This is Together by AGCI. I’m Melissa Rush.
Bonita Croyle founded the Ebenezer project in 2013 in order to create a space, to empower change-makers, working for racial justice in Anabaptist and interfaith communities, amplify and elevate the voices of black indigenous people of color and provide free and accessible racial justice materials, resources, and workshops. Bonita is a speaker
and writer with a desire to live intentionally for Jesus. Her work covers the historical and current context of many issues, including Mennonite, faith practices, racial equity, intersectionality, ally-ship, and transracial adoption as a Mennonite and a black transracial adoptee, Bonita leverages her unique lived experiences to make clear the urgency to drive sustainable anti-racist structural and systemic change. Welcome Bonita. Thank you for joining us. Yes. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It’s really nice to be here. Yeah. Excited to have you here. Um, it was so fun getting to talk to you like a few weeks ago and just hear a little bit about your story. Um, I would love if you could kind of start off and just tell us your background and you know, kind of why you’re doing what you’re doing now, for sure. Um, so I am a domestic transracial adoptee. I was adopted through a Christian organization in 1992 called Bethana and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I was adopted, um, to a Mennonite farm family with my twin sister. And we were adopted when we were four years old in 1996. Um, we grew up in Lancaster County, uh, in the Mennonite community. And I want to just provide a little bit of context because I think when people hear tonight, they think about Amish and everyone goes, uh, Lancaster County is known for its Amish and Mennonite communities. And so we have a lot of tourists that will come and observe. Um,
I think one helpful way to think about Mennonite and Amish is kind of an umbrella term, right? So it’s a little bit of a continuum. Um, you have Amish as the most conservative and they live in a community, then you have old order, then you have, um, conservative Mennonites, and then it’s kind of span the progressive to the conservative culture. And my family landed pretty squarely in the middle. Um, so I grew up in a Bible belt area. Um, we went to a pretty conservative church growing up, and then when I was in fifth, which to a more liberal church, um, so a little more progressive, um, and that’s really shaped how I have learned about God, how I have, um, shaped my own faith journey and then also my own racial justice education work that I do in those spaces because I have firsthand experience of growing up in Mennonite communities. Um, and I think it’s really important, uh, to show up in the spaces in which we continue to show up in as adults. Um, so I now live in Tucson, Arizona by day. I work as the director of marketing for a law firm. Um, and then on the side I also do racial justice work, um, primarily with Anabaptist and Mennonite communities and churches, organizations, and schools. So that’s something that I’m really passionate about, uh, building meaningful and sustainable change. That’s awesome. Um, what kind of inspired you to get
to, to become involved in like anti-racism work? Um, you know, like you said, you, you have a, another full-time job, so I’m sure you’re very busy. Um, why is that something that you felt like I need to be a part of this? Sure. Great question. Um, so when I was 14, well, that was the first year that I had ever gone to a camp that was all black. Um, and I remember finally having language and tools to be able to name things that I had experienced in school as a freshmen, as racist, um, as not. Okay. And I really, um, that drew me into wanting to learn more about how can I create meaningful and sustained, uh, sustainable change in my spaces that I was in because I went to a predominantly white Christian school. Um, and then also really wanting to, um, look at how our faith could provide information as far as, um, tools and a meaningful path forward with that. Um, so learning to have a language, I felt like that was late. A lot of children, you know, grow up learning the language of this is wrong. This is racist. And then having a family that can support them as far as how they can pivot out of what we’re going to do next, what are the steps? How can we escalate as appropriate, um, and learning that at 14, um, really troubled me, um, while I was very grateful to
have news, uh, skillsets and tools. I was also disturbed that it was so delayed for me and especially having a lot of friends that are transracially adopted. Um, I was seeing that happening even now, right as adults, you hear a lot of people talk about coming out of the fog, especially as transracial adoptees, learning to have new language and tools at 30, at 40, at 50, um, and really wanting to drive urgency that this needs to be happening at a younger age and that, um, communities and family members need to be a part of that learning journey and need to not only just be a part, but be co-conspirators and really spearheading that work so that, um, adoptees don’t need to be like, Hey, this is racist. And having those uncomfortable conversations in the home, and then also explaining like, this is why it’s racist, right? So for me as a 14 year old, really wanting to, um, provide new tools for a lot of my community members, that’s kind of how it started is, um, I was learning a lot of information. I wanted to share it with my trans racial adoption family and my friends. And then also as an adult, um, in, I was part of diversity and inclusion boards in, um, outside of college, I led a bunch of workshops and webinars with, um, professors, uh, that really gave me new insights as far as like history. Right. Um, and then
