Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why I'm Outraged

My second year of teaching, I took a training class for teaching AP English. During our lunch break, we started to talk about race. I can't really remember why the conversation started but the fall out is forever etched in my head. I mentioned at some point that my husband was from Mexico. One of the teachers, a white woman in her early 50s who taught at on the "premiere" public school in Charlotte, asked me if I had children. I said "Yes. Two a boy and a girl." (other beasties weren't born yet and this could have been a pivotal  moment in my desire to out breed the idiots).

"How could you do that your children?" she exclaimed.


" WHAT to my children?" I asked.

"Well you know kids who are biracial have such hard lives. They don't know where they belong."

For a moment I was kind of stunned. Was this woman giving me shit for letting my kids be born? Really?

"Let me get this straight, you think my husband and I shouldn't have kids?"

She never said yes but just kept replaying the same refrain."Bi racial kids have no place in the world."

And from that moment is was pretty clear that I was going to be advocating for my kids until  people realized that  there was a place for "bi racial" kids in our society. The fight has gone on indeed. From fighting with my son's school when he was in K about his definite non-need of ESL classes to teaching my children how to respond to people making comments like "What language do you speak?" (Camille's answer for the record was "Pony Rainbow Language!") and "Did you know that all Mexicans carry guns in their pockets." We have to teach our children to be wary of law enforcement because brown people are not always treated as fairly as white people. We've had to explain why people tell their father to go back to Mexico. Why we go to protest marches to help the children of undocumented workers get the education they deserve. Life in our world has never been based on assumption of acceptance. It's been about learning to turn the frustration and anger into righteous outrage. And now I see the fruits of those efforts in my daughter's fight for endangered wolves, and my son's responses to people who used the r word.

When I was told Jude had Down syndrome, I dealt with my feelings through books. Of course I read all the "how to" books and the memoirs but I also began to read in disability studies. Why? Because I already knew that I would be advocating for Jude. And the more I read the more similarities I saw. In general people don't see a space for people like Jude in the world. We as parents are asked to justify the role our children play. The contributions they will offer. Sometimes indeed if they are even human.  Don't believe me? Do a quick search of "Down syndrome" on Twitter. Check out the abortion rates for fetuses with Down syndrome. Read stories of how Drs and genetic counselors talk about Down syndrome. Look at how little money is funneled into DS medical research. Here's a study done on how people with intellectual disabilities are discriminated against in organ transplant scenarios. Remember Ethan Saylor and if you don't recognize this name, Google it. Don't forget about Antonio Martinez.

This is why I am outraged. I am outraged that my children including Jude have to fight for space in this world. I am outraged that I have to write posts defending their rights to human rights. I am outraged that people don't seem to get that we are all in this together. I am angry that my children could die because of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes. I am angry that I still have to angry about this.

But I am not bitter because I see in Jude a kind of new hope. H and I have often lamented how so many areas of activism are often separated into their own little circles. Too often this leads to a kind of isolation among the different groups. I personally feel stretched thin across the many groups I believe deserve equality from women to homosexuals to Hispanics and African Americans. In my daughter's beautiful eyes, I see the epicenter of those interests. She is a Hispanic female with Down syndrome who could be gay. She is the daughter of an immigrant and a woman who comes from working class Mainers. We are not rich even though we may be educated. She is the symbol of all that I have to lose if I don't win this fight for a place in the world. Because Down syndrome crosses borders. Perhaps we could say that Down syndrome erases those borders. It offers the opportunity to stand in solidarity towards one great goal.


Sara Madonna said...

Oh Ginger, I love this! Keep up the fight. We got your back.

- Sara M.

Becca said...

So, so frustrating that such ignorance is alive and well in the world. All we can do is to show them otherwise, whether about topics of race, or disability or any number of other things. Your children are beautiful, especially that little chromosomally-enhanced princess. :-) Didn't realize you were in Charlotte - we pass through there periodically on our way to Georgia in the summer. Man, it's hot there!

Amber T said...

Keep fighting mama!!:) I just want to hold Jude!!

Ginger Stickney said...

Hey Becca,
We're actually not in Charlotte anymore...we're in...get ready for it...GEORGIA:P And yeah super hot:P But I'm from Maine so I LOVE it.

And yeah I'm frightened at the crap that comes out of people's mouth but there's enough goodness to give me hope too!

Melissa said...

Wow!! I think I would've had to ask that woman what year she's stuck in! And, if she doesn't have some kids in her family who are bi-racial, even extended family, I'd be surprised. Dang! I grew up in GA and my dad (step-dad) is Mexican. It was weird sometimes how people would act but I kinda hoped that things were getting better down there. I do have to say a lot of the kids I went to school with, who are now adults of course, seem to have much more open minds.

ji said...

(Contented sigh) Thank you for writing this, it is exactly how I have been feeling today. Exactly.

KateMMoran said...

So well written and important.

Down Wit Dat said...

Yes. We are outraged. We have a damn good reason to be. xox

TUC said...

I am stunned that anyone would say your children are bi-racial, and horrified that someone would say that children who are bi-racial don't have a place in society. The outrage is understandable but the question is how best to harness it to create change to the beliefs and systems that surround us. I feel like I have been ready for action, ready to fight for a while, but I still am not sure what to do with that energy.

"Down syndrome crosses borders" - love that.