My response to the Rachel’s Tavern commenter

Earlier this week, Rachel from Rachel’s Tavern shared with me a comment left on her blog in response to a post about the U.S.’s decision to end working with Guatemala’s adoption program. Rachel did a fantastic job responding to the points left by this commenter and I also wanted to respond but felt I needed to wait so I could really put together a thoughtful response not imbued with reactionary emotional comments.

Because for many of us, that was our first reaction – to respond out of a sense of deep frustration and anger. And in some ways, whenever I come across these kinds of statements, it makes me feel as if I am still trying to scoop water out a sinking ship with a spoon.

I took the comment as yet another example of how people respond to these articles in by using rhetorical strategies to suppress discussions about transracial and transnational adoption. The commenter wrote the kind of comment that I think many of us make when trying to talk about this very complex subject – very defensive and very personal. Unfortunately she also made several statements that only perpetuate the very worst stereotypes about white Americans who adopt transnationally.

In general, I don’t want this to be about bashing this particular commenter because in truth it is something that I hear about (or read) almost daily. I think that a lot of the adoptive parents who commented about this commenter here or at Rachel’s Tavern were horrified by these words and wanted to make sure we all knew that not all adoptive parents have these sentiments.

Unfortunately, while there has been an increase in adoptive parents active in anti-racist work and educated in all the complexities around transracial/transnational adoption politics and policies – they are still in the minority. Overwhelmingly, based on my personal and professional experience, more people have the kind of views as the commenter who posted at Rachel’s Tavern.

The comment is as follows:

My husband and I are also adopting from Guatemala – a baby girl.
Regardless of the practices there, the children will have better lives
here. The process works smoothly in Guatemala and people who *should*
have children, will get them from Guatemala. We are college educated,
wealthy, hard working Americans and can afford to raise our child (and
likely others) so that she or he may attend college, grad school and
have priveleged lives. Perhaps, even, change perceptions of Latinos in
racist United States. At least, I hope.

When it comes down to ethical concerns, are *you* really concerned about the individual children or moral/ethical superiority?

I agree that it is sad that children maybe, perhaps, are being
trafficked, stolen and mothers, coerced. However, we do not know that
for sure and there is little proof. Likely, these people are having
children, simply for monetary gain. If that is the case, then, I am
fine with that. Because Americans, Canadians and even Europeans will
continue to adopt from Guatemala.

The Guatemalan system works well for many reasons. Perhaps you
cannot consider not being able to have your own child? Are you in that
position? Have you tried to adopt domestically? What a total nightmare.
What a disappointing, sad, expensive and risky nightmare to try to
adopt here. We tried, it failed, we looked elsewhere.

If not, keep your moral superiority talk for someone who has walked
in those shoes. Perhaps you cannot afford the 25-30K cash that is
required for these children to come to our country? I don’t know, and
I’m not trying to offend, but, really.

We are adopting. We are grandfathered in because we filed our CIS
papers in time and we will adopt from Guatemala again or go black
market. Yes, black market exists.

What do you prefer? These Guatemalan girls (and boys) spend their
time on the streets, sniffing glue and becoming prostitutes?? Dying at
age 35? I don’t believe in Darwin, etc… so don’t even go there with me.

Like Erinberry, we too, will raise our children speaking spanish, and around ecuadoran, nicaraguan and other Latino influences.

Respectfully, I like your blog and think you are an intelligent
person, but please continue to think about the ramifications to both
Guatemala and US if Guatemalan adoptions cease.

1) First of all, the statement "Regardless of the practices there, the children will have better lives
here
" completely condones fraudulent adoption practices in Guatemala. This statement also ignores that some children might not have better lives in America (or other White, western country) than in Guatemala. This statement also leaves out any possibility that children kidnapped from homes where they were a vital and wanted part of the family in order to fulfill an adoptive parent’s desire to parent is unethical or immoral in any way. Fraudulent adoption or black market adoption is condoned by this parent because it will give her the child she feels entitled to have. She continues later to say "I agree that it is sad that children maybe, perhaps, are being
trafficked, stolen and mothers, coerced. However, we do not know that
for sure and there is little proof. Likely, these people are having
children, simply for monetary gain. If that is the case, then, I am
fine with that . . . we will adopt from Guatemala again or go black
market. Yes, black market exists."
I just don’t know how anyone can claim to be concerned about children and make such statements.

2) "The process works smoothly in Guatemala and people who *should*
have children, will get them from Guatemala.
" I’m very curious about how this individual knows who *should* have children. I’m pretty sure she has not reviewed all the homestudies for all the people who have applied to adopt children from Guatemala.

3) "We are college educated,
wealthy, hard working Americans and can afford to raise our child (and
likely others) so that she or he may attend college, grad school and
have priveleged lives
." Rachel did a fantastic job deconstructing the many ways this statement is troublesome, especially in terms of the idea that "wealthy" and "college educated" somehow privilege those parents over others who don’t have the degrees or bank accounts. I don’t have much to add here, except that I really take issue that the commenter has such a narrow definition of what a "good life" consists of.