also wanting to pass this on in a community that I’m passionate about doing the work in. Wow. I, I love that you, you know, you had that experience and that was like upsetting to you, and then you did something about it and are trying to help prevent that from being the case for other people. I think that’s really inspiring. Um, so thank you. Yeah, yeah, no, it is not everybody it’s, it’s, it’s one thing to say, Hey, this is a problem entirely other thing to like, change your life and do something about it. Um, yeah. So, uh, kind of in that vein, um, like what do you wish that your, your adoptive parents had had known, um, you know, before they’d actually adopted you and your sister and how could they have done that differently? Yeah. Thank you. Um, I’m a big note person, so I will just tell you I’m a type a, so I have, I love it. I’m going to read a little bit of my notes off. Um, and then also just come, um, with what’s on my heart. Um, so I kind of have three headers, um, that I would say like what strategies and what things do I wish adopted my adoptive parents had known. Um, the first thing is unconditional love does not equal anti-racism. Um, I, I was adopted in 1992 into a, uh, Christian community that upheld colorblind ideology. So the concept that seeing raise causes
division, right? And in my opinion, this posture is inherently problematic by default because it fundamentally relies on a framework that denies inequity, structural racism systems of oppression and supremacy frameworks, precisely because it insists on refusing to see color, um, by, by nature. Uh, that also means you can’t see racism. I have found that when colorblind ideology is held, practiced and uplifted in these communities, um, it perpetuates problematic frameworks of what and whose bodies are default norms and ill equipped white allies and white people to do the work of disrupting anti-racism because it’s oftentimes they didn’t have models. They didn’t have leaders showing them like, these are the tools to do the transformative work that Christ is calling us into of loving our neighbor. Right. Um, and, um, we have the tools. Now we have the language to deconstruct and divest from systems of oppression and supremacy. Instead, a lot of people I think are, um, feeling safe, space, staying quiet, because they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. They’re afraid of offending someone else. They believe, um, if you can pray about it, then, um, maybe the racist behaviors will go away. And unfortunately, that’s not right. But I think oftentimes we don’t say it that, right. Like, we’ll say things like don’t have a spirit of division. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to interrupt the piece. And I usually counter that with saying like whose piece though, right? Someone’s
piece is being disturbed by always defaulting to what is normal. Right. And we can insist that this isn’t normal. Um, the second thing that I would say is failing forward is so important to model as a person who’s type a, which you’ll hear as I go, I easily release. We relate to so many people that are afraid. Um, it’s hard, right? It’s hard to like, say something, hold space for whatever mode of transmission is going to come right back at ya. And then be like, I have new information, right? I’m digesting it. I want to be defensive. However, it’s so important that we model failing forward so that we can interrupt systems of oppression. I remain convinced that failing forward is the best way we need to equip our children to do the hard work and critical work of daring to be makers. So what do I mean by failing forward? What could it look like? Failing forward to me sometimes means saying the wrong thing and then holding space for correction, no matter the mode of transmission, for example, it has been my opinion that many white adults avoid conversations and what would happen if they would go ahead and dare to hold space for that, what would happen if someone says you’re racist and you hold space for that, and you can say, cool, maybe that feels hard, right? Ouch, oops, whatever. Um, and then also the information that you’ve just got, because
I believe that when people tell you you’re wrong, it’s a gift. It’s a gift to learn how to change and to fail forward. What would happen if we didn’t just like pause in that hardness and we would be like, Oh, wow. Yeah, maybe there is something true in this and I can move forward. I think that is so important. And to show our kids that we are able to apologize and move forward and try new ways is so important and interrupting those systems of oppression. Um, and then the third thing that I wish my parents had known is your child is more than trauma. Um, so often I look back at my own childhood and I see the trauma broken and lost relationships. I see the trauma of a young girl struggling to find identity. I see the trauma of heartbreak. I see the trauma of entitlement, strangers that someone sees your family and they make sure that you know, that your different 10 insist on answers. I see the trauma of Gaslight culture where black and Brown kids experienced racism come home. Their parents say, Oh, you know, maybe you misunderstood. And the child doesn’t have the language or the tools to say, no, I know racism on a visceral level. I see that trauma. So this is what I would say to adoptive parents. Dear adoptive parents, your child is more than trauma. Your child is more than pain. Your child’s culture is
more than trauma. Your child’s culture is more than paying uplift and celebrate their complexities. And multiplicities black and Brown people are not monoliths. Tell the stories of our histories and include our join makers, our scientists, our poets, our comedians, our dancers, our artists, our singers, our gymnast are animate creators. And the ballerinas. I wish my parents had adopted strategies that included representation. I wish they had thought explicitly about assessing the skills and education they had in regard to anti-racism and deepening that I wish they had insisted on modeling hard conversations and failing forward so that I would not need to spearhead hard conversations with the extended and immediate family members. I wish they had thought about diversifying how they received information, questioning why when we go to church, is it just white theologians? What would happen if we included other voices? What would happen if we included other voices outside of black history month or black and Brown voices outside of trauma and pain or outside of a reactionary, knee-jerk up. We need to write a statement. What would happen if we insisted on diversifying our social media feed, insisting on ethical and ethics classes in school, what would happen if we insisted that they are not electives and that they’re required gen EDS? Um, those are some of the ways that I wish I saw my parents using their voice and the strategies that they could have enacted. Well, thank you for sharing that.
