I’m thrilled to announce that my play “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls story of being adopted into a white family…that aren’t celebrities” will have its NYC Premiere at the 2012 NYC International Fringe Festival in August!! I got in!!! YEEEEEEE! NYC here I come!
I will be posting fundraising, production updates, and the specific show dates as soon as I get all that information!
HUGE HUGE thank you again to ALL of my donors, both individual, organizational and foundations! Huge thank you to the adoptee community who has has my back from the beginning. I could NEVER have gotten this far without your support. Lets DO this!!
to the Japanese man
at the bar who asked me
if I knew that Filipinos
are the Black people
Im a nigger nigger?
I’m excited I’ve finally got some time and space to teach this workshop I’ve been wanting to create for a while. This is the first iteration of it, as I hope to eventually move to where I am able to host a weekend or 4 day long writing, meditation and healing retreat at a writing/ retreat center somewhere, each that will focus on different member of the adoption circle. Please join me this coming June!
The workshop is a one day, four hour workshop. I’ve been approached over and over about facilitating writing time for adopted people and adoptive parents. I really wanted each group of folks to have space and time to be with other people who are ‘like them’, and to have space to share what are very intimate and personal stories. We will be doing all kinds of writing exercises to get your juices flowing and to draw out stories you want to work on. Race, Class and Gender will be important parts of our writings and discussions. Even if you feel like you have no ideas, but you want to just come and ‘dump’ and use the time to write and express – you are welcome!
I’m so excited to be with other people who have been thinking about adoption, race and identity and doing my favorite thing – writing! I hope you will join me and if you can’t, please pass on to your networks of folks!
“Adoption, My Voice, My Body: A Writing Workshop”
Sunday June 5th (for Adopted People) and Saturday June 11th (for Adoptive Parents), Saturday June 18th (for Birth Parents.
11am-3pm, Oakland, CA
Do you have a story related to adoption and family you have been wanting to tell? Something to celebrate? Something you have been struggling with? Do you have a memory you would like to start writing down? A memoir you want to begin or keep writing on? This is an excellent workshop for both those who will for the first time be trying to consider how adoption has impacted their life and for those who have spent a lot of time considering their relationship to adoption. This workshop is for both experienced writers and those who have no writing experience. We will work from “where you are” to explore your stories, thoughts and ideas.
Week 1: For Adopted People (10 seats) – Sunday June 5th
This week welcomes all adopted people – same race, transracial / inter-country and kinship adoptees. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing our memories, our voices and our stories as adopted people and time focusing on our bodies as holding memory and histories that need to be spoken.
Week 2: For Birth Parents (10 seats) – Saturday June 11th
This week welcomes all Birth Parents, both mothers and fathers together to write. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing your stories, thoughts and ideas about your connection or disconnection to the children in your life who are also impacted by adoption and your body as it remembers the past.
Week 3: For Adoptive Parents (10 seats) – Saturday June 18th
This week welcomes adoptive parents to spend time exploring your stories. We will spend time reading, discussing and writing your memories, your voices and time with the concepts of family, mothering and fathering in a way that will focus on your own specific stories of the challenges and joys of adoptive parenting.
Other Workshop Details
Workshop Fee: $80 general, $60 (students & seniors. Email for discount)
Space for 10 participants
Reserve your space NOW!
AFAAD Panel Report from the USSF by Guest Blogger, new mommy and AFAAD MN chapter co-founder Shannon Gibney
Another World Is Possible for Poor and Neglected Children, and Communities of Color:
Are adoption and foster care social justice issues? During the first U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in 2007, the consensus seemed to be a resounding “no.”
I remember being in an elevator in my hotel in Atlanta with a number of fellow activists, discussing our workshops. The folks beside me talked about labor, gender equity, grassroots organizing, and solidarity economy sessions they were leading. When I mentioned mine on transracial adoption, I might as well have been speaking Greek. “What?” someone asked, while others looked on in confusion. “Transracial what?”
Luckily, the second USSF, held this past June 22-26, 2010 in Detroit, proved that adoption/child welfare activists and allies have been doing our work, and doing it well, because these issues have now made it on the radar screens of many participants I spoke to. And no one looked at me like I was attending the wrong conference when I told them about the workshop I was leading.
Our session was titled “Where Have All Our Children Gone? Linking Child Removal From Communities of Color to Larger Social Justice Issues,” and was facilitated by fellow members of Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora (AFAAD) Connie Galambos Malloy and Ian Hagemann, and Sahngnoksoo (SNS) member Sunny Kim.
