June 3, 2009

Harassment and Resilience

Filed under: Uncategorized — by shellyspodcast @ 7:39 pm

I’ve let this blog lie dormant for a long time. I’ll confess that I didn’t open the text editor today because of that. This has been such a down-low project that I would doubt anyone has read or missed it. My fault.

So I’m here because of something I read. I didn’t feel I could respond to it, especially because I’m acquainted with the person who wrote it. Had this ben a pst from a stranger, I might have taken the time to pen a thoughtful, though mercifully anonymous response that could have given the author a different perspective. But since she’s a friend, I’ll stick to this forum, lest the imprecision of words lead to misunderstanding.

The story is this: my friend, who adopted a child from China several years ago, was out with her daughter, having ice cream. They were approached by a drunk, who made my friend uncomfortable, and asked about her daughter’s nationality. My friend is white. My friend told the man that her daughter is Chinese, and then moved away, because he was making her uncomfortable. The man made some random and drunken comments about the child’s nationality, which were hurtful and insulting. My friend called it “racial harassment.” He daughter, aged four or five, was oblivious.

n her response to the incident, my friend recited a litany of stupid questions that strangers ask parents of children adopted overseas. Her point was that people’s preconceptions are often wrong, and that the details of adoptions and the lives of families with adopted kids, are none of anyone’s business. Reaction from her friends was swift and supportive. “You did the right thing.” “The nerve of some people”, etc.

I don’t question my friend’s reaction. She was angry, understandably, and acted in the best interests of her child. But I wonder, and here you’ll see why I cold not offer my opinion, if this mother learned from her experience.

I’ve been her shoes, and her daughter’s, the object of name-calling and ignorant assumptions, and the subject of thoughtless inquiries by busybodies. I wondered first whether my friend would be likely to arm her daughter, when she is old enough, with the tools she needs to deal with prejudice. My guess is that as a Chinese child living in middle America, she won’t experience the volume of “racial harassment” that many black and Hispanic people do, and that it will come in terms of her connection to her adoptive family. and I can tell you from painful experience that the first time it does come, and that the youngster is aware what it means, it will be a shock. It will never have occurred to this girl that there are mean and stupid people in the world who will make judgments about her because of her race, and the fact that it is not the same as her parents’. It will be her mother’s instinct to protect her; to prevent her from being teased or made fun of. But it will happen, and at some point, her family will need to be ready to help her deal with such situations; to be strong in herself, and to walk away. To choose friends who are not ignorant, and, when appropriate, to stand up for herself. More importantly, she will need to internalize the resilience that will allow her to hold her head high, and ignore or rebuke those who spew hate.

For the mother, and for the supportive friends who rallied around her, I would wish this experience, and the resentment of busy-bodies to become part of a reservoir of personal tolerance. If raising an adopted Asian child, or making common cause with someone who is doing so has provided insight, I would want that insight to become the source of an expansive attitude toward people who are not like themselves. Don’t ask the disabled kid stupid questions, or make assumptions about what that disabled person needs or does not need. Respect and honor those who are unlike you, and, if you seek information and understanding, ask with respect and deference, and understand that your questions, like those of well-maaning, but ignorant strangers in the grocery store, may well represent an invasion into personal space, or into a family’s privacy.

I couldn’t help thinking, as I remembered the times a stupid high school kid, or a drunk at a bus stop accosted me with questions about why my eyes were closed, or wanted to know “what’s wrong with you?” that this mother’s reaction, while understandable, was pretty overwrought. She and her daughter are fortunate not to have had more such experiences. Because they happen all the time, to some of us.


October 17, 2007

My Story To Do List

Filed under: Uncategorized — by shellyspodcast @ 6:28 am
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The idea for this blog comes not from the things I expect to hapen to me, but from the things that already have, but went unwritten. I’m not trying to tease you, dear reader, but only to put down a short list of the kinds of stories I plan to tell here, in hopes that the list will remind me, and warn you.

  • The time I knocked an old lady down in the street
  • The day a parked car took me from utter triumph to humiliated despair in the space of five seconds
  • A lunchtime when my friend got me lost two blocks from work

And now I am having the extremely weird sensation of trying to conjure the most awful experiences of my life so that I can add them to this list. And no more have come to me.

Who needs a blog? I’m perfectly well-adjusted and have no angst to share.

Until tomorrow when I remember something else to add to the list.

October 16, 2007

An Adventure

Filed under: Uncategorized — by shellyspodcast @ 8:16 pm

An important reason I wanted to start this blog was to get down the adventures that occur in my life. These are not exciting tales of triumph. Nor are they spectacular attempts, thwarted by the stupidity of others. That stuff is for people who are a lot more sure of who they are relative to the larger world than I am.