Um, you know, obviously we can’t rewind the clock, um, but I think just the realization that you’ve come to, and unfortunately you’ve had to come to them yourself without someone to guide you to that point, like within your family, how have your parents, um, have you had conversations since, as an adult about this and, and how have they responded? Yeah, good question. Um, so we’ve had a lot of conversations kind of by nature of being a racial justice educator. And then in the last four years, having a lot more news headlines relating to black and Brown communities, um, especially in the past four years, because I’ve also been connecting with my biological family. Um, there’s just been natural questions that will come up in my family. Uh, my parents have a curiosity as far as knowing more than both of my parents. Um, I’m very, very thankful that they’re willing to have hard conversations and that they’re willing to hear me when I say, Oh, yes, ouch. This was really painful. And this is still really painful and I’m not sure I’m ready to have some of these conversations. So while we do talk a lot about race and racism, I also have some boundaries that helped me say actually other white people are great people for you to have these conversations with and they can show up as allies for me. Um, and then for some other of the, we can have a little
bit of a chit chat about that. Um, but my siblings have been, uh, one in particular has been showing up for me. Uh, and I’m just really, really grateful for that. So my other siblings aren’t quite there, you know, they, um, understand, well, we all grew up in the same house, so it didn’t, we all have the same experience and I’m like, no. Um, so it’s been difficult and I’m not going to shy away from that. It’s difficult. And I know a lot of families are like, you know, we just want to keep the peace. We just want to keep the family together. Um, having these conversations I think are so critical because frankly, a lot of my friends that are adopted that are no longer in touch with their adoptive families is because they couldn’t have these conversations. So cultivating those environments at a young age, insisting on saying like actually hate doesn’t belong in our family. So if someone is an extended family member, you know, and uncle Joe was just saying whatever, whatever, like no, stop it right away and say, that’s not appropriate here. Um, that models, right. And insists on the centering and the believing of decency centers, your translation without the, I think it’s so important to show that. Um, so yeah, my parents have been receptive and I’ve been really grateful for that. Good. I’m glad to hear that. Um, yeah, unfortunately that’s not always the case, but,
um, I’m glad that they’ve, you know, been, been open to being kind of called in to the conversation and to making changes and that’s all we can do right. Is, is like, is, is recognize where we could have done something differently and, and, and resolve to do it differently next time. Um, so I love something you said earlier about kind of celebrating, um, celebrating, you know, black individuals like outside of black history month outside of just like talking about the hard parts, like talking about joy. And I, gosh, I cannot remember who the quote is, but there’s a great quote of like, can our joy be a form of resistance? Yeah. Yes. Joy is a form of resistance and there’s been a lot of like Austin, Channing Brown has said that Dr. Bettina loved there’s been a lot of activists using that language and I love it. Yeah. I think it’s really important because I think we get, so we can get focused on the trauma, like you said. And not that that doesn’t, isn’t important to recognize, but like, how do we celebrate the joy that’s in, you know, all of our lives and in the lives of black people. So can you talk a little bit about, um, you know, for a transracial adoptive families, like how can they celebrate their kids and make it, make them feel as special as they are? Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great question. Um, one of the
things that I would say, first of all, it’s, depending on your child, right. Um, is let your child lead your child is going to know what is going to uplift and celebrate them. Right? So if your child does not care for cuisine or long trips, like don’t make that a thing offer that. Of course, you know, with Parenthood discretion, you can use your wide variety of like how we’re going to do that. It’s important to integrate your child’s culture, but let them lead, you know, um, if they want to go see, uh, a certain place, if they want to go hear a certain musical, et cetera, I would encourage you to let your child be a part of owning how they want to do this. Right. Um, I also think it’s so important to include your immediate family members and offer it to your extended family members. You want to create a environment and a household that celebrates and uplifts your children. And I think part of that is when you can own it as a family, right? So just because you have a black child include your white children, obviously include, um, your white family members. Uh, because when we say that we want to celebrate our other children, we also want to own that celebrating. We have an ownership and a stake in it, right. So we don’t want it to be postured of like, we’re doing this for this child. Um, make
it something that each of you has ownership in. Um, I think that also speaks to like diversity and inclusion initiatives and commitment, right? Of like, uh, you want to understand that regardless of whether you have a black or a Brown child, um, this is something that you care about and is important because it builds your own worldview, right? Regardless of whether or not you’re a transracial adoptive family, these practices are something that I believe every family should be doing because it expands our worldview. It deepens our commitment to our neighbor. It expands our idea of like who God loves, right. We’re called to love all of our neighbors. And I think these practices, while they celebrate the transracial adoptee, they really also encourage us to get to know our neighbors on a way deeper level than maybe we would have thought about before. Um, so I would say, definitely include your child in the process. Um, there’s things that I know I was crazy about when I was younger. Um, so for example, and there’s like new things now, because I was adopted in 1992 and there’s like a whole world of like cultural camps. So, um, you know, I would say browse around, talk to other transracial adoptive families. Um, I know that there’s culture camps. I know that there’s like tons depending on where you live different food options. I definitely encourage some sort of, um, like home going visit. Um, I know
