Before you press “send”

This is what happens when people who adopt internationally are not
informed/prepared/or are in denial about the fact that their children
are immigrants (and mostly immigrants of color). And that they will
grow up to be people of color and sometimes perceived as "foreigners"
and "immigrants" for the rest of their lives.

It is also a reminder to me that just because an internationally or transracially adopted individual can
be loved "unconditionally" by their adoptive parent, it doesn’t
automatically mean that said adoptive parent is aware of their racist
and prejudicial biases. And that these biases can be subtly woven into
the fabric of the family in such a way that the adopted person
internalizes rather than recognizes it for what it is.

The following is a chain e-mail that my adoptive parents sent to me
this past year. Reading this will explain why I bother to dialogue with
adoptive parents about the importance of recognizing the internalized
values of racism, prejudice and superiority that white parents might
project on to their adopted child of color, if the parents don’t look
inside and do some work before the kids come into the home.

Even as a 37-year old woman, this e-mail cut to the bone and made me
feel completely pushed out of the family, who proposes to love me "like
one of their own."

More...

Samuel Thompson wrote:

I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I’m not going to sue somebody
for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December. I don’t agree with Darwin, but
I didn’t go out and hire a lawyer when my high school teacher taught
his theory of evolution.

Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered
because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game. So
what’s the big deal? It’s not like somebody is up there reading the
entire book of Acts. They’re just talking to a God they believe in and
asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans
going home from the game.

"But it’s a Christian prayer," some will argue. Yes, and this is the
United States of America, a country founded on Christian principles.
And we are in the Bible Belt. According to our very own phone book,
Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200-to-1.

So what would you expect? Somebody chanting Hare Krishna?

If I went to a football game in Jerusalem, I would expect to hear a
Jewish prayer. If I went to a soccer game in Baghdad, I would expect to
hear a Muslim prayer. If I went to a ping pong match in China, I would
expect to hear someone pray to Buddha. And I wouldn’t be offended. It
wouldn’t bother me one bit. When in Rome…

"But what about the atheists?" is another argument. What about them?
Nobody is asking them to be baptized. We’re not going to pass the
collection plate.

Just humor us for 30 seconds. If that’s asking too much, bring a
Walkman or a pair of ear plugs. Go to the bathroom. Visit the
concession stand. Call your lawyer.

Unfortunately, one or two will make that call. One or two will tell
thousands what they can and cannot do. I don’t think a short prayer at
a football game is going to shake the world’s foundations.

Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of all our rights.

Our parents and grandparents taught us to pray before eating, to
pray before we go to sleep. Our Bible tells us just to pray without
ceasing.

Now a handful of people and their lawyers are telling us to cease
praying. God, help us. And if that last sentence offends you, well …
just sue me.

The silent majority has been silent too long. It’s time we let that
one or two who scream loud enough to be heard, know that the vast
majority don’t care what they want.

It is time the majority rules! It’s time we tell them, you don’t
have to pray. You don’t have to say the pledge of allegiance, you don’t
have to believe in God or attend services that honor Him. That is your
right, and we will honor your right. But by golly you are no longer
going to take our rights away. We are fighting back… And we WILL WIN!
After all, the God you have the right to denounce is on our side! God
bless us one and all … especially those who denounce Him. God bless
America, despite all her faults … still the greatest nation of all.
God bless our service men who are fighting to protect our right to pray
and worship God.

May this be the year the silent majority is heard and we put God back as the foundation of our families and institutions.
Keep looking up… If you agree with this, please pass it on. If not, delete it!!

Of course, I didn’t pass it on, but I didn’t delete it either. I
chose to save it, as a reminder of what those who are not in the
majority have to deal with.

I also chose to share with my mother (the one who sent the email to
me) why this was offensive to me. I understand that she either forgot
that I wasn’t white (the most likely theory), or believed I had
internalized a white, fundamentalist Christian world view (which she
clearly KNOWS I haven’t).

In sharing this, which some of you may find shocking, my point is
not to ilicit comments about how racist my adoptive parents are. It’s
to highlight that adoptive parents may not understand to what extent
their world views and values might subtly (or not so subtly) hurt their
children.

