TOGETHER by AGCI

Together by AGCI is a brand new podcast from the creative team at All God’s Children International.

        

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Episode 39

Talking About Race With Your Kids Featuring Tiffany Henness and Kevin Hofmann

Welcome to the start of season three of Together by AGCI. I’m Marisa Butterworth.

On our last episode, we had the opportunity to talk to educator Elizabeth Behrens about how to talk to her adopted and biological kids about racism. Today, I present part two of that conversation.

I’m fortunate to welcome author and speaker Kevin Hofmann back to our podcast, in addition to having writer, community organizer, and speaker Tiffany Henness, join us for the first time. Tiffany and Kevin are both biracial transracial, adoptees, and today we are so fortunate to hear their stories and get their advice and expertise on what they wish their parents knew in regards to how to talk about racism and race with their kids. I encourage you to listen with an open mind and heart and to run and grab a piece of paper and a pen really quick to take some notes, because we are all about to learn a lot from these two. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

Hi guys. I am so excited to have both of you on today and really genuinely so appreciate you being willing to take time out, to talk with me and help us all learn what and how we can do better in regards to talking to our kids about race and racism. I so appreciate it. You guys are amazing. Thanks for having us. Thank you. Um, so Tiffany, I was gonna just ask you first, so it doesn’t get confusing, but I’ll try to like ask it both of you, but you can also feel free to jump in wherever, but do you mind sharing some of your story first? Sure. Um, my name is Tiffany Hennis and I was born and raised in Tillamook, Oregon. Um, my adoption was a private domestic infant adoption. Um, I was adopted the day that I was born. Um, and as, uh, as a multiracial Chinese, uh, white person, it’s a little different because in the Asian adoptee community, a lot of them are international adoptees, but I am actually a domestic adoptee. And, um, that that’s a unique part of overlap of my experiences. Um, but yeah, so I was raised in a very small town at the time. There were more cows than people. I mean it’s home of Tillamook cheese, right. So definitely when you drive through there, it’s filled the cows. Yes. I think we may have more, uh, different colors of cheese and we did people and tell them like, yep, that sounds about right. Um, but yeah, no, you know, I was raised with a Christian family, um, and I think that they did the best with what they knew. I think they tried to be very positive about my being mixed race and being adopted and just in an attempt to affirm me.  

Um, and, and yet I think, uh, what they didn’t realize was that the sort of awareness I was coming into about race and racism, just through experiences, watching TV, being at school things, people would say, um, it was impacting me in, in deeper ways than they saw or recognized. And, and perhaps they didn’t know how to recognize some of the signs of these things being harmful or hurtful to me. So all that to say, growing up in predominantly white and Christian spaces, I found myself in my thirties, you know, um, before I really started unpacking what my racial identity and how my adoption impacted my life. Um, and, and that was very hard on our relationship. Um, and so from that though, um, it was about six years ago being pregnant with my first child and having this experience of, uh, of, uh, my own flesh and blood, um, a family member that looked like me, all of those things. Yeah. Um, really just sent me on this deep dive, into wanting to learn as much as I could about multiracial identity, adoption, identity, adoption trauma, all of this stuff. Um, through that found be the bridge, um, which was a saving grace. There was finally Christian, uh, people of color leading a conversation about these things that I had never heard. And some of my hurts, you know, were so deep and painful that I wondered can I keep my faith in God and still acknowledge all of this hurt and all of this, um, trauma that I didn’t realize existed. And if it wasn’t for Latasha Morrison speaking truth into these spaces and showing me what it means to be a Christian of color who is aware of these injustices and these things, and yet following God through that, I just, I don’t know, you know, I don’t know where I’d be and have found that, but I’m so thankful for that, uh, organization, the resources, um, and just over the past several years of, uh, working with them, starting a local group. So here in McMinnville, um, I’ve had some discussion groups, um, and I’ve gotten involved I’m on my city’s DEI advisory committee. Um, been trying to do a lot of things. Um, and now also, uh, be the bridge uses me as an educator for translational adoption, where I try to facilitate conversations with adoptive parents in our Facebook group. So that’s why, you know, my adoption story of course definitely informs why I’m so passionate about talking about these things. Yep. And the more people that I talk to, it’s so interesting, um, to hear a lot of times, it’s everyone I’ve talked to has said the same thing it’s like in their thirties sometimes spurred on by having their own children.  

And it, it brings something up that a lot of people don’t seem to have. They didn’t grow up with the language. So they have the feeling from when they were younger and they didn’t have language then. So it’s really a lot, it’s a lot of work to build that, even if you hear the language now to figure out where that fits within your own life. So I so appreciate you sharing. That’s really incredible. And it’s such a huge journey, uh, too, and, and hard work to look at that and start facing that. So thank you. That’s really, really incredible. I appreciate that. So, um, Kevin, what would you like to share about your story? I’ll start from the beginning and, uh, I’ll make it short and sweet. So I was, was born two weeks after the riots in Detroit. So in 1967, August of 1967, I was born. I’m the result of an affair between my white mother and black father. They were coworkers, uh, happily married just to two different people. Okay. And so, uh, my mother chose to have me against her husband’s wishes and, uh, the deal was she could have me and I would have to be put up for adoption immediately. I was adopted when I was three months old. So I spent three months in foster care, adopted at three months old, uh, a white minister, my father, uh, and his wife also white and they have three biological children.  

