I didn’t think you’d go that far

March 17, 2010

A white woman, in her 70s, told me a story about a baby shower that was planned to celebrate the arrival of her newly adopted daughter.  The woman, whom I will call Jane, had participated in giving and attending many baby showers within her work and church communities. Now she was excited to have those friends doing a shower for her. It was all very joyful until she passed around a picture of the baby girl she was adopting.

The baby was black. The shower was canceled by her friends and she was shunned by them.  It was in Virginia in the 1970s. The pain is still evident as she tells the story.

That pain was compounded by the reaction of her mother to this adoption.  Her mother had marched in the civil rights movement and raised Jane to think about justice and equity for all.  Jane was shocked when her mom said, “I didn’t think you’d go that far.”   It appears her mother had certain limits around just how integrated Jane’s life should really be and what choices she should make.  [There are differing perspectives about white people adopting children of color; that is important dialogue, but not the focus of this post.]

I’ve been asking myself where are the places that I think are too far for me to go and why?  What levels of risk am I willing to incur to take a stand for racial justice?   How willing am I to give up my privilege to level the playing field for all people – not just in theory but in practice?

I’ve only skimmed the surface of this; there’s more deep diving needed to answer:  “How far am I willing to go?”

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