Australia to apologize to Aborigines

From the Associated Press

Australia has had a decade-long debate about how best to acknowledge
Aborigines who were affected by a string of 20th century policies that
separated mixed-blood Aboriginal children from their families — the
cohort frequently referred to as Australia’s stolen generation.

From 1910 until the 1970s, around 100,000 mostly mixed-blood
Aboriginal children were taken from their parents under state and
federal laws based on a premise that Aborigines were a doomed race and
saving the children was a humane alternative.

A national inquiry in 1997 found that many children taken from their
families suffered long-term psychological effects stemming from the
loss of family and culture.

You can read the entire article here.

I am

I am inky black hair. I
am epicanthic lid. I am
bone hard and flesh soft.
I am little black mole
on upper right cheek. I am
hungry. I am girl. I am Made
in Korea.

I am #7139. I am wrapped
in cloth. I am note
with no explanation.
I am “morose”. I am
officially classified.
I am “in need of good home”.

I am pledge of allegiance.
I am chocolate cupcakes
with U.S. flag. I am four
fried eggs. I am B+.
I am nice girlfriend. I
am transpacific.

I am hyphenated. I
I am no forwarding
address. I am crunchy
on outside chewy on inside.
I am imported goods. I
am honeydew melon
with ripe seed.

I am Made in Korea. I
am inky black hair. I am
epicanthic lid. I am bone
hard and flesh soft. I am little
black mole on upper right cheek.
I am Taegu white lily.
I am eyes wide open.

© 2001


** Warning: Plot spoilers**

A few weekends ago I had an adoption related film festival of sorts when I viewed Juno and The Italian. Both movies were viewed with adoptee friends and I had various thoughts/feelings about them. They couldn’t have been more different in every way.

Juno is a quintessential American-indie-film, with quirky visuals, props, dialog and music and felt in taste and style every bit like the Sunny D the main character chugs in the opening sequence. I felt I was waaaay too old to see this movie and that it amped my geekish, loser cred the minute the film began. This was all the more confirmed when I found out it is the favorite movie of my 14-year old daughter’s entire middle school.

The Italian, on the other hand, is a quintessential grim, foreign-subtitled melancholic film that is complex and layered and has no easy answers. If Juno was Sunny D, The Italian was the morning after a round of vodka shots.

Okay, metaphors aside, the two movies can’t really be compared because the themes are so vastly different. One features the coming of age story of a smart-aleky teen who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and decides to make an adoption "plan" (in other words, the view of the birth mom or first mom who relinquishes); the other is the story of the child who is abandoned and who is the subject of the adoption "plan," (in this case, to be adopted by a wealthy Italian couple).

Juno has been the critic and popular darling, owing to its fast-paced and unusual dialog and portrayal of a smarter-than-your-average-bear teen girl protagonist who, rather than wringing her hands and emoting over this "oops," treats the fetus like an inconvenient growth she can’t wait to dispose of. I left the movie feeling like despite it’s salty characters and working-class hero anthem it was, in fact, a pro-life, white adoptive middle class yuppie parent’s dream movie. Juno gets pregnant, but does she abort? No! In fact, thanks to the heavily accented, stereotyped, poorly-conjugating, Su Chin (why the f*** do Koreans ALWAYS have to have heavy accents, as if it’s impossible to think there may be at LEAST 10,000 Koreans in Minnesota – there are that many adoptees alone –  who speak more Fargo than hangul?) Juno realizes she cannot abort her baby-with-fingernails. And once Juno finds the perfect adoptive parents from the penny saver (notice that they are 2nd choice after her first choice – a "cool graphic designer, mid-thirties, with a cool Asian girlfriend who totally rocks the bass" – guess because the graphic designer doesn’t have a racial designation he is supposed to be white?), she can get on with being an "unconventional, quirky teen."

The adoptive parents also get their dream – a healthy white infant from a healthy white teenaged girl whose boyfriend is a healthy white teen boy. And, whipped cream on top, she doesn’t want an open adoption!

