Can White People Be In On The Joke?

22 Feb

A friend of mine, who is black, posted a question on Facebook a while back. He asked what others thought about the trend of white Hollywood celebrities adopting black, African babies?

I was interested in seeing what people thought, and read all the comments, so far only posted by people who were black. Some said they saw nothing wrong with it—that if a baby is given love it doesn’t matter what color the parent is, and that, perhaps with all the actor’s wealth, a comfortable home and upbringing, the child would be getting an opportunity for a better life than he or she might have in Africa.

None of the comments appeared overly negative or angry, but a few joked and pondered the psychological needs of the wealthy, white celebrity to feel they were doing a good deed by saving the poor, black African child. Or joked about it being white celebrities’ own version of “Keeping up with Joneses.” One comment suggested some celebrities were worried that Brad and Angelina had more than they did—so Madonna had to go get her an African baby, and then Sandra Bullock had to go adopt one, too.

I wanted to comment too, but I worried, being white, how my comment might be taken. That maybe my curiosity or opinion wasn’t wanted here, since there hadn’t been a post in this thread by a white person. But, I told myself that I should go ahead and have a voice and post something.

I think I asked what people thought was important for a white parent who is raising a black child to provide for that child in terms of culture and heritage, and what would be of concern in that relationship?

I waited for a response. None came. Instead, it seemed the posts all of a sudden became more polite. They came at a less rapid pace than before I posted. No one seemed to address my question directly. I feared that I had done the wrong thing. At least, that is the way I so often feel—in many areas of my life—not just in the area of race relations. I worry that I’ve said something wrong, that I’ve stuck my foot in mouth, or that what I’ve said is insignificant and not worth hearing or responding to. Of course, I also often project what people may be thinking. Maybe people just didn’t read my post, and weren’t consciously ignoring it—people don’t respond to all the comments in a thread. Maybe I was just being paranoid.

In this case, though, I wondered if I had trespassed, become an interloper on a conversation that was most comfortable being discussed and joked about by the people who felt they had a bigger stake in the issue at hand: the adoption of black babies by white celebrities. But, don’t both races have a stake, a responsibility to share the dialog, so that we can understand where one another are coming from? And, in turn be mindful of the other’s perspective? As our families and relationships become more racially mixed, perhaps we can learn how to live together, and how to parent in a way that led by love, honors another’s heritage, race, culture and class.


Please comment here and let me know what you think. How do we talk about these things, joke about these things, together, without walking on eggshells, without insulting one another, or judging one another’s perspectives or belief systems?


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