Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Link on Transracial Adoption and why I disagree with it.

A poster named "AdoptAuthor" gave me a link to this website. I read it with interest, but I don't agree with almost any of it. A basic premise of several of the essays is that white people are so scared of being called "racist" that they adopt kids of other colors as a built in defense against the charge. Frankly, whatever you do in this culture and whatever you believe, SOMEBODY'S going to call you racist* and while nobody likes to be called racist more than they like to be called "stupid" or any other insulting term, I think most people are disinclined to do something as expensive and life-changing as adoption to defend themselves against a bit of namecalling that they will almost certainly get anyway.

Secondly, a basic premise of the site is that white people adopt kids from other countries because the white people want to feel good, the white people want to not be racists, the white people want a "China Doll." And yes, white people adopt because doing so gives them cultural dominion. As far as I can tell, nobody at TransracialAbductees.com even considers the possibility that white people adopt because they want a child to love and raise and care for.

I'm assuming that under this logic people like my husband and me who are primarily interested in another trait (nerdiness) and are happy with either a white kid or a kid of another race, much like we would be happy with either a gay kid or a straight kid, don't exist at all.

I get that there are a lot of snotty white people out there, I've met some of them. And I don't doubt that transracial adoption is difficult for the children being raised in a culture that may or may not fully accept them. At the same time, lots of people BORN in to a culture don't fit well and go through that and I don't think the parents are putting the kids through it out of selfishness, or at least not selfishness alone.

Also, as far as I can tell, the site never even addresses the question "Don't orphanages in third world countries pretty much suck? If a family that can afford good food, medical bills, an education, etc for a kid can adopt a kid out of an orphanage, isn't that a good thing, all things considered?" I don't doubt that good arguments can be made against this opinion, but someplace on the site somebody should make them rather than simply mocking those who ask the question.

For the record, adopting from another country has never been the plan. We were planning to foster first, for one thing. For another, we aren't looking for a baby and there are plenty of older kids here who need homes in America. One of the minor nice things about looking into being a foster parent then adopting is that nobody really argues that the child would be better off in the foster system. They might argue that you're a white imperialist anyway, but at least no one seems to think the kid would be better off where they were before.

As for other cultural issues, we'd do our best. It's easier with some cultures than others. My entire church is rented out every Saturday morning to a Japanese school where the children of immigrants and diplomats who attend American school five days a week spend Saturday mornings learning their native language and learning about their native culture. Something like that would be no problem.

Where there isn't an organized school, the way to go about it would depend far more on how old the kid is and what the kid wants to do. I would be a little bummed if the child wanted to attend a different church, but I would make it happen as I recognize that being able to make one's own religious choices is a part of growing up and worshiping with people is a wonderful way to feel connected to them.

It's maybe a cop-out to say that given that we are thinking of adopting a kid who is a pre-teen or young teenager, so we can leave a lot of this up to them, but that's pretty much where I stand on it. Or, to put the ball squarely in my race's court, if we adopt a white kid from North Carolina or southern Virginia, we won't cry if they end up a NASCAR-loving southern Baptist, but we aren't forcing grits on anyone who doesn't want to eat them.

Broccoli, maybe, but not grits.

who suspects that years from now, she will reread this post and mock its naive spirit, but it is representative of her thinking right now.

* If you don't believe in affirmative action, then you're a racist because you don't want to atone for white people's misdeeds toward black people. If you do, then you're a racist because you think black kids can't cut it against white kids without affirmative action. As far as I can tell the "you're a racist because you don't want to help people of other races" "No, YOU'RE the racist because you think people of other races need your help" debate goes on with almost any political issue at all related to race. Sometimes in far more sophisticated terms, but that still seems like the essence.


Kari said...

fix the link,fix the link! I really want to see it!

L. Michelle Harris said...

It's an interesting topic to be sure. And I'm not sure of any right or wrong answers. I do believe that a child is better off having a home and parents and the love and support of a family. It's a cold and messed up world without.


I do get a very icky feeling when I see white couples with their "designer" brown baby. It just looks wrong to me. It feels wrong. It feels insincere. And I DO believe that some people would go through an adoption to look a morally superior to their other white friends and family members. People can be and are that petty.

But for the person or couple that adopts a kid from their own area - any kid - that just looks more sincere to me. A kid in that family would seem less "trophy-like."

But who am I to judge anyone. Either way, I think adoption is a beautiful way to make the world better. Good luck with yours.

Chalicechick said...

Kari- Sorry about that. Fixed.

I do get what you're saying, Michelle. Movie stars have clouded this issue by making it look fashionable and maybe not all the arguments the site makes are totally unreasonable.

I'm not sure about the adopting for moral superiority reasons. It seems like too much work and money for something like that. If you're middle class and you give $20,000 to feed the starving, you will have bought my belief in your moral superiority to me at least as far as charity is concerned. Compared to the costs of raising a kid, $20,000 is peanuts.

But people aren't always ratonal about such things, and again, you could be right.


Kari said...