It was attended by more than 30 people, who represented a wide range of backgrounds, ethnically, racially, culturally, regionally, and terms of class and age. There were a few members of the adoption triad present (adoptees, adopters, and biological parents), but the vast majority of folks attending work everyday on the frontlines of child removal, from a young woman who is starting up a reproductive justice center for Black women in Philadelphia, to an anti-racist workshop facilitator at the Peoples’ Institute of New Orleans, and a Native American activist who spoke about the catastrophic effect child removal has had on her community.
This was quite a different demographic than that of 2007, when the majority of participants were either white lesbians considering adoption to grow their families, white adoptive parents, or transracial adoptees (TRAs). Everyone was welcome, of course, but I really, really appreciated the input and expertise the adoptees present brought to the conversation – and in fact, took control of the workshop itself, steering it clear of the usual personal narratives into much more political territory.
But I am getting ahead of myself here.
For one thing, you are probably wondering what the USSF is, exactly – unless you attended, had friends or colleagues who attended, or are otherwise involved in the activities of the American Left. As I said above, the first USSF was held in 2007, in Atlanta, and represented a major breakthrough in grassroots organizing in the U.S. It was the first time such a large gathering of organizers and activists from the American Progressive Left came together under the guise of building a sustained movement for social change – and led by those most oppressed by neo-liberal economic policies (mainly lower-income, people of color). Over 12,000 people attended, which was amazing in itself, since many people thought that you could never get a Left as splintered as ours together to discuss the great justice issues of our time, coherently, and set an agenda of action, to boot.
This initial event, strategically held in the American South, the cradle of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, laid the groundwork for the second forum in Detroit. But the real roots of the USSF stretch way beyond our borders, to the Global South. Indeed, the mechanism that initiated the USSF was the World Social Forum (WSF) .
The first WSF, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001, was primarily organized by laborers there, in response to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “which, since 1971, has fulfilled a strategic role in formulating the thought of those who promote and defend neoliberal policies throughout the world,” (World Social Forum India). Since that time, multiple WSF’s have taken place around the world, as have regional gatherings in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East. For a list of Social Forums happening around the world this year, click here .
The World Social Forum website explains the Forum philosophy and methodology: “The World Social Forum is an open meeting place where social movements, networks, NGOs and other civil society organizations opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking, to debate ideas democratically, to formulate proposals, share their experiences freely and network for effective action. Since the first world encounter in 2001, it has taken the form of a permanent world process seeking and building alternatives to neo-liberal policies. This definition is in its Charter of Principles, the WSF’s guiding document. The World Social Forum is also characterized by plurality and diversity, is non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party. It proposes to facilitate decentralized coordination and networking among organizations engaged in concrete action towards building another world, at any level from the local to the international, but it does not intend to be a body representing world civil society. The World Social Forum is not a group nor an organization.”
The WSF’s slogan “Another World Is Possible,” asks participants to not just formulate responses to the newest global assaults on humanity, but to actually come up with viable and sustainable alternatives to the way the world is currently organized. With this in mind, those working on a variety of issues that often do not intersect are encouraged to do so.
There came a point in all this cross-sectional work that a critical mass of people from the Global South looked to we in the Global North who say we are committed to equity to organize our own Social Forum in the U.S., since so many of the most difficult issues the Global South is grappling with are actually the result of the behavior and policies of our government and corporations. This challenge was the first step towards the 2007 USSF, which organizers defined as “a movement building process. It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples’ solutions to the economic and ecological crisis,” (USSF website).
Selecting Detroit as the site of the 2010 USSF fit nicely into this vision. The city is a stark example of the shape of things to come if free-market capitalism is allowed to take precedence over community needs and relationships, and also exemplifies the kind of do-it-yourself, don’t-wait-for-someone-else-to-save-youingenuity that is at the heart of the Forum philosophy. Detroit’s consistently high unemployment, White Flight, decaying infrastructure and urban core, and failing schools are all the result of neoliberalism gone wild in some way, while its flourishing urban garden movement, and dedicated organizing communities inspire those facing similar problems around the country.