again, like depending on what it’s age appropriate, depending on your family needs. Um, but I would encourage to make that as a family trip. And I would also encourage, you know, uh, include that to anyone who’s special to your child, right? So whether that’s extended family, whether that’s maybe a good friend, maybe that’s a mentor, a school person that as appropriate, um, include them in that because this is going to be really important to their formation and their growth. Um, as far as other things, I think people do a really good job of celebrating when they also are, are cultivating some of those key skills of like recognizing how can we anticipate what might feel uncomfortable for this child, right. Um, and then by, by extension, what should feel uncomfortable for everyone in this family? Right. Um, if we’re centering and saying racism is not okay, regardless of whether or not that’s pointed at your translational adopted kid, um, we want to make sure that every single family member is not okay going to those spaces. So I know one thing for me, and that was really important. Um, growing up, we went to like a lot of rural camping, et cetera. I love camping, but I won’t go to those same places that we went to as a child because, um, a lot of the times those places had Confederate flags. A lot of those times, those places had people that would just make
a point to say things to our family and to me as a black child. Um, and so I would say like, be very precise and clear about where you’re going and also own those surroundings. Right. So, um, I know sometimes transracial adoptees are like, you know, I always hang out with my friend and we go to this restaurant, but I see them going to these restaurants and they never take me, you know, be aware of if you’re going to racist places. And then you’re like, Oh yeah, okay. I guess we shouldn’t go with Bonnie or whoever, um, like own the fact of, of like where you’re going and also be very specific and precise about what might not be comfortable for your adoptive child and by nature for you, um, be okay, letting those places go, even if that’s been like in the family for generations, let it go. Um, so those are some things that I’ve encouraged, um, that would uplift your child. It’s really good advice. I think I hadn’t thought about it in that way, but it, it really makes a lot of sense that you can’t just, um, you know, as a white person, um, if you’re not paying attention, I think it’s, uh, really easy to be kind of complicit and going in, in spaces that are, that are racist spaces and to be aware of that and to like, when you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous that
that would be like a loss to be like, Oh, we can’t go to this, you know, this certain camp site anymore, because there tends to be a lot of people that fly Confederate flags there and that, you know, which is like, okay, that’s, that’s fine to not go there. But yeah. I mean, I don’t know, I guess just the way that you, the way that you spoke about that, just now it’s making me think, like you can’t, it’s almost like people are trying to edit spaces. So like where you bring your whoops, when, where you bring your black child is like, okay, this is, this is an okay space, but if they’re not here, it doesn’t matter anymore. And it needs to always matter. Um, which is kind of like duh, but not, I think something that people don’t always think about. So that was a really, really good, um, really good point. And, and it also what you talked about earlier about whose piece are we prioritizing, um, and it needs to be your child’s piece. Um, yeah. So thank you. That was really, really good advice. Um, so I think, you know, and I am curious what your thoughts about this are just given your background and kind of where you grew up. Um, I think for a lot of white people, they do, um, subscribe to the colorblind kind of idea and that not acknowledging race means that everything’s okay and that
racism is kind of, um, extinct or something, which we know is not true, but, um, it can be, I think it can be hard for people to start conversations about race, um, when they’re not, it’s not something, um, most, most white people when they’re growing up, it’s not something your parents sit you down and talk to you about. Um, so can you kind of talk about specific tools that families should have in place when, when kind of talking about race? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I also want to back up just a little bit and say like, by default, when we’re not having these conversations, when we do have these conversation, we’re usually modeling problematic ones. Right? So people, especially when I worked with kids, they would say, Oh, you know, um, a kid will get in trouble for saying a racist slur. And they would say, well, we don’t talk about racist at home, but we watch TV. And we watch media that has racism being upheld and uplifted. Right. So if you’re not interrupting those systems, if you’re not modeling, like having those conversations, your kids are hearing it in other ways. Um, and then they’re just throwing it out there. Um, so I think it’s really important that when we say like colorblind ideology, we’re still uplifting color because by default we’re not interrupting racism and problematic behaviors. Um, so for kids and for families, um, things that I would suggest, uh, always
core is foundational level of education, where we have a shared commitment and shared language. Um, so those things can happen in a couple of different ways. If you, as a family decide, you want to talk about racism, um, and work as anti-racist being clear with your words. Um, does everyone have the same understanding of what it means when we’re talking about racism? When we’re talking about whiteness, when we’re talking about anti-racism, when we’re talking about blackness, when we’re talking about, um, allyship or co-conspirators, we need to be really clear and specific that we have the, uh, the tools and the shared language there. Um, and then we also need to be really honest about what we want. Right? Um, over the past summer, a lot of people put up black squares a few years ago, people would wear, uh, um, safety pins, et cetera. And I think one of the pushbacks that a lot of activists said was right, this is performative. And I think we can mitigate that by owning at the beginning. If you, as a white person, want to do the work, how much work do you want to do? And no, one’s going to ask you that explicitly. But I think we have to ask ourselves that explicitly, um, when I teach workshops and webinars, I kind of grade it, right? Like college level. So we have 100 level, we have 200 level, we have 300 level, we have 400 level
own what level you want to be at and be very clear. I think this work needs to happen before you even have a child in the home. If you’re saying, I just want the right words, I just want to know what said, I don’t want to offend anyone. Right. Um, that’s not the same as saying, I want to show up every day, knowing that I have an uncompromising unwavering belief that every life matters and deserves equity and justice. Right. Um, if you are saying that you just want to know the right words, I would please ask you to really think hard about what does it mean if you’re bringing a child of another race into your home. If you’re just saying, I don’t want to offend anyone. Um, if you’re saying, I just want to know enough to put a square up, right. Um, then I don’t want to be bothered own that. Tell yourself the truth in your community of people that are walking alongside with you, tell them the truth, as far as how much you want to do the work. Right. Um, w we can’t do the work, honestly, unless we are first honest with ourselves, and that’s a new thing. And that’s a new paradigm shift for a lot of people who are saying like, Oh, I’m anti-racist. Um, but then they have, you know, no matter where you’re from, I’m glad you’re my neighbor in a gentrified neighborhood where if