While I appreciate a female protagonist who actually looks like a real live teenaged girl, one that my own daughter would find relatable (unlike the materialistic, Mean Girls typically portrayed in the media), I just couldn’t quite get past the detachment with which Juno treats her pregnancy and ultimate relinquishment to the yuppie adoptive parents. No homestudy for these parents, it’s all done privately via a lawyer (which by the way is completely unethical that Juno isn’t represented by a different attorney – the adoptive parent’s attorney should have insisted that she have her own lawyer, and is illegal in Minnesota).

It was also interesting that Juno is essentially repeating her own abandonment story, as her mom abandoned her as a young child and her only contact is the annual cactus she sends to Juno. The prickly relationship is an apt metaphor for Juno – but there is again no hand wringing over this, no introspection of how Juno is set to be her mother by abandoning her child, nothing. Just lots of blue slushies and hamburger phones.

I also really detested the unnecessary jabs at Asians and people of color. Why were we all included merely as the butt of jokes, just for laughs? Seriously, the entire theater was guffawing at Su Chin, and Vijay (boyfriend Paulie Bleeker’s teammate) and at the "cool graphic designer with an Asian girlfriend comment) – plus, I was irritated by the applause when stepmom Bren chews out the only other non-white character, the ultrasound tech. And how many people caught the comment Juno says about adopting from China? "I hear they’re shooting them out of cannons over there." [I got the quote wrong – the right quote is "You shoulda gone to China. You know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events."]

And these slams against people of color were all picked up by my daughter too. She wanted to like the movie but felt it lacking. Many of my work colleagues – all social workers – told me in defense of the movie that "that’s how teenage moms act" when I complained about Juno’s emotional detachment to having a baby and relinquishment. I thought that was a pretty generalized assessment (since the teen moms I’ve worked with have mostly been highly invested emotionally) but then, it speaks to the bias that permeates social workers who case manage sexually active teen girls in foster care. My daughter also felt that part of the movie was just not realistic. She said she and most of her friends would not be so emotionally detached and that being detached was not indicative of Juno’s maturity but the opposite, her immaturity or inability to deal with the situation.

So, overall, I give the movie an A for it’s visual appeal and music and a C for it’s handling of adoption. The movie actually isn’t about adoption or pregnancy, it’s a plot devise to showcase a quirky girl, a different protagonist, in fact the younger version of Diablo Cody (the screenwriter who hails from Minnesota where the movie is set). Cody has stated herself in interviews that she knows nothing about adoption. My guess is she didn’t really do much beyond "googling" adoption and based this plot theme on stereotypes.

As I was watching this movie I thought about another teen pregnancy movie – Saved! – which I really liked. In this movie, the teen also decides to parent instead of abort. In this movie the father of the child wants to stay involved. In this movie, a group of misfits come together to form an unconventional yet community family. This movie is about openness and acceptance and the ways in which families can expand to depths and breadths maybe previously unknown. Unlike Juno, which for all its surface layer of being rebellious and unconventional, was in reality the most strident heterosexual, white, nuclear normative-family promoting movie I’ve seen in a long time.*

*yes, I know that Vanessa ends up adopting as a single mom, but it still falls into the normative family paradigm.

“Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home”


By Kim Sunee

In 1973, a 3-year-old child was seated by her mother on a bench in a crowded South Korean marketplace. She was given a piece of bread and told not to move until the mother came back for her. Three days later, a policeman removed the child from the bench and took her to an orphanage.

Months later, the little girl was adopted by an American serviceman and his wife and taken to their home in Louisiana. Thus unfolds the tale of a woman’s search for her identity; her attempt to find out where she "belonged."

Now because the little girl grew up in New Orleans, and because her adopted grandfather centered family activities around the table, and this was how the little girl and the grandfather bonded, most chapters end with recipes.

