Waking Up

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The study door is locked. I have my earphones on. The house is eerily silent. My phone rings and for a second my heart stops. My “Hello!” is tentative as I wait for the voice on the other end. We talk for over forty-five minutes. My children’s mother, one of The Takeaway’s producers Dana Roberson and me. The conversation is meandering, touching on our upbringing, our views on race, on how we deal with parenting third culture children. There are moments when my eyes mist over. There are moments when I am overcome with trepidation on how my words will be perceived. We wrap up with my gushing over how much I am in awe of Dana.

This was just the pre-interview. The actual recording for Uncomfortable Truths: Confronting Racism In America of The Takeaway a WNYC/NPR series will happen sometime soon. It will air a few days after the recording. I was excited when I first heard from Dana. The excitement has now changed over to anxiety and fear of bringing up uncomfortable topics.

Prior to adopting my children, I lived in a bubble. I knew my place in the world and I did not question it. I carefully demarcated my social life and my professional life. I was extra polite when I did not feel at home. I measured my words, weighed thoughts and spoke carefully. At home, in the company of loved ones, the walls came down, I spoke my mind. I used politically incorrect terms. I did not pause to think of my implicit biases.

Over the years, I have been waking up. Too slowly to matter to anyone but myself. The things I did not ‘see’ are now visible. Everyday interactions are fraught with deep thinking. I cringe when people around me who are still the same use terms that are now abhorrent to me. I watch as I speak making sure I am not stereotyping people and races. Yet, things slip out. I go back, correct myself and explain to my children that I misspoke.

In the past two years I have self identified as a writer, I have expanded the circle of people I follow to publishers, agents, editors and other writers. I am mostly silent, retweeting things that strike a chord somewhere. Over time, my follow list has become an echo chamber, screaming loudly about how the system is skewed against writers of color.

My circle of all things adoption boast members of all parts of the triad. I am mostly silent. Reading, imbibing and hopefully opening my eyes wider. Race is not as much in debate there as is culture, ethnicity and heritage. The word inequality keeps coming up frequently as does bias.

Racial bias in adoption, in media, in writing, in arts, at work pops out at me. If before I could read something and take it at face value, now I pause and dig deeper. I parse sentences and words to figure out what was it that bothered me. Was it something that the author said? Was it because it reminded me of uncomfortable things from my past? Does it mean there is work to do from my side? I don’t have the answers. I tell myself that awareness is the first step to acceptance, to moving toward solutions.

I will share the link to the show when it airs. I hope you will listen. I hope you will write in about the uncomfortable truths in your life. Share the things that make you pause. Talk about the things you rarely give voice to. There is vulnerability in stripping away pretenses. There is strength in facing our biases.

To strength. To waking up. Cheers.

9 comments

  1. Interesting, thought provoking post.

    “screaming loudly about how the system is skewed against writers of color.”

    I had a virtual friend (“had” because we lost touch with time), who was trying to be a published writer. He was very frustrated because he was not able to find an agent to carry his work forward, because he was, in his words, “white and male”.

    Perspectives in life, huh?

    • Truly it is about perspectives. A quick look at the display in my local indie bookstore tells me there is *one* book by a writer of color for every 8-10 books. That says something about what the public demands and publishers promote.

    • Having said that I am seeing a lot of fresh interesting books in my local library. Librarians truly do a great job of curating and encouraging new voices.

  2. I loved this post. I think I am at the cusp of taking things at face value and pausing. I am still not there in terms of digging deeper because there are times when I wonder if the subject is being over analysed. Likely because racism is at the periphery not the center of my life. Have you read Small Big Things by Picoult? It addresses active and passive forms of racism.

  3. “I used politically incorrect terms. I did not pause to think of my implicit biases.”

    Now I do, I stop to think about my biases, and by that very act, hope to correct it. It is a long, rewarding journey. What more can we expect of ourselves?

    All the best for the Dana show Laksh. Look forward to watching it.

  4. I absolutely cannot wait to hear the episode. As a mother of an infant, we share a similar transracial adoption story. Congratulations on the interview and to waking up – I, too, anticipate waking up as we face challenges in our unique,non-traditional family. Happy to be following you!

    • Thank you for writing in. It is always a rush to hear from someone in my shoes literally. I will share the link when available. Recording should happen next week and it will air the Thursday or Friday after the recording.

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