Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Nick Searcy on Parenting the Non-White Child

I often ponder the issue of race and what I shall try to teach my little girl about it as she grows older.  Via Twitchy comes this from the actor Nick Searcy, himself the father of a black son.


My friend Tony Katz sent me this article today, and I found it tremendously disturbing. For one thing, this is not really about this man’s son. It is about this man’s politics. It is a defense of every leftist lie from ‪#‎WhitePrivilege‬ to ‪#‎HandsUpDontShoot‬ to ‪#‎IcantBreathe‬, all of which are simply poison.


I do not teach my son that he is a perpetual victim, and that he is hated. He is not. He is loved and admired by all who come in contact with him, because he is a wonderful person.


I teach him that there is evil in the world, and it comes in all colors, creeds, religions and genders, but that it is never an excuse for him not to do the right thing. I teach him to take responsibility for what he does, and to make sure his side of the street is clean.


I teach him that police officers have a difficult and dangerous job, and they face potential death every time they enter even the most routine traffic stop or random encounter. I tell him 1) do not break the law, and 2) if you accidentally do, by speeding or even a careless mistake, if an officer approaches you, you treat them with the utmost respect, and do not give them ANY reason, even if you feel you have been stopped unfairly, to think that you are a threat to them, or that you are not willing to cooperate them in every way. That is what they deserve, and that behavior will protect you as well.


We have talked extensively of the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, and of slavery. There is no question in his or my mind that it was a horrible chapter in our country’s history, and and a terrible wrong that had to be righted — and it was, through a bloody Civil War, and a terrifying period of civil unrest, which required incredible bravery and resolve. But I also make sure that he knows that America did not invent slavery and racism. Both have been around for thousands of years, and have been practiced by individuals of all races. The history of humanity is filled with evil, oppression, tyranny, and racism. It is a crime that is not inherent in one race or another, or one country or another. I teach him not to blame America, the bravest, freest country for individuals in all of history, for sins and wrongs that were pervasive throughout the world at its founding.


And I try to teach him that he can become whatever he wants to be, and the world is not conspiring to destroy him because of his skin color. I tell him that the most serious problems he will face will be those within himself, and frankly, that personal failings and limitations, not the evil of others, prevent most people from achieving their dreams. I teach him to not blame others for a bad grade or a failed enterprise, and that while unfairness often exists and must be addressed, most of the time the problem is within his control.


I hesitate to criticize another parent. There are problems that arise when you are a transracial parent, and all parents deal with them in their own ways. And God knows, I am not perfect.


But what kind of man teaches his son that the world is out to get him, the police want to kill him simply because he is black or white or whatever, and he will always be despised because of something he has no control over whatsoever? That the deck is unfairly stacked against him, and he should always be suspicious of white people because they are racist even when they don’t act like they are, because #WhitePrivilege means they can’t even know that they are racist because they’re too dumb to see it?


I pray for this man’s family, and I wish them well, but I think he is doing his son a grave disservice. His son lives in a country where he can become whatever he wants be, within the limitations of his abilities and his willingness to work to achieve his dreams.


That’s what I tried to teach my “white” daughter, and that’s what I try to teach my “black” son.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas

Caroline did not quite get the concept of Christmas this year.  We tried to explain the true meaning of Christmas as well as Santa Clause.  She loved the Christmas tree and going to the Church Christmas play, but she didn't really understand why she was getting so many presents. 

Decorating the Christmas Tree was her first Christmas Activity.  She really enjoyed that and well, she got to redecorate it several times as she kept taking the ornaments off.



Then we went to see Santa.  She enjoyed going to Old Salem to visit him.





She baked Cookies with me and Lao Lao.  I think she really loved that.







I think the part she liked most of all was visiting with friends and family.




 

Although she received many presents, her cooking set and the boxes seemed to interest her the most.




Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Chrystal

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Rehoming

Rehoming is when adoptive parents decide to disrupt their adoption and find new adoptive parents or guardians for their adopted child. This is most often done due to behaviors that are beyond their ability to parent. Most adoptive parents complete a rehoming through the court system with an appropriate assessment of the new home. There have been cases when an adoptive parent simply transfers guardianship of their child to the new parents and has little to no knowledge about the family.


Perhaps I'm naïve, but this concept never crossed my mind before.  Unfortunately, it does seem to happen, and the courts and legislatures are beginning to do something about it.  Here is a recent ABA Journal article that discusses the legal background and framework:
Among pet owners, "re-homing" an unwanted dog or cat is a relatively straightforward process. The owner who seeks an alternative home often places an ad on the Internet, and a private transaction occurs that moves the pet to a new family. But with the rise of foreign adoptions of children and the inability of some parents to handle troubled youths, more and more desperate families are taking that approach with adopted youngsters and re-homing the children with strangers. Often those re-homed children report gruesome tales of physical, sexual or emotional abuse by their new guardians.
The process of re-homing has been largely unregulated—no federal laws prohibit the exchange of unwanted adopted kids. Most states allow private adoptions, but the processes vary widely and oversight is limited. In most cases, re-homing may be executed by a simple power-of-attorney letter or a notarized statement without government authorities or even any lawyers vetting the new parents.
I am reminded of the chapter in Anne of Green Gables when Marilla, determined to send Anne back as she and Mathew had requested a boy to help around the farm, discusses Anne's fate:
"It was our own fault," said Marilla resignedly. "We should have come to you ourselves and not left an important message to be passed along by word of mouth in that fashion. Anyhow, the mistake has been made and the only thing to do is to set it right. Can we send the child back to the asylum? I suppose they'll take her back, won't they?"
"I suppose so," said Mrs. Spencer thoughtfully, "but I don't think it will be necessary to send her back. Mrs. Peter Blewett was up here yesterday, and she was saying to me how much she wished she'd sent by me for a little girl to help her. Mrs. Peter has a large family, you know, and she finds it hard to get help. Anne will be the very girl for you. I call it positively providential."
Marilla did not look as if she thought Providence had much to do with the matter. Here was an unexpectedly good chance to get this unwelcome orphan off her hands, and she did not even feel grateful for it.
She knew Mrs. Peter Blewett only by sight as a small, shrewish-faced woman without an ounce of superfluous flesh on her bones. But she had heard of her. "A terrible worker and driver," Mrs. Peter was said to be; and discharged servant girls told fearsome tales of her temper and stinginess, and her family of pert, quarrelsome children. Marilla felt a qualm of conscience at the thought of handing Anne over to her tender mercies.