And so I was brought home to that family, the youngest in that family. And at that time, my father pat helped to pastor a church in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan Dearborn, a very white happily to be white suburb of Detroit. Um, about 11 months after I came home to that community, we woke up to a cross burning in our front yard. Oh my gosh, that began an interesting time for our family, which was compounded by the fact that the head pastor at the church where my father worked objected to the fact that we brought this child of color into his congregation. So among other things, he refused to baptize me. Uh, and they tried to, they started the process to fire my father from the church. Um, so we went through that for about three years and my parents, you know, I think when they were going down the checklist like adoptive parent, a lot of adoptive parents do, and it says, will you accept biracial or a child of color? I don’t think my parents knew what they were getting into. So they checked out that box hoping to get a kid. Um, and so at that time I was considered a hard to place her special needs child because I was biracial. Um, and so came home to them and the whole cross burning the incident with the church and my father. And at three years old, my father took a call to pastor a church in Detroit where the parsonage was in a black neighborhood. Wow. So ever since I can remember from three to when I left Detroit to go to college, I always had contact with people that looked like me. Hmm. That was life changing. Um, my parents were kind of hippie-ish in the way they think, and I think they thought if we could figure this out as a family, maybe we can send them a broader message to some, I don’t think that was why they adopted me, but I think that was what they were trying to get at that point. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. So a lot of struggles, interesting way to grow up. Really? Can’t talk about it without talking about rates. No, exactly. I mean, that’s, with both of you, that’s such a huge piece of your story. And I think a lot of times, uh, at least the old messaging, and I think it’s still going on today. I mean, not th this is the old messaging, but was that you didn’t talk about race. Like you just kind of pretend that didn’t exist. And I recently read a stat that kind of blew me away personally. And it said that non white parents are three times as likely to talk to their kids about race.  

And that attempt to, to raise children in colorblind and quotes households, um, has had the opposite effect as they previously intended, which I thought was a really nice way to put that. Um, did you both feel like talking about race and racism was taboo in your home? Obviously not you Kevin, like that seems to have, it was still taboo. It wasn’t taboo. I think my parents made a big mistake when they assumed, when Kevin’s ready to talk about this port, this big, huge con conversation, when he’s ready to have this talk about race, he’ll come to us. And yeah. So that’s one of the lessons I teach when I train with, uh, adoptive parents is my wife always says, children shouldn’t have a job like that. Like, that’s a very heavy job. And so I, they never came out and said, this isn’t to be talked about, but we never talked about it. So they sent me this silent message, which was, and I was getting it not only from them, but from society, which was no, no, no, no. We’re not gonna, we’re not gonna talk about the piece of you that you treasure the most. Like we’re just going to totally ignore that. Yeah. And that’s why I was so thankful that I grew up around kids that look like me because man, they taught me that man, this skin has some power and they taught it to me in a good way.  

And I was so thankful. I didn’t walk away from that. And EV never had those thoughts of, I wish I was, I looked like my mom and my brothers and sisters, I wish I was white and never had those. Oh, wow. That’s huge. What about you, Tiffany? Well, I definitely remember praying that God would make my recessive phenotypical traits from my biological mother who was blonde haired and blue eyed magically manifest and override my Chinese traits so that I could finally be beautiful and finally, you know, belong, um, or look like my family. Um, but yeah, I would say that it’s an interest it’s nuanced was talking about race or racism taboo. No, my parents definitely, um, would say, oh, you know, if something was obviously racist or bad, they would name that. They say that they would say that was bad. Right. They would say, you know, um, affirming things like, you know, um, they wouldn’t always use the right terms. So for a while they would refer to me as being part Oriental and part Caucasian. Um, and, but they would talk about that in an affirming way. Like this is a good thing. This is a cool thing. Um, we had foreign exchange students from Japan and our home, um, and they would embrace other cultures and they tried to model that. And so, you know, uh, I think that that was good, but here’s the nuanced and the sticky thing maybe because I’m mixed and mixed Asian. Some of the things that I now recognize as having been based in racism and made me feel less than were more subtle things I never got called the C word, um, you know, as, as a Chinese American. Um, but there were other things that perhaps they didn’t recognize as being problematic, the eye tugging and those kinds of things that, um, were, were impacting me. And I did not know how to talk about that. I didn’t know how to come to them with that. I didn’t know how to even articulate that that was bothersome. Um, and, and so there was an ability to recognize race and maybe celebrate, uh, some of the things that were different, but then there was an inability to be able to see a name, those subtle, problematic things that were happening on a regular basis that were causing me as a child to internalize this idea that I wasn’t as good, or there was something wrong about me. And it was the Asian part of me that was the wrong part. Right. And, um, not being able to talk about the bad things, not being able to, um, recognize them as bad things, maybe minimum, oh, they were just having a bad day. They weren’t being racist. They were just having a bad day.  