My TRA-dar* is beeping

Does anyone know if this family is an adoptive family? For once, it’s NOT mentioned (can that be?!?)

‘Meanest Mom’ Sells Son’s Car, Family Gets Quite a Ride

Jane Hambleton, with son Steven, appear on

Jane Hambleton, with son Steven, appear on "Good Morning America,"
where she talked about selling his car after finding booze under the
front seat.

(Good Morning America — Abc)

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, January 11, 2008;
Page C01


Yesterday she was the meanest mom on the planet. Today: the coolest.

Jane Hambleton, 48, gained a worshipful parental following when news of a classified ad she’d placed in the Des Moines Register was picked up by the Associated Press. The text of the ad:

"OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don’t love
teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy
mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer.
Call meanest mom on the planet."

If you’re interested in the rest of the story, click here.

* p.s. TRA-dar is when you recognize another transracial adoptee. Similar to KAD-ar or Gay-dar.

NPR story: “White Kid, Black Family: Transracial Adoption”

A fascinating response to an NPR story

A few days back, we heard from Lisa Marie Rollins, a black woman raised in a white family. Her story drew this response below from Mark Riding, a black man whose family is adopting a white kid. In coming days, we’ll look to talk some more Riding and his family. For now, we’ll bring his comment up and look for yours. He writes:

The timing of this NPR story is serendipitous for me. I have long been struggling with my family’s in-process transracial adoption, but for almost opposing reasons to those in this story — we’re a black family attempting to adopt a little white girl.

I live in Baltimore infamous for its blighted "Chocolate City" status as well as for its distinct up-South racial polarization. When the little white girl came to live with us — three years old, doughy face, Irish freckles, and deep red hair — we faced immediate, unanticipated obstacles, many of which were internal. For example, I hadn’t considered how often we talked about white people at home. I hadn’t realized that dinnertime stories were rarely told without referencing the race of the players. I was also oblivious how frequently I used racial stereotypes. We began diligently censoring ourselves. Of course we’ve routinely adjusted our language and behavior for the sake of our white peers, neighbors, bosses and friends, but this little girl lives with us, which requires code switching and code creating at home. Headline News wouldn’t care about some missing spring break girl if she wasn’t er…blonde. America loves blonde girls. It has required more vigilance than I ever suspected; and I had long considered myself a fairly enlightened person.

Even though transracial adoptions are en vogue, many people (especially white people) are troubled when they see us out together. At the park in our historic Baltimore neighborhood where adopted Asian kids play with their white siblings without a blink, we are greeted with uneasy curiosity. We don’t receive the knowing smile and assumption of family that those other adoptive families enjoy. White park-goers often assume (out loud) that my graying mother-in-law is the girl’s nanny. Given close enough proximity, white people are almost always compelled to question our relationship with her. "So who do we have here" they ask, hardly veiling their anxiety. Even white friends and colleagues from the progressive private school in which I work are clearly disquieted, despite the fact that middle-class white parents with adopted Romanian, Asian or black children are in growing number there. "Oh this must be your little foster child." A colleague announced loudly outside a kiddie concert held on campus. Our little girl was troubled; her family secret had been publically revealed and she didn’t understand how or why. I was doubly upset because I couldn’t even carp freely about the indirect racial prejudice and insensitivity of this white person when I returned home.

My wife, like her mother, has little tolerance for strangers’ nosiness and gives purposely inelaborate answers; she is our little girl, period. Conversely, until quite recently I have accepted us as an oddity and have readily explained as soon as the little girl bounces out of ear shot. I’m certain only some of that has been empathetic; the rest was to assuage my own peculiar feelings. I have never felt as self-consciously black as when I hold our little white girl’s hand in public. However, after several white people have asked me, "and there was no one else in her family that could take her!" my leaf has turned. Now when asked I try to reply plainly, tapering my repugnance with irony: Nah, you know how those families are." With due emphasis placed on the term those.

You can read the rest of the letter here.