I would be walking on the sidewalk, someone would call the police on me, like own what you’re willing to risk. Because if you are committed to doing this work, every single day, you’re going to lose social capital. You’re going to lose friends. You could lose your job. You could lose where you’re living, right. You might feel uncomfortable living in a gentrified part of the city. I would hope you would feel uncomfortable living in a gentrified part of the city, but you’re going to start noticing changes and shifts. And it’s going to require you to get out of your comfort zone and own that from the beginning. Um, I think that also is going to be really informative as far as how it informs your practice. And this summer, there was a protest here in Tucson, Arizona, where I’m from. And there was this really young, I would say college age, white woman who had a shirt on that said when the shooting stops get behind me, I almost bought because she knew what she was willing to risk. She knew what she was willing to do. I am a Christian. And part of what I believe is that Jesus calls us to the margins. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors every day and to show up no, what you’re willing to risk for your neighbor. Are you willing to wear a shirt that says when the shooting starts, gets behind me, I don’t know,
um, own where you are own, where you want to be own that Jesus is calling you do not be afraid, do not be afraid, do not be afraid. Um, and I think that’s so empowerful, as we think about committing to this work, what are we willing to lose? Being honest about that. Yeah. I mean, I just think it makes me honestly makes me sad. Cause I think like, so few people are, I, I feel like so few people are willing to, to do that. And that is kind of the most basic thing right. Is to, is to, is to be there for your neighbor and to be there for, for other and, um, you know, injustice anywhere is a problem. Um, and we all should, you know, it’s, it’s, I, I guess, um, I feel like we’re at a time in our, our, uh, our culture right now, like people, it’s just really interesting the way people talk about it. They either talk about it as being kind of like a, a race war or they talk about it as being like a reckoning kind of. Um, and I, I feel encouraged that people are having these conversations for a lot of, a lot of people. The first time in their lives are like having to look honestly at, like you said, where they’re at and they might not like what they see, but the good news is is that you can change, right? Like
you can, you can, you don’t have to, um, stay where you’re at. You can, you can be educated, you can change what you’re doing. You can be the person that you’re, you know, would be proud to, to be. Um, yeah. Um, that, uh, that God that got me dropping knowledge over there, just what I know you are, you are no, I seriously, I’m like we haven’t even been talking that long. I’m like, I’ve just learned so much just in this conversation. So thank you. Um, yeah, so we have, uh, so AGCI, we we’re, um, this year is actually our 30th year of, um, you know, um, uniting kids with families and that’s just a small part of what we do, but so we have, you know, adoptees that are in their thirties now. Um, kind of all, all along the spectrum at this point. Um, if they’re listening, what’s your advice for an adopted child? Who’s kind of wondering where do I fit? Yeah. Yeah. So, um, first before the advice, I just want to say a couple of comments to things that I think adoptive child, uh, children might want to hear and may appreciate. Um, so the first thing I want to tell any adopted child that’s listening or adult one, you’re not alone, you’re not alone. You’re not alone. Your complexity is valid. It does not make you less than it does not make you not enough. You are enough, you are
enough. And then there are so many adopted people who are, can relate to you and are waiting to hold space and community with you. Um, just some reminders. I think so often it’s easy to forget those things, especially as children. Um, and I just want to offer those. And then for advice, I’d say, use your voice, speak up. When something feels hard or uncomfortable, it’s going to feel hard and uncomfortable using your voice. Sometimes it’s gonna feel scary. Use your voice, rely on your community and trusted family. They can show up for you, expect that don’t be afraid to ask for help, right? Um, sometimes help is not going to come in the mode of transmission that you want sometimes help may disappoint. You ask for help. Anyway, whether it’s a trusted mental health professional, whether it’s a parent, whether it’s a teacher, whether it’s a pastor ask for help, um, and then, you know, hold space for response. Yeah. That’s great advice. Um, yeah. Thank you for sharing that. I, that’s something we’ve, we’ve gotten kind of questions about is like, how can we, you know, support kids as they’re kind of trying to find where they fit. And, um, I think that’s really loud and for questions. Yeah. And I would say, you know, for adoptive parents that are saying like that, um, I would say a lot room for questions. Um, a lot of the things that I’m talking about earlier, like
cultivating a family or an environment where your child feels safe to ask questions, or it feels safe to say like, Hey, that was racist. Mom, can we have a conversation that landed on the wrong place? Like creating those conversations, modeling that fail forward, showing that unconditional love when those things are pushed together as a package it’s going to create space also recognize like adolescent children. I know, like even though some of those things might have been cultivated, I might’ve been going in my room saying nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong. Right. Wait until that child is ready to approach. Right. Um, and they will find their way, allow them to lead allow, you know, as your parents will discretion allows room to, to nudge gently. Um, uh, but also creating and cultivating that space. You cannot, I cannot underscore how important that is. Especially as an adult looking back when that is established, um, it can really be foundational for relationships that will happen, uh, in the future. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Um, so for people who are listening to this and are kind of like, okay, I want to, I want to be better. I want to, I want to be part of this. I want to be an ally. I want to be an anti-racist advocate. Like, what are ways that, where do they start? Like, how can they, how can they get involved in racial justice? Like somebody starting from square one. Yeah.
