, many Americans feel embarrassed, heartbroken, and outraged by our president’s willful ignorance.

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I’ll even admit that I have become wearily accustomed to hearing about his latest outrageous tweets and rants. It’s reached the point where many of us feel quite desensitized. I feel myself becoming hardened in response to the daily onslaught of almost unbelievable disinformation and propaganda coming from the White House. But recognize this: that’s part of the plan for governing under Trump–to keep us off balance, shocked, anxious, and passive.

But something about the ugliness of this particular remark really got to me. And so I found myself in tears, thinking about all the people I know personally, especially transracial and international adoptees, who would be classed with those that the president was rejecting as inferior and unwanted.

Maybe I found myself in tears, too, because I’m still coming down from the high of celebrating the Christmas season. I mean, I was feeling so energized after the holidays. Enjoying quality time with my multiracial family and friends, attending lovely candlelight church services, feeling moved by the inspiring seasonal concerts I went to, hearing again the wondrous tale of the rejected babe lying in a manger because there was no room at the inn–all these recent experiences recalled the idealistic message behind the Christmas holiday, a message freely available to all who choose to take heed.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking about the nativity of that holy child who grew up to teach his followers to love our enemies and care for strangers. He would have us bestow mercy on the poor, heal the sick, and even visit prisoners. If we follow his example, we’re supposed to welcome into our midst all those who have been rejected by society. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I find his message particularly comforting as a transracial adoptee, and all the more so as a father whose children have, unfortunately, spent time behind bars.

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This image created by J. Raible  © 2017
Click here for info on Rev. Bonhoeffer’s life and work.

And so, in the warm post-Christmas glow, I was feeling hopeful and rejuvenated. Then along comes Trump’s latest hateful reminder of how far we have fallen from the moral heights that so many of have been working towards for generation upon generation.

Another cause for my tears, I suppose, is because lately I have been rethinking my identity. I have come to recognize the way that being raised by a parent from another country has profoundly influenced me, for instance, shaping my values. I appreciate how being an adopted son of immigrants clearly has impacted the way I see the world, and the way I have come to understand social justice issues. For that experience, I am grateful.

I wept also because I share this “child of immigrant parents” status with friends whose own families come from Haiti, Africa, and Central America. I cried because I’ve had the privilege of teaching students whose homelands are on Trump’s list of “shithole nations,” yet he discounts their value. I cried because apparently this president admires only the immigrants who have risked and sacrificed so much after departing from European nations, but not black and brown immigrants from respective motherlands on his despicable list of “shithole” sending nations.

Not that I have anything but respect for Norway, mind you. For starters, my white birth mother was partially of Norwegian descent, so I have a personal investment in my Norwegian heritage. I have long admired the heroic Norwegian resistance to the Nazi regime during World War Two. And after I was invited to present at a recent conference in Norway, I came home impressed by that nation’s social democracy, including its free college education and health care, the generally optimistic outlook among its citizens, and the generous welcome that they extend to refugees. The Norwegian government even has a position called the Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, which is something I can only imagine having here in the United States as an actual cabinet position, on equal footing with, say, the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State.

When my president makes his ignorant and mean-spirited comments, praising Norwegian immigrants while vilifying those from the Caribbean and Africa, I cringe. As the head of our national government, Trump supposedly speaks on behalf of the American people.

I am ashamed and mortified to think that people around the world conclude that most of us here agree with Trump’s narrow-minded worldview. I want to state here and now that I, for one, do not. Donald Trump does not speak for me.

Many of us are continually outraged and appalled by what this sad, confused man says, and more importantly, by what his supporters and apologists do that undermines the push for equality, social justice, mutual aid, cooperation, and goodwill around the globe.

I found myself crying because I have worked too long and too hard for a meaningful approach to anti-racist multiculturalism that is rooted in “right relations,” and yet Trump is setting our movement and our progress back decades.

I fear for the damage to my grandchildren and their friends, who must somehow grow to adulthood under this “new normal.” I lament that we elders have not provided adequate education and guidance, and that our basic legacy to the young is a woefully polluted planet on the brink of destruction, fractured through and through with hatred, violence, and environmental degradation.

My heart also goes out to my Native friends, students, and colleagues, who have their own unique migration stories, not to mention their problematic encounters with immigrants and settlers. The ignorance and miseducation spouting from our so-called leader makes it even harder for me, as an activist and educator, to help develop and advance a more nuanced, sophisticated analysis of the interplay between immigration, migration, and Indigeneity. Those of us who seek to call attention to the related and sometimes competing narratives and concerns of immigrant and Indigenous communities have so much work to do, especially if we reject the divide-and-conquer goals of those who would govern us, and instead, seek to promote unity and collaboration.

Lastly, I guess I cried because I find myself once more deeply disappointed in the behavior of powerful adults who ought to know better, and who should serve as positive role models for the younger generations. It is sickening to witness our elected officials misusing their privilege and power to influence the national and global conversations in such a negative fashion, moving them backward rather than forward toward greater understanding, harmony, and equality.

