Monday, June 17, 2013

The Success Story

Dr. Raible’s words still echo at different points in my days and weeks. One very powerful set of statements keeps playing.

“We are the success stories. But how many of the other stories were silenced by suicide?”

Here’s an account of such a story that was almost silenced.

He was twelve. Another school year was beginning. A new year, a new grade, and an abundance of promises … new books, new teachers, new subjects.

The regulars were present, too … friends, last year’s acquaintances and the same old halls. But this year, everyone was changing … physically, socially, emotionally. Some he considered friends became distant. Some began telling him that his race would exclude him from the relationships they all wanted. The “going together” moniker would be coveted but never his.

He was approached by strangers in the park who would taunt him with words that cut. The seemingly innocuous word, “Chinese” would be said with malice. There would be the pulling of eyes to assimilate his physical racial feature. He felt surrounded by a hate that he did not understand.

The words of others ridiculing him rang through his head. He wanted to hide. He felt alone. He felt he couldn’t tell his parents because they would never understand what it was like to live in his skin.

One night, he waited. He waited to hear the soft quiet of his sister’s sleeping sounds. He waited as his parents ascended the stairs to their bedroom. He could hear them brushing teeth and chatting as they readied themselves for sleep. And then, there was silence.

Quietly, he got out of bed. He took a cord and draped it in his closet. Sobbing softly, he wrapped the cord around his neck. He hoped this would numb the pain of the last few months. He hoped it would silence the voices and darken the images of kids slanting their eyes. He hoped it would give him peace.

As the cord tightened, he sensed a darkness. Unconsciousness washed over him. Then, he opened his eyes. It was dawn. The cord lay on the floor, broken. His tears had dried. Something in him gave him resolve. He rose, got dressed and began another day.

In the days to come, he would talk with his mother about these racial comments. She would console him and try to work through the pain of the words.

His mother would never know the events that lead up to these discussions. She gave her love and advice, but he would keep this secret with him until many months later when his strength had returned.

His is a success story unlike those of us, the adoptee panelists, to whom Dr. Raible referred. The adoption community is awakening; discussions on race are finally becoming relevant, without suspicions or feelings of resentment.

The Korean American Adoptive Family Network recently blogged on the reluctance of our children to talk about issues of race with those they love the most … their families. You can find this blog post here.

Let’s keep the conversation going and add to the number of success stories.

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