The other day, the writers at Lawyers, Guns, Money Blog (LGM) commented on – Very Smart Brotha’s, and Damon Young’s awesome response to Kanye West’s bullshit.
I provide the background here because I don’t discover these sources of insight on my own, that’s why I read LGM. Time is short.
The most effective way to relate to “normal” people what it is like to be an adult surviver of long term foster care is to use analogies. I can think of no better analogy than race. But I will preface this with a couple of caveats because when we use race as an analogy, things can go very wrong, very quickly.
- First, I am not a person of color, although… my maternal grandmother was half Cherokee supposedly!! (Check your response to that statement – that’s a little sarcasm there, OK? Yes there really was some native American back in my lineage but it doesn’t matter. I am white, I’ve always been treated as a white man and benefited accordingly. So let’s be clear that I’m not claiming otherwise.)
- Second, race (what we call race) is on the outside. Foster care is on the inside. Big difference. At least until someone asks about your family, then you “wear the foster care.” Race is wielded systemically against a group of similar looking people. Foster care is just a straight up way to take a few of us and shorten our lives for fun and profit (half joking). The only systemic part of it is related to poverty and fortunately no one is going to kick you out of Starbucks for looking “foster” so long as you actually are white.
With that out of the way…
When Damon Young responds to Kanye West’s bullshit about slavery being a choice he does so with the most powerful proof he has – himself:
“Dying a slave is not a mark against you or your ancestors if you happen to descend from slaves. It also does not minimize or ignore the myriad ways they attempted to challenge the institution of slavery (and if you are not aware of those histories and those stories, do something Kanye obviously doesn’t do and read a fucking book). Instead, it is proof of their strength and resilience and faith and fight.
That proof, also, is you.
If you are alive today, and if your life is the eventual product of people who, hundreds of years ago, were born in and died in chains, your very existence is a fucking miracle. That they were able to live long enough, through all of that fucking horror, to still produce and continue life, is a fucking miracle. That they went through all of that and are still able to, half a millennium later, have a legacy through you is a fucking miracle, even if you don’t recognize their fight and your existence as miraculous.
Anti-blackness—the lesson plan for white supremacy’s multidisciplinary base curriculum—is so relentless and pervasive and nimble and tricky that it has attempted to convince us to regard the men and women who came before us as something other than the fucking miracles that they were. We ain’t all come from kings and queens, and that’s fine. We mostly came from people who fought and clawed and scratched to etch space to be human when the economy of the entire fucking country was predicated on preventing that from happening—who combated a centuries-long lack of humanity with humanity’s peak.
And that’s enough. That will always be enough.”
As adults, we find our former foster selves voluntarily justifying our worth, our validity. We shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t feel as though we have to.
For me, when someone asks me “tell me about your family.” or “where is your family,” or “how many brothers and sisters do you have,” it feels the way I imagine it would feel if I were to ask a black person “so tell me about being black?”
I mean we’re at this party and everyone’s having a good time and all of a sudden I stop the music with the most insulting and dumb question I can imagine. That’s the best way I can describe it to you. And that’s why I find the racial analogy so powerful – because as slow as we are to address race in our culture, most white people who can read a book are at long last slowly starting to understand that race is an issue. And that base of understanding is what allows other movements to present their view point, wether we’re talking about LGBTQ rights, MeToo, or any other cause. The cause of racial justice and the people who have carried it have laid the groundwork that so many people now use to find their voice and which we then take for granted.
And that is why I must paraphrase Damon Young on behalf of all foster children:
We didn’t all come from ideal, perfect families and that’s OK! We came from flawed people who made mistakes and yet – here YOU are! And that’s enough. That will always be enough.
The hell you need to know about my family?