(Me with John Raible and Susan Ito, the last day of Pact Camp)
I never quite get used to it. Despite growing up in a transracial adoptive family, and despite previous experiences working at a Korean culture camp, and despite working with transracial adoptive families extensively over the past 6 years, it is still a shock.
It is still a shock to my system to be in a closed environment where almost all of the adults are white and almost all of the children are black or brown.
Even after 37 years of experience, it still takes me aback.
I was invited to Pact Camp this year as an "expert." An expert as a social worker, and an expert in my life’s experience as an adult transracial and international adoptee. After all these years, I have started to believe that yes, I am an expert (that alphabet soup after my name says so, after all) and I welcome being able to finally have the credibility that for so long was refused by professionals and adoptive parents.
But I am also a student of life and incredibly open to new thoughts and new lessons. So, although I came to teach adoptive parents, in many ways I was the one who was learning.
I learned that in many ways, being around so many young transracial adoptees re-traumatizes me, because I see so much of myself in them and I fear for those struggles they are going to have. I ache for their pain and their identity struggles. I worry because I see that their parents are actually doing so much more for them than my own parents did, and yet they’re still experiencing the same things I did.
I learned that some adoptive parents are actually willing to do things like move to a diverse area; cut off ties with family and friends who are racist or who dismiss or downplay their efforts to provide racial and cultural role models for the children; I learned that some adoptive parents are advocating for adoption reform; that they are no longer keeping silent about injustices; that they are supporting relationships with their children’s birth families; that they are opening up what the definitions of family means; that they take race seriously – for their children and most importantly, for themselves too.
I learned that my fellow adult transracial adoptees are amazing teachers and inspiring human beings and that we are a diverse group of people. I learned that some of my fellow TRA friends and colleagues are far more generous than I. I learned that my fellow TRA’s are kickin’ it in their respective fields and that all together we are a powerful force. I learned that they are strong and resilient and I have learned to lean on them when I’m hurting or vulnerable.
There will be many more posts to follow about my experiences of Pact Camp, but I want to give some thanks –
First – to Susan and John (in the pictures above), for being generous and encouraging and with whom I feel a real solidarity. To Lisa Marie and Connie (pictured below) who along with John is putting together AFAAD (Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora). These two women are AMAZING and smart and I want to bask in their brilliance. I am sending AFAAD a check for my membership as an ally tomorrow.
To Rhonda, Lisa K, Jessica and Sofia for putting up with being the literal "poster children" for adoption.
To the parents who took the opportunity to talk to me as a person and fellow anti-racist ally, and not just as someone who will dispense advice like a TRA Pez-dispenser, I thank you, and you know who you are. You were the ones who sat by me at meals and asked, "How are you doing?" or spoke to me outside of the workshops just to say "hi." Thank you for treating me like a human being and respecting that I might actually have a life and things to say that aren’t just about you and your child.
The best thing about being at Camp? The people in the photograph below. All the adult TRA’s who gave their time and endless amounts of energy to help adoptive parents and transracially adopted children. We all bled sweat and tears for you and for your children so that they will grow up with the belief that they are beautiful and worthy and strong people of color, even when the rest of the world will try to negate that.
Please remember that we don’t have to do this. Please remember the next time you consider saying that we should be grateful for being adopted.
We’re not the ones who should be grateful. Adoptive parents, who benefit from our generous time, are the ones who should be grateful.
Thank you for taking the time to touch the lives of the children and connect with them. Thank you for doing so even though you don’t have to, and don’t owe any of us anything. And thank you for telling it like it us – some of us want to hear it and learn.
Thank you so much for your message. Some of us are listening, and I am just as scared for my children as you are…..
Thank you for being there for them and speaking your/their truth.
What can I say? You are my sister. I love you.
I am just grateful that Susan did return you to us. Welcome home!
You rock! It sounds like you did some good, and had some good done unto you.
I know what you mean about feeling “re-traumatized” in those situations. When I first met and discussed adoption with other adoptive parents with young KADs I began to see parenting things in them, that I had seen in my APs. I felt panicky, and felt concern for those children. I projected my own experiences onto them.
I AM So grateful to you. You’re an inspiration and your thoughtfulness, directness and honesty are such a gift. I am humbled by your comments and would be thrilled to see my TRA daughter grow into the kind of strong, opinionated and sensitive woman you shared with us at Pact camp.
Thank you, Jae Ran. I appreciated all that you shared with us at PACT camp, even more so now knowing how re-traumatizing it was for you. You and the other eloquent, beautiful adult TRAs who shared their insights did so much to illuminate our families, fortify our adopted, beloved children. I feel I can better navigate these waters as my son’s ally, the stormy seas AND the sheltering bays. I embrace this role and relish it, and thank you for being a warm light in the dark, a true voice amidst the din.
w/ love and gratitude,
Hi Jae Ran,
As an adult TRA working to help young adoptees and advise adoptive parents, I just wanted to tell you how inspiring this story is. I sort of have a dream of returning to my culture camp and actually having it foster identity and a sense of community. Keep it up!