So, um, I know a lot of times the past summer, especially there’s a lot of booklets, right? So, um, by now, if you Google anti-racist books, you’re going to find lots of lists. So I would say, um, first start by educating yourself and that can look like reading that can look like diversifying your social media or your news. Um, uh, that would start by looking locally. I encourage a lot of times people to look locally, I would also be specific and say like, um, it’s not an anti-racist book unless you become anti-racist. Right. So reading is just reading. Anyone can read a book that doesn’t mean you need it. Um, so I just want to be clear about that because it requires you to build tools and to think about how do I want to, um, think meaningfully and, um, long-term as far as how I’m going to keep changing. Right. And I think that’s part of the part earlier where I said, like, be honest with yourself, right. Again, so assess if you’re saying, I want to be anti-racist I want to do this work. Be honest about what you’re willing to risk, what you might lose, what might feel uncomfortable. And then also, I really encourage people to like assess your small group. I know a lot of churches will meet in small groups. A lot of churches will, you know, foster different spaces that you might be having conversations. When I do
this with, um, children on zoom now, because it’s been done that, they’ll say like, look to your right and look to your left. These are the people that are walking with you, look for the people that are walking free with you. Um, be honest in those spaces, ask them to show up, help them, um, as you all are finding their, uh, your way together, um, to share that shared language, to find those shared commitments. Yeah. I think, I think there, there was that surge, right? In like June where it was like, these are the books, these are the accounts to follow. And then for a lot of people that’s kind of, that was it. And that’s not it. Right. Yeah. Um, you know, obviously it’s important to, to listen and to educate yourself, but then it’s like, what do you do with that? Once you, you have those tools, you’ve you you’re, you are listening. How do you like actively be a part of it? Um, yeah. And I would say like also, um, especially growing up in a white community that really values education is what I have noticed is a lot of people like to intellectualize their anti-racism. Right? So like I went on to terms, I want to read all of these academic works, but I’m not going to make the changes that will make me uncomfortable. Right. Um, so whether that means having hard conversations at work, whether that means having
hard conversations at church, whether that means showing up in new ways with family members, um, thinking about how we’re ingesting this information and unwilling to make changes is so important to creating that systemic and, um, meaningful path forward. Um, so when I coach people to say like, okay, we’re when I do workshops, one-on-one on anti-racism we’re always thinking about what is our anti-racist vision. That’s one of the first, um, little things that we do together as a group is we all write down what is our anti-racist vision? What are we willing to risk or lose to get there? And what are the tools and strategies that we need. Right. So a lot of times people will say, we need community members. We need someone that can walk in accountability. Luckily for lots of people, those things are already happening, right? So we have showing up for racial justice, which is a national white, um, allyship group. And you can find them in every single state in the United States. Um, and see if there’s a local chapter near you, I would encourage you to get involved there. I would also say the why, right? The why WCA does a lot of good work, um, look into what’s happening locally, uh, and then go and learn, um, a lot. You cannot do this work by yourself. No, you need people to do this work with you. Um, the same, right? So it’s hard to follow Jesus alone.