We’re just going to excuse that we’re going to minimize it with not gonna, you know, um, we’re not gonna make a big deal of it, you know? Uh, that’s just, I’m just giving you an example. Like I can’t literally think of a time that my parents said that, but my impression was just like, looking back over my life, like you said, I have to go through all of the things I experienced and felt with this new lens and it’s a lot. And as I do that, I recognize, um, it wasn’t that race was taboo, but they didn’t know how to talk about the stuff I was experiencing so that I was, would then be empowered to let them know it bothered me or let them know it made me feel any kind of way. Um, and that is, you know, that is what I wish we would have been able to, to have discussed when I was growing up. You know, I think it would have helped me not to internalize the idea that I was blessed. Then it would have helped me to say, no, you know what that person said is wrong because what they think is wrong, not, oh, um, what they’re saying is true and there is nothing, they must be wrong with me. Yeah. Yeah. That’s the thing that I hear that I, I just want to reiterate is that you have to give your kids the language to use so that even if they sit there and they pretend that, and they don’t want to talk about it, or it pushes a button, you can respect that, but you have to keep talking about it so that when it does happen, because it will happen that you’ve given them the gift of the language and the words and, and that they know they can come talk to you right away, instead of keeping it inside or feeling the shame or feeling that they’re wrong in some way. And they know that you’ll be there for them. Is that how you guys both feel? Am I articulating that correctly? Yeah. I think you have to give them the space. So we always get asked. Well, so when do we, when do we tell, I always joke and say, I think transracial parents want me to say on your child’s fifth birthday, sit them down and tell them they’re black and everything that comes with it. Um, and it’s not like that. But what I tell parents is just start it early and often, and it can be as simple as man, your skin color is different than mine. Look it up beautiful.  

Your skin is, uh, when you take a bathroom, when you, you put lotion on them, um, because your job as a translational parent is you have to balance out the scales with society. So society has perfected the art of making people of color feel less than. And so transracial adoptees kind of get a one-two punch, where we come. A lot of us come thinking I must be less than because my own mother wouldn’t even take me. So you kind of come with that software pre downloaded and then society keeps coming up with these updates that tell you constantly that you’re worth you’re, you’re worth less than. Um, and then like Tiffany beautifully said, it doesn’t have to be these horrible, you know, people yelling the N word at you all the time. Man. I remember I lived in that black neighborhood for five years. Then we moved to a all white neighborhood still in Detroit, but now I’m at culture shock going out and playing with all these white kids. And I remember physically feeling uneasy when the kids in the neighborhood that I knew were not going to watch their tongue or even worse would say horrible things. And they wouldn’t yell like the N word all the time, but they would say things that would just make me uncomfortable. And I could see them out of the corner of their eye, out of my eye, looking to see what my response was to that.  

So there was this sick game that I, and that started as a child and continued through my adult life at work. That has happened really? Yeah. Oh my goodness. Yeah. I used to work with the guy that did that all the time. Um, and it’s funny, what I learned in that black neighborhood at age three was what got me through all that. So those black kids in that neighborhood taught me, don’t ever let them see you crack. So when they would say these horrible things to do that around me, I would not ever let them see me crack. Now I would go home and be heartbroken about it, or, yeah. And I just always had that uneasiness around certain people. And that was kind of my life growing up, where I went back to that neighborhood. I, that white neighborhood that I grew up in and one by one, I could go down that street, free three blocks down, and each house I could tell you, I felt safe at that house as a child of color. That house was not safe. That woman’s specifically don’t be caught alone around that, that house. Um, yeah, that’s kinda how I was thinking that the weight of that I had, I put a lot of energy into that, even though the majority of kids, like, even though I lived in a white neighborhood, the schools I went to were like 95, 90 8% black. So I was always around that, but I still felt that man and impact of in a predominantly black city, which is which skews it even crazier to me and it’s still happening. I mean, that’s, that’s the thing, um, we’ve experienced with our daughter. Who’s Ethiopian is like these little digs that people make adults, kids, all the ages that I’m disappointed in myself that it shocks me, but it did as a white mom, like how dare they say this? Like, I can’t believe the goal that people have. And then also pinged me of the things that I’ve said that I maybe didn’t realize growing up in a small town in Oregon, um, language, my parents gave me things that I didn’t realize. So there’s just, um, it, I knew I had work to do before we brought her home. I wasn’t that naive, but getting her home, hearing things that people say, realizing it in myself, how much work I have to do. Um, personally, it just, um, and then hearing these stories, watching it happen to my own daughter, um, it doesn’t, it surprises me. It doesn’t, it’s all the things, it’s the shock of it, but it’s still going on.  

