Saturday, April 3, 2010

Racism in the Child

I have given a quick overview of our Guatemalan adoption but feel the need to put a little different slant on it...racism. Racism on Joselin's part. Racism that prevented her from really accepting us as her family.

For a year we held on to pictures of our soon to be daughter. It is hard to describe how much you can fall in love with a child that you have not even met. Our daughter Joselin was supposed to be 7 and turned 8 during the wait. We talked to her on the phone and sent care packages. Our family was so excited to finally receive the call to travel to Guatemala to bring our child home.

We were aware of older child adoption issues, attachment, educational, cultural, abuse issues. We studied it all, we prepared our family as best as we could. We travelled to Guatemala with the children in the home at that time. It was an exciting and scary time. We found out very quickly that Joselin was not 8 but instead was at least 11 years old. Regardless, she was our daughter. We completed our paperwork and brought her home.

There were early warning signs. She mentioned that her grandmother didn't like white people. We talked about racism, we fostered children of all races, we encouraged her to talk to us.
However, she had a hard time opening up to us. The times she would talk to me were rare. She chose her friends to confide in. She refused to talk with the therapist. She bullied Sarah and stole from everyone. She pouted when everyone else was having fun. Her heart was hardened.

For six years we tried to soften her heart. For six years we prayed for healing. For six years we developed memories and showed her how a family loved.
Isn't she beautiful?

Just a short time ago she went to go live with a friend of the family. She is attending a special school program that is better equipped to help her with her educational deficits. She is happy. Happy that she no longer has to try and work at being a part of our family.
The night before she left she finally talked to me. We talked until 4 in the morning. We talked about many things but the thing that saddened me the most was her admission that she didn't like white people. She says that she is working on it. She admitted that she worked hard to stay on the outside of the family and wondered how she would be doing if she had worked just as hard on being a part of it.
At school they studied the book To Kill a Mockingbird, it made her realize that she is racist and that it is not a nice thing. All our talking did nothing but a book made her think. Will she be able to change? Will she be able to let go of her racism? I don't know but I pray that she does.
Why was she so racist? The answer is with Guatemala. Guatemala is pretty much made up of the indigenous peoples (Mayan Indian) and the ladinos (European or mixed indigenous descent). You can look back in history to when the Spanish conquered the Mayan empire to see the beginnings of turmoil in that region.
Joselin is of Mayan descent. When she first came she talked of ladinos as being white. She talked of the terror of leaving your home or being shot at times of conflict, stories from her grandma. The hatred was strong.
We prepared for many issues but never really considered that she would totally reject us based on race. Oh, we did talk about race and issues connected with it. We realized that there would be challenges. Yes, we were totally unprepared for the extent of the challenges. we didn't realize that overcoming a racist heart could be so difficult.
I feel that racism may have cost us a daughter, time will tell. I love her and hold out hope that one day she will come home to be a part of her family.

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