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.

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


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?


(*) 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


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 (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.
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.

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


(*) 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>




The official festivities are not till Saturday, but I just had to say Happy Birthday to the sweet little girl that made me a Mommy.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Adult adoptees and perspectives on adoption

For consideration (found at or through Gazillion Voices):

Privilege is a construct that has received increasing attention in recent years. Peggy McIntosh’s piece “Unpacking the Knapsack of Invisible Privilege” is a seminal piece, and I urge readers to review it if they have not done so in the past. Privilege as it impacts transracial adoptees is, again, unique. The benefits that some people receive that can be cultural, economic, social, or political can be earned, granted, or even a birthright. Transracial adoptees, most of whom have white adoptive parents, receive various privileges when they are children and teens with their adoptive parents—economic, social, and racial affiliation. Positioned within white-parent-led families, they have access to privilege when they are children, and they can observe that privilege. They essentially receive honorary white status. However, when transracial adoptees do not have the privilege granted by their white parents (privilege that can provide protection, access, and familiarity), they likely experience a loss of previous privilege. This loss of privilege occurs when transracial adoptees are alone and without clear association with their white parents or when they become or appear to be adults.
Amanda Baden, PhD

When I meet adult adoptees for the first time, the conversation usually goes one of two ways.

Response #1: The eyes will widen and the corner of their mouths will rise gently resulting in a slight grin. This initial reaction signals to me that they don’t hate me and are, in fact, curious about what I do. Then, in a cautious tone, they’ll say, “Wow, that sounds like a great job. I mean, being able to help adoptees in their birth searches and working with youth adoptees at the camps. That sounds like a lot of fun. You know, I went to heritage camp when I was a kid. I made some great friends there.” This is always a pleasant interaction, and one that usually ends with me learning more about their childhood and walking away with a deeper understanding of the adoptee community. These are good interactions. I like them.

However, just as often, I’ll receive response #2: The brow will furrow and the lips will purse, resulting in a threatening demeanor. This initial reaction signals to me that they may hate me, or at least the idea of me (an adoptee sellout who’s drank the agency Kool-Aid), and are, in fact, about to give me a verbal beat down. Then, in an incredulous tone they’ll say, “How in the world can you work for an adoption agency? They’re the reason things are so bad! They keep raking in the cash without regard for us once we arrive in the States. We grow up! They’re not honest and they continue to withhold information from us!” This is not always the most pleasant interaction, but one that usually ends with me learning more about their childhood and walking away with a deeper understanding of the adoptee community.
Steve Kalb, LMSW, Director of Adoption Services, Holt International

Transracial and intercountry adoptees are particularly impacted by the construction of the Adoptee Poster Child™. Race, country of origin, and pre-adoption placement histories influence how transracial and intercountry adoptees are categorized for adoption. For example, racial minority and sending country communities are often described in colonialist terms: uneducated, undeveloped, poor, politically unjust, oppressive, or abusive. The extent to which a child’s place in a community of origin is perceived as a predetermined trajectory of despair and dependence in contrast to the adoptee’s current level of achievement or excellence, the more the adoptee fits the adoption exceptionalism frame. In a review of articles about international and transracial adoptions published in the New York Times between 1993 and 2010, I found that the framing of the articles for children adopted internationally are centered around the rescue of a child from a devastated “Third World” country, while adopting children of color – namely African American children – in the U.S. centered around rescuing a child from an abusive or drug-addicted parent.
JaeRan Kim, PhD candidate

Prospective adopters, if you think you are susceptible to Christian Racist Adopter Pathologies, you may want to take the following safety precautions in order to protect yourself against CRAP:
  • Do not be a hero.
  • Don’t do it for the kids.
  • Listen to adult adoptees.
  • Restrict international travel.
  • Think critically. Don’t just adopt.
  • Never ever consider crowdfunding for your adoption.
  • Do not take photos of poor people and/or people of color.
  • Remember that consent is not the absence of money and power.
  • Maintain a safe distance from infants and children with parents of color.
  • Caution yourself against giving back by taking home the black, brown, and yellow children of the world.
Laura Klunder*

Growing up in a rural Oregon town as a Hong Kong adoptee, I was presented with the complex experience of being a part of a loving family yet also having to negotiate my nonwhite and adoptive statuses. We know this is not a unique experience for so many transracial and transnational adoptees. And, as a twist to the painful fact of not knowing much if anything about our past, adoptees often grow up “certain” of one important aspect about themselves — adoption was the best thing that happened for us. As we grow older, however, many adoptees slowly begin to understand the complexity of adoption and the violence of separation, secrets and racial difference that accompanies the loving parts of adoption. Possessing this knowledge, we are confronted with a dichotomous choice presented by adoption discourse: we either stay “happy and grateful” or we become “angry and resentful.” Rarely is there space for adoptees who have had a “loving childhood” but choose to critique or question certain (or all) aspects of adoption.
Kit Myers, PhD