As someone who grew up in Ann Arbor, a smallish university-town about 45 minutes west of Detroit, the USSF was an amazing opportunity for me to really experience Detroit for the first time. Sure, our family frequented the Montreux-Detroit Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend every year when I was growing up, but Hart Plaza was just about as far in as I got. My perceptions of Detroit were largely formed by the media, and the middle-class friends and classmates I was surrounded with: Abandoned houses, corrupt politicians, rampant crime, and poverty. Detroit was seen as A VERY DANGEROUS PLACE in this context, some place to be avoided, and certainly not visited alone, or God-forbid, alone with a baby, as I did last week. And, to be fair, this is all of this is true in some way. Detroit has major problems that no one can reasonably deny. The issue is that this is only one reality, amongst many others.
Travelling from Cobo Hall to Wayne State University, back to Wayne County Community College (WCCC) on foot or on the bus during the conference, I was amazed by the hustle and bustle of folks all around me – despite boarded up buildings and houses. Trying to get my son and assorted baby paraphanalia on and off the bus was already a complete nightmare, and would have been logistically impossible, were it not for the assistance of fellow passengers, and the drivers themselves. But people were more than eager to help, and clearly adored my son (you don’t see too many infants being carted all over downtown Detroit). All of the faculty and students I encountered at Wayne State and WCCC were clearly in engaged in the business of getting educated, running their farmer’s market, and helping us directionally-challenged attendees find our way around.
Walking down Woodward Avenue during the Opening March, cars were honking at our signs for environmental justice, job equity, and hundreds of other causes, while people we passed on the street looked entertained, and asked us what was going on, and why.
That’s what wins you over about Detroit: No one puts on airs there, in the way that bristles me when I visit cities like New York, DC, Seattle, or Atlanta. Nor did I experience the coldness or overly-friendly-in-order-to-mask-the-fact-that-you-Black-people-scare-me behavior I have become accustomed to, living in the Twin Cities. Everyone is just out there in Detroit, on the street, doing their thing. There doesn’t seem to be room for a whole lot of pretense, because everyone is really just trying to live.
Was the city gritty? Yes. But that grittiness conveyed a deep sense of history and ongoing struggle that I could appreciate. So, that’s all just to say that the chance to get to know Detroit a little, and on a deeper level, the USSF’s approach to place, were huge highlights of the week for me.
It will probably come as no surprise that our workshop on linking child removal in communities of color to larger social justice issues was another highlight of the Forum for me. Collaboration is never easy, but it its rewards pay dividends. Working with Connie, Ian, and Sunny to facilitate a coherent workshop that would be useful to participants in their work and lives was daunting, but I think ultimately successful. We didn’t agree on everything, but came to a consensus on what we most wanted attendees to take away from the session: That adoption and foster care are major social justice issues. All of us have grappled in some way with the all too common idea that the American family is sacrosanct and beyond reproach – as are the institutions that create, define, and destroy them – so we were therefore committed to making sure we politicized them. We knew that we only had two hours, so there wouldn’t be time for much else. In this sense, depth was much more important to us than breadth.
We began by having participants respond to various images of child removal we had hung up around the room. This was a simple Popular Education activity, in which people wrote down whatever came to mind when they viewed each image, not worrying over any response was “right” or “wrong.”
The image below generated the following responses:
“It seems easier to love as children.” “Everyone is happy.” “Her eyes are so trusting.” “And will the brightness of her eyes fade when/if she takes time to think about the implications of ‘missionary’ work on adoption when she’s older?”
For this image, participants wrote:
“Happiness on a child’s face.” “Who is not in the picture?” “Where are their families?” “Do they know any adults who look like them?” and “Children create community in absence of families?”
This image from the Vietnam Babylift, generated these comments:
“War babies.” “Colonialism/imperialism.” “Forced removal.” “Terrorized children.” “Children lost their homes because of the war.” “PSTD normal.” “Whose tank? Whose bombs? Who’s funding? Then who is adopting?” “Old eyes, old story.” “How will the definition of ‘home’ and ‘identity’ change for them?”
Finally, a photo of a suburban-looking white woman, flanked by two young Black boys generated a flurry of discussion:
“White folks – no matter how well-meaning – are unable to provide children of color with what they need to survive in a white supremacist society.” “I agree.” “Where is the black male who created these young boys?” “I wonder what ‘lens’ these children see through?” “Role of white American women in child removal. Lady smile while kids don’t.” “Children finally have a home to go home to.” “Oh God…Reminds me of a friend’s aunt who is making a habit of adopting Ethiopian children. She is white. And liberal. So she doesn’t get her own racism.” “What makes a family. Sticky situation. Children seem to be in a loving home, but at the cost of losing identity.” “Makes me think of Angelina Jolie – WTF?” “Makes me think of Angelina Jolie – WTF?” “Missionaries ‘saving’ poc.” “Note their hands are all in the same position. Whose idea was that, and is that supposed to mean unity?”
