The Global Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption

I was hoping to be on this panel but work commitments prevented it. This conference/forum is going to be an amazing, historical event!

The Global Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption

United States Social Forum

Organization Description

South End Press is a nonprofit, collectively run book publisher with more than 250 titles in print. Since our founding in 1977, we have tried to meet the needs of readers who are exploring, or are already committed to, the politics of radical social change.

Proposal Demographics

identify as women
identify as people of color
are immigrants (not born in U.S.)
are artists/cultural workers

Session Description

"The Global Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption"

Since the 1980s, the dramatic increase in transnational adoption has generated a transracial adoption boom. According to the U.S. Department of State, a growing number of US citizens are choosing to adopt children from overseas due to a perceived reduction in the number of healthy infants available within the country. In 1992, the United States issued 6472 "orphan" visas for internationally adopted children. Ten years later, the figure had risen to 20,099. Most of these children came from East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. This shift in adoption patterns is also due to the valuing of European, Latin American and Asian children over Black children, and prospective adopters’ desire to adopt children who do not come with the "baggage" of home communities and potentially interfering family members nearby. While the United States is the largest adoption industry "consumer," thousands of children are also brought to Western Europe, Canada, and Australia for adoption each year.

Discussions about adoption have typically separated adoptees who were adopted across racial lines within their country of origin (often referred to as "transracial adoptees") from those who were adopted transnationally (referred to as "international" or "intercountry" adoptees). This separation prevents us from recognizing our commonalities as a source of solidarity. It also suggests that the problems facing transnational adoptees are primarily related to finding a family and adapting to a new country, rather than to the traumatic experiences of racism, marginalization, and discrimination, both systematically and on the personal level, within our adoptive communities. Increasingly, many of us who have been described in the adoption literature as intercountry or international adoptees have decided to redefine ourselves as transracial adoptees. This redefinition emphasizes how relentless our racialization has been throughout our lives.

As adult, politicized transracial adoptees, we are united across national, ethnic, and cultural borders by our experience. We are determined to make connections between personal struggles and broader movements for peace and justice. We are committed to challenging the use of transracial and transnational adoption as a panacea to social ills rooted in colonial histories and contemporary global inequalities. Moreover, we reject the idea that the increasing popularity of transracial adoption heralds the dawning of a new era beyond race and racism.

At the heart of our adoptions are the reproductive choices of our mothers – choices that were most often made in the context of limited options. For us, reproductive rights can never be reduced to the right to a safe and legalized abortion or freedom from dangerous contraceptives or forced sterilization. Instead, we must work to create and sustain a world in which low-income women of color do not have to send away their children so that the family that remains can survive. How can this emerging movement of policitized, adult transracial adoptees, connect with other movements for social justice – such the labor movement, environmental movements, anti-globalization efforts, and women’s movements – to create a more just world for our mothers, and for the millions of women like them across the world?

The primary language of our session will be English. Participants will be engaged through discussion and Q & A. We will provide handouts for attendees.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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