It is tempting to feel helpless to protect that which is sacred, as powerful elites render life on earth ever more dangerous. At the same time, it’s hard to sit idly by and watch passively while they sow their seeds of discord and selfishness, when what we need is more compassion and more empathy. I hope it’s not too late to realize the power of our love by putting it into action.

In short, I apologize for my president’s remarks. I pledge to do more in 2018 to make amends for my past inaction and for the harm caused by my nation. May 2018 be the year of our renewed resistance. May we usher in the triumph over evil of righteousness, solidarity, and peace.

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FOUND

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been keeping busy with other projects, including creating some art. But I want to let my friends and allies in the adoption community– and interested readers– know what has been going on with me in terms of adoption-related stuff.

This week, I made phone contact with a biological relative! Thanks to DNA testing (we used 23 & Me), we determined that our (now deceased) mothers were sisters, which makes us first cousins. This is the first time in my life that I have spoken to a blood relative. Then this kind man, my cousin, sent me a photograph of our mothers together many years ago. In the photo, my birth mom is standing next to her soon-to-be ex-husband (not my bio dad), her sister (my aunt), their mother (my grandmother), and their brother (my uncle).

A year and a half ago, I spat into a plastic tube and shipped off my saliva with a check for $99. To be honest, the whole DNA profiling experience felt sketchy and was definitely anti-climactic. I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know, really. I emailed a few distant DNA cousins that 23 & Me matched me with (allegedly 2nd, 3rd, 4th cousins), but didn’t get much back in terms of replies. So the whole thing felt like a waste.

And now 18 months later, comes this huge news: I now know my birth mother’s name, along with her birth date and death date, and where she lived (not far from where I was born). I know her siblings’ names, and how many children and grandchildren she had (lots!). It’s almost unreal to get my head around the fact that I have actual factual relatives walking around, some of whom no doubt look like me, sound like me, maybe even gesture like me. Like Pinocchio, I can say with certainty, “I’m a Real Boy.”

Mostly, I’m feeling pretty excited and even happy to FINALLY learn something about my origins and my bio family. Sometimes I find myself feeling sad, for all the years of wondering and not knowing, for policies and laws that kept me from my heritage and my birthright.

I remember, too, and see in my mind the faces of the countless children and youth adoptees I’ve met over the years, at conferences, adoption camps, and workshops, who live with question marks hanging over their heads. They may never experience the empowerment and relief I’ve experienced these past few days, from interacting with a real live family member who shares their past, their genetic code, and their family history. I want to hug each one of them and encourage them to hang on. Hear this, orphans: One day, it can happen, and you will feel whole, and real, and glad to be alive.

I am fortunate that my adoptive family is totally supportive of my search, and thrilled for me at the results so far. Not all of us adoptees are so lucky. I hope my positive outcome (so far) might inspire my sons to search one day, so that they can find answers to the questions that weigh them down. I also think about their kids, my grandchildren, who will most likely have questions of their own that a DNA test may help provide answers for.

I feel dizzy just writing this. Finding and being found is an almost surreal experience, as I’m sure some of you who have gone through this know from firsthand experience. I’ll post again soon when I have processed some more and think I have something worth sharing.

 

Bridging the gap: What should white people say?

Those of us in multiracial families and interracial friendships have a unique role to play. Our voices need to be heard—and I mean that quite literally—perhaps now more than ever. In this post, I offer a few suggestions about how to use the collective power of our voices, especially from white individuals, in order to shift the national conversation about race relations. I further suggest that speaking publicly can actually slow down the widening of the gap that I fear will rip the nation apart.

One of my grandsons, already big for his age at 14 years old, is in the target group that is seen as scary and suspicious by many adults. As a mixed race teenaged male, my grandson looks black. And like Michael Brown (and my son at the same age), he also looks older than he is, and gets treated as such.

happy dadJohn Raible (middle) with teenage sons back in the day.

I was curious to hear what my grandson is making of all the recent coverage in the media. He says that the only reason people are freaking out is because the incident went viral. His mom tells me that he didn’t bother to attend a local protest because, from his perspective, this stuff happens every day. I find myself asking: What will it take for him to become more of an activist? I’d rather see him become an activist for social justice than join the ranks of jaded youth who simply hate the police. Maybe neither outcome will happen unless one of his friends is shot or beat up by the cops. While my grandson and his peers can expect more and more surveillance and some harassment as they progress through the teen years, I hope and pray they are never subjected to that level of victimization.

Since I started blogging about the Ferguson rebellion, which I will remind readers is not “off topic” when it comes to parenting children of color and to the experience of TRAs of all ages, it has been interesting to follow the blog statistics collected by Word Press. Every day, the stats give me some sense of who is reading this blog, and which posts are popular. By far the most widely read post so far has been White adoptive parents and Ferguson’s mayor. Whereas a typical post gets seen by around 150 readers, the one that mentioned white adoptive parents specifically spiked to 480 views (and counting).

On a very personal level, I have some thoughts about what white people of goodwill can do to facilitate racial healing. I remember feeling vulnerable and suspicious after the Zimmerman verdict. I was sitting in an airport lobby waiting to board a plane when the news of the acquittal came out.

