Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thanks, O. Zhang!

Never one to miss the chance to 'beat a dead horse', even I was surprised to see the fervor which still surrounded the photo exhibit, Daddy and I by O.Zhang.

It is interesting to see how people have become experts-in photography, East-West relations, father/daughter relationships and even ESP! The flap over the appropriateness of the photos and their 'true' meaning' continues unabated-particularly in the adoption community.

As of yesterday, some of the more skeevy photos were taken off of O.Zhang's site. This morning, one adoption group member reported that the photographer had taken note of the derision the photos were causing and reacted by re-arranging her website.

I am not sure if this is the effect that is most beneficial-in the long run-for our kids. On the positive side a group of people joined together and had their voices heard. Our kids can see democracy in action which is a great thing.

However, I wonder if this is the best course of action for kids long term. Intentional or not, O.Zhang's photos made people think about their biases and stereotypes. Some people were uncomfortable and (some oblivious, too) with the feelings that came up. It's ok to be uncomfortable, right? Sometimes changing oneself takes time and courage. Shouldn't we be thanking O.Zhang for pushing bias to the front burner? Isn't owning our biases the way to keep them to ourselves and not pass them on to our kids?

Of course, it is. But like any problem, the first step is recognizing that there is a problem. Zhang's photos forced us to remember that our biases are alive and well, albeit, deeply buried. As the old saying goes, "Da Nile, isn't just a river in Egypt."

The question is what are we going to to about it. Here are some thoughts:

1. Give yourself a break for feeling biases-we all do, no matter what.

2. You have a choice whether or not to pass your biases onto your children. That involves being as present and aware as you can be. When your child hears you mutter, "go faster you little old lady" when you are driving behind a senior citizen, they will pick up that there is something wrong with being old. They will file that away and pull it out when they 'need' to.

3. Your language matters. You have probably tried to limit your use of four-letter words around your kids, but you might not have thought about other labels that serve to cement biases. Labels like 'illegal alien or immigrant' are not only divisive, they are not accurate. People are in the US without paperwork-which is illegal, but people themselves are not illegal. Don't dismiss language as 'political correctness' and wait for it to wane. Respectful ways to talk about people who are different than you are makes a BIG impression on your kids. It is the first step in raising kids that are respectful-and successful.

Anything that makes us stop, think and react is a good thing-especially as it relates to how we raise our kids.

While I was not so crazy about the photos-I think that they are doing a good job of making us talk about some of our racial, sexual and cultural issues.

I welcome things that make me think and challenge me to be a better parent-even if it makes me crazy.

With Respect,

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