Who Put the Ewwwww in Beautiful?
Updated: Jul 1
As we awkwardly took this selfie on our way to the Children’s Theater, a woman kindly offered to take a picture of us. A friend of the woman taking our picture said something to us that we hear from white strangers every so often, “You are a beau-ewwwwww-tiful family.” It always makes me and my husband feel weird. We wonder what is really being communicated in that long ewwwwwwww that leaves us feeling, well, ewey. We don’t really know. And the answer wouldn’t necessarily be the same for everyone who does this. (Thankfully this happens less now that the kids are older. I just asked my daughter what she thought about it. She said she didn’t know and looked uncomfortable — as if I had just exposed the fact that I had an extra toe, and she really didn’t want to look at it. Here is another weird thing about white people she’s gonna have to live with…..)
I believe the woman saying we were ewely beautiful was trying to be kind. However, in these situations, I can’t help but ask myself, would she say that if we were a family of all white people? Hmmmmmm, maybe, but I’m not convinced anyone would say it with quite so much ewe to it.
I hesitate to write some of my personal interpretations of what the ewe in beautiful might mean. I feel sad and anxious about them and fear my interpretations hold too many prejudices of their own. But so many of you have appreciated the vulnerability and honesty in my past blogs that I am going to be brave and try.
When someone tells me my family is beau-ewwwwwwww-tiful, I tend to interpret it as follows:
1. He/she thinks I am extra special for adopting brown kids, because he/she thinks, probably unconsciously, brown kids are less desirable than white kids and any white person who can love brown kids is saintly and more beautiful than other people on the inside.
2. He/she feels sorry for us, thinking my husband and I are infertile and couldn’t have our “own” kids — again, probably unconsciously, because he/she thinks white kids are more desirable than brown kids.
3. He/she feels uncomfortable with our different kind of family, but he/she doesn’t want to feel uncomfortable, so he/she tries to make up for it with a liberal kind of racism, putting the ewe in beautiful.
I want to think as kindly and generously about everyone around me as much as possible. I don’t want to make a fuss over someone saying my family is beautiful, but I worry about the implications for my kids. What does all that eweing mean for them? I am trying to write about these things for my sake and their sakes and all our sakes. I am trying to help myself be more aware and figure out how to prepare my kids for the world. I know that I can’t do it alone either. I need help. So, I will be completely open and say that I hope that you, unknown reader, will look into your heart and try to examine your ewes.
Most of us would do anything in our power not to think ewey things about other people. That said, all of us have people that give us the ewes — maybe for you it’s people who are mentally ill, or some of those in the LGBTQ community, maybe it’s those who are handicapped, or in a class other than yours, or who choose alternative lifestyles that challenge you. You are probably embarrassed by your ewes and don’t want to admit them. I know I am! I am confident that all of us have prejudices in our hearts about all kinds of things. People who live on the margins of society are all too familiar with those ewes, and they hurt. If we can all work to examine our own prejudices, perhaps we can tone down the ewes. Let’s try to face them and dismantle them. I bet we can come up with the creative ways to do that together.
Let’s pray for a brighter, ewe-free world!