Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A letter to Rose: November 15th

Dear Rose,

A week or so ago, Dad and I were at the bank, getting a huge stack of papers notarized. The woman at the bank asked why we needed her services, and I said that the papers were forms we'd filled out to bring you home from China. Then she said something I won't repeat here, that she undoubtedly meant as funny, but it wasn't. It was ignorant and unkind. I didn't know how to respond, so I ended up not saying anything. When you're with me, I promise that I'll find my voice.

When it comes right down to it, I've never faced much prejudice in my life. Sure, there was the time when I was applying to be a writer for a Baptist church in Missouri, and they were really interested in me until they learned that I "wasn't a Christian" because I'd gone to BYU. But let's face it, I'm a privileged white woman, and while I will try to make your life here as easy as possible, by bringing you from China, where you look like everybody else, to the United States, I'm setting you up to encounter the ugliness and prejudice in a way that you might not if you stayed in China. (Of course, that tiny little split in your lip, the one that will be so easy to fix once you get home, would have set you up for a whole different set of challenges in China, but that's an issue for another day).

But because my skin is white, my hair is blonde, and my eyes are blue, I'm afraid that I won't be able to empathize when people treat you differently because of your Asian features. When people see us together, they might not automatically think that we belong together, but we do. I won't know what you're going through from personal experience, but I will always be here to listen, to love you, and to let you know that even though you look different from the rest of us, you are a vital, loved, essential part of our family.




Michelle said...

such a good letter.

Blue said...

Your letters to Rose are my favorite thing you have ever written, Shelah. I don't know what it is about them, but they are so real, honest, and open. I think they are the best glimpse I've ever had into your heart and soul. And that is a beautiful place. ♥

Kendra Burton said...

This letter reminds of the first time our family encountered "prejudice". We were traveling to Utah from our home in Washington where our daughter had at least 3 other Chinese children in her preschool class. We stopped to eat/play at a McDonald's and a boy came up and asked me if I was "her Mom". When I answered "yes, I am her mother", he replied "no, not her grandma - are you her mom?". Again I assured him that I was her mother and then pointed to her blonde haired sister and to her 2 blonde older brothers. He gave it one last try asking, "but, are you her real mom?". As I internally restrained myself from wanting to poke/punch him really hard, the boy's family came over to rescue him/me. That "mother bear" feeling that he aroused in me was such a reassurance that I am her real mother.

Brian -n- Laura said...

These letters to Rose make me cry every time I read them. Adoption is the reason we are an eternal family. My mom was adopted by her parents when she was 18 months old. When they opened her records several years ago for medical reasons(we were trying to see whether my brother's genetic disorder was inherited), we found out that she was the only one of her birth parents' 13 children who was put up for adoption. The birth family continues to live in poverty and my mom was able to be adopted by a loving family that gave her all the advantages, love and education that she would have missed otherwise. Because of this, she was also introduced to the gospel and we are sealed together as an eternal family. What you are doing is a priceless gift - for you and for sweet Rose. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.