White parents of black children navigate a changing country

White parents of black children navigate a changing country

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Izzy Simons is excited about the prospect of riding alone.

The 15-year-old has longed for the freedom that a license promises. He has proudly and effectively maneuvered the family’s vehicles around the church parking lot and beyond, and he is confident that he will pass his test in August. He imagines one day arriving at Southmoore High School in Moore, Oklahoma, in a navy blue Silverado truck with crew cabin and a lift kit.

His excitement has been replaced by uncertainty. Simons, who is black, was emotionally shocked after watching a video of the murder of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer squeezed his knee for several minutes on May 25. had learned about racial profiling and fully registered “Driving While Black”.

Sarah Dunn, a white woman raised in rural Kansas, has learned a lot about race since she and her husband, Josh, took custody of Izzy six years ago. Still, she wasn’t ready for Izzy’s response to the Floyd incident.

“When we spoke, he said, ‘But now I’m a little bit afraid to drive,'” she said. “And we never thought about that.”

The Associated Press discussed the race with six white couples who have adopted or are responsible for black children. These parents try to help their children understand the race in America while taking an accelerated course themselves.

Floyd’s death has inspired national and international protests and led to changes in police procedures. These parents say that’s a good start, but in order for the country to take full advantage of the moment and make America better for their children, whites need to go beyond carrying signs, marching, and singing. They must become champions with black people and be willing to declare racism when they see it.

“We need to realize that it will be hard and hard work and you will lose friends,” said Michael Morris, who adopted two black children with his wife, Katie. “And that’s okay.”

Dr. Richard Barth, dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, said planning is the next step in taking more meaningful action.

“We still have no way out of the discussion of racism and structural racism and the need for everyone to speak out that Black Lives Matter is a framework for what will really be different and the next big step – beyond the police reform – to make our society fairer, “said Barth.

There are currently immediate problems. Michael Morris said he and his wife postponed the conversation about the race with their two 10 and 5 year old daughters.

“I don’t know when to talk to them about it because I don’t want them to be scared,” said Oklahoma City resident Morris. “It’s something they should know.”

Craig and Denise Dragash of Carmel, Indiana, felt that the national conversation forced them to discuss current affairs with their adopted son, 11-year-old Vaughn. Denise said he wanted to “hide under his blanket,” which he does when he feels uncomfortable.

Cindy Neal, who has adopted three black children with her husband, Paul, said the couple fears that their advice on dealing with the police doesn’t matter. Their oldest, Belachew, is a tall, athletic 14-year-old young man – no longer a cute toddler.

As they struggle with these issues, these parents know that helping their children has prepared them to help the white people around them understand black people and their challenges better. And now, they say, white people are finally listening.

Matt Porter is the pastor at Victory Family Church in Newcastle, Oklahoma. He and his wife, Julie, adopted Paul and Timothy, both 11 years old. Matt Porter said that whites have avoided these problems for too long.

“I think it’s normal to say, ‘If it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t bother me. I’m going to take care of my business, I’ll keep my head down,’ he said.” You must not do that. If you call yourself a believer, you must not do that. “

The learning process has sometimes taken these parents by surprise. The Neals remember telling their son not to play hide and seek with their white friends on other people’s yards for fear of what it might look like.

“I had no idea what we started with the racial dynamics of America,” said Paul Neal. “I knew there were white people who didn’t like black people. But I didn’t know what was coming next. “

Phillip and Christian Rowland of Oklahoma City adopted their son, Jackson, in 2018. On the day it became official, the family celebrated by spending time at a mall in Norman, Oklahoma. Family members proudly wore T-shirts commemorating the occasion.

A security guard suppressed the experience by flying past them to interrogate Jackson.

“It was like I realized at the time,” said Phillip Rowland. “We’re all wearing matching shirts and are you going to take this shit out? I had seen it (racism), but it was so different that it was my son.”

When the couples encounter issues – from figuring out black hair and skincare products to helping their children understand how to deal with racism – they often rely on a network of black friends. Yet they know that those conversations will not cover all bases. They teach themselves because they recognize that their friends sometimes struggle.

“Especially when things are as exalted as they are now, (black) people need to take care of themselves emotionally and may not have the energy to give someone else,” said Cindy Neal.

The Rowlands think this movement is largely about kids like Jackson, and they’ve made it a point to teach him to stand up for himself. Christian and Jackson recently marched in a peaceful protest with a diverse group of friends on a sunny afternoon in Oklahoma City.

“To tell everyone and show that it has gone too far,” said Jackson.


Cliff Brunt is an AP Sports Writer based in Oklahoma. Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

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