I decided to share this with you because recently, two well-known
adoption agency forums have brought out similar type responses by
adoptive parents, especially in light of the experiences or views of
adult adoptees. The most recent one had such arrogant and hostile
comments that I have to say I was taken aback, and I think I hear a lot
of negative things from adoptive parents in my work.

There are still adoptive parents out there who believe that racism
doesn’t exist. There are adoptive parents who believe that when we
adoptees talk about our experiencs of racism we are just "whining" or
attention-seeking. Yet they send out e-mails like this, or participate
on adoption forums and list serves with this kind of language.

There are still adoptive parents out there who find nothing wrong
with the e-mail I posted above and won’t understand why it’s offensive.

Five years ago, if my mother had sent me this e-mail, I would have been angry and just deleted it.

This year I responded.

And that is why I am still here, talking about it and writing about it. And making sure that adoptees have a space to be heard.

13 thoughts on “Before you press “send”

  1. Can I add one thing here? A lot of people are deeply offended by these type emails, myself included. I fully understand the racist aspect of this email, but there are lots of other “isms” represented in it as well. I think there will come a day, maybe sooner than later, where *most* Americans are offended by this crap. More and more people are not part of the “majority” represented in this letter. More and more of us are actively fighting against them.

  2. How timely this post is… I know I’ve mentioned the issues I have with my FIL who chooses to ignore that I’m not white, not a christian, not a majority, not an anglo immigrant… I’ve been mulling over whether I should respond to a recent e-mail or not. Although I have decided to ignore it, mostly out of respect for PN who would end up getting in the middle of it, who has already been told he needs to “better control” his wife, I so respect (with a heavy dosage of pride) the fact that you responded this year… that this post wasn’t written with passionate indignation (as mine would have been) but with cool, collected, yet firm indignation…. you rock.

  3. I got the same email from my parents- This is the line that angers me the most, on a dozen different levels: “If you agree with this, please pass it on. If not, delete it!!”
    My response was to send back to them an essay authored by an evangelical Christian, entitled “Why I am against pre-game prayers”
    (http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=46828), thinking they might actually listen to an alternative “Christian” viewpoint.
    While it made me feel better, I doubt it opened their minds much. Good for you for taking the time to explain to your mom why you found the email offensive.

  4. The most recent one had such arrogant and hostile comments that I have to say I was taken aback, and I think I hear a lot of negative things from adoptive parents in my work.
    There are still adoptive parents out there who believe that racism doesn’t exist
    It amazes me that there really are APs who refuse to see that racism exists. (As an AP myself), it also makes me so incredibly sad. That discussion nearly drove me batty. Some people just will NOT allow themselves to see it. 😦

  5. “Yes, and this is the United States of America, a country founded on Christian principles.” This one always gets me. To me it’s not an indictment of Christian fundamentalists (easy targets) but of our education system that has, as a whole, for too long been the handmaiden of white supremacy. My white students desperately need to know the truth, deserve the know the truth of their inheritance. It will set them free.
    Keep up the good fight, comrade Jae Ran. I love your blog.

  6. The longer this country is run by Christian fundamentalists, the farther to the right we are pulled and it is called the norm. I thought our constitution was an effort to separate church and state. But no. Apparently our constitution is for white Christians. It is very disheartening to see how much ignorance is being perpetuatated by our current government, and that fascism can be seen as the norm with which everyone should comply quietly and submissively, or move out. Forget about free speech!
    I really appreciate the risk you took in posting this and speaking to your own pain about how it feels to have been brought into a family that insists on its own cluelessness. I am sad to observe, in every direction I turn, that cluelessness is more the norm than ever.

  7. This is one of the best examples an a-parent could have of how our white entitled perspective may blind us to the reality our children live in. Racism is real, and can take many shapes.
    Off the topic of racism, but on the topic of “a country founded on Christian principles” – here’s another article to hang onto if you ever get a similar email from someone else:
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050221/allen

  8. Yeah, I agree with you on dialogue. I have been largely avoiding discussing racism with my parents for a while. I used to confront them, on their racism all the time, but it was becoming futile.
    The time is going to come soon where I really need to step up to the plate and not treat this as a political debate with them. Instead, I really need to make it clear to them that some of their behavior is unacceptable. I think the shit is really going to hit the fan sometime after Christmas, when I don’t go back for the second year in a row.
    Sometimes dialogue is harder than avoidance, but in the end, avoidance often prolongs the tension in families.

