Transracial Adoption from one black girl’s perspective

Archive for November, 2006

Lynching, Forks and Michael Richards

Ack. So even when I’m vacation I can’t stay away from the drama. I had just been thrown off kilter, reeling from the whole Pluto scandal- (I mean, how you gonna just toss Pluto out when its been a planet for a zillion years? and what do the Plutonians have to say about this? and who is this theythat gets to decide when my 2nd fav planet is not qualified?)

and BAM! dammit, more race stuff?

By now I”m sure that all of you have heard that Michael Richards aka “Kramer” on Seinfeld had a meltdown on stage while doing stand-up in West Hollywood a few days ago. Here are some links to his meltdown and the obligatory “apology” he attempted on Letterman Monday night.

(sigh) 

A couple comments from me here – and hopefully I’ll have more time later.

- Its interesting that Jerryei is on the show with him. Why was it necessary for him to have backup that ‘everyone likes’?

For me, the sentiments are not surprising, and what I mean by that is that I am never surprised when white folks ‘show they ass’ and reveal hidden racist feelings. I think this video is a perfect illustration of how deeply painful the ‘n-word’ is for black folks. And how no matter what the rationalization – white folks and many people of color who aren’t of African descent – never need to say it. This incident also illustrates how deeply racist ideology goes. What made Richards think that he could get up on stage and say any shit like that? Does he feel like the line that many comics walk is a line that makes them impenetrable to critique?

What was up with the line about lynching? WTF was up with the line about lynching? WTF? WTF? Are you kidding me? How dare he?

The wack ass apology. Did anyone actually buy that? and.. “Afro-Americans”? huh? Did he even get any coaching before he went on screen?

I am not angry or disapointed or any of that, what I am is disgusted.


Thankstaking

I’m MIA for a few days while I’m in and around southern Cali! Meeting up with friends, other TRA’s and family!

 catch you when your bellies are full!


Black/ Mixed Girl Hair Report

Ahhh black girl hair. I’m experimenting with my hair products.

Again.

I’ve been really happy with and loyal to Aveda’s Be Curly for the past three or four years since I cut my dreadlocks, but I happened on a product called Mixed Chicks, that I decided  to try. I’m trying it mostly to support the company, but to see how it may work for me. Be Curly is gonna be hard to beat tho.

As we’ve discussed before, Black women/ black girls hair is a big deal. So if you are ignoring the biological difference here in hair – its time for corrective action. My suggestions here will work for hair that is fine, but with medium tight curls. Many times this hair texture comes from having a mixed race background. These suggestions will probably not be useful for coarse hair with very tight curls. (Although I can make some suggestions here too cause I twist my friends dreadlocks and my men friends short twists).

I have LOTS of hair, very thick and it gets tangled and starts forming Locks after about a week of not combing/brushing. I dont wash my hair everyday – only once a week or every few days if I HAVE to because of kickboxing. It is important to not over wash black hair because the natural oils keep it healthy, no matter what the texture. I dont even get my hair wet everyday – only if my curls are getting frizzy. I only comb my hair about once a week, when I am in the shower, with conditioner on.

After I get out the shower, I usually squeeze my hair out and then just “scrunch” it with a towel and then wrap my hair in the towel to get out excess water. There are two processes I usually do after that. First, if I have just combed my hair, my curls are usually not ‘defined’ and so sometimes I wear braids/twists/ or pony tail buns for a day. If I choose to do the braids/twists/ buns I usually just douse my hair in almond oil or this amazing Organics Olive Oil stuffs. Then after a day or two, I wash my hair – dont comb it!! – and then just ‘scrunch’ in about two big globs of Be Curly, and let my hair air dry and voila!

Ive also just discovered the Organics Hair Mayo.  Damn that stuff works good. But its like a deep conditioner. Only do that once every few weeks or so.

So I’m gonna try Mixed Chicks. I’ll let you know how it goes!

UPDATE:  


“Outsiders Within” Book Launch #1

Last night I went to the west coast book launch of “Outsider’s Within”. Yay! Whoo Hoo!! I don’t have to repeat how important this book is to adoptee voices and how much you need to pick this book up if you are interested at all in TRA lives, politics and stories.

 

In attendance were what I estimate to be over about 150 folks, coming out to support and to be part of the discussion. The editors who were there were Julia Chinyere Oparah and Jan Jeong Trenka, and contributors to the book Gregory Choy, Ellen Barry, and Kimberly Fardy and Sandy White Hawk.