No, dear reader, whoever you are, these adventures sometimes end in triumph, but they usually start in confusion, mutate into fear or uncertainty, evolved into workarounds, and end with me getting back home, more tired than the events would actually indicate, sometimes emotionally drained, occasionally in tears, and always without a way to “share”.

So I’m sharing now.

Oh,and just for reference. What follows was an extremely minor adventure, and not one I would avoid telling people either. Just one I can write best here. Again, I’ll be sure to let you know when the hard-core misery starts.

This morning I needed to go to the post office. I got a ride up there, but intended to head straight home, after a stop at a neighborhood coffee shop for a cup. We noted on the way to coffee that the street upon which my bus home normally travels was being paved. We made a detour, and I assumed the bus would do the same. Fair enough. I know where the usual detour goes, and it would mean a walk of an extra four blooks. No hardship there.

My business completed at the P.O. I walked the four blocks to coffee and savored my rich, creamy beverage. I also stopped for a few groceries, then waited for my bus home. sure enough, the bus turned exactly one street before my usual stop to make its detour. I pulled the cord and figured to get of at the first detoured stop. But the driver kept going and going and going. Pretty soon, he was out of my comfortable walking range. Seated in the back of the sub with an armload of groceries, I made one of my characteristic (which of these is more trouble) decisions and decided to ride the bus downtown, grab some lunch and take the reverse bus home.

Done with errands, and leaning the sweaty grocery bag against my leg, I bordered said northbound bus. this driver mentioned the detour, and I asked him whether I could get off at a certain corner that was parallel to my street. I could and did.

After the four-block walk (uphill) to my destination street, I came upon the remnants of the paving job. There were a few barricades up,but no trucks. I couldn’t see them, but I heard people moving around, too. Were they done paving, or not yet at this point on the road? I decided to cross, and one lane in, found myself sticking to new pavement. Thinking the lurking crew (there to direct traffic) might give me info, I said “Is there a better place to cross?” Silence.

Not being sure how much damage I might do to my shoes, or whether soupy tar awaited me if I crossed further, I decided to hoof it a few block north where I knew a crosswalk and lots of traffic would be. Surely I could get over from there, then double back down the street. which is what I did, without incident. but the extra walking, the feeling of defeat and powerlessness the experience left me with have lasted all afternoon.

I couldn’t help thinking, in what would be melodramatic fashion in any other forum, but which is how I really feel, that the people who whine daily about traffic snarls, DMV lines and the checker who takes too long counting up their purchases should try living in my tar-covered shoes for a day or two. Just try it and see if, at some advanced age, an extra share of bitterness that is sometimes out of proportion with events doesn’t sneak up on you and make the ida of an anonymous blog seem like a good one.

Stick Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — by shellyspodcast @ 3:10 am
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Twas International White Cane Day today. Buses and vans disgorged the local blind folk for a walk down Congress Avenue from the Capitol to City Hall. I’m thinking of getting a cane, so maybe next year I’ll be with them.

Inner monologue goes something like this:

You say that like it’s no big deal. Like getting a cane is the most natural thing in the world. Like it isn’t a long white name badge. Like you won’t hate every minute of walking with it, and like you won’t conveniently forget to take it with you half the time.

It is a big deal, you know. The getting, or the mobility training I would subject myself to if I did it are not at all big deals. But the next time I take a plane, train or other conveyance by myself, and have to decide whether to carry the thing into a convention hall or family reunion, you better check back her, because that’s when the fireworks will start.

Oh yeah, and when all that happens, I’ll get around to explaining why I don’t carry a cane now, and why I think I need one.

September 20, 2007

Blinded by the Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — by shellyspodcast @ 10:03 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Some things simply don’t need to be said. Or more precisely, they don’t need to be said often, or in a forum that demands constant attention. And sometimes, the things you want to say are so out of context with the life you live and the person you are, that they make no sense to the people around you.

With that cryptic introduction, I offer a new blog that may or may not be updated regularly. It exists to express the thoughts, feelings and confusion of a visually impaired (but you can call me half-blind if you really want to) person trying to live full-time in a sighted world.

The thing is that I chose this life and all the rewards of stimulation, mental challenge and acceptance it has to offer. But there are times when walking around in a world not built for me is a pain in the ass, and even physically scary.

On the flip side, I don’t have much in common with the blind people I know. I have challenging work in the “real” world, and not a lot of connection to a very insular community. In a world where everything is about blindness, and most of the people in it are blind, I get bored and restless. Even angry at their bitterness and refusal to put themselves out there.

So this is my outpost, my safe space, my opportunity to, without compromising other parts of my life, to work things out, and maybe teach you, dear reader, a thing or two. I’m hoping I get used to the fact that it’s anonymous, and that this will make me more honest. That’ll take some time, I expect.

Blog at