To a large extent, I understand WHY parents might decide to rehome.  During our "training" as prospective adoptive parents, we were told about the potential problems that adopted children might have, including severe behavioral issues ranging from attachment disorders to violent behavior (in Green Gables, Marilla is advised that adopted children put strychnine in the well water!).  We've seen from the experience of friends who've adopted that the medical files aren't always... um... completely accurate.  In short, the well-intentioned parents may find themselves with a situation that is financially and emotionally beyond their capabilities.  What to do?  Is it not in everybody's interest to give the child ASAP to a family that CAN handle the situation?


This is a difficult question.  On the one hand, I can see how "rehoming" might well be the best option for all concerned.  On the other - and I realize that this is an easy thing to write - parenting is not like a job where one can just quit because the (shall we say?) terms of employment turn out to be rather different than promised.  How is the adoptive parent who finds himself with a "difficult" child any different than the birth parent who finds himself with, for example, a severely handicapped child or a child with very difficult behavioral problems?  My wife and I talked about this during the process: "What if ---?" Our decision was that we would take what came just as we would have done had we had a biological child*.


But there are those parents (and I realize that we might have been amongst their number; there but for the Grace of God goes Sherlock Holmes) who don't chose to stick it out.  Clearly, there must be a legal framework for rehoming.  The child has very likely been abandoned once; it shouldn't happen again.  He doesn't deserve to go from bad to worse.
"Kids shouldn't be in want ads like: 'Our dog just had puppies. Want one for free?' " adds [Ann] Haralambie, a former chair of the ABA Family Law Section's Juvenile Law and Needs of Children Committee. "That's precisely where people like the mentally ill and pedophiles go to get children. At best, it's abandonment, and at worst, it's human trafficking."


Ultimately, the burden falls on the prospective parents to decide if they really are prepared to deal with whatever may come.  Anne Shirley turned out to be a fine young lady and a joy to the Cuthberts; I think that such is the case with the vast majority of adopted children.  But things MAY not go so well, and people do themselves and ESPECIALLY the children a huge injury if they ignore this possibility and, hence, can't deal with it if it comes to pass.**
Haralambie, too, believes that re-homing signals "a much more basic, systemic problem"—the lack of resources to properly screen prospective parents and to inform both the child and the family of what to expect from adoption. "Adoptive parents need to have a real-life reality check and then real good support once those children arrive."
Adoption is an on-going learning experience for everybody, from the government agencies to the social workers to the parents to the children.  Each year, we learn more about what we've done well and what we need to do better.  As hard as it can be to read what some adopted children write about their experiences and viewpoints, we need to hear what EVERYBODY has to say to make the process as fool-proof as we can.  After all, we are talking about the lives of children: none of us want to foul up.


=====


(*) Early in the process, I wondered if I could accept - nay, love - an adopted child as I could a biological child.  I'm very, very happy to say that, with my daughter, that question has been answered unequivocally in the affirmative.


(**) I highly recommend to the prospective adoptive parent Patty Cogen's Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: I read this before we were matched, and I must say that it was tough sledding as Cogen pulls no punches on what CAN happen.


Patty Cogen.  Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years.  Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2008.

Monday, December 15, 2014

St. Nick

After considerable anticipation (especially on the parts of Mama and Ol' Baba), Caroline met St. Nick for the first time.  We were pleased that she - unlike many small children meeting He Who Hands Out the Goodies for the first time - didn't cry or fuss.  She got into his lap without any trouble, but then looked puzzled and a little dazed.  Worse, she forgot all the coaching I gave her about what *I* want.  Oh, well... Maybe next year.







Thursday, December 11, 2014

Prepare for Christmas

This will be Caroline's first Christmas with us, and likely her first Christmas ever.  She's been learning quickly about Santa Claus (aka "Ho-ho-ho") from various cartoons and recognizes him when she sees him or one of his impersonators in public. 

Ol' Baba makes a decent easy chair AND he's got cartoons about Ho-ho-ho!
Caroline, my wife and my in-laws were having breakfast at a pancake house when a gentleman with a long, white beard and wearing a red sweatshirt came in (could it have been the man himself getting breakfast after an all-night practice flight?  Could be...).  I'm told that Caroline's eyes got as big as saucers and she muttered, "Ho-ho-ho!" She proceeded to visit the fellow and thus got a candy cane and some face-time with St. Nick to go along with her pancakes.  Too bad I didn't have forewarning, else I could have asked her to put in some requests for me!