Thanks for fixing the link. I've seen Transracial Abductees before, and it's really strong, for sure. My husband is a transracial adoptee, he was born in Korea in 1967, adopted to the states in 1969. The site I really find to be a good, balanced source of information about transracial adoption is called Harlow's Monkey (http://harlowmonkey.typepad.com/harlows_monkey/)

It's written by a transracial adoptee for adult transracial adoptees, but as a white spouse, I enjoy reading it. Transracial adoption is an extremely complex issue. There are a lot of things that seem one way but when you explore the issue; turn out to be something much different.

Good luck with your family building. However it happens, raising kids is probably the hardest and most wonderful thing you'll ever do. Blessings!

kimc said...

Good luck with that broccoli thing. We found calling them "trees" helped for a while. They liked eating trees.

hafidha sofia said...

Kari wrote, "Transracial adoption is an extremely complex issue."


PG said...

I think adopting a kid from another country, particularly one to which you have no ancestral ties yourself, creates probably the biggest gap and makes for the easiest case to use overheated rhetoric like "abductee." And some developing countries are quite sensitive about this -- India, for example, almost never allows non-Indians to adopt kids from their orphanages, even though they have a similar problem of unwanted girls as made China a big adoption destination.

I have wanted to adopt since I was about 10 and some family friends who had struggled to have biological children finally gave up and adopted two adorable little girls from India. So far as I know, the girls have not had too hard a time of it; they were adopted as toddlers, so while they had already learned a language that they weren't going to be speaking in the U.S. (they were adopted by an Indian family, but one from a different language region than where their orphanage was), they adapted very quickly and easily. And I guess there's something to be said for adopting kids within broadly the same race, but having them grow up in an area where their family is a tiny minority. You end up identifying strongly with your parents simply because everyone else is even more different from you.

My husband finds it weird that I positively prefer to adopt. He tends toward the conservative view that children ought to be raised by their biological parents and that adoption inherently represents a tragedy and is at best a necessary evil.

hafidha sofia said...

PG - Maybe not so much rhetoric. Trafficking in children does happen, and sometimes under the name of "adoption." Fleas Biting is one of the many blogs of adoptive parents and adoptees who are trying to shed some light on this issue.

Earlier this year my SO and I heard about a "fraudulent adoption" case (it was actually one of many cases from a particular agency) that was just heart-breaking and really demonstrated the complexity of human emotions and perspectives involved. Not to mention the economic and racial complexities. You can listen to the story on NPR here.

PG said...


I heard the NPR story when it aired, and also have read some of EJ Graff's work on the subject of corrupt international adoptions. But even the worst cases, in which kids are grabbed from their own front yards and taken to "orphanages," don't entail Americans grabbing the babies or even having any idea that it's happening; it's people within the country doing it to one another. Yes, the demand is coming from (mostly white) Americans, but they don't create the supply. I think these stories indicate why closed adoption should be inherently suspect, and why Americans should be suspicious of international adoption agencies that charge thousands of dollars in fees. But they don't demonstrate any particular evil in trans-racial adoption itself. Many cases of kidnapping in China seem to be driven by the desire for a male heir; the boys are adopted within the country. Surely the harm is the kidnapping, not the race of the person ultimately adopting the child.

Steven Rowe said...

Oddly enough in my neighborhoods, the white couples with their brown babies, it is indeed their baby - because one of the couple is the DNA parent of that child.
Based on these theories presented, what are we do with that child then?

The Dancin' Hippie said...

Wow! There is so much to say on this. I'll start off with a quote from Lee Sam-dol on the site you mention:

"... intercountry adoption has been the last resort to have a child for infertile couples belonging to the elite who feel a strong social pressure to fulfill the standard of the nuclear family. Intercountry adoption is widely perceived as a progressive and anti-racist act of rescuing a non-white child from the miseries of the Third World, something which legitimizes the practice in the first place."

My wife and I adopted two children from Russia, 7 and 2 years ago. We did so as an infertile couple. But we didn't do so out of social pressure, rather because we both came from medium size families (3 sibs each) and wanted to have a family. And the notion of rescue has always offended me. Several times people have told me what a wonderful person I am for helping these children.

I get offended for two reasons: First, I'm just not that good. I didn't set off to rescue children; I just wanted to have a family and the normal avenues were closed for my wife and me. Second, I never wanted my children to hear that sort of thing and feel less for their birth families, countries, or feel obligated to me in any way other that any child feel obligated to their parent.

And yet watching my children grow up and change from the orphanage children that they were (angry, untrusting, damaged souls) into happy, trusting, but still somewhat damaged souls) I feel like we have helped them. We also had the opportunity to work with Russians who were orphans who never got adopted: our judge and our translator. Both of these adults continue to work in the field trying to help orphans get loving families.

And then there are my nephews and one niece. Their parents (my sister and my wife's brother) married immigrants from Africa and China, so they get their transracial identity genetically. They don't seem to be damaged by having white parents.

I think the bottom line is that any child, adopted/biological, black/white/Asian/mixed, can serve as a trophy for a parent. Or not. Any child can grow up damaged and angry. Or not. You can't blame race, adoption, mixed race marriage, or any other single factor. People are imperfect and can mess up the best of things sometimes.



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