And that’s the thing that I think is important for us to say that this wasn’t something of the past, that we’ve all, you know, cause the, the kids that were saying that to you then are there is room for growth and change, but those people have children now and they’re passing that language down to their kids. And if there’s not awareness, then that just continues and continues and continues. So what do you tell your own kids now? Um, how, what have you said, how have you, I know you’re talking about like this from birth, like this is, you’re saying this is, it should always be something you talk about, but how do you, how do you start that conversation? How do you, as they’re getting older, what does that look like for them? Well, my, for context by sons are two and five. So, um, these are very simple conversations, but yes, my oldest who is five, we already have a slew of books. Like, um, is it called colorful or color colorful? There’s a, there’s a children’s book where, you know, it talks about skin color and um, you know, we read those things. Those are some of the things that we’ve done to start, um, giving language or, um, when friends of, you know, uh, different races when we’re hanging out, you know, we might, um, we might talk about that. So, oh yeah. You know, our friend Beto, he has a darker brown skin. Merlinda is even darker brown than that, you know? And, um, trying to point out to him that these are our friends and they have beautiful skin color and look, we’re all different. Right. But you know, what I think is interesting is because, um, I’ve made it a point to just mention something that’s related to race. I have gotten these opportunities to hear what my five-year-old or a four-year-old or a three-year-old at the time, depending to hear what he thinks. Okay. So one example, um, was I was watching pride and prejudice the other day, this movie of about white British people dancing around in ballrooms and whatnot. And I just, I just made a very silly comment. My five-year-old is sitting there. He’s bored to tears. Why does mom watch this boring movies? I love that boring movie too know, right? This is jokingly. I said, jokingly, this is how white people danced in the old days. Perfect. Yes, this is a silly comment, but it gave me a window into something that he’s learned. And I have no idea exactly how except I do, because we absorb this in the, in the society around us. And he said, um, well, first of all, he said, oh, well, where are the black people? And I was like, that’s a good question. Right. Um, and then he said, well, aren’t the black people mean to white people?  

And I picked up the remote, I paused the movie. I asked him some questions. We had a conversation, you know, about kindness and meanness being present in all kinds of people. Um, and about, you know, furthering just a little bit, his understanding that yes, some people do think black people are mean, but that’s not based in the who they are. So let’s think about the black people we know in our life who are friends, have they been mean to us? No. So let’s just re re format pathway that thought. Um, and what about, um, some of our like black superheroes that we really love aren’t, you know, and just, just reminding him, um, in the face of that, that thought that had come up from somewhere and it happened, um, you know, maybe about six months ago, there was another instance where he shared this spot that, um, you know, well, black people get in trouble because he had seen some black person on a, on a video get arrested or something. Um, and so again, you know, my husband was there for that one. I’m married to a white man. Um, and he looked at me like, what did he just say? And I was like, see this, this is if we don’t give our children an opportunity, if we don’t there to show them, if we don’t show them, it’s okay. We can talk about white people. We can talk about black people.  

We can talk about what people think about it, you know? Um, and then just throw out an opportunity. You’ll you never know what they’re going to volunteer, and it’ll give you a window into something that they’ve been learning or something that they picked up on that is probably wrong because kids are trying to make sense of their world with their kid brain. And we need to guide them through that. But if we don’t give them opportunities to reveal to us what they’re thinking or what they’re feeling, then we don’t know where they’re going wrong. Right. So, um, these are, these are just that’s. That was like the biggest thing for me. Um, but also as a transracial adoptee, I have to say, so my oldest son looks the most like me, um, and not going to say he’s my favorite, but, you know, never, never, um, but no. So, um, there’s been a few times where we’ve seen a male Asian American actor, or, um, even to some of my Instagram, uh, I follow, um, cam Lee, small of therapy redeems. And he had a picture of himself when he was a kid, as a Korean adoptee and amidst of a group of white people. And my kids saw that picture as I was scrolling through. And he’s like, Hey, that kid looks like me. And I was like, oh, let’s go back. Which kid, okay. Why, you know, what is it, what, how do you see yourself in that kid? Or we were watching a show and there was an Asian-American, oh, that guy looks like me. And, and to see him say that and identify with someone that he saw just made me feel so good to see that happening for my child. Uh, but also that was another opportunity. Well, why, you know, what is it that you think looks the same and, and what do you like about that? And, and how can I affirm that in you? Um, yes. And so those are, you know, they’re awkward conversations for me too, because again, I didn’t grow up as a kid, you know, having these conversations modeled. So I definitely feel like I am learning how to do this myself for the very first time. Um, but I just have such a deep conviction based on my own experience that this is necessary to do. And it’s good. And I’m gonna muddle my way through it. I’m going to make some mistakes. The fact that, um, my five-year-old can already, uh, feel free to share a thought about what he thinks, um, about people of different colors. Um, and, and then we can have a conversation about that and he doesn’t feel, you know, um, uncomfortable having those conversations, or it was by you or, you know, like he’s messed something up that that’s a safe space for him to ask questions.  

