I recently spoke to my mom the other day and she told me a story about her best friend from high school that I thought was particularly interesting for purposes of our class. Her friend Carrie adopted three children from China since she was never able to have her own children. The middle child is currently a senior in high school and for the past few years has been struggling with a disorder known as Reactive Attachment Disorder. Here is an explanation of the disorder to provide a background for the actions of Carrie’s daughter:
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a condition in which individuals exhibit markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness. Children with RAD have considerable difficulty forming meaningful, affectionate relationships. Since prenatal experience (e.g., exposure to substances), birth trauma, inconsistent or inadequate day care, separation issues, abuse and neglect are precipitating factors that may lead to RAD, internationally adopted children evidence this disorder at a significantly higher rate than the general population (Rogu, 2006). (This was taken from the International Adoption Article Directory website, a post adoption learning center.)
Carrie’s daughter has run away from home several times for days at a time at the age of 17. As a result, Carrie and her husband have had to call the police and file a missing person’s report. Consequently, her daughter has appeared several times on the local news when she has gone missing. Her daughter was also dismissed from her high school because they decided she was too great of a risk to the school to continue being a student there. Carried went on to explain to my mom that she has essentially been shunned from the other parents at her daughter’s school and from all of her neighbors. They blatantly ignore her and want absolutely nothing to do with her or her family. My mom then explained to me that Carrie lives in a predominantly White neighborhood and her daughter attends a school with very few minorities. Carrie, who is also White, has admitted to my mom that it has not always been easy raising children who possess a different racial identity than her and the majority of individuals they are surrounded by in their town. What do you guys think about Carrie’s story and how she is now being treated by other members of her community? Do you think this has anything to do with the stereotype of the model Asian-American? Also, is Carrie’s current situation in any way indicative of the new wave of racism society is currently in?
3 thoughts on “A Story of the Way Racism Manifests Itself Today”
I really appreciated Kristen bringing up the “anything but race” rhetorical style (Bonilla-Silva, 2007). In a situation like this, I can see why people would find it easy to find other reasons to account for their treatment of Carrie and her daughter. She’s troublesome, she has RAD, she’s a risk to the school, etc. I am curious as to what explanation Carrie’s neighbors and the other parents would use to explain their isolating Carrie after the incidence. Why wouldn’t they reach out to Carrie for help? If the problem was only about Carrie’s one “troubled” daughter, then why would the parents change how they treat Carrie?
I think this story also brings up something that we did not get to address in class, multicultural families in America. In this case, Carrie is White and her daughters are Asian. What does that mean for how society looks at Carrie? Her daughters? We also live in a society where people are biracial or multiracial. This starts to complicate things. As we learned from Devine (1989), we categorize people. What happens when people no longer fit into our categories?
I agree with what Michela has said; this story seems to be an example of aversive racism and of implicit attitudes coming forward. While reading this story I wasn’t so sure but after reflecting on the story, it seems to be clearly indicated that their neighbors have isolated them because of the daughter’s race in conjunction with her condition. This got me thinking, if Carrie’s daughter were a white child rather than an Asian-American child, would the neighbors be shutting them out or would they be more likely to want to help Carrie deal with her daughter’s condition. There is definitely evidence of colorblind racism in this story because these people are shutting out a minority child but are able to blame it on something else. They are able to use the “anything but race” rhetorical style and say that they feel that Carrie’s daughter is a risk and they find it necessary to shut her out because she has this condition. They can say that their actions have nothing to do with race and are rooted simply in the condition on the child. These people do not think that they recognize color in others and do not believe that they treat whites different than minorities. But it has been found that they actually do treat them differently.
I think Tory makes some interesting connections. I think it seems like a mixture of a few approaches; it seems easy to ignore the cultural differences and say that she’s just a difficult child and it has nothing to do with race. However, I don’t this is true because her racial identity has seemed to cause her significant difficulty in a community that has a colorblind approach. If she’s a minority member amongst a community of Whites, I think a lot of research we’ve read is that when racial identity isn’t acknowledged, the racial biases appear in implicit, non-verbal ways. I also think the way that the community jumped on the opportunity to explain their discomfort with her was because of her condition; it’s a form of aversive racism because they are looking to explain their pre-existing feelings of an implicit bias and rationalize with a response that doesn’t involve race—therefore they can’t be racist. I think it’s also important to acknowledge how all of these components could be related; we’ve learned about how racism can not only have effects on an individual’s identity, but can also have an effect on an individual’s psychological well-being. I can’t imagine the stress an individual endures when they experience colorblind racism, yet because of social norms, isn’t allowed to talk about it.
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