In the fire

This past week this blog was linked on three forums and a very popular adoptive parent blog, and the action around here has been hotter than a steaming bowl of kimchijigae.

The conversations have been all over the place. At one forum, it's clear that there are a lot of adoptive parents who are holding their breath and diving in to delve with the complexity involved in transracial and international adoption.

But it's clear that on another forum, there is a lot of defensiveness and anger. Yes, anger. Ironic, isn't it, that we adoptees are always accused of being angry but after reading this particular discussion board, well – there sure are a lot of angry adoptive parents out there.

There was a time, not that very long ago, where I would have felt the need to jump in and defend myself. There is a heated discussion about a poem I wrote many years ago about color-blindness. These adoptive parents are calling me reverse racist, telling me in essence how f*ed up I am, and funniest of all, taking it very personally. In fact, the poem was not written at all about adoption or with any intended audience of adoptive parents. It was written in response to a friend at the time who took delight in negating all my experiences of racism and who felt the need to tell me how she was "colorblind" even as she made racist remarks all the time (and then say things like, of course, I don't see you as …).

When I first started this blog almost 3 years ago, knowing that
adoptive parents were saying mean and hateful things about me and
making personal attacks would have driven me crazy. I would have been
up all night, wondering why people are so mean. I would have tried to
defend myself, or would have written mean things back. But these days,
I feel nothing even remotely emotional about all the things written about me on the forums.

I've been thinking of all this hoopla in two tracks. First, it says a lot about the adoptive parents themselves. I mean, some of the parents on these forums disagree and say so in a respectful way but I've been surprised how mean spirited others are. I take that to mean that this defensiveness and meanness is more about how insecure they are or speaks to their fear.

 And honestly, they should be afraid. If they're that mean to me, I can only wonder how mean they will be to their adopted child. What are they going to say when their sullen 16-year old throws an "I hate you for adopting me!" at them? My own hypothesis is that those are the adoptees who will contact me in the future and tell me how silencing their parents were.

On a weekly basis I get emails from adoptees. They usually say the same thing…what you've written resonates with me…it's like you took my thoughts out of my head…you wrote what I've always felt but could never find the words to say…

Some of these adoptees have had very abusive or negative homes with adoptive parents much like the ones I sometimes see behaving badly on the forums. But, the majority of them love their adoptive parents very much, yet feel they can not talk to them about how they feel about their experiences. They struggle with how to approach the topic. Or, they say their parents try to tell them how they should feel.

These are the emails that give me hope and make me continue on with the work I'm doing. I appreciate it when adoptive parents tell me that something I wrote impacted the way they think about adoption, or when they tell me I've helped to change the way they talk to their child about adoption. But there is nothing that is more gratifying to me than to know that what I wrote has resonated with another adoptee, who maybe now feels for the first time that they are not alone in their feelings.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

17 thoughts

  1. I’m really sad to read this. I honestly don’t understand what drives the AP attitude you describe here. I mean, it seems completely logical to me that ANY parent would want to do their best. Why do some APs feel they can discount the voices of those best able to educate them?
    You have definitely helped me in countless ways, Jae-Ran. Not only have you opened my eyes to aspects of the adoption experience I never would have understood before, you’ve shared your professional knowledge. Thank you very, very much.
    And there sure are a lot of angry adoptive parents out there” cracks me up – and is absolutely on the money.

  2. Tammy please know that I in no way blame you. That poem has been up for a long time, it’s open to anyone! So, it just means that there are a lot of people who are not ready to consider any perspective other than their own.
    I appreciate everyone who has contacted me over the years, letting me know that the blog has in some way helped them. Thanks!

  3. I haven’t read the forums your talking about but, unfortunately, as an adoptive parent who reads several forums, I’m not surprised. Please know that there are many of us who value what you and other adult transracial adoptees have to say. I appreciate having my horizons expanded so I can be more aware of things my daughters will face.

  4. I am a PAP in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia. I have been reading your blog for almost a year and have learned a lot from you. Thank you for writing about your experiences. I’m very sorry not all AP’s are open to listening and learning.

  5. I’ll keep telling you — I think you’re wonderful. I know there are a lot of APs who are afraid to hear the negatives, but I’m so grateful to you and other adult TR-As who share your experiences. You help us parents do a better job. Don’t hold back — I just can’t thank you enough.

  6. I am sorry that you are receiving this misguided anger from other AP’s. I know that the information you, and other adoptees like you, speak allows me to broaden my scope as an AP. I will never be able to understand all that my son goes through in his life, but I am glad to know that mentors like you are there for him and for other adoptees.

  7. “If they’re that mean to me, I can only wonder how mean they will be to their adopted child.”
    They’re that mean/insecure because it is easier to say things online and hit the Enter key without having to face that person and REALLY listen to what they’re saying.
    They’re insecure – as you probably know – because they don’t want their children to feel hurt or they will say things like “Oh, no, not MY child! That will NOT be MY child!” etc.
    It is far too easy to take something personally in the adoptee blogosphere. If someone says “adoptive parents” in the same category of “racism”, many APs will be tempted to leap into the conversation and say, “It’s not my fault! I’m not one of those adoptive parents, I discuss race and ethnicity with my child and how to deal with racism!” … while the category being mentioned isn’t even directed personally to them, they still feel that they should be taking it personally because it says “adoptive parents” and not “Adoptive parents who don’t like to talk about race.”
    Okay I’m done my tangent now. 🙂

  8. I am so glad that there are people like you who share with people like me, an adoptive parent. Some adoptive parents live in the land called DENIAL. Please keep sharing. I am better for it and I hope I am a better parent than I would be without your insights. Thank you!

  9. I would hope you sleep well at night knowing that you have made a difference.
    It is a very, very difficult water to swim in no matter what angle to take at it.
    I have yet to meet another AP that can talk about these things honestly and bluntly and with someone that do not agree with. At all, let alone with a clear head. If there is one thing I hope with regards my relationship with my sons, it is that we can avoid that trap. They owe nothing, but I would hate for them to believe that I am not capable of being there for them.

  10. I just reread ‘My response to “color blind” theory’, which is one of the best examples of the reason why I read your blog. To get educated by someone who KNOWS.
    Thanks, Jae Ran.

  11. As an adoptive parent I have found your blog incredibly useful and a beacon of sanity in the often overheated/underexamined adoption-web-world. I haven’t agreed with everything I’ve read, or the comments of others, but always thought provoking and worthy of consideration as we raise our daughter.
    When you talk about “transracial’ adoption you operate at the nexus of several contested narratives, race, motherhood, American nationalism, colonialism, the family etc. . It is a position of great risk, and power.
    Thanks for taking the risk.

  12. I can’t imagine what kind of parent I would be if I couldn’t read and learn from adoptee’s or other adoptive parents. I have learned so much…that I didn’t even know I needed to learn.
    I thank you for being a voice that relates with other adoptees and the friendship they find in you.
    You are a blessing on many levels.
    God Bless you and your family.

  13. I recently found this link
    This resource came to mind because of the first steps for white people. I recommend downloading the guide because it has more details on do’s and don’ts. I wish this would be posted widely on discussion lists for APs and PAPs.

  14. This is why I don’t belong to any adoption forums…the flaming and personal attacks were too much.
    Sorry to hear about your experience, Jae Ran. Count me among those who appreciate and value your contributions.

  15. Sorry again about racist adoptive white parents. Why on earth they feel the need to do this? Why do they feel it is okay to do this? Thanks for being one of the brave adult adoptees willing to say what you think in spite of these awful, rude people.

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