A Father’s Love for His Chosen Son

You were my first experience with father love.
You chose me before I chose you.
The first time we met you crawled over to my chair,
crawled onto my lap and put your head next to my heart
where you have always been and will always be.

Together we explored this cruel world.
I hoisted you up on my shoulders
where you sat so proudly,
a high vantage point for seeing the world.
Together we set out to explore our village,
you, proud to show the world you were loved,
me, proud to show the world I could love.

You taught me how to be a father,
to enjoy your childhood innocence,
to support your adolescent strugglers,
to be there for you
during your battle to find a place
as an adult with a brown face
in a white world.
But you always have and always will have
a place of love and safety in my world
where love always has and always will abide.

Dangers of Extremism in Systemic Racism

     It was 1971, over fifty years ago, when we adopted our beautiful eighteen-month-old Cree Nations son. We were passing through The Pas Manitoba on the way to my first teaching assignment when we first saw the little guy and began plans to adopt him. Perhaps we were naive, perhaps we were too anxious to start a family, and we definitely did not foresee the pains and sorrows ahead for him and for us. But would we do it all again – you bet!
     Would he have been better off in a Cree home? Who knows? His birth mother was a fifteen-year- old girl who was unable to care for him. When my son decided to contact her when he was in his twenties, it did not turn our well. She had suffered on-going problems throughout her life and her children were all struggling to survive with far deeper problems than my son was experiencing. My son decided not to pursue that connection. Would he have been better off in an indigenous foster or adoptive home? Probably, but there were none available at that time. Was the world prejudice against him? Yes, cruelly so. He had trouble making and keeping white friends. He never married because he was rejected by white girls, and he lacked the opportunity to meet with progressive indigenous women. He was beat up by the police for talking back. He struggled with mental issues. There were no indigenous support groups at that time, so we did the best we could and he did the best he could. He survived. He has a brilliant mind with incredible spatial problem-solving abilities but has difficulty with verbal tasks. He graduated from grade twelve and could have become a great architect or engineer but because of his poor verbal reasoning skills he had to settle for two trades tickets. He struggled with white employers and finally found a group of indigenous trades people to work with who understood the issues he was facing. He now lives a reasonably happy and productive life. He has on-going problems, but he always bounces back.
     I have read several books on the topic of systemic racism, and I am disturbed by the angry energy that seems to prevail. Because I come from the dominant white culture, I am naturally racist (two social groups – Us and Them – Sociology 101 – struggling for control of limited resources). If I state I have an adopted indigenous son, I am being racist. If I state my best friend was indigenous and I was his best man at his wedding, I am being racist.
      There were atrocities after atrocities that have happened in the past, but we do not have to live in the past; we can embrace the present and plan for the future. This systemic racism discussion is not helping. It is just alienating the people who are sincere and want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We need to work together. The new indigenous leaders of Canada are beautiful and powerful people. They have the ideas and the energy to make things happen, but they lack the resources. We have the resources, but as a society, we lack compassion and the desire to provide them with the human and financial supports they need. We cannot afford to silence the voices who want to help. We need dialogue. We need to listen with open minds and respond with open hearts and open wallets. It is time to do everything we can to make a difference. The voices of the children and youth of today need to be heard. The lives of indigenous children matter.