Sojourners: Intercountry adoptee but not transracial adoptee

This article was brought to my attention from Rich at Familee Blog. It is from Soujourners Magazine online, in their current issue.

Can Buy Me Love? The First World becomes a one-way destination point for children from the global South. by Ivy George

While I thought this was a good essay, effectively highlighting many of the complex issues in intercountry adoption, something else caught my eye. It was the first sentence:

As an Indian American, the adoption of my daughter from India has been a defining experience in our family’s life.

Ivy George begins the essay about the ethical dilemmas of Intercountry adoption and then proceeds to discuss mostly how white adoptive parents do not consider culture or race. Was it just me, or was this author’s essay subtly aimed towards educating white adoptive parents about the global political, racial, privilege and class ramifications of international adoption. By the end of the first paragraph, I have forgotten that the author is an Indian American.

I would have rather heard how she, as an Indian American who has adopted a child from India, deals with instilling an Indian American cultural and racial identity while addressing the global political, racial, privilege and class ramifications of international adoption.

I am always curious how international adoptees who are adopted by families in which one or more of the parents are of the same ethnicity, or a neighboring one, view the whole adoption issue. For instance, I know of a few Korean adoptees who were adopted by Korean American women married to Korean American men or Anglo American men. I also personally know at least two Korean Adoptees who were adopted by Japanese American women married to Anglo American men. Given the historical conflicts between Japan and Korea, this is especially of interest to me.

Many of us Korean adoptees think that all American adoptive parents are "white" and the majority are. However, there are a lot of families, like the one mentioned in the article above, where that is not the case. Do these families from diverse populations impart to their kids that missing element of racial or cultural identity that the rest of us struggle with? Or are there unique family and adoption-related issues we TRA’s can’t possibly understand?

I admit I have sometimes wished that I’d been adopted by Korean Americans rather than "white" Americans – until I met some adoptees that had been, and learned that it wasn’t what I’d assumed.

In my work with adoptive parents, I often speak to a mixed racial and ethnic group of pre-adoptive parents, and I’ve come to realize that cultural diversity includes diversity within cultures.

It all boils down to this: no matter what one’s racial, ethnic, national or cultural identity, any time you adopt a child, you are taking in a child who has a different culture than you.

That is because every family has their own culture.

Imagine this: Say you woke up in the morning to find you were in a strange bed in an unfamiliar house. You look in the closet and find clothes that you’ve never seen before, but you have no other clothes. You don’t know where the bathroom is – you go into the hallway and have to open three or four doors before you find the bathroom.

You eventually find your way to the kitchen where there are a bunch of people who look like you, but are strangers. They all greet you warmly and ask you what you want for breakfast. You say, "I’d really love a cup of coffee, it’s the first thing I make in the morning." They look at you strangely and say, "Sorry, we only have tea in this house. We don’t drink coffee in this family."

In your old house, you used to just grab some toast or a bagel in the morning, but this family makes you sit at the table and eat a huge meal of steak and potatoes. You take a few bites but are not used to such a meal. The "mother" tells you that you can’t leave until you "clean your plate."

Imagine that the rest of your day is like this. The people look like you, and speak your language, but everything about the way they do things is different from what you like to do.

This is what it is like for every single child who is adopted or placed in a foster home.

So if you were to ask me whether I’d prefer to be adopted into a family that does not mirror me culturally or ethnically but works hard to honor and respect and integrate that culture and ethnicity in the family’s lives – versus – being adopted into a family that looks like me and speaks my language but does not honor my birth family’s culture:

my answer would be –  I’d have preferred to stay with my birth family.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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