And that’s what it’s supposed to. And if we don’t give it to our kids at this age, um, whether they’re adopted or not, like for every child, if we don’t give them space to talk about these things, they are going to learn it somewhere else. They’re going to pick something else up. Um, they know they are making their own decisions with, or without you, um, and based on life experience things they’ve watched, if they catch the news, if they, you know, just basic things. So it’s, so I love that. You’re even saying that, and I love hearing it at the ages they are, because that is so important. And I think I loved what you said that you’re muddling your way through that you don’t have all the answers and that’s okay like that. It, it think it gives people permission to, and not an excuse, not to do your own homework, but also permission to make mistakes and say, Hey, I’m sorry I said this, but actually, you know, I did some research and I looked it up or, you know, go back to your kids and, and make those course corrections to like, I love that you’ve given yourself permission to do that. And that gives other people permission. What would you say, Kevin man? Tiffany said a whole lot of good stuff. And I was, I was so happy that her five-year-old like, she’s done it. Right. And you already know it because the child feels samples are coming too, but he’s already comfortable at five years old to come and have conversations about race when I know 60 year olds. That can’t. Yeah. And so, so it was, it’s so interesting how, how that works out that, and man, I just love what she said where she said, okay, so at five her son said something that she said, okay, he’s going off the path. And she said, well, let me stop the tape. And we’re going to talk about it to reroute the path. I was on a cruise several years ago and just got on board the ship. And we were going up the elevator, the elevator opens and there’s this little white boy standing in the middle of the door. He’s about seven or eight. And I remember he refused to move out of our way. And I thought I was on vacation. I had a lot of time to think. So I was like, what has happened in this child’s seven or eight years that already he’s convinced he doesn’t have to yield the right of way to somebody that looks like me. Wow. And it’s, to me it’s because at five years old, he didn’t have Tiffany rerouting his path. So now then we wonder at 18, when he goes off to college and he’s totally inappropriate with a woman.  

Well, because the last 18 years you’ve told this child, the world is yours, touch everything after it grab everything. And so that’s why we as a people, you know, people of color get really offended when white people touch our hair or put their hands on us because that shows ownership. And so you, man, there’s so much about this talk that we have to have not only transracial parents with their children of color, but man, to really make this shift, white families have to reroute that path. Or we’re going to, we’re just going to keep, they’re going to keep going round and round. Like, if you want to get blood biblical, we’re going to keep, you know, go you’re out in the wilderness until someone redirects enough people’s path that we go in a different direction. Now I was excited about what Tiffany said. Cause I said, it gave me an idea for a book about the evolution of white privilege, where it, if you don’t stop that thought at that point, then you get the 18 year old, you know, please credit me. And I was at the beginning and the end. I love what you’re saying there, because that is something that I think people are like up in arms about like, how is this happening? How are these, these kids learning this? And it goes back to this and not, of course kids are going to have ideas that aren’t on the right path.  

Of course they’re going to make mistakes, but do they have someone in their life course correcting them and saying, Hey, let’s talk about this. Where did you get this? And, and making that change. And I, as, as a white mom, when my, my daughter was six months old, when we brought her home and um, she had beautiful curly hair at that point, she was when she first came home, her hair was straight. And I was like, what? I assumed she’d have curls. And then it just started getting curlier and curlier. And now she has the most amazing Afro you’ve ever seen. It’s incredible and loves it. And I’m so proud of that. But someone came up to her and started touching her hair. And I had never experienced that with my biological children where someone would dare, maybe they would maybe come up and like touch their back or like, oh, they’re so cute. But too, there was something that felt so personal, deeply personal about touching my child. I don’t know you, you don’t know them. And I was new to the idea of like, this is what people do. People go up and have the audacity to touch someone. And that’s it, it’s claiming some sort of ownership over them. I love that. You said that because, um, I mean, I had never even thought of that as an option to just even go up to and touch a pregnant woman that also shocked, like how those two groups of pregnant women. I mean, it’s something that we had to talk about regularly. It drove her crazy and she’s, she’s very direct and she’s got a lot of fire in there and I love it about her. And so she, I mean, when she was little, she’d be like, don’t touch my hair. If you want to touch it, you can ask me. And, and even in like kindergarten, she dealt with that and these are little, little kids. Um, and it was, it’s just so interesting. Like if you think your kids aren’t experiencing it, um, you’re wrong, it’s happening. They just may not be talking to you about it. And that is why this is so important. They might not be what it is her, but they, it might be something where they’re just exactly, they’re like, oh, apparently this is what people do. And it’s not, it’s not. Yeah, yeah, no, that’s, I think that’s the thing that is, um, really. So this is where I start talking about the overlap of Christianity and translational adoption. You know, so much of what I learned about a Christian growing up was that I shouldn’t be selfish. I shouldn’t be prideful.  