  9. #
    you state that white parents, unless they do alot of internal work prior to adopting, will damage mixed-race or brown/ black children up with their internalised racism. but hang on – are you saying only white people have internalised racism to address? are you saying all white people are racists? what about the “white”/ non-”black” heritage of mixed-race children? I have a mixed-race child – i am of caucasian origin and her daddy is south asian in origin. she is brown in appearance. are you such a eugenisist that you would in an ideal world prevent white mothers from having brown/ black children? it sounds so. it is only a degree in argument past limiting their ability to transracially adopt. surely if parents are going to be suitable they would have to be aware of the issues, but to assume white people are racist is a racist assumption. racism weaves its malignant web in all directions. as mummy to a mixed-race baby we encouter this daily. but my daughter is raised to be proud of all her heritages – transcultural and transreligious – as well as the exquisite brownness of her skin. non-racist white parents/ prospective adoptive parents should not be demonised. nor should they accept such prejudice against them. our differences are to be cherished and enriching but please don’t pretend whites are more racist than brown/black people or need more counselling to be decent parents to brown/ black children. we all have issues to address in terms of race and how we deal with racism, whatever our colour.

  10. white parents you say need more “work” than brown/ black parents in adopting brown/ black children. what utter nonsense. as a mother of a mixed-race baby it is pretty clear that racism weaves its malignant web in all directions. whatever our colour, we need to analyse our own prejudices and those of our society. but please don’t assume all whites are racist. in the uk transracial adoption is forbidden. so basically although i have a mixed-race child who i love and whose mixed-race and bi-cultural and transreligious identity i respect totally, i would not be able to adopt a mixed-race or brown/black child. this is utterly prejudicial and racist. i could even, with race being viewed as it is, through a racist and jaundiced media and legal light, lose out in any custody battle should it arise as the deciding factor as my child is brown and i am white. it seems few understand her true identity as my child as much as she is her daddy’s, that her white grandparents are as important and valuable in instilling self-esteem and self-respect as her brown grandparents, to deny this is racist, and as well as being enriched with her muslim and christian, caucasian and south asian heritage, her beautiful brown skin, deep dark shaddowy mughal heritage eyes and rich brown/red-black hair are assets i will teach her to be damn proud of. she is utterly unique and yet also a child of our time. please address the racism against white parents that you’ve expressed in your blog – since you recommend all whites self-analyse – okay – can you do some self-analysis too about your own deep-seated prejudices?

  11. I don’t for a second question your assertion that white adoptive parents almost certainly have internalized racial and other biases which some (many) of them fail to acknowledge or address and which can be very damaging to their transracially adopted children.
    I am also totally opposed to prayer in schools, and I am frustrated with — well, with just about *everything* the religious right is doing in the United States these days.
    That said, and realizing I’m going to sound totally ignorant simply by asking this (and also realizing this is your blog and you have no obligation to educate me if you don’t feel like it): I don’t understand what is *racist*, specifically, about the chain e-mail.
    Maybe it’s just terminology — I use “racist” pretty narrowly to describe ethnic bias. To me, religion is a separate category from ethnicity. And the chain e-mail is serious religious bigotry, no doubt — but I’ve read it more than once, and while it conflates Christian and American, I don’t see where it conflates white with Christian, or white with American.
    Perhaps because I live in a predominantly African-American city that’s chock-full of black churches, it’s hard for me to assume Christian=white. Or maybe I am just not seeing past my own internalized white biases?
    It wouldn’t surprise me if the authors of the e-mail do, in fact, think that American=white or white=Christian. But they don’t actually *say* that. Does reading it as if they do — making a leap that they have avoided making — inadvertently *reinforce* the idea that American=white and white=Christian?
    Anyhow, like I said, of course you have no obligation to explain anything in your own blog. But if you feel like elaborating on why you label that e-mail racist, specifically, I’d be interested in reading more.

  12. Well, my husband and I were just sent “Prayer is Warfare” by his grandmother so I am smothered in this junk.
    I just can’t imagine any of my Christian black friends sending an email that states, “It is time the majority rules!”

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s