Along with Santa, of course, comes the tree.  I pulled our little tree out of the garage, and Chrystal decorated it.  She had some help from a certain elf.


It may be that Caroline did rather more playing than decorating, but I'm pretty sure she had a good time.

Look at the pretty toys!
Speaking of toys, like small children everywhere, Caroline can get as much - if not more - fun from the box than she can from what's in it.

"I see you!"
Somehow, I'm reminded of the Martian baby "Mot" in the old WB cartoon "Rocket-bye Baby".
With Caroline around, I think that Christmas is going to regain some of the magic that it's lost for me in the past several years.

On the topic of Santa Claus, I can't recall where, but a blog some time ago reminded me of a scene in "Miracle on 34th Street"* where Kris Kringle meets a little girl, adopted as an orphan from Holland by an American family.
KRINGLE - Well, young lady, what's your name?
MOTHER - I'm sorry, she doesn't speak English.  She's Dutch.  She just came over.  She's been living in an orphans' home in Rotterdam since... We've adopted her.  I told her you wouldn't be able to speak to her, but when she saw you in the parade yesterday, she said you WERE Sinterklaas - as she calls you - and you COULD talk to her.  I didn't know what to do ---
KRINGLE [to the little girl] - Hallo!  [begins to speak in Dutch, to the delight of the little girl and the amazement of the bystanders]

Occasionally, we all need to be reminded:

Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus.

=====

(*) "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947; dir. George Seaton)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Edyukashun pt 2

Even before we adopted, even before I became a prospective father, I had some interest in our education system.  The interest, I should say, of a person looking at a train wreck or any other disaster in the making.  Consider this recent news item:

Only NINETEEN of 600 students in New Jersey school district scored high enough on SATs to get into college
Shocking exams results from a New Jersey school district have revealed that only 19 out of 600 students could get into college.
 
Just over 3 per cent of pupils from Paterson were deemed 'college ready' based on their SAT scores, meaning they achieved at least 1,500 out of 2,400 points.
 
The average score obtained by a student in the area was just 1,200. It is a decrease on the 26 (4.2 per cent) who reached the benchmark last year.

This is in Paterson, NJ, scene of the movie "Lean on Me".

The maximum possible score for the SAT is 2400 (three sections, 800 points per).  The minimum possible score is 600.  Assuming that the students who AVERAGED a 1200 did roughly the same in all three sections, i.e. 400 points per section, this translates to:

MATH              16th percentile

READING         18th percentile

WRITING          21st percentile


For purposes of comparison, the average scores on the three sections were:

MATH               514

READING          496

WRITING          488

TOTAL             1498

Naturally, the school board in Paterson is busy making excuses for this situation.  They ring hollow to me.

Ironically, I don't really blame the school system.  Yes, it is ill-serving the students and the taxpayers who support it, but (as the old saying goes), you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  The teachers can't force the kids to show up, pay attention, do their homework, &c.  The lion's share of the blame, in my opinion, lies with the parents.  If they are satisfied with their children performing so abysmally, then are we to be surprised that the kids DO perform abysmally?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Scary smart?

I preface my remarks by saying that the psychology of two year-olds and child development generally are subjects about which I know nothing.  This being said, I am starting to wonder that my daughter may be scary smart, which bodes ill for the future.  Perhaps other parents can comment on how "normal" these things are:

--- Caroline is disturbed by little bits of dead skin around her finger nails.  She went to my wife the other day complaining of a "boo-boo" on her thumb.  Chrystal told her to go to me to get it clipped off.  Now, I don't normally carry clippers, though I happened to have a pair in my pocket.  Caroline went up to me, pointed to the pocket where I had them, then to her thumb and said, "Boo-boo."

How did she know not only that I had clippers, not only which pocket they were in, but that this was what I would need to fix her boo-boo???  Clippers are not exactly an everyday object for her.

--- I carelessly left a dirty diaper in her bedroom after changing her.  A few minutes later, she brought it out, took it to the kitchen, and threw it in the trash.  Mark you, she threw it in the trash, not the adjacent and more accessible recycle bin.

How did she know to do this, especially as we don't throw her diapers into the kitchen trash???

--- I was emptying the dishwasher.  Caroline began to pull out items and, though she can't (yet) reach drawers and cabinets, she was taking things to their proper places.

--- She has recently taken to getting her little hands on the leash and chasing Mallory around, trying to hook her on.  I expect that it won't be long before she figures out the snap link.  Note that she doesn't try to put Sheepdog on a leash as she never needs one.

--- She has figured out how to climb up on a chair to get at things on the dining room table (which, in one case, led to salt all over her and the floor).

Maybe these things are perfectly normal for a small child, but they strike me as pretty astonishing.  Am I wrong?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Looking white

Halle Berry turns to court to stop ex Gabriel Aubry from straightening their daughter’s hair: report

The Academy Award winner’s lawyer successfully lobbies judge to stop Aubry’s efforts to remove 6-year-old Nahla’s natural curls in what was perceived by Berry to be an effort to make the girl look more Caucasian, according to TMZ.

I have read that many Asian international adoptees - indeed, many Asian girls - go to considerable lengths to look "more white".  This includes everything from lightening their hair to having cosmetic surgery to make their eyes more "round".