4) "Perhaps, even, change perceptions of Latinos in
racist United States
." Ethnically Incorrect Daughter wrote a great essay about adoptive parents using their transracially/transnationally adopted children as "bridges" to greater racial/cultural understanding. Read her response, it’s better than what I could say. 

5) "If not, keep your moral superiority talk for someone who has walked
in those shoes. Perhaps you cannot afford the 25-30K cash that is
required for these children to come to our country?"
This is a classic, rhetorical strategy. Make it about the other person. This commenter is suggesting that Rachel’s posting of an article that critiques the Guatemalan adoption process is because Rachel can’t afford to adopt from Guatemala.

6) "These Guatemalan girls (and boys) spend their
time on the streets, sniffing glue and becoming prostitutes?? Dying at
age 35?"
Because that’s the only thing we orphans can do if we aren’t adopted by wealthy, college-educated White people. There aren’t any other options left for us. Our native countries are so awful that the only thing that can save us are wealthy, college-educated White people.

Again, I don’t want this to be about the commenter per se. This is much, much larger. I have been writing about the history of adoption in the United States for book introduction and one of the key concepts that I just connected with was this pattern of assimilation whenever there is a large movement of children from one location to another for the purposes of adoption. Adoption, in all its myriad ways, is about several things at once – parents wishing to fulfill their desire to parent, and children without parents being placed with other people as their guardians.

Historically, adoption was once about a parentless child becoming incorporated into another family (or within their family) and being raised to adulthood there. Somewhere along the way it became more about other issues – namely the social control of the reproductive rights (whether societally, religiously or governmentally imposed) of some women and the privileging of other women to take those children and through the act of adoption transform and reform them into something "better than" their origins.

And that is another post (or several) I will have to tackle later!

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7 thoughts on “My response to the Rachel’s Tavern commenter

  1. My compliments on your reply. You continue to express reason and wisdom where these issues are concerned.
    I have to say that my own personal experience with other adoptive parents agrees with what you say above concerning the majority views out there.
    My wife and I actually feel lonely in that regard. While I know there are parents out there we could relate to, we have yet to get to know any in person.
    But I am less concerned about that than I am the sphere of influence my children know as they grow up. Their experiences are much more important.

  2. Oh, gosh, JR, I’m so glad you responded so articulately and succintly. That person’s comment just leaves me speechless. Was it me – but that commenter sounds from a different era – an entitled colonialist or missionary out to “save those poor heathen children.”

  3. “…to respond out of a sense of deep frustration and anger. And in some ways, whenever I come across these kinds of statements, it makes me feel as if I am still trying to scoop water out a sinking ship with a spoon.”
    i relate. except…”scoop water out of a sinking ship with a spoon”??? more like bang the hell out of the subject’s brain with said spoon, and scoop brain matter out, again with said spoon, to feed down their throat, cuz it obviously ain’t doin much up there 🙂
    thanks for the response though, i knew what you actually wrote on rachel’s site was much too short – i was waiting for the goods 🙂

  4. Actually Jae Ran, I think you did a much better job articulating the issues. I always learn from reading HM and one of these days I will figure out why I liked your response better.
    I think however, that it is too easy to “smack down” comments such as the one you and Rachel quoted. I am more concerned with “cluelessness” the benign insensitivity where good hearts overlook some of the significant issues with adoption, race, and class privilege.
    As frustrating as it was to read the comments left in response to Rachel’s post critiquing the comment, I also found that some people had made very useful points regarding privilege that should be raised.
    I think adoption, especially transracial adoption is fraught with contradictions (to wit, I have not yet seen an analysis of the policy taken by the national association of black social workers supporting placement of black children with black famililes only and the current context of international Asian adoption and people’s asusmptions that it is about almost whiteness vs. not wanting to parent a black child as referenced in an article you posted a while back.) If I have this wrong, please excuse me, but this was something I read a while ago regarding cultural issues in placing children outside their cultures/ethnicities of origin.
    Again, thank you for the opportunity to expand my thinking on this critical issue.
    Pink

  5. I’ll put up a link to your response. It is nice to have a different perspective on the same comment. The truth of the matter is she managed to upset just about every constituency who read my site–aoptive parents, adoptees, Latinos, people of color broadly defined, anybody who has ever struggled financially, anti-racists, human rights advocates, lawyers, etc., etc., etc.
    Of then there is Michael, who pretty much always disagrees with me, so it is not surprising to see. I have to say John did an excellent job making Michael eat his words, 🙂

  6. it was interesting to see the guatamala protest with a photo of a baby on the american dollar bill.
    adoption has always been about the supply and demand of babies.now that people are starting to speak out about how inhumane and wrong it is domestically,we are seeing more “open” adoptions and people adopting internationally.it is my opinion that it is about the adopters agenda and “saving” kids.
    what a crock. you responded intelligently and i agree

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