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.
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.