 

The first speaker was Jane Jeong Trenkawho spoke of the ways in which adoptees are utilizing the internet to make connections with our TRA familia and to make space for healing. She gave us a couple stats that tripped me out and that I didn’t remember reading from the book. First, that 1 in 10 Koreans in the U.S are adoptees. 1 in freaking 10 ok? I mean, damn people. Second, that over 40K Chinese girls have been adopted in the last 5 years. These stats didn’t surprise me, but hearing them aloud caught me off guard and actually – pissed me off and began what for me was an emotional rollercoaster of a night. Jane spoke of reproductive justice and the import of us finding ways to understand that empowering a woman / birth family to find ways to raise their own children is one place to look to think about this diaspora that is marked by the very real fact that it is entirely a migration of children. (more on this in book launch blog #2)

I’m feeling like I’m a little girl, sitting in front of a crowd who doesn’t know who I am, but somehow I am completely naked, forced to hear about myself, trying to hold back tears, trying not to cry out loud, stand up and scream “me too!, me too! they took me away too!”. What is healing? is this what healing is? I cant stand it.  Sandy White Hawk in a short new film about her work spoke of ripping the bandages off our wounds so they can heal – I didn’t even remember putting the bandage on, it’s a part of my skin, its melded into me and now its come open and I’m bleeding all over the floor, help me make it stop! I cant breathe, I gotta get out of here, what made me freakin sit in the middle of the crowd, I know better.

Julia Chinyere Oparah spoke of the difficulty of adoptees asking for help, and this totally resonated with me, (along with about thousand other things last night) and gave us specific things to ponder, much like the radio interview, made direct connections for the audience between structural, systemic issues in the national and international social welfare system, and called for discussions around adoption to move beyond the simple “is it right or is it wrong” debate. Julia called upon these discussions to consider deeply why there are so many children for adoption to begin with. What are the circumstances that create thousands of black children in the U.S. to be “without families”? What is wrong with a discussion that ignores these realities? Julia is sharp and asks those who want to simplify TRA and IA debates to push themselves.

After Julia, Jamilah Bradshaw – sang an amazing – powerful rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption song”.

 

Why are they singing and doing praise songs? what is she singing? Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”? what does that have to do with adoption? isn’t this supposed to be a book launch? I’ve never heard it quite like this before – redemption-  is that what this is? a redemptive act, or as Jane and Julia say a ‘corrective action’ – redemption. I’ve been redeemed, sounds like church (snort), is she going to stop? I’m trying to network here 2nite, trying to share information about the blog about the show, I don’t need this, don’t cry, don’t cry – wait is my period coming? maybe that’s what this is, I’m just PMSing! where the fuck is that tissue, I cant breathe. all I ever heard.. redemption song. all I ever heard…

 

Gregory Choy read a poem by Bryan Thao Worra.  After which, Ellen Barry made direct connects between the PIC, adoption and the social welfare system reminding us how class factors directly into the foster care system and the high percentages of removal of children from homes of impoverished women and from women of color. As she is speaking I am reminded of a blog entry I began a long time ago but haven’t finished. I try to get at what is it about termination of rights that lends itself to re-affirming the paternalistic, racist and imperialistic notions of who can take care of whose children? What is it about ownership that is missing from this conversation. for me ownership resonates too deeply with the slave trade. My papers, the signatures to claim me. My naming. Black bodies, branding and naming. “Heal this brand burned into my side, maybe I should instead, violate all the boundaries/ of respect for your elders / obey your parents/ love your enemy and simply  - SCREAM. . . ”

 

Kimberly Fardy came to the mic next. She read from her piece in the anthology, and read so powerfully it was like I hadn’t read the piece twice before I walked in the room. Her story of isolation in white suburbia, acting out, speaking out, responding to her surroundings, fighting for survival finally kicks my anger and pain into overdrive and I know I’m not going to make it through this evening without screaming at someone.

Its not just about you, this night isn’t about you, its about sharing and celebration that people are going to understand something about you they never have before. you are not alone, you are not alone. then why do I feel so scared? why cant I speak?  

Sandy White Hawk finishes out the book launch evening with the screening of an excerpt from a film/newstory about her work in Native communities assisting adult adoptees in returning “home” . (look for book launch blog #2 for my thoughts on this concept of home). Sandy speaks of her work as providing a place to mourn and heal from the deep scars that are left on our bodies from adoption, theft, giving away and the shame and guilt that surrounds this experience. Both her and Jane speak of shame of the unknown and I am reminded of the yet another blog entry I am writing (to also be an academic paper) about that shit film “Secrets and Lies” that won all kinds of awards for using a black woman’s body to mediate white pain, desire and shame.

