Silence Is Sometimes Best

On February 10, 2012, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Parenting is tough enough without strangers asking insensitive questions about our children. After a Michigan woman assumed Jeremy Verdusco had adopted his daughter, he wrote about his reaction. How have you handled similar situations?

For more posts from Jeremy, visit his blog, blocletters.

By Jeremy Verdusco

© Jeremy Verdusco

I fathered a mixed-race child. Honestly, I don’t give her “mix” much thought, and don’t think twice about the idea of people marrying and (gasp) having children across racial lines. Mom didn’t raise me like that.

So, I was taken aback on a trip to a local hardware store this week by a comment from the cashier. I dashed in to buy light bulbs and trudged up to the register with the bulbs in one hand and my daughter in her carrier in the other. The older woman took the cash and began cooing. “She’s beautiful!” she said.

I’ve gotten used to the coos. I think my girl is beautiful, and regular comments from strangers just reinforce my bias and warm my heart. Then the woman said one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard.

“Have you had her since birth?” she asked.

I paused for a second, my brain trying to find a word. “Um … yes,” I responded. I found myself, for reasons I still don’t understand, not wanting to lecture or embarrass a stranger.

Adoption has a nobility to it. Taking responsibility for a child where the parent could or would not ranks among the more selfless actions I can think off. But obviously this woman, a nice white lady of about 65, reads too much People, and thinks brown babies must come from Malawi.

But beyond my daughter’s provenance, this woman questioned the idea that people of different races might marry or have children. In 2010, with a black president in the White House, I kinda thought this question was settled. The Supreme Court ruled onLoving v. Virginia in 1967, a generation and a half ago.

I fairness, I don’t know this woman’s background. Still, while Oakland County, where she at least works if not lives, has a population about 80 percent white, it’s hardly homogeneous.  One in five residents counts as non-white. Surely she’s met whites who married blacks or Asians or Hispanics. Mrs. Blocletters and I enjoy the friendships of several interracial couples. It’s not rare by far.

And notice I said ignorant, not stupid. She doesn’t know my family. But, while ignorance isn’t its own excuse, I can’t wish it away either. I can wish, however, that ignorant people think for a moment before they speak. Even if you suspected a child was adopted, why would you ask a stranger such a question?

Clearly, ignorance is here to stay and I need to come up with a better response than a dumbfounded “yes” next time I get this question. How about: “No, I won her in a card game a few days ago. Cute, isn’t she?” I’m interested to hear other snappy responses.

Jeremy Verdusco lives in Michigan.

Do you have a story to tell? Send it to Honeysmoke@Honeysmoke.com

Tagged with:
 
  • http://inventingliz.blogspot.com Liz

    I guess this all depends on your perspective…I’m white, and my three-year-old daughter is adopted from Ethiopia. I am actually impressed when people ask me is she adopted/where is she from/etc. – like wow, adoption has become so commonplace that people can recognize it when they see it. Sure, it gets a little tiresome to answer the same questions over and over – and I’ve only been doing for six months – and sometimes I’m a little put off by how people phrase things – “where did you get her from?” tops my list of offensive questions at the moment – but for the most part, people are just curious. Why assume the woman is ignorant – that Benny Hill saying goes both ways…

  • http://beadsbraidsbeyond.blogspot.com Nikki

    I don’t understand these type of questions at all. I kind of like the snappy response. ;)

  • http://diaryofagolddigger.blogspot.com/ The gold digger

    I don’t see any point in shaming someone, especially if you are trying to relieve ignorance. Yes, she was rude, but do you want her to continue being rude or to you want to make her aware that she has misconceptions she needs to change?

    Maybe the answer to her question is a simple, “Yes. Of course.” Said with a smile.

  • Mia

    I’m not very snappy. The best I can come up might be a little suggestive: “No, technically I had part of her before conception, but her mother and I thought we should give her about 40 weeks before we reunited.”

  • http://www.honeysmoke.com Honeysmoke

    @isha,

    Thank you so much for stopping by. I’ll definitely visit your blog.

  • http://www.biracialbelle.blogspot.com Isha

    I’m so happy to have found your blog. I haven’t had a chance yet to look around b/c this post drew me in immediately. It pretty much sums it up for me; I’ve been having this same kind of problem with strangers. I just find it so difficult to know how to respond–with anger? with extreme kindness? And even if I do have a good comeback ready, I’ll be too busy with loading my purchaces on the conveyor belt to respond or I’ll want to be mean but the person seems so nice except for this awful thing that just came out of their mouth. Here’s where I wrote about it–http://knoxmamabelle.blogspot.com/2009/11/are-you-her-mother.html

  • http://youcallthatart.wordpress.com Melissa

    I admire Jeremy’s sense of humor about the situation (“I won her in a card game.”) That will go a long way in dealing with clueless people who make assumptions about his daughter. I have a friend who had her fourth child at age 42. When she went to school functions with him, people would often assume she was the grandmother, which irked her, to say the least. Keep in mind the old Benny Hill adage: When you “assume”, you make an “ass” out of “u” and of “me.”