Friday, May 11, 2012

The Chocolate Controversy

So, today has been interesting. I opened my Facebook around lunch today and found a message from a woman that I don't know. Here is what she had written...

Hi Leslee,
This message is sent out of love and because I know you have been an educational advocate for adoption - as mentioned in the post I am referencing.

I was raised in a multi-racial family. I know there is a book called I am Vanilla you are Chocolate (or something like that) but it is highly offensive to reference a child as a Chocolate Baby. It was quickly explained to me that if the tides were turned we would most likely be up in arms if children were termed Vanilla Children. No one wants to pretend we do not see color- in the crayola box each color has a name. I am just asking you to consider this may not be an endearing term. I write this from after weeks of consideration and hope you hear my heart. Someone started the message that this is okay and I/many hope it stops.

Respectfully...signed

I have to say, this really caught me off guard. For one, I had no idea what post she was referring to. I have never referred to Nate as that on this blog and only once referred to his "chocolate colored" skin on my family blog. But finally I figured out what the reference was. I'm in a small, closed, Rwanda Adoption group on Facebook and a few weeks ago I had posted this...

so, we have 3 bio daughters and our sweet chocolate son and i am pregnant with a boy. people keep saying that i must be so excited to "finally" be having a son. i always smile when they say this and remind them that i already have a son, but i am excited that he will "finally" have a brother. adoptive parent = educator =)

Well, so she got me thinking. I sprung into action and messaged a handful of people asking them what they thought (a couple of whom are black) and also looked it up online. That's right, I googled it. And there were a handful of people who found it offensive, for sure. But the overwhelming majority who voiced opinions (my friends included) took no issue with it and in fact did feel that it was "an endearing term".

I ended up messaging her back...and she messaged me once more...it was a respectful interaction and we have decided to agree to disagree.

The reason I wanted to post about this today though is not to ask anyone's opinion on this...although you are welcome of course to share it with me. Rather I was thinking about how hurt I was that someone would view a term I used to describe my son as something offensive. I would NEVER use a term to describe any of my children in a way that would offend and Nate's race is one that I am extra sensitive about. But the reality is that no matter how careful I am, there are times I am going to offend. There will be times when I say the wrong thing, either because I am not informed (as this gal clearly thought) or because I sometimes just say boneheaded things. But the fact is that we are a transracial family and that alone is going to offend some. The fact that we are Christians will offend. The fact that I'm a Jayhawk fan will offend. (But who cares what those Mizzou fans think anyway!)

I can't do this...and by "this" I mean life...perfectly. You are going to disagree with some of the things I say...you should...I don't always agree with you! And there will even be times when I will think that I am even expressing something loving and it will be read the complete wrong way. And there is just nothing I can do about that. Not everyone is going to agree. Not everyone is going to understand. But if I all I ever did was worry about tip-toeing around those who are going to be offended anyway, I am certain that my life would feel so strangled.

So, I will continue to be who I am. Warts and all. I will try to be sensitive and thoughtful. I will always appreciate a thoughtful challenge to the way I think like the one I received today. And I won't shy away from changing my views that need changing and standing by those that don't. My goal is not to live a life that never offends. In fact, I am convinced that a life that never offends anyone is not worth living. Rather my goal is to continue to try to grow into the woman that God intends for me to be...gentle, thoughtful, loving and challenging.

And for the record, I think Nathan is the most beautiful shade of dark chocolate and I don't care who knows it!