After more than 30 years of interacting with largely resistant audiences of white adoptive parents, I am no longer interested in trying to convince white APs [adoptive parents] to take issues of race and adoption seriously. The collective behavior of white adoptive parents over the years, with very few exceptions, has demonstrated to me in no uncertain terms that they have a particular angle on transracial adoption. Any version of the narrative that deviates from their preferred way of talking about transracial adoption will not be given real respect or credence. Moreover, despite messages from panels of adult adoptees and agency-led parenting classes, and in defiance of what the research says, getting APs to pay close attention to race and adoption issues remains optional rather than mandatory. Since, in my experience, most white APs choose not to take racism or white privilege seriously – nor do they embrace anti-racism as a principle around which to organize their lives and families – I have found that talking to adoptive parents is, to put it simply, quite futile. Even those APs who say they “get it” always have the option to ignore and discount our perspectives as adoptees. I have seen far too many APs actively avoid taking action on behalf of social justice and anti-racism, for example, refusing to move to multiracial neighborhoods, refusing to enroll their adopted children of color in schools where they won’t have to be the only minority student, or refusing to join integrated social networks populated with adults who look like their children. Sadly, most APs do not want to change or do anything different, even when presented with clear information and unambiguous recommendations of what they could do to better support the transracial adoptees in their families.
John Raible, PhD

Adoption is, in and of itself, a violence based in inequality. It is candy-coated, marketed, and packaged to seemingly concern families and children, but it is an economically and politically incentivized crime. It stems culturally and historically from the “peculiar institution” of Anglo-Saxon indentured servitude and not family creation. It is not universal and is not considered valid by most communal cultures. It is a treating of symptoms and not of disease. It is a negation of families and an annihilation of communities not imbued with any notion of humanity due to the adoptive culture’s inscribed bias concerning race, class, and human relevancy.
Daniel Ibn Zayd, PhD


(*) The Context of White Supremacy welcomes Laura Klunder live from South Korea. Ms. Klunder is a non-white female who was adopted (abducted) by White parents as a child. As she aged, her understanding of global White Supremacy evolved, and she decided to jettison her adopted White family and return to South Korea. She dedicates a great deal of her time to documenting her experiences within the Racist adoption structure. She writes for Gazillion Voices and hosts her own blog. We’ll ask about her stance on White people taking possession of non-white children. Many non-whites contend that abandoned non-white children would be better off in a the hands of “caring” Whites as opposed to lavishing in wretched group homes or being shuttled from to a litany of foster homes. We’ll also get her thoughts on non-white people hitting the bedroom with Whites; Ms. Klunder’s writing suggests that she suspects these tragic arrangements are just another means for Whites to terrorize non-white people.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Giving them up?

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.
And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.

And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.

Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
I Kings 3

I often read the blog "Red Thread Broken" because, as I think I've mentioned, I find her posts thought-provoking even when I don't (ahem) entirely agree with her.

Consider the case of siblings (even twins) separated and adopted to different families, perhaps in different countries*.  At some point, the families find out what happened: "Hey!  Our child has a brother / sister living in ---!"

What ought the parents to do?  Should they:
1.  Keep mum about it and never let their child know about the other sibling(s)?
2.  Tell the child about the sibling(s)... at some point?
3.  Take immediate steps to put the children into regular contact with each other including such frequent visits as can be arranged?
4.  Decide which family gives up their child(ren) to the other family so that all the siblings can live together?
RTB and several of the commenters on her site choose option (4).

Needless to say, I don't agree.  Is this... um... disinclination... to be (hypothetically!) parted from my daughter mere selfishness on my part?  I don't think so, unless one chooses to consider love as nothing more than a special brand of selfishness. 

I have come to understand why a parent may feel compelled to give up a child for the child's own good.  For example, a parent may be faced with the reality that he can't afford vital medical care or even food for a child and determine that giving the child to somebody who can afford it is in the child's best interests.  However, is it in the child's best interest to live with his / her sibling(s) even if this means severing ties with yet another set of caregivers?  When dealing with the immediate health of the child, best interests are pretty clear.  But when dealing with long-term, more nebulous emotional issues, I think that the situation is a great deal more opaque.

While I think that it would be best for sibling groups NOT to be split up, this can and does happen.  Expecting people to give up their children in order to reunite siblings, it seems to me, is not only asking the impossible of the parents, but is also harmful for the children.  By all means, the children should know about and communicate with each other.  They should see each other as often as possible.  But re-adoption?  No.


(*) For example:

Samantha Futerman and Anais Bordier

Anna Kandl and Ella Cuares

Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw

Emilie Falk and Lin Backman

Bao Lulin and Yang Yangfei

Meredith Grace Rittenhouse and Meredith Ellen Harrington

Happy Halloween

Caroline may be a bit rough on saying, "Trick or treat", but she got the concept in a hurry!

Happy Halloween.