As you can see from all of these comments, participants clearly had some familiarity with issues surrounding child welfare and communities of color – and plenty also had an emotional connection to it, as well. This made our time together all the more meaningful, as folks were eager to engage with the problem on a deep level. The photos made it easy for everyone to do so, as we used a few pictures and written responses to initiate discussions on the role that U.S. war and militarism play in opening up “new markets” for international adoption, the ongoing effects of Indian boarding schools on Native communities today, the Evangelical impetus towards adoption, and the underlying narratives that lie at the root of all discourse surrounding child removal.
“I feel like the idea underlying all of this is that poor, women of color are terrible mothers, and should not be allowed to parent,” said one woman. “That’s why all this apparatus is designed to make real. So that, if an environmental crisis like the one in Haiti comes along, or if there’s a war or something, this whole system can just swoop in, and take advantage.”
The rest of the session was taken up by going through, and responding to, a Timeline of Child Removal From Communities of Color, headed up by Ian. I am not going to include sections of the timeline here, as it is still very much a work-in-progress. The timeline is a project that many scholars and adoptees of color have taken on recently, including Jae Ran Kim, Lisa Marie Rollins, and members of the Adoptees of Color Roundtable. AFAAD is interested n creating a collaborative document – something that folks can contribute to online, through Open Source file sharing, not unlike Wikipedia. The issue is, as always, finding funding to do so. Please contact us if you have any leads on financial or human resources we could use to make this a reality, as seeing the sheer visual reality of child removal from communities of color forces us to grapple with how successful these policies have been, and then, hopefully, strategize on realistic interventions we can make in order to make families and communities less vulnerable.
Sunny gave an excellent summary of Andrea Smith’s “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of WhiteSupremacy,” in order to ground and contextualize the discussion during this activity, which was eminently helpful. I, myself, have been mired in the “oppression olympics” paradigm when attempting to organize or even discuss shared oppressions with other adoptees and people of color, so it is very helpful to have a framework to use that acknowledges the destructive and overwhelming power of white supremacy, while simultaneously acknowledging the very distinct ways that Native, Black, Latino, and Asian bodies are racialized in this country, based on our separate histories.
Although I attended, and tried to attend a few workshops and Peoples’ Movement Assemblies (PMAs…and I say try, because carting my son around the festivities was more or less successful, depending on his mood. But he was a trooper!), the one which affected me the most was called “Poverty Is Not Neglect and We Are Not Powerless: Mothers Reclaim Our Children Back From the Child Welfare Industry.” This workshop was organized by Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network, which self-describes as, “self-help, multi-racial action and support groups of mothers, other family members, former social workers, foster parents and supporters in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, working together against the unjust removal of children from their families by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Children are often snatched, not because of abuse or neglect, but because of poverty, sexism and racism. We fight individual cases, build public awareness, educate the media, work to change unjust policies and practices, and challenge discrimination against mothers throughout the system. We are part of a national movement,” (DHS/DCFS GIVE US BACK OUR CHILDREN flyer).
Although Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network put on the session, they invited other women and organizations who are fighting similar battles for their families to the table as well, including The LaStraw, Inc., Family Connection Center, Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor, and ODVAct. This openness was exemplified by the fact that several women from Every Mother Is a Working Mother came to our workshop on child removal, and contributed their thoughts and experiences to the discussion. I can say that I personally also really appreciated the fact that one of their members also watched my son during their session, so that I could participate and get educated.
One of the woman who came to our workshop also asked me to go to the microphone and speak about my experience and activist work as a TRA, at the end. I told her that this was their space, and I wanted to respect that, since I knew that they didn’t have many places to do so and build together, but she said that she thought it was very important for us to know about each other, and share. She was right, of course. Many of the women in the room approached me afterwards, and wanted to get AFAAD’s information, since they didn’t know we existed, and want to keep in touch with folks who are working on the other side of the issue. I have included their contact information below, because this is such a big and important issue, so please contact them yourself, to organize!
Beginning with a short film these women had produced, DHS – Give Us Back Our Children! (and I encourage everyone reading this to contact Every Mother Is a Working Mother, and get yourself a copy and share with friends and colleagues, as it is just $7), the session was hard-hitting, filled with energy, and inspiring.