Yeah I said it.

ok, I need time to mourn, she says, time to cry for my loss? right now? right here? you don’t want that, because if I start crying here – im gonna scream so loud they will call an ambulance, they will wonder why there is a woman outside the building tearing her hair, her clothes. a woman looking like she has lost everything, like she is crazy. like I am crazy. I feel crazy. I cant talk to my friends right now, I don’t want to even look at my roommate, I cant go to my partners house. I just need to get out of here, I wish I had enough money I would leave right now and go to Vegas. I could drive right now. I wish I could get out of here and just go where no one knows who I am. when is the time to mourn? and how can I mourn what is unknown?

After the program, I had the exciting chance to meet Jane Jeong Trenka whose book, The Language of Blood has for many of us TRA’s been the first memoir to speak directly to our experiences. I was overwhelmed. Poor Jane – I didn’t even get a chance to tell her how much her work meant to me, although she can read on my blog an earlier post. I wanted to invite her to my show and to just chat and vibe – Unfortunately for her, she was the first person I walked up to at the end of the program and I busted into tears like a total ASS. I felt like I was – well, one of the women who comes up to me after MY shows, crying, and telling me how much my story spoke to their lives and experiences. But I know the difficulty of trying to handle someone breaking down in front of you, some total stranger who you somehow have a connection to, but you aren’t responsible for her pain and need. Its like, what are you really supposed to do with that? It was a little embarrassing for me, but maybe it wasn’t so bad, but at least I know she wont forget me. ha! dude – Jane, I promise I’ll be normal next time.

After collecting myself – I spoke at length with Kimberly Fardy who expressed interest in AAAD (Adult Adoptees of the African Diaspora), and we connected on the touch point that how rare and precious it is that we have a space that is all about us. For Kimberly, this night was the first place she has been in the presence of so many TRA”s, talking about TRA issues and being a voice that is validated and heard. Last night was only my 3rd time being in a space that was all about me. TRA camp, a panel I did on TRA experiences and then – last night. THIS absence of space and time is the reason why AAAD needs to exist. This is bullshit. Its like the first time I took a black studies class at university, why didn’t anyone tell me this shit before? Why am I 36 and JUST NOW finding people like me? just now creating a community from this thing that we have to attempt to unravel. I don’t understand!

 

I leave the student union and barely make it to my car where I’m talking on the phone to my partner about the energy I’m feeling. I don’t speak of the anger and pain I am feeling.  I’m pissed I didn’t bring him, he needs to know this, know that I’m not crazy, know that right now something is happening to me, something big and its changing me and that its gonna have reverberations on us.

don’t cry, don’t cry, hold it in. you’re a professional, you are a scholar, you know how to distance yourself so you can communicate difficult ideas. I don’t think I can do this. Its too intimate, its too much. the bandage refuses to disconnect from the recent scab and my entire body is pain, my entire ride home is tears and maybe I need a break from all this talking about being abandoned, I’m startin to believe this crap – something is wrong with me, why am I feeling this way after 36 years of being fine with my adoption. I’m fine. I’ve always been fine, healthy, dealing with it creatively . why now, why today, why do I just now feel  – broken? 

more on the book launch soon.


Thanks for voting!

The winners of the Blog Scholarship are in!  I didn’t win, but I’m receiving 100.00$ I can use for food or towards new bras or that pesky phone bill this month.

and anyways – what I got out of it was way better.

You – my friends and family. I am thankful for you and I love you. I’m sending mad, mad love to everyone who supported me by voting, linking to my site, passing on emails, making comments on the scholarship site, etc. You have let me know that the work I am doing actually means something, that this work is touching you and that you appreciate it.

We all get so tired and overwhelmed with trying to ‘save the world’ in whatever way we are doing it and at times we have to just sit in our happiness.  — and happy is what I am and have been since receiving your responses to my call for voting. I have the BEST supporters, readers (new one’s – welcome!!) , friends and family.

you guys freakin rock. 


TRA radio!

I’m gonna be on the radio on monday November 6th from 1-2pm on KPFA Berkeley  – 94.1 FM on their Women’s Magazine. The show is about transracial adoption and I’ll be featured on the hour alongside interviews with other TRA’s Julia Chinyere Oparah and Sandra White Hawk.

If you arent in the area – you can click the link above and listen online! Cool! I’ll be doin an excerpt from the show, so if you havent seen it you can hear it! (UPDATE: If you missed the original airing time-  the archived version of the show is here)

The interview was good, but always when I do these things I think of a million things I could have said when I’m done. I’d love to hear your comments, questions and stuff when its all over! Fun!

++++++++++++++++=

 “In recognition of National Adoption Month, KPFA Radio’s Women’s Magazine will feature the voices of women of color adoptees. We will speak to two adoptee’s from the new anthology “Outsider Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption” co-editor Julia Chinyere Oparah and contributor Sandra White Hawk about this ground breaking anthology which for the first time brings together the voices transracial adoptees, examines their experiences and the colonial systems that (re)produce the adoption industry . We will also hear the voice and work of poet and performance artist Lisa Marie Rollins, a piece from her one woman solo about being transracially adopted “Ungrateful Daughter.” Finally a commentary by Elizabeth Creely on Prop 73 the anti-choice proposition on the ballot november 7th in California. Monday from 1-2pm on KPFA at 94.1 FM or on the web at http://www.kpfa.org.”;


Flashback to TRA camp

 

sittin a circle

having new sisters look at my non-ID

for more than one minute

without handing it back.


“Teaching” Black Culture

A bit ago, I spoke with an AP who was very concerned about his ability to ‘teach’ black culture to his newly adopted son.  He was very vocal that he would not feel comfortable taking his child to black churches or doing things that he knew nothing about. Despite my irritation that he was more concerned about his own discomfort than that of his child’s overall ability to be comfortable in life – I’ve been pondering this question deeply. 

“Its not my culture, so how can i teach it? My culture will be his culture”. Ahhhh the idealistic dream of colorblindness. As Ji-in and others of us have commented, oh yeah, we know white American culture, sometimes white ethnic cultures because we were raised in isolation from any other cultural frameworks. And yeah, sometimes its fun to giggle at show tunes or listen to rock, folk or country music, have memories of barn or square dancing, shoveling manure or to enjoy scarfing down strudel or sauerkraut. (ack)

So the question is: Are you able to teach ‘culture’ even if it is not ‘yours’?

One of the things that many TRA’s vocalize is that we are clear that most AP’s do not have the tools, whether it be experience or basic knowledge about what it means to be a person of color in a white world. So if you do not have people of color in your life when you are considering adopting a black or brown child, how will you be able to navigate the sometimes extraordinary racism your child will encounter?

What about first, admitting that there may be things that you aren’t able to teach your child? The saying “its a black thing,  you wouldn’t understand”, used to piss me off. But there is some truth in this flippant phrase and the truth is – unless you have some experience being a body that is interpreted as a ‘raced other’ (Asian, Chicano, Latin, Black or in global terms – ‘black’) it is going to be extraordinarily difficult for you to ever ‘understand’ what your child is going through.

Also – consider thinking about how race functions – ‘whiteness’ isn’t just a word. It has meaning. The ‘white’ in ‘whiteness’ is similar to the ‘black’ in ‘blackness’. There are particular characteristics that get applied to white folks that don’t apply to white folks globally – right? (except for the privilege part and even whiteness as a concept here trumps class)

I’m not privledging experience over education here, I may be suggesting a few things, one of them – without a multi-racial and multi-cultural immediate community – how can you call yourself concerned with the best interests of your child? Having a child growing up in isolation, no matter how much love and understanding is supposedly there, is simply wrong. Are you prepared when your child comes home devastated, or confused, or angry, or afraid because of something someone has done or said to them?

do you tell them to just ignore those ignorant people?

do you tell them to not be so sensitive and that they may have been imagining the experience?

Yes, it would have helped to have a parent schooled in racial politics, who understood how race functions to position black bodies directly against white bodies, how racalized ideas of blackness make white people afraid of my friends when I bring them to church. Yes it would have helped to have a parent who read African American Literature and who attempted to at least understand something outside their own cultural framework.

Yet, sometimes intent isn’t enough, sometimes love isn’t enough. I needed mentors,  someone to explain to me why people treated me like shit because I was a black girl surrounded by all white people. Why I became the object of all ridicule. Someone to assist me in coping mechanisms when boys told me that no one liked me because they were afraid of getting black on their hands. When people said things about my hair and it was too painful for me to share these things with my mother. When someone called me ‘black’ and made it sound like the most horrible thing to be. When someone told me ‘they don’t see me as black’, when someone told me I was black and ugly.

Removing your child from ‘those people’, distancing your child from ‘that culture’ that ‘I dont understand’ does not help them grow to be comfortable with themselves. Or to understand the diversity, beauty and complexity of it. If you are uncomfortable, they will sense that discomfort and internalize it. You better get comfortable, or at least be willing to struggle with that discomfort.


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