For me, and I’m sure for many of us, the news of the verdict was a moment of great anticipation and heightened tension. Sitting behind me watching the news was a white couple, discussing the event as it unfolded on the television screen in the waiting area. I was worried that I was going to be subjected to insensitive or even inflammatory comments from pro-Zimmerman supporters seated nearby. Surrounded by a largely white airport crowd, I found myself defensively steeling myself emotionally. In my head, I rehearsed my response. Just in case.

You may not be able to appreciate the significance of this, but I was pleasantly surprised, and actually touched, to hear the female half of the couple verbalizing empathy for Trayvon’s parents. She uttered out loud so that those of us sitting nearby could hear: “That poor boy. There is no justice. Those poor parents.”

In hindsight, it is obvious how the power of her simple, yet heartfelt utterance helped all of us within earshot to remember the humanity of this tense public moment. I will even go so far as to speculate that her bravery may have silenced the people sitting nearby who agreed with the verdict or who supported Zimmerman. I like to think that this woman’s spoken kindness and expressed empathy made it harder for haters and fear-mongers to voice their views. In doing so, that stranger was my ally, and she probably didn’t even realize it.

The impact of the Zimmerman acquittal was devastating. Watching so many of my fellow Americans rally around Trayvon’s killer left me feeling disgusted, bitter, and frightened. Finding myself sitting alone in that airport lobby, in that moment I really needed an ally. The vocalized empathy from one woman mattered. No longer did I feel so alone. I was reminded that there are still good white people who don’t see all young African Americans as animalistic thugs that deserve to die. It helped me to feel safer in a public space in a moment of heightened vulnerability. It renewed my faith in my fellow Americans, during a critical incident when that faith was flagging.

Right now, in our nation, we are facing yet another critical moment. While many of us have been upset by recent events, people of color in particular have good reason to feel scared, not just angry. Did you see the proud, strong, and passionate (and no doubt scary to some viewers) Elon James White (comedian, blogger, and host of This Week in Blackness) break down on Melissa Harris Perry’s show this morning? I can totally identify with his emotional state right now. Not only do we, as black men and fathers, fear for the safety of our young people. These critical incidents also bring back vivid memories of our own racialized mistreatment at the hands of intimidating bullies, both in uniform and in civilian clothes.

I am telling you, it would be enormously helpful for people of goodwill in this moment to express out loud their empathy and compassion. You don’t have to get into debates about the eyewitness accounts or the looters. What each of us can do, with coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances, is offer a compassionate word of empathy and quiet encouragement.

Maybe you don’t go up to a random black person and say, “I am on your side” or “I feel your pain.” But can you talk to your friends of any race and say out loud for those around you to witness, as that nice white lady did at the airport, “That boy should not have died”? That simple statement, uttered over and over across this nation—in public, not just behind closed doors—could go a long way to facilitate the process of healing that we sorely need.

And for white adoptive parents of children of color, and members of other multiracial families, now is your moment to come of the closet. If you are white and raising a child of another race, identify yourselves as concerned parents of children of color. Let your fellow whites (as well as people of color) know that you are not all that far removed from the parents of Michael Brown. Talk about the countless victims of police brutality as if you are talking about your own child. This can help disrupt the racial binary that the mainstream media wants to keep smoldering. People need to be reminded that this is not a simple case of blacks against whites, or of good against evil. You can help to humanize the victims of the excessive use of force in the national discourse that keeps vilifying and criminalizing particularly young black males, as if they somehow get what they deserve. As if their parents don’t grieve, and their lives don’t matter.

The words coming from the mouths in white bodies make a powerful difference. I need to hear, and I am certain other people of color feel the same way, white people saying out loud that you do not defend Officer Wilson’s actions. Although it may seem obvious, in this time of crisis and heightened vulnerability, please remind us that not all white people automatically side with the police when these tragedies occur.

Help us to believe that there is still hope for fairness, compassion, and reason. Help us to trust that some whites are not in denial of our children’s lived experience as perpetual suspects. Help us to not succumb to cynicism, despair, and fear. Each of us can take small yet significant steps to express empathy, concern, and compassion. Minimally—I am not even talking about more political expressions of outrage and solidarity with communities of color. That can come later.

And for people wondering about how to convey messages of support to our youth, who are understandably feeling frightened, incensed, attacked, slandered, misunderstood, and perhaps even emotionally abandoned, now is the time to speak up. Again, find ways to voice your disapproval of the overuse of excessive force. Say out loud that you know plenty of good kids of different races. Interrupt the narrative that criminalizes African American youths by showing photos of your children, your students (if you are a teacher), and your own multiracial family. My sister in St. Louis tells me that she has used this tactic when racist comments are made in her presence. It takes courage, but courage is what is called for among allies. Find the strength to speak out on behalf of fairness, empathy, and humanization. Don’t cling to silence and hope that this will all blow over. Each one of us can make a difference. Each one of us can do a small a part in the promotion of healing and national unity.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for caring and daring.

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