Tuesday, September 1, 2009

More Than a Monkey

A wise man once said "everything is funnier with a monkey." It is a maxim that has shaped my life. Most of my pajamas and leisure wear are covered with them. They are scattered all over my house in photos and decorations. There are so many monkeys on my desk at work that it looks like monkey island. On every gift giving holiday I am sure to get one monkey related item. For better or worse I am the "crazy monkey lady."

The other day I sent out a photo album to friends and family that contained this picture:
People sent me back messages telling me how cute Meg is, and how much she is growing. But one friend added a little extra. He wrote: "but seriously, you put a little black girl in a jumper that says 'silly monkey'. Really!?!"And my heart stopped.

I knew the moment was coming. I knew it from the moment that Ryan and I decided we would adopt an African American daughter. I knew that someone would question our racial sensitivity. I knew that it would probably be because of my love of monkeys, and the fact that the word monkey is used by some hateful people as a racial slur against African Americans. However, the fact that I knew all that didn't make it any less hard.

I seriously considered giving up the monkey thing when we learned Meg was coming. Actually, I did more than think about it: I changed everything that I wanted, telling people not to give us monkey items, and changing the bedding on our registry. I also cried a lot. I hated (and still hate) the fact that something that has brought so much joy to me could bring so much hurt to my child. Then I realized that if I decided to turn away from monkeys all my daughter would know of them is a racial slur. So, I took monkeys back.

I know when some people see Meg in a monkey outfit, or see the monkeys in her nursery, they will only see racial slurs. That is something THEY have to deal with. When I see them, and when Meg sees them, we will see the best possible world there is for for her. When the ugly parts of it surfaces, we will deal with them, but we will not hide the wonderful parts of the world just because some assholes have decided they need to have a double meaning. I mean, should we never give her watermelon? Or fried chicken?

Or, I could be wrong. If I am, I will keep the outfit as exhibit A for her therapy...

18 comments:

Jessica and Reecey said...

No one can rock a monkey onesie like beautiful Meg. I don't see a racial slur- I just see an adorable baby with really really kissable cheeks :)

Yellow Trash Diaries said...

I still get corrected when I use the term "Oriental" to describe myself, mostly from white people. I think love and humor and defining yourself is way more important than political correctness any day.

Amanda said...

I will be more offended when Meg shows up wearing crocs - she needs a chance to know rubber footwear is EVIL.

SRR said...

I'm so out of it. When the sports commentator got hell for using the monkey term a few years ago it shocked me. Because I had no idea that monkey was considered a slur. Best wishes figuring this stuff all out.

*Akilah Sakai* said...

Ouch. Don't know what to tell you but some people will see it the way your friend did and some won't. It will happen again. Say what you asked: "I mean, should we never give her watermelon? Or fried chicken?" Show them you are not being insensitive, thankyouverymuch.

My son's ears poke out and his bathroom theme are monkeys all over the place because, like you, I adore monkey stuff. If someone where to ask me about it, there'd be hell to pay when I'm done with them. Well, not hell, but I'd be extremly snappish with them because his ears are fine, fine, fine the way they are.

Kelly said...

You are not wrong. Monkeys are not going to hurt Meg. People might hurt her feelings, but with you to guide her she will realize that the ones who do are probably not worth her time, or they need to be educated.

Mea loves monkeys, fried chicken and watermelon....

Janine said...

If it's not the word monkey it will be some other word that someone will turn into a slur. If we exclude all of these current and future words-turned-slurs from our vocabulary humans will eventually regress back to pointing and grunting. And even then, some immature dumbass will turn a certain grunt into either a slur or profanity.

I'm a big fan of taking back words. Let's face it, only intelligent people know the real origin of words (as in the latin) and so refusing to acknowledge the slang and slurs is just another way for those of us who are more evolved, smarter and most likely better looking to show off.

I love monkeys. Especially those sock ones.

KC said...

Bring on the monkeys. They are cute and adorable and that is all they should be. My oldest son has a monkey tattoo on his foot.... Curious George. His two year old tells everyone she sees that her dad has a monkey on his foot. They are usually confused by that.

Mr. Glob said...

I completely agree that you should not give up monkeys. In fact the monkey on the foot comment by KC is true, I do have a monkey tattoo :)

Cate said...

I think that whoever sent you that email is the one with the problem. Screw them. You are doing a wonderful job figuring out how to raise your daughter and without monkeys, it she wouldn't be a true reflection of you.

MomZombie said...

Wow. I never in a million years would have put those two things together. I know I'm only one person but it just went right over my head. Your daughter is beautiful and it's so obvious you love her to death. i wouldn't give up your collection. It's not as if you collected obviously racially insensitive stuff as a hobby.
I do understand the part about being hyper-sensitive to the race issue, though.

Summer said...

My kids are biracial, and I call them my little monkeys all the time. I dare someone to say something. I think people who read more into what we say or do, should kiss our butts. We're their mothers! Sheesh. They'd really freak out if they knew I plan on making Fat Fat Sucker a monkey for Halloween. It's adorable!

I'm with Amanda, I'll be more offended if you put her in crocs.

P.S. I think you're a great mother!

Susan said...

Aw heck, if we have to be all racially correct, you can have Sugarplum's quilt. It has African American ballet dancers on it. But you'll have to pry it out of her little (Caucasian) hands because it's her most favorite thing ever.

Scribe said...

That is sooo not what I thought when I looked at Meg in her cute monkey outfit. I call my dog monkey when he's being crazy and I'd probably call my kids that too. It's a term of endearment and should NOT have those connotations. And CROCS are the devil's work to make us look like dweebs.

Jules said...

Wow. And I didn't even notice the monkey until you pointed it out. I noticed that she looked unhappy and I wanted to pick her up.

She's getting so big. Love her and let other people screw themselves. As I said to another friend today, "I'm tired of the stupid people being around me."

:: wife mom maniac :: said...

Wow that's gotta be tough on you, knowing that facing this kinda thing is inevitable. Your sense of humor will be the most amazing buffer for all of you against the wierdnesses in the world, I'm sure of it :)

Gina said...

People are asshats.

I have been WAY behind on my blog reading, and I can't believe how big Meg is getting. She is adorable.

Carlea said...

For Father's Day this year (as a "Yay, we finished our home study!" gift), I bought my foodie husband a book called "Hungry Monkey" on how to raise an adventurous eater.

After our daughter, who is African American, was born this summer, I would call her a hungry monkey when she'd eat. My husband told me if made him uncomfortable that I did that.

I get it, I guess. But I'm with you that it makes me sad that something so sweet and endearing can be made into something so ugly.

I'm SO HAPPY I found your blog!