Um, and that I should consider other people and their feelings and their needs. And so when I didn’t know that maybe someone tugging their eyes at me or something was a wrong thing for them to do, but I knew that it made me feel a certain way. Right. So I’m just thinking like, well, isn’t it selfish of me and prideful of me and Nene of me to say, Hey, you shouldn’t do that and make them feel bad because they’re just joking after. All right. And so there’s this really, um, this really hard thing growing up with that, the addition of that Christian lens that you are not supposed to, um, to speak, you know, in a way this is going to make somebody else feel bad. And so many times, if you do call someone out on something that is related to race, they will feel upset that you have offended them for saying that. Right. And there’s this circle that goes around and around. Um, but as a kid, I think, yeah, I, I didn’t even know that my, uh, feeling that something was off was something I should express to my parents. I think I would have been likely to have assumed, oh, my feeling that this is off, that’s actually just my pride and my selfishness. And I should actually let them make those jokes because they’re just, it’s just a joke after all. And, um, that was never vocalized in a way that my parents had any opportunity to intervene. Yeah. Well, and I love that you said even talking about growing up in a Christian environment, cause it it’s a lot too on women. I would say like Christian women are especially encouraged to be that demean, diminutive person. And that there’s to say that is uncomfortable and wrong and to make someone else uncomfortable is wrong. And I think it’s important as we’re learning to use our voices as Christians, no matter what our color is that we, um, when we’re speaking truth like that, that it’s okay. And of course there are ways to say things that are a little more Jen, I love be the bridge because, um, I feel pinged by things that hit me. Yeah. And it also feels like a safe place to feel pinged that I’m going to have the resources to dig into feel, to figure out what, um, why that is or what that is. That’s inside of me that, um, that gives me permission as an adult. Um, and, and better than that, like language to use so that I don’t pass that onto my kids, whatever it was that pinged me that it’s, it’s really beautiful.  

So anyone listening, I would encourage you to check out, be the bridges on Instagram there’s groups on there are groups on Facebook, it’s online, it’s everywhere, but there are so many resources, um, that are there that you feel pinged inside. If you feel that like, if something makes you angry, if something, um, gives you heartache, if some, like don’t be afraid, yes. Don’t be afraid at all. Normal responses. Yes. And we, you know, like we’re old enough as adults to take responsibility for that and to, to look at ourselves and give ourselves a hard look and it’s okay to admit where we’re wrong and, and move forward from that. And we weren’t taught that we weren’t taught that that’s okay. We’re taught defensiveness and like, wait, no, what I think is what it is like, this is it. I think we’re dealing with that as a society right now. I mean, nothing like COVID to really shine a lens on all of this, but, um, yeah, it’s tough. Or like Kevin said, you know, to bring the Bible and do it search me O God and know my heart. Yep. Show me what’s there and then let’s deal with it. Yeah. And Hey, I know I’m a sinner. I know I get a lot of things wrong. Um, I think that’s, uh, for me personally, part of my personal journey, a lot of why I wanted to start sharing my story or talking about the overlap of race and adoption is because I know for so long, I actively promoted racial colorblindness and that everything was good and awesome. Um, and for your survival people hurts and I misled people. Yeah, I do. Yes. I thank you for saying that. I do think that that was part of my survival strategy, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t cause hurt in that. And part of writing that wrong is now for me to then speak and say, Hey, I was wrong about this. This is not, you know, um, this is actually what my experience really looks like now that I’m older and wiser. And I can see with a broader view, I recognize that I promoted some bad viewpoints, unhealthy viewpoints, harmful viewpoints, dismissing other people’s experiences because I said, well, I’m an adoptee and I’m fine. Um, and, and I don’t want to leave that out there. I want to correct that for myself. Um, and for the people that I know, but that’s part of why I share. And I, and I think we don’t hear enough that we can be both.  

So you can be this adoptive that had, uh, you know, I enjoyed the way I grew up, but there were a lot of things like, and I look back on now, and that’s the benefit of, you know, speaking about how you grew up is you really got to look at, okay, so this happened and what I enjoy doing is going, okay, this is how we remember it as a child. Now that I look back at what just happened in that situation as a child, this is what it really was like, one of you had said earlier, like they didn’t even have to call me the N word. I remember my very first experience is this kid just looked at me in a way they called me the N-word and I was, and I walked away from that the way he wanted me to, which was, I felt about, you know, an inch high. Yep. Um, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just knew I felt horrible. And I just remember him standing over me and looking at me and it’s such a horrible way. And I just thought, man, he’s right. I must not be worth much. And that’s just, it was, so I get to look back at that and go, okay. I was recognizing racism. I just didn’t have the words to put to. Yup. Yup. Um, and so, yeah, I’d love, like I said, loved growing up the way I did and I can be, you know, at times the grateful adoptee and at times the adoptee, that’s just angry because we should have gotten it better, you know? So yeah. We have to give each other the space to be all of that. Like often we’ll get labeled and I stopped going into a lot of these Facebook groups with adoption, because you were either one or the other, you really grateful that you adopt the, or the hell raising adoptee that you shouldn’t even be taught. Like there were those two and you couldn’t be both. And there are some days when I’m one way and some days when I’m another way and that’s okay, we’re allowed, we have that range. Yep. I love the both and talk. And I think as adoptive as an adoptive parent, I, I, I love that because, um, I can go into my daughter growing up and give her, my goal would be to give her that permission to feel both ways because she’s going to, and I don’t blame her. I mean, I, she has, she’s a Butterworth, you guys. So she’s like the coolest person ever. She’s the coolest Butterworth ever really like, but I just look at so many things. I’m like, oh gosh, we can do all the things that we can do.  