As a gravitationally-challenged person (ahem), I understand quite well how people can be dissatisfied with their appearance and feel pressure to look... different than they do.  I understand that this can be especially hard for girls as they are constantly bombarded with images of what the perfect woman ought to look like.  Indeed, entire industries are devoted to helping women look more like Barbie and less like what they actually do.

But to want to look like a totally different race???  That I don't get. 

Anybody want to tell me that Miss Zhang needs to have her eyes done,
or that she'd look better as a blue-eyed blonde???

Granting that any father worth his salt would say the same thing about his daughter(s), I think my little girl is absolutely beautiful.  I wouldn't change a thing about her, and I can't imagine why anybody else would.  More to the point, why should her looks define who she is?

=====

Note to Halle: while I'm a big respecter of law and order and due process, I think that, if you publicly kicked ol' Gabe right in the sweet spot, no jury on earth would convict you.  Just saying.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Understanding the adoptee (pt 2)

Doubtless, this will be a continuing series.  It ought to be so as I keep bumping up against the problem that I don't, despite the best will in the world, fully understand all the challenges that my daughter may well face as she goes through life.  I think that I am no different from any other father in that I would spare her any heartbreak or grief if I could, but, sadly, the world is what it is and she's going to get her portion.  My part is to help her, as well as I can, deal with them.

My wife and I are always on the lookout for stories about adoption and adoptees, and especially writings from adoptees (I have written in the past that these can soemtimes be difficult if not absolutely infuriating to read, but one has his duty).  As this is National Adoption Month, the otherwise loathesome Huffington Post is actually doing something useful for a change and publishing articles by adoptees.  I bring one to your attention.

I suppose you could call me a Chinese-American, but truth is, I'm not really all Chinese and I'm not really all American. I feel different ways in different situations. My name is Emily Champion and I am 15 years old. I was born in China in 1999 but I am growing up in America...

...

So what am I? Where is my community? I learned this summer that I belong to the community of other international adoptees -- other girls (and some boys) who left their birth countries and are being raised in places where no one looks like them. My mom signed me up for this conference in Ohio called Adopteen because I felt alone in my own community. She said that the only people who would know how I felt would be people who have been through what I've been through. So in the summer of 2014, I headed to Ohio and to Adopteen where I was one of about 130 adopted kids from China (and two very nice Romanian brothers who also came). What I learned there was that I didn't have to face my fears and uncertainties about my past alone because now I have a community. At Adopteen we did teen bonding and activities, and they also gave us plenty of time to spend with each other and just have fun. I never knew there could be so many girls who were just like me. Just to spend time with them was the best opportunity I've ever had. I still keep in touch with some of the girls and boys and they are like my second family. There are two more conferences coming up and I am saving my babysitting money and allowance so that I can hopefully go to at least one of them. This means the world to me.

It has occured to me before that international adoptees are (as the documentary of the same name states), somewhere between.  They are usually raised in white families, yet look Asian (or Hispanic or African).  People automatically expect certain things about them based on appearance, and are understandably surprised when they find that they truth doesn't match expectations.  This must be hard on the adoptee.  It seems to me that adoption camps must be very good for the adoptees as fellow adoptees are really their "community".  We certainly had planned to send our daughter to them when she is old enough, but this article gives us more of a feeling of urgency: it's not just a nice thing to do, but something very like a necessity.

Emily's statement about not feeling "really all American" really bothered me. I was raised to believe that a person, whether his ancestors came over on the Mayflower or whether the ink is still dry on his Certificate of Citizenship, is a by-God AMERICAN, entitled to all the rights and priviledges appertaining thereto. I was in grad school when I was introduced to the idea that people of color, especially second generation immigrants, don't necessarily feel this way as our society doesn't come close to the ideal of "we are all Americans" but instead often treats them like foreigners. In short, it's rather easier for a white person born in this country to believe in the "by-God American" than it is for an international adoptee like Emily.

Or my daughter.

What can the adoptive parent do about the sorts of things that young Emily has experienced?  What can prepare a child for the day when some a$$hole is going to make a racist comment or laugh at him because of a handicap?  Or even when a well-intentioned person tells him that he must be "so smart"?  What ought the parent to do to instill in his child that, "You are an AMERICAN" and that the child can be proud to be Chinese (or Korea or Guatemalan or Ethiopian, &c.) while still being proud to be American?

So much to think about and to prepare for.

I must say that one thing Emily wrote gave me a great deal of satisfaction, and ought to be a model for how bullies should be dealt with in the schools:

It was always fun for the boys in grade school to speak crazy made-up Chinese to me and one boy even told me "to go back to China." The really funny thing was, he did it in gym class and my gym teacher heard him and made him get down on his knees and beg me for forgiveness. It's still one of the best days of my life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

6 Months Forever Family

6 months ago, we met a sweet, easy going little girl and became parents for the first time.  We were all very nervous, but Caroline never cried.  She reached out and kissed us like we had been together forever.  Adopting Caroline has been the best thing we have ever done.  She has truly blessed us.

Here are the photos from our forever family day:




 
 
We recently had a few family photos taken in recognition of six months together and Caroline's 2nd birthday.  Happy 6 month Forever Family Caroline.  We love you!
 
 







Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Racism (?)

