As any parent knows, the playground is never just about kids playing. There are issues of race and class that often go unspoken between the parents and caregivers who have gathered to watch their kids. And for parents with a different skin tone than their child, these issues can be even more confusing and uncomfortable. Terry Keleher, a white father whose adopted son is black, shared his story on HuffPost Live.
"I was pretty prepared that we were going to be a conspicuous family," Keleher told host Nancy Redd. "We would probably stand out, but I wasn't prepared for how often people would approach me and us and start commenting on you know, 'whose kid is that? Are you his father?' That kind of thing."
Even Keleher's neighbors were occasionally suspicious of his family. "We've actually been stopped in our own neighborhood a few times, where people I think thought I was a child snatcher. Sometimes he'll be riding his bike on the sidewalk and scootering maybe home from school, and I may be in the car riding along and you know, just keeping an eye on him, but people think I'm a stranger trying to pick him up. So we've had people who've actually stopped us or stopped him and you know, we've had all kinds of interesting interactions over the years."
In another instance, Keleher was stopped by a passerby outside of a store. "I was running back to my car with my kid, because he actually had had an accident in the store when he wasn't fully toilet-trained, and I was heading back to the car to get his diaper or some things like that because I hadn't brought all of the supplies in with me. And he's yelling to me 'where are you going with that kid? Where are you going?'"
Keleher said that he recognizes where the questions come from.
"I'm understanding why he might think this looks a little odd -- I was on the south side of Chicago, which is a predominantly black neighborhood, and here's this white man running with this black child. So I was trying to treat him respectfully and with understanding, but I sheepishly just had to respond 'Well, I'm going to my car to get his diapers. He needs a diaper change.' So sometimes I try and make light of the situation. Even though I know that there's some serious dynamics going on, I try to understand them. I try not to take it personally and I try to do the best I can to roll with them."