And from the beginning of her life, she’s experienced trauma and, and she experiences trauma newly with us every day. Um, being in our family, like, and being Ethiopian like that is to her. That is a trauma. Even if she loves us, she can have both of those things. And I love that, that you’re saying that, that you’re giving permission for that for both, um, adoptive parents too. And for, for kids and for everyone that we can feel those things, I’m not very good at it. I don’t like that feeling. It’s hard to live in that space, but to give that permission, I think is so important. I love that. Um, one more question for you guys. What would you say to an adopted parent that feels like talking about race and racism? Isn’t a priority for them right now. And that’s a kind of a hard one. I don’t know would either of you like to go first as you’re thinking through it. Okay. Kevin, you go. So I don’t know where this is going. Cause I just came up with this thought the other day. Um, I do a lot of work in schools, K through 12 schools and I was doing a professional development and interesting like, like Tiffany, I got into diversity inclusion, diversity and belonging work. And so, um, the meeting went great. They were teachers, faculty, staff, administration there. And then at the end we almost got done with the training and a little, little white woman stood up and, and said, can’t we just say all lives matter because all lives do matter. And can we just stop saying black lives matter? And I hesitated for half a second. Cause I actually had sat down and was done in a hesitated for half a second. And then finally just said, look, that is so offensive when you say that. And I didn’t say this, but I started thinking about what’s a better way to say that. And I think it’s, I was a big fan of the TV show, mash, growing up a similar scope. And so I remember there was this show about the Korean war. It was just the horrible conditions they were. And they were all these trauma doctors. And so they would get, you know, a class would break out and all these helicopters would come in with injured people. And they would sit out in front of the, the hospital that they had and they would do triage and they would say, okay, the guy with the broken leg, he can wait, the guy whose stomach is wide open, he’s got to go into surgery. Now we have to prioritize this. And at no point in any of those series, did the guy with the broken leg go?  

No, my leg matters before his chest gets sewn up because they were prioritizing just the casualty of war. And I just thought, man, why is it so offensive? That what we’re saying, when we talk about black lives matter is this community is in crisis. We are cut from the navel to the chin and we need to go in first. It doesn’t mean you don’t matter. It just means we’re at Def con five. I mean, it is an emergency. It is all out. We need help. And it’s simple, you know, this has come from, we are simply asking when you break it down to the rarest forms, it’s just don’t kill us. So we have to go through all this to say something that’s simple. And I think that drives home. The point that that’s why the conversation of race is so important because yeah, we’re a community in crisis. We need help. We need more allies. We’re not making this stuff up. We’re not, over-exaggerating what happened. This stuff was going on before cell phones. We just now have the opportunity, like will Smith said it’s just being taped. So it was always there. Um, and so we’ve got to talk about race with our transracial adoptees to prepare them for the world that they’re going into because unfortunately they are going to have to be the leader in so many situations, whether it’s, if they’re pulled over by the police. And I hate to say this, but you know, I’ve been talking to my kids and the thing you want to tell them is it’s horrible, but you’re going to have to take control of that situation. And so that means when they come at you yelling and screaming, you can’t go at, you can’t go back at them like that, because then it goes from 10 to 15 really quick. So it means be calm, take control of the situation, which is heartbreaking as a parent, because you don’t know, you can give them all that information and you don’t know, you still don’t know how it’s going to play out. And you’re just hoping you’re filling them with the right information. And then during that high stressful encounter, they’re going to remember something that you’ve said, and I just break it down to do whatever you gotta do to come home alive. We can figure everything else out later. And so that’s why race becomes so important because yeah, like that statistic you gave, you know, families of color, talk about race three times more than white families, because we’re impacted by it all the time. Yeah.  