Women told short but personal stories about how they had regrettably found themselves at the mercy of DHS and its paternalistic case workers, trying over and over again to comply with their unrealistic demands, only to have their children taken away and placed into foster homes, where they were often abused. One woman told the story of her physically abusive husband who almost killed her, and the subsequent DHS interventions, which were too little, too late. After more abuse, and years of threats, her husband finally kidnapped her child, who she has not seen for years. Another woman discussed the repeated harassment she received from DHS, when she called them and asked if they had any programs to help with food and utilities, as she had barely $150 left from her welfare subsidy after paying rent each month. In fact, a key issue that many of these groups are working on is reforming the new welfare rules, which have made it even more difficult for poor mothers to raise their own children.
A commonly heard refrain was, “I asked them [DHS] why they just couldn’t give me the money to pay for my rent and food, so that I could take care of my own child, instead of paying someone else in the foster care of child welfare system to do it?” This idea is further explored in a hard-hitting series the Philadelphia Daily News published earlier this year, featuring some of Every Mother’s members: “Group of mothers and its common foe: DHS and its ‘adversarial’ system,”
“Is home where the heart is? Should poverty and inability to find & keep housing tear mother from child?”
Attending the USSF is a priority for me every three years, as I find that the older I get and the longer I fight various social justice battles, the more important it becomes for me to be inspired. Otherwise, I start to feel completely overwhelmed and cynical. My perspective on the history and reality of social movements – that they are usually a series of crushing defeats, followed by very small gains – starts to become completely unmanageable. Somehow, remembering that it is these gains, no matter their smallness, that alone have the capacity to redeem any semblance of our humanity, becomes next to impossible when I am mired in daily struggle. But being around thousands of activists, organizers, and everyday people, who like myself are just trying to live a self-reflective life that harms as few as possible, reminds me that I am not alone. I begin to believe again that perhaps I really can keep along this path, despite the difficulties and heartaches. I keep coming back to the response of my good friend and mentor Rose Brewer, when I asked how she keeps on going as such a committed and engaged activist, all these years, and in the face of monumental challenges. We were in the midst of the Opening March, slogans and bodies weaving in and out of the small space between and around us. “What other choice is there?” she replied evenly.
I nodded. Exactly. How could I have forgotten?
Shannon Gibney is a 35-year-old domestic Black adoptee activist, writer, and educator. She lives in Minneapolis, where she co-founded an AFAAD chapter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is http://www.shannongibney.net.
To find out more about Sahngnoksoo (SNS), visit http://www.sahngnoksoo.org.
Contact Every Mother Is a Working Mother Network at (215) 848-1120, (323) 276-9833, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Family Connection Center can be reached at email@example.com.
Stop Targeting Ohio’s Poor is at (216) 321-1677, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ODVAct is at (216) 751-7150, or email@example.com.
Yesterday morning I got a call from CNN to participate in a panel commenting on transracial adoption, race and of course, Sandra Bullock. As a rule, I stay out of conversations that center around celebrities or that would seem to be looking at or critiquing one person’s life personally. However, they ensured me I wouldn’t be commenting about her directly, but was asked to come on as a scholar to comment on the overall climate in the web/ blogisphere. Supposedly everyone is all a ‘twitter’ and blogs are blowing up with comments from everyone who has something to say about her adoption of a black child. I had no idea people would care so much and also chose not to even really read anything around it, do you know why?
For many of us scholars who are adoptees / fostercare alumni, the questions that are raised by SB adoption, and that were asked in this interview / panel were the same questions people have been asking over and over since transracial adoption became more of a public issue politically and racially during the 50′s when the Korean War adoptions began and the 1970′s when the Vietnamese Baby Lifts happened. So for us, So Sandra Bullock is like one tiny bump in a long history of black and brown children being adopted by white families. The issues remain the same except now we have moved to a place where we aren’t only concerned with domestic adoption but with the connections between child exploitation, paper orphaning, continued resistance to family preservation, devaluation of families of color and the entire economic market of children of color that continues to exploit unwed mothers who if they had the economic means, societal approval and support, would otherwise keep their children.
So regarding Sandra, its not really about her or her choices. Its unfortunate they have to be all over the media, but for us, its about an entire history and continue replication of a specific narrative around adoption and race and one that usually never includes adult adoptee researchers. So first, I have to hand it to CNN for taking the leap on putting someone, specifically an adoptee, who is a researcher and scholar on adoption issues who actually knows what they are talking about on their programming.