It’s hard to do anti-racism alone. You need people that are gonna, um, already have paved the way. Um, and then listen, listen to what your local community is asking for. Listen to what the, uh, national conversations regarding black lives or Brown lives, um, what they’re asking for and follow their lead. Um, and then, you know, um, if someone’s saying, Hey, like let’s do this. Don’t co-op that if you can partner, if you can go in as an ally, do that, um, don’t say like, Oh, they’re doing this thing. I’m going to create this thing with my own white circles, bring your power and your privilege along. So whether you’re going into this spaces and you can give money, whether you’re going into this spaces and you can show up as an ally, whether you can go into those spaces and you can say, I can have that hard conversation. So you don’t have to do the work, do that. And then also honor those people that are giving emotional labor and their time with money. Right. Um, we, we recognize that there is a generational wealth disparities. And so I’m using, if you have the means your affluence, um, using, uh, voices to say, Hey, like I want to have a black person speaking. You don’t have to talk about trauma. Awesome. Like we are experts in so many other things, um, using us in your business, using multi-cultural voices and your spaces and empowering
us to lead is so important. So, um, whether that means reviewing with your HR and saying, Hey, why are we saying the no pile gets every name that sounds black or sounds multicultural, right? Let’s review our policies, let’s review our internal pay gap, let’s review, um, who might be, uh, in the doors, uh, for internships or our free volunteer labor. And who’s actually we’re keeping on. Um, so there’s so many varieties of ways that you can start doing this work today. Um, and it just depends on you. It depends on what you want to give. It depends on, uh, how comfortable you are getting started. And it depends on who is keeping you accountable as you do this work. Those are thank you for sharing. Like, those are really great, tangible things for people to like take action and get involved. And thank you for that list. I’m definitely gonna gonna look up some of those for sure. Um, okay. So another thing that we wanted to talk about, um, we kind of put it out to our, our, our audience and like post, um, adoptive families, you know, do you have questions for, um, Bonita to address? So these are just a few of them, but I, I was hoping you could talk about, um, you know, the importance of, of mentors for a transracial adoptees. Yeah, absolutely. So representation and I’m, I’m aligning, um, mentorship and representation together because I think it’s one
in the same, a lot of the times, um, when you have a mentor that looks like you’re a transracial adoptee, it provides, uh, a path forward, as far as where we can see ourselves. Um, it provides new insights as far as things that we might not feel comfortable saying yet in our adoption family. Um, it also provides another link to our culture. Um, and it’s a culture that’s not necessarily embedded in pain. And I think that’s so critical. I also want to say that it provides us with new tools of seeing ourselves because when we don’t see ourselves, we make dangerous inferences as young children. For example, growing up in a Mennonite community, I didn’t often see black people unless they were, um, mission trips, unless we were explicitly asking them to come speak during black history month, unless we were asking them to come speak after a national incident where we were saying, Oh, we don’t want to be racist here. Let’s talk to a black person. Who’s probably in a lot of pain to come talk to a white community about why we shouldn’t be in pain. Right. Um, so I started making inferences and the inferences that I made were very, very dangerous because I started saying to myself, why are black and Brown people always living in a posture of gratitude where we have to be, um, the mission like people are coming to us as missionaries. Why are we always,
um, not enough as who we are, we need white help. Right? Um, because I kept seeing that reinforced, no one said that explicitly, but the only times that I saw my church engaging with those cultures was when white people were still in power and maintaining those systems of power and we’re giving things to this community, um, who needs them. Right. Um, so I would say, especially modeling, right? The failing forward, uh, having representation, having mentorship provides new information as far as value, as far as where I can dream myself to be, which is why it was so important, right? With Amanda Gorman and young black women all around the country are saying, I can do that with Kamala Harris, regardless of whether people are Democrat or Republican, it provides new information for black and Brown children to say, I can do that. It’s so important to provide visual representation. When we ask black and Brown women or black and Brown men to speak in our church, and they’re not speaking about trauma and pain, it provides new information for young children who may have been hearing reinforced messages of saying, Oh, anytime we’re going to only ask a black person to sing a gospel song. Or we were only going to reinforce these stereotypes of what we think black people are. And yet when we do something outside of the norm, we’re providing new information for these children to train and to see it. And
we’re also doing that for our white children. And that is so important. I can’t underscore that enough. So I would say definitely include mentors, but also include mentors in your family. Um, whether or not you as a white adoptive family have black and Brown friends, um, your child, your bio, uh, black indigenous person of color child should not be your first black indigenous person of color, a friend. Um, that’s so important. So whether or not you’re thinking about where should we live, what school should we send our children to make sure that you are also diversifying your friend group, make sure that you’re diversifying where you’re living. Um, make sure that you’re diversifying the books that you’re reading your children. A mentorship can happen in so many different ways. Best practice I believe is have a physical body and invite people, but you can also have little glimpses of mentorship by just diversifying different things that you’re providing in the home as well. Yeah. That’s really great advice. Um, you can’t be what you can’t see, right? So we need, we need to see, um, we need to see women in positions of power. We need to see black indigenous people of color in positions of power. We need to see all these different people for the little kids who are like, Hey, why is it only old white men that are making all the rules? Um, yeah, that’s important. Um, okay. So another question,