And so if you, if you kind of stretch that out and you think like the big thing, the big study that came out recently said, you know, lower, lower class and family and communities of color, you know, as they grow in the household, there’s I think a million less words that are spoken, which then impacts how they, they learn. Wow. If you grew up in a house that has a million less words, by the time you get into with, you know, I think it’s seven or eight. Yeah. Then it impacts the way you learn the opposite effect is with race where, you know, families of color, talk about it three times more. So their racial intelligence is actually a lot higher because it’s something you always talk about. Like in our home to your last question, we talk about it all the time. We joke about it. There’s not a day that we don’t talk about. And it’s not a bad thing. Like my, my black kids will joke, joke with my white mother about race. And, and they’ve been given the space to just freely talk about it. We have fun with it. The differences in different cultures, we joke around about the talk of race. Doesn’t have to be this horrible conversation that everyone’s going to walk away from the table. It’s writing, you know, the next day, um, early on, often talk about it. And then it becomes this thing that you can talk about it. Joke about it. Yes. That’s huge. I love that. I think you have another book in there too. Kevin, you don’t have to give anyone any credit, but I love that mash analogy too. Like I love, um, that description of it’s triaged. It’s not, yeah. That’s pretty huge. What would you say Tiffany? Well, um, I love Kevin’s answer, but mine is going to be really different. Um, that’s great for a white adoptive parent that doesn’t feel like talking about race and racism as a priority. I probably wouldn’t say anything. And here’s why I think maybe I would ask them some questions. Like I’d ask them why I’d asked them how they think race might impact their child’s life over their lifetime, ask them how they think they might be able to support them through that. And I listened to their answers, but I don’t think that I would try to convince them otherwise, um, necessarily, I mean, out of care for their child of color, there’s a desire to try to convince them. But I really think that in the short amount of time that I’ve been in this space of trying to talk with white people about race, I just don’t feel like my energy is best spent with people who need to be convinced that it’s an important thing to talk about. I think that’s a heart issue.  

So then I think that’s a holy spirit issue and it’s a posture issue. And I hope that the right people can nudge them in that direction. Um, but it’s actually, you know, it can be quite painful for me talking with white head Optus parents, especially those who deny the issues who don’t want to listen, um, with humility and, and hurtful for me to sit in those conversations. And so I don’t, I look for the people who already have a posture of wanting to learn, being curious and being open. And I try to put my energy there. And then I hope that maybe they, as white adoptive parents will turn around and work on the other winded up and parents who don’t yet think that they need to talk about it. Um, and, and maybe those like adoptive parents who are ready to talk can help the other ones get to where they need to be. And then I can pick up with them then. Um, but I, it definitely hurts, you know, to hear that. And there’s definitely this like, wow, I really see how important this is for you and for your child. Um, but I’m, I’m trying to learn some discernment and, and recognizing that, um, sometimes the more you try to convince somebody of something, the less they listen and, um, and also the, you know, I’m still very much in, in my process. So the damage that that might do to me or the toll that takes on me to see a conversation like that go nowhere. Um, you know, I, yeah, I have to stop and think, I, I really don’t know that it’s my place to try to change their posture on this. And, um, don’t know if it’s worth what it would take for me to do that, uh, really profound though. And I love that you’re setting those boundaries for yourself for, to protect yourself. Yeah, you have to, I can only imagine that you have to, and I love what you said about hoping other white families can talk to them. I think that that is a place where people can, and I get asked this question, like, what do I do? What, and I’m, I am first off, no expert myself by any means of, of how to be an advocate I’m doing what I’ve read and what I’ve seen. And, um, I think that is a huge way for adoptive parents to advocate, to be a part of that with their own, for their children to see that model. Um, and not that they have to be a part of that conversation because that’s not something that they need to be involved in at all.  

But, um, but to talk to, to have that conversation and ask those questions, because that’s not something that you sh you’re right, that’s not something either of, you should have to, um, have to even talk about with them. And I do think that that is like a heart, a spirit, a holy spirit issue, um, of going back to the verse that, you know, there’s some heart work to be there, done there, that work to be done. And I am not the holy spirit. Thank goodness. We would all be in trouble if I was right. Yeah. Pressure’s off thankfully for all of us. Well, I’ve taken so much of your time. Thank you guys. Really. I feel like I walked away having learned so much from both of you. I think, um, both of you are, uh, have so much to offer to this conversation and I really appreciate your honesty, um, so much that you would be willing to share with us and your stories of what you’ve gone through and what that looks like. Because I think, um, at least for myself, and I think for humanity, like we learned from stories, you know, we can read things about facts and figures and statistics, but, um, that’s just kinda how we’re wired to hear people’s stories and, and say, I hear you. And so I hope that’s what people listening today will do and, and be able to say, wow, I hear you guys.  

I think that’s the challenge for all of us and how can I do better? So thank you guys. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Thanks for listening to Together by AGCI. That was writer, community organizer, and speaker, Tiffany Henness, and Kevin Hofmann, public speaker, and author of the book Growing Up Black and White. I hope that you walk away from this podcast, feeling inspired to open up a conversation about race, no matter what age your kids are, and that we all continue to push in, get uncomfortable and intentionally challenge what we think we know. If you’re interested in learning more about anything that we talked about today, I would encourage you to start that journey by heading to bethebridge.com.

As always, if you liked what you heard, please rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to read or watch even more stories or learn about the work that we do at AGCI, please go to our website at allgodschildren.org, reach out to us and let us know what you think on Instagram at @allgodschildreninternational, or you can email us at together@allgodschildren.org. Thank you so much for listening.