So. . . back to me. Personally, the whole day was super surreal, but I had a great time. I had my first ‘superstar’ moment when CNN ‘sent a car’ to pick me up. I actually found this incredibly important because everything happened so quickly, I really needed the time from my house to the studio in SF to go over notes, focus and stop giggling with excitement with my other AFAAD board member, Lisa Walker, who went with me for moral and technical support.
First, I couldn’t see either Don or Wendy in while I was set up in the satellite room, so I had no idea what Wendy looked like. I don’t have cable, so I don’t even watch CNN, so I had no sense of what they were putting on screen while any of us were talking. Overall, I’m pleased with how it went down, I was nervous but it felt great when I was done. yay!
For the most part, I will let the video speak for itself. My only overall comment is that I think its incredibly important for us to recognize the distinctions between mixed race biological children who are raised by a white parent and transracially adopted children of color raised in white families. As much as adoptive parents want to act like race doesn’t matter, sometimes they want to forget that adoption matters just as much.
Certainly for the mixed race person or adoptee, issues of struggling with the whiteness of your parent, the privilege of your parent who doesn’t want to recognize you as a person of color is similar. But what people forget is how the negotiation of two family histories is always part of the adoptee history, whether or not that adoptee acknowledges it or not or has the support from their family to explore issues what it might be like to think about a connection to a birth family and how that connection changes the parent – child relationship. (its not a good or bad change, its just a shift thats important to recognize.) In other words, a mixed race person with a white mother IS connected to that mother in a way where they can see their origins, their heritage, their family history as DIRECTLY connected to them. In a TRA family where the parent or parents are white, that connection is NOT there. Its there because of shared memories, its there because of a shared history since the adoptive relationship began, but not because the adoptee can look at the family and say, oh, i look like Aunt Edna, my nose is my mothers, I look like my brother, or I understand how great grandpa came over on the Mayflower and that’s a part of me. For and adoptee, that part is missing. There is no mirror of recognition in the faces of our families, or a history that spans back generation. Imagine how powerful it was for me to find out after 40 years that on the Filipino side of my family my grandfather came from the Philippines to work in the fields in Hawaii, and how amazing it was to find out that on my Black side of the family had a few active Black Panthers. Two tiny details that have given a kind of grounding to place my feet in. I am from somewhere.
Finally, I’m concerned about Ms. Walsh’s comment regarding her and her daughters being a ‘welcome racial curiosity’. Its this kind of language that forces me to remind parents of children of color that what is cool for you, is certainly NOT always cool for your kids. You may get off walking down the street with your beautiful exotic mixed race kid, who gets stares and comments. But how exactly do you think your child feels about being on display, about being stared at, about having people think that you dont really belong to your family. This is where the connection between mixed race children and adoptees DOES cross. Its not either or. Try to hold both at the same time folks.
Please comment and share. I’d love to get your thoughts on Don, Wendy and I. Lets talk folks!
What a great day. oh and to my OAKLAND folks. dudes, I’m SOOORRRY okay? I was looking at the reflection of myself in the screen with the picture of the GG Bridge behind me and SF just came out, I love and REP Oakland folks!! lol!
I usually don’t post music. I will be posting something about the passing of HipHop Legend Guru and what his life and work creating powerful music meant to me as a black girl living in an all white community. I’m sad and pained by this loss.
I also know influential, potent art when I see it. M.I.A is an woman vocal artist I’ve been listening to for awhile now, her first album being my favorite. I had to post this to support her and her work. Its incredible. I’ve learned that youtube pulled the video. I’m amazed they had the audacity to do that considering all the other useless, racist and misogynistic crap that’s in their database. It makes no sense.
This song, what it did was make me think of the ways in which Arizona is becoming a police state. Are we really “Born Free”?
Warning: This video contains graphic images. But its all TRUTH.
M.I.A “Born Free” for a full screen movie of it.
**this post is rated R.
I know black people are never surprised when white people, ‘show they ass’, and I’m no different, especially having grown up around em, but I have to say I’m deeply disgusted with John Mayer.
I’m not even gonna lie. I love his music. I’ve defended him as a musician to a whole bunch of folks. I love his artistry, his guitar ‘gear-head’ sensibility and his apparent attention to and respect for the historical greats in blues music that his music is totally predicated upon. He’s never hidden the fact that he knows where the music he plays comes from and who his influences are – all black men.’
I’m not gonna repeat for you what he said, because you can read it anywhere.
Basically what this shameful display points out for me is the unfortunate and sad reality of white privilege and white supremacