Dear Governor LePage,
The reason that your unfortunate recent comments about choosing not to attend several local NAACP Martin Luther King Day events caused such a stir in me was because of what you and I have in common. We are both white people from Maine who are transracially adoptive parents. (I adopted my son at birth, while yours joined your family as a teenager.) My son Sam is brown-skinned too, just like Devon. My son is at the beginning of his public school career, and yours is a graduate student. When I look at Devon’s confident posture, perfect line up, and easy smile in your recent family picture on the edge of a Maine lake, I imagined my own son eighteen years from now.
I tried to imagine the two of them talking about their shared experience of being adopted* into a white family. Talking about coming into manhood in one of the whitest states in the country. What wisdom would your son have to share with mine about how to navigate high school as a young Black man, surrounded by white kids everywhere? Kids who might say things like, “Wow it just got awfully dark in here,” when they walk into in a room?
My son will never hear me announce to the media that because of the gift of him being in my life, I no longer have to be held accountable for my own racism. Speaking from my own experience, the very existence of Sam in my life, has committed me, and my extended family and friends, to a constant questioning of our own assumed ideas about race, and about people of a different race. Because of Sam, I live in a state of constant self evaluation around my own unexamined whiteness or White Mind. (I am using the definition White Mind as the unconscious patterns of thought and behavior resulting from socialization as a white American from this article by Annie O’Brien.) Assumptions I can make, because I am white-like most likely having colleagues the same color as me, a bank teller willing to take my word for it, or the doctor treating me to be the same color as I am. My son Sam has never been seen by a brown skinned doctor, had a brown skinned teacher and has only recently seen a Disney movie with a heroine that is the same color as him.
I seek out others who can help me unpack all of that, and mirror how my assumptions might impact my parenting. I do this when I am willing to do so, which is not often enough.
Because of Sam, I look to other people of color, in leadership roles, such as the NAACP to provide opportunities for me, and my family to, in your words, make things better for all Mainers. Because of his color, my son is part of a group of Mainers who are so easily marginalized, overlooked, and even pathologized because of assumptions people who don’t know better make.
Like many transracially adoptive parents in Maine and beyond, I look to you, Governor, to elevate the understanding of non adoptive families around how fortunate we are to have these children in our lives, and that it is not the other way around. Sammy provides me the opportunity to embrace with humility just how little I know about the experience of being a person of color. Sammy does not provide me with an excuse to forgo any invitation I am given to learn a little more about what that might look like in Maine, or anywhere for that matter.
I wish you and your entire family well on this day that we all come together in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,. arguably the most magnanimous man in U.S. history. A man who choose his position of leadership to create togetherness, not separation, love not hate.
Mama C and the Boys
*although Devon has apparently not been formally adopted by the LePages , the fact that the governor speaks of their family bond in this way, is what I am addressing here.
A special nod of thanks to both Denene Miller and my father (a Mainer) for their encouragement and feedback in my crafting of this letter.