can you talk about how to combat and prepare kids for microaggressions? They may encounter at predominantly white schools from peers and staff? Yeah, so that, one’s a hard one. Um, but I think it really aligns with some of the other advice that I was giving. Right? So cultivating those spaces at home, um, as you, as an adult, become more in tune with racism and what it sounds like, and it’s over and it’s covert ways. You’re going to pick up on those microaggressions and you can do so much power by modeling that it’s not okay by stopping it. So when your child is seeing you interrupt it from great-grandma, when your child is seeing you interrupted from the stranger on the street, they are going to feel empowered to do that at school. And if they can do that at school and come back home and feel empowered, that you will follow up and have their back as far as any whiplash or things that might come from the school, they’re going to know that they can continue to do that and that you can spearhead that with them. Um, I won’t say, you know, your child’s never going to experience it. That’s just a lie they’re going to, but if you can empower them to say something, if you can empower your other white children to show up as allies and to say something, and if you can empower your family members, your community, your
schools, to stop racism in its tracks, that’s going to make a world of difference for your transracial adoptive child. So I would say, um, the biggest thing is to model it also, right, again, that shared language. You want to cultivate that shared language, because if I’m coming home and I’m saying, mom, this person said X, Y, and Z, and you’re going, Oh, that doesn’t sound racist to me. That’s not helpful. Um, but, but we know that happens, right? And so we want to cultivate having that shared language and that shared understanding of what is racism, what are we believing? How do we center this child? How do we react appropriately? How do we escalate appropriately? How reassessing the schools that we’re sending our children, if you know that this school is racist inherently, and yet they have like really good donations and they’re always sending me their kids to Ivy league schools. I would ask you to think hard, think hard about where you’re placing your children, all of your children, not just your black child, not just your Brown child, placing all of your children. What, um, ideas are you reinforcing if you’re separating your children based on race based schools, right? What ideas are you reinforcing if you’re saying, Oh, you know, I’m going to send these transracial adoptees to the schools here because there’s more diversity I’m going to send my other white kids to this school is because they’re shelling out
Ivy leagues, um, be very, very specific about what you’re willing to invest, what you’re willing to risk, what you think is okay. Why you think it’s okay. Um, and then how you’re going to cultivate those spaces of safety for your child. That’s great advice. Um, yeah. And what kind of message I guess, does it send, if you were sending one of your children to the diverse school and the others to, to the not, um, not, yeah. Something to think about for sure. Um, can you tell us like where, where people can find you and your work? Oh, absolutely. Thank you. Um, so my little plug is I am Venita cryo, I’m the founder of the Ebeneezer project. So like the Bible where they set the three stones. Um, if you can find me on Google, if you just type in www the Ebeneezer project.com, I’m also on social media. So you can follow me on Facebook. You can follow me on Instagram, you can follow me on Twitter. Um, and then I welcome hearing your thoughts. I do have a racial justice journal that I published last year in may. So it’s an eight week racial justice journal for white allies who would like to show up for black indigenous people of color. Um, it is $5 on the website for a download. Um, so you are welcome to check that out on my main page as well. Oh, that’s awesome. I will definitely be
checking that out. Thank you for sharing that. Um, of course, honestly, you just educated me so much and I feel like there’s so much for me to think about and, um, that’s a gift and I just really thank you. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. This has been a long time coming. Um, but I am just really thrilled, uh, new organizations that are looking at this. Uh, there’s been a lot of momentum and then the night church, which is, I’m really passionate about, I just finished, um, three book clubs. I had done book clubs since summer. So we’ve been reading the color of compromised by jemartisby. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. Tell me about, I would highly recommend it. So it’s the color of compromise. I’m writing it down. Yeah. So it’s the color compromised by Damar has the, um, the truth about American church’s complicity and racism. Uh, and it’s really good. I like it a lot because it’s very, it’s not academic at all. Um, and it provides a lot of good questions. He also created his own, uh, book club, um, online, so you can check it out on Facebook and then he just wrote, uh, another book SQL to it that says how we get free, how we fight racism, actually, excuse me. Yeah. How we fight racism. And he has a book club for that, but I’ve been leading these with different churches. Um, some of banjo, uh, evangelicals
submitted. I, uh, it has just been really powerful hearing how people are hearing new history for the first time. Um, and as they’re absorbing new information and their paradigms are shifting, um, thinking about priorities and how can we create meaningful transformative change for the future. Um, and that gets me excited. That’s where I’m passionate about. And also like just dreaming, right? So we can’t think about, you know, what are we dreaming to create? We have to dream of like, what could we create if the foundations and the systems of oppression are gone, what could we create then? Um, and so that’s been like giving me a lot of life. Yeah, no, that, I love that. Like, I know there’s so much, there’s so much hard stuff, but it’s like allowing yourself right. To, to, to think of what is that ideal world and what does that look like and what would I do we get there and how do we get there? Yeah, totally. Okay. I have one more thing. So we’ve started we’ve D it’s just like, it’s silly. It’s not like a serious, just when I say this word, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind. Okay. Okay. Uh, there’s no wrong answer. Okay. I’ve found together all of us. I love it. It’s perfect. Perfect. Okay, good. I just, I just can’t thank you enough, because this is just going to be so helpful for, um, so many families who
I think want to want to be a part of it and maybe don’t know how to get started. And, um, yeah, you just, uh, talk about this in a really accessible way. And I think, um, with love and that comes through, thank you. That was Bonita Croyle from the Ebeneezer project. Again, if you’re interested in learning more about Bonita’s work, head on over to the Ebenezer project.com. Thanks for listening to together by AGCI as always, if you liked what you heard, please rate or review us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to read or watch even more stories, check out our website, all God’s children.org, Bonita gave me so much to think about. I’d love to hear more about what this conversation brought up for. You reach out to us and let us know what you think on Instagram at all. God’s children international, or email us at together at all. God’s children.org. These conversations aren’t easy, but they are so important. People like Bonita inspire me. I hope you enjoyed our time together. As much as I did. We look forward to sharing another story of hope. The next time we’re together. We’ll talk to you soon.