I wrote several days ago about racism.  In that vein, I post this recent news article:

Administrators of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were sued by an advocacy group claiming race-based admissions policies violate the constitutional rights of highly qualified Asian applicants.

Students for Fair Admissions Inc., a group which said it represents unidentified college applicants rejected by both schools, alleged in lawsuits filed today that the use of racial preferences illegally limited admission of Asian Americans. [emphasis mine]

It's interesting how things change.  A hundred years ago, discrimination against Asians was of quite a different sort.
 
 
 
However, I suggest that the basic motive is the same: a desire (dare I write it?) NOT to compete against people with a better work ethic*.

Of course, it may well be that the plaintiffs cannot prove that Harvard and Orange County Community College are discriminating based on race, but my gut reaction is that this is EXACTLY what those universities (among many others) are doing.  This speaks volumes about what the colleges think they are for: it's less about attracting the BEST students, and more about attracting the RIGHT students.

=====

(*) The "Asian" attitude towards school is a subject of much humor, especially among Asian kids.  There are many YouTube! videos that feature Asian parents reacting... um... badly... to their kids bringing home less than perfect grades.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN7o2Iy89WQ

In some cases, pressure to do well really isn't a joke.




"Unless she got 800 [on the SAT verbal], I would hug her."



Monday, November 17, 2014

Typist

I have a very old-fashioned streak in me.  I shave with a forty-five year-old Gillette safety razor; I write with dip pens (the oldest in my small collection is a "disposable" from about 120 years ago, being a spiral cardboard tube with a metal nib glued in the end).  I even use the USPS for sending actual letters to people.

Lately, I have taken it into mind to "modernize" and get a typewriter.  By good fortune, I was able to find a vintage IBM Selectric in good working order for a very reasonable price.  A quick trip to Charlotte and it was mine.  I have already written two letters on it.  (I say in passing that using a typewriter gives me new appreciation for the skills required to be a typist fifty years ago.  Unlike with a modern word processor - or even a more "modern" correcting typewriter - one really can't afford to be sloppy or careless as mistakes are VERY troublesome to correct!)

I was surprised to find that Caroline was just as intrigued by this device as ol' Baba, and likes to climb onto the paternal knee to bang the keys.

Can a record player be in her future?  An eight-track?  Will she try to learn to drive a three-on-the-column?


          Dear Sir;
 
          With regard to your letter of the 15th inst., I have the honor to acquaint you that...

N.B. Unfortunately, the typewriter appears to have gone down for the count shortly after this photo was taken.  My barely-educated guess is that the main drive sprocket fractured.  IBM made this from hard plastic, and forty-five years is a long time for a plastic piece to last.  It is apparently known by the cognoscente that this is about the only thing that really breaks in a Selectric.  Getting it repaired will take some doing, I'm afraid, parts having not been manufactured by IBM for decades and a typewriter repair shop being rather a rara avis these days.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Understanding the adoptee

NOTE: Except in cases of reference to a specific person, the pronouns "he / him / his" are intended to be gender neutral throughout the following.


After reading of the opinions of some adult adoptees about adoption, I was quite disturbed.  "Is THIS what my daughter will think in years to come?  Will she, too, be bitter and resentful?  And... is there anything I can do to stop that happening?"

To this end, I think it's useful to try to understand more about how an adoptee* may see and experience the world.  As prospective adoptive parents, we were warned about many of these things but they were lost among concerns about more immediate post-adoption problems like food hoarding, attachment issues, night terrors, etc. (thank God, we haven't had any of those crop up), as well as the understandable excitement over becoming parents and the joy we felt when Caroline became our daughter.  It is worth stating explicitly that not all adoptees are alike, and I attempt here to understand the "angry adoptee".

First, "adoption begins with loss."  This is a brief statement that is, I think, easy to pass off as a mere shibboleth, especially for the parents: after all, we are gaining through the process, not losing.  What might this mean to the adoptee?

Obviously, the adoptee loses his birth family and especially his mother.  Depending on age at abandonment, he may have developed a very close bond with the birth mother / parents.  I don't know if anybody really knows how much of a bond exists between a newborn and his mother, but I think that we all take for granted that it's very close.  Suddenly, that bond is snapped.  The child finds himself alone, then in the arms of many strangers, in a strange place, likely one among many children, denied the very personal, loving attention that he likely experienced even if for a short time.  How confusing this must be for a little child... and how frightening. 

From this...

... to this.
I suspect that this loss actually becomes harder for the child when he is older, especially if he was abandoned shortly after birth.  Particularly for trans-racial adoptees, they begin to notice that they don't look like their parents.  Further, unlike the adoptive parents of a generation or two ago, adoptive parents now are urged to be very open with their children: "You were adopted." The child must wonder why.  And from that, he must wonder if it is - somehow - his own fault.  How might a child feel when he sees other children with their biological parents, getting the love and attention that is normal between parents and child?  "Was I bad? Why didn't they want me?"

Unfortunately, there is no escape from this question as the child is constantly reminded that he is not with his birth parents.  Strangers, even with the kindliest of intent, ask his parents about him as if he is an exhibit, a curiosity.  Strangers then frequently praise the parents for their charity in adopting a child**: "He is so lucky!" and "You're doing such a wonderful thing for that poor child."
  
Family tree asignments in grammar school.  Family medical history questionnaires.  Simply looking at family photos ("Nobody looks like me").  The child lives in a world where he is constantly reminded that he is out of place, that he doesn't belong.


"Hee-hee!  That man's looking at you so funny, Daddy!"

After loss of the birth parent, the child also confronts a loss of birth culture.  Born in one country, he is raised in another.  His cultural heritage, part of what makes him who he is, is wiped out.  Adoptive parents are urged to try to "honor" or "celebrate" the birth culture, but this is far easier said than done: how can one "teach" culture?  How can one even define it in any meaningful way?  Is it not a fraud for a white American parent to try to teach anything about, for example, Chinese "culture"?  Is there outright danger in trying, in making a child who already feels different have that feeling reinforced by making him try to learn another language and culture ("Why can't I just be like all the other kids?")?  Is there danger in NOT trying, in signaling, even by implication, to the child that his birth culture is unimportant if not outright "bad":

"People where you were born abandon little girls all the time."

"Your home country is so poor that they can't afford to keep their children."

"Only boys are important where you come from."

The child is cut off from his birth parents.  He is cut off from his birth culture.  He is told that the place he was born is bad.  And he may well be told that he is "bad" simply because of the color of his skin.  America has an unfortunately long history of being (ahem) unkind to "outsiders" and especially non-whites, and the adopted child may well have to confront this problem no matter how diligent his parents are in preparing and protecting him from it.  The lack of connection to birth culture, it seems to me, makes this harder for the child: he has no cultural / racial pride to help armor him against racist attacks.  Perhaps worse, he may well be baffled by them: growing up in a white family, he may well FEEL "white", making racism that much more hurtful because, again, it reinforces any feelings that he may have of not truly belonging.


... and what on the inside?
The family itself may send harmful messages.  Quite aside from those parents (and one wonders why they adopt in the first place) who are overtly racist or belittling to their own children, there are things that even the most loving parent may do that undermine the child's self-confidence.  Some - perhaps many - adoptees, for example, complain about the term "Gotcha Day" as it dehumanizes them by implying that they are simply an item that the parents picked up in the same way that they would have taken delivery of a car at a dealership or a parcel at the Post Office.  In the same manner, some adoptees dislike their parents referring to them as a "gift", a gift being an object that it given, not a person.  (Speaking personally, this is hard for me as an adoptive parent to understand: if I refer to my daughter as a gift, it is in the sense that - I think - all parents refer to their children, i.e. as a gift from God***, and somebody that I love and cherish.) 

You BELONG to me, do you hear?!
The child may feel all these things.  He may wonder why he was given up... or if he was, in fact, given up at all.  He may miss his birth parents or, at least, wonder about them.  He may feel isolated in his community or even in his own family.  He may feel objectified, an object of charity or a trinket for his parents (it seems to me that some celebrity adoptions give support to this pernicious idea: what else is anybody to think of a rich singer or actor who swoops into a poor country and voila! leaves a few days later with a baby?  Is it love or a fashion accessory?).  He may even feel survivor guilt: "Why was I adopted and not one of the other thousands - perhaps millions - of children?"

But to whom can he speak about these feelings?  He is, in a real sense, cut off from the very people that he SHOULD be able to turn to: his parents.  To speak of his birth mother, to speak of any feeling of not belonging or of discontent or even simple sadness or confusion might smack of "ingratitude" or even hurt the people who love him so very much... and that he, in his turn, loves very much.  So, he may feel that he's got to hold it in.

Is it any wonder that some adoptees may grow to feel bitter about adoption?

Finally, not all parents are perfect.  There are those - I think, very few - who abuse their children, whether physically, sexually, verbally, or through neglect.  There are others who are temperamentally unsuited to be parents, or just unsuited to be the parents of the children that they have (how many children can say with perfect honesty that their parents don't understand them?  How many parents are frustrated because they can't reach their children?).  Even the best parent makes mistakes: he punishes when punishment isn't warranted, fails to praise when praise is merited, can't spare time when two minutes would make all the difference to a child who needs to talk, attempts to push too hard his own beliefs, prejudices, hopes and regrets off on his child, or simply says the wrong thing in the wrong way at the wrong time.

Is it easier for the adopted child to turn parenting failure into an indictment of adoption?  To seek relief from the pain he feels in the belief that he shouldn't have been adopted in the first place, that the system is corrupt, that it is racist, that it preys on poor families?  Perhaps.

What should the adoptive parent do?  Where is the line between:
  • Telling a child that he's adopted and talking openly about it... and rubbing it in?
  • Honoring the birth parents... and making them into saints?
  • Honoring birth culture... and making it just one more reason for the child to feel different from his peers?
  • Being honest about the reasons that children are given up... and denigrating the child's birth culture?
  • Discussing racism... and putting a chip on the child's shoulder?
  • Celebrating happiness that the child is his... and making the child feel like a trinket?
  • Talking about the feelings the child might have as an adoptee to start a conversation... or inducing those very feelings in the child?
And how can the adoptive parent not personalize it, feel hurt, if the child begins to question adoption or wish to find his birth parents?

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(*) In this case, "adoptee" refers explicitly to trans-racial / international adoptees.

(**) We have already experienced this.  We try to explain that WE are the blessed ones, the "lucky" ones, that Caroline is our daughter.

(***) 1 Samuel 1:27: "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him..."

Friday, November 7, 2014

LET THEM EAT CAKE

Since we are not officially celebrating Caroline's birthday until tomorrow, we bought 2 small smores cake squares to share with her today.  She ate a piece after her nap and loved it.

We went out to purchase a few last minute items for her birthday party.  When we got back, we were putting the groceries away and I turned around and discovered Caroline in the floor with the second piece of cake.  She was obviously very determined because the cake was sitting on an extra high counter, so she had to climb to get it.  I figured if she wanted it that bad let her have it.






Our dog Mallory was like "she has cake"



Caroline is a sweet girl so she shared with her best friend who was very appreciative.

 

 

Racism

racism (n) -
1.  a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2.  racial prejudice or discrimination  

In light of my recent reading of some adult adoptee views on adoption, I have also done some thinking about racism.  What is it?  How does one cope with it?  Let us keep firmly in mind that I am a white man; racism is something I know about, not something I know.  One might say that I know how to pitch, not how to catch.  OK, well, there was that one time in AIT where a bunch of black guys ganged up on me (still not sure why) and one of them hit me in the back of the head, but, otherwise, it's rather outside my experience.

The dictionary definition of racism gets at the core of what racism is, but does not say much about its manifestations and mechanisms.  It is, shall we say, a monster with many faces.  I suspect that the immediate mental image that most people get when they hear the word "racism" is a lynch mob, the KKK, or of blacks being terrorized and brutalized during the Civil Rights Era.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/exclusive-birmingham-protesters-arrested-1960s-fdny-fighting-hose-attacks-article-1.1776364
Racism, however, can take less overt and violent forms: racial epithets, job discrimination, "red lining" in bank loans, "white flight", and the "soft racism of low expectations" of affirmative action.  Ironically, it can even masquerade as praise, such as the "Model Minority".


Does racism exist only in the individual act?  Is racism confined to individuals who decide to commit acts that demonstrate "racial prejudice or discrimination"?  Or is it something more pervasive, something so pervasive and universal that even people of goodwill who honestly believe that they are NOT racists, who are horrified by racism and discrimination, silently and unknowingly engage in it or, at least, take advantage of it?  I refer to the concept of White Privilege:
One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions. They take both active forms which we can see and embedded forms which as a member of the dominant group one is not taught to see.  In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in the invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.
Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. (But) a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems.
 
http://abagond.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/white-privilege/

White Privilege is further defined and studied under the rubric of Critical Race Theory:
CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color.
If these theories are correct, not only are white people - ALL white people - responsible for the "marginalization of people of color", they don't even have to do anything to perpetuate this wicked system (I do not speak of racism as wicked in a sarcastic sense; it, along with sexism and anti-Semitism and all the other "isms of hate", most assuredly IS wicked).*  They (we?) don't have to do anything at all to be racist.  Further, if these theories are correct, the "meritocracy" that is the core of Rev. Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech is exactly that: a dream, and a completely unrealistic dream at that.

It strikes me that these theories have an extremely damaging effect on all concerned, including minorities.  They effectively absolve the individual white person of racism because, literally, everybody does it whether he intends to or not: merely being white, living everyday life as a white person, is sufficient to perpetuate the system.  Even an active effort to be (for want of a better term) anti-racist merely "palliate[s], but cannot end, these problems." Is it a source of wonder that many (most?) white people at best refuse to listen to claims of racism and and worst actively resent them?

Minorities are equally harmed, for, if White Privilege IS how the world works, then EVERY failure, EVERY setback, EVERY feeling of injury can be blamed on it.  From this idea (or, perhaps, supporting it), I think, stems Microaggression Theory:
Psychologist and Columbia University professor Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as "brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership." Sue describes microaggressions at generally happening below the level of awareness of well-intentioned members of the dominant culture. Microaggressions are considered to be different from overt, deliberate acts of bigotry, such as the use of racist epithets, because the people perpetrating microaggressions often intend no offence and are unaware they are causing harm.
A life of despair, hopelessness, and even hatred must follow from such a worldview.  What is the use in trying to succeed when the entire system is loaded against you... and when failure can be conveniently blamed on it?  Or, conversely, when every success may be tinged with the idea that it was not entirely due to one's own efforts but was rather a free gift from the white majority that holds all the cards?  (For some white people, such "remedies" as affirmative action must be quite wonderful: they get to exercize white privilege by deciding - if I may use a blunt term - who gets to be a house slave and who stays in the fields AND feel virtuous while they do it)**

I do not mean to imply that racism does not exist.  It certainly does.  We see it when people are hired or jailed or elected or given a bank loan or harassed by the police or assumed to be smart or given a scholarship or beaten or killed because of their skin color.  We see it when various groups form with the explicit intent to help or advance only people of a certain skin color or national origin.  We see it when politicians attempt to play groups off against each other.  We see it when certain words or ideas are allowed only for certain groups or else outright forbidden in the public sphere.  It is real.  It is harmful to the individual and to our society.  It is a betrayal of our founding ideal that "all men are created equal".  People who have been the victims of it have every right to feel angry.  People who witness it have an obligation to say, "No more."

Is it possible to harm or insult somebody without evil intent?  Of course: we routinely jail people for such things as vehicular manslaughter even though they didn't set out to run somebody down with their car.  I suspect that most people have had an unfortunate slip of the tongue where they've told an inappropriate joke or story or simply mentioned a touchy subject in front of the wrong person; they didn't mean to be insulting or hurtful... but they were.

What ought the person do who believes himself to be harmed?  I should add here that harm and insult are to the victim as real as butter and eggs no matter what the intent (or lack thereof) of the perpetrator.  How many of us have had it explained to us, with varying levels of sincerity, that, "I didn't mean it THAT way" or "I had no idea that it would bother you" or "I was only fooling around"?  Yet, we are still insulted and possibly pay some penalty for it, ranging from having to apologize to being hauled up to HR to being punched in the nose.  Should a person react to every "microaggression"?  If so, then how?  Or should retaliation be reserved for egregious injuries?  Does retaliation, especially excessive retaliation, merely perpetuate racism?  ("Man, those people just can't take a joke!" or "Oh, it's OK if one of THEM says it!")

There is a popular YouTube video of a female jogger called "What Kind of Asian Are You?"  She is of Korean descent.  A white male jogger rather boorishly attempts to strike up conversation with her by, among other things, complimenting her on her English (she informs him that she was born in America), attempting to speak to her in Korean, and informing her that he LOVES Korean food.  Her response is... amusing.***


Is the white guy committing a "microaggression"?  Or is he simply trying - and failing spectacularly - to be (ahem) friendly to an attractive woman?  Does this fictional encounter (I expect that many woman would tell me that something like this has happened to them) say anything about white privilege or racism?  Should the woman extrapolate anything about our society from it?  Was HER response "racist" or "excessive" as some YouTube commentors stated?

What is it like to have such encounters on a daily basis?  To frequently (if not constantly) be the subject of hard stares by store employees or policemen?  To frequently (if not constantly) be assumed to be good at this or bad at that?  To frequently (if not constantly) have people assume that they know a priori and from a single glance one's behaviors and attitudes and ideas and values?  And what is it like to be considered a racist when you didn't mean any insult... or haven't done anything at all?  Oh, wait: I think I know that one.

What do we do about it?  What do I, as a father, do about it?  What do I teach my daughter to do if somebody calls her a chink?  Compliments her on her English?  Assumes that she's got insane math skills (please God this is true!) Makes a snarky remark about her driving?  Gives her a minority scholarship?  Denies her entry into college because she's Asian and they are "overrepresented"?  Tries to hit on her by... Never mind: Mr. Remington and I have that one covered.

I think that I may be forgiven for being disinclined to teach her CRT or that, as a minority, she's pretty much f*cked for her entire life because White Privilege. I think that I may further be forgiven for teaching her to regard anybody who tries to tell her these things with a great deal of suspicion.  But what SHOULD I do?

I believe that I have four tasks, remembering that, one day, she will be living on her own:

1.  To teach her that racism (and sexism and all those other nasty -isms) exists.  There's no sense in sugar-coating it.  She almost certainly will encounter in her life some low-brow who thinks to raise his pathetic self-esteem by trying to tear hers down.  At the same time, I don't think anything is to be gained - rather, much is risked - by teaching her to go through life with a chip on her shoulder, to look for racism and "microaggressions" all the time. "Kiddo, some people are just maladroit and some people are just a$$holes.  Not everybody is a klansman."

2.  To teach her, as well as I and the rest of her family can, that she is a beautiful, intelligent, and above all VALUED person.  We also need to help her to develop pride in herself: "Why on earth should I care what YOU think of me, you racist prick?  I know my own worth." Part of this is teaching her to have pride in her heritage both as an American and as a Chinese.

3.  To teach her that I and her mother and the rest of the family are behind her 100%, that we will not tolerate anybody mistreating her, and that we are available - nay, EAGER - for her to talk to us about whatever or whoever bothers her, and that we will try, even though it may be outside our own experience, to understand and to help.

4.  To teach her to defend herself with discretion, to use the appropriate means to make it quite clear - gently if possible, forcibly if necessary - to the low-brow that she will NOT be stepped on.

Maybe this is not enough.  Maybe it's the wrong approach.  I don't know.  Should I teach her to hope for (and work for) a color-blind society, to tell her that I have a Dream for her, too?

I don't know.

Whence all this passion towards conformity anyway? Diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you will have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business, they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive towards colorlessness? But seriously and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain.
Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man

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(*) Racism, of course, is not confined merely to white people. In the United States, because whites are the majority ethnic group and because of various episodes in our history such as slavery, the Indian wars, Jim Crow, the Chinese Exclusion Act, etc., etc., "racism" is reflexively - and unfairly - considered a "whites only" crime.

(**) Walter Williams has an interesting take on statistical underrepresentation, one of the ideas underlying - to it's adherents, proving - CRT:

If America's diversity worshippers see underrepresentation as "probative" of racial discrimination, what do they propose be done about overrepresentation? After all, overrepresentation and underrepresentation are simply different sides of injustice. If those in one race are overrepresented, it might mean they're taking away what rightfully belongs to another race. For example, is it possible that Jews are doing things that sabotage the chances of a potential Indian, Alaska Native or Mexican Nobel Prize winner? What about the disgraceful lack of diversity in professional basketball and ice hockey?

(***) Interestingly, the video's producer, Ken Tanaka, is an adoptee.  Born in Los Angeles, he, as a white baby, was adopted by a Japanese family.  <EDIT> Thanks to blogger Red Thread Broken in the comments, I find that Ken Tanaka is, in fact, a fictional character and only his "long-lost twin brother", actor David Ury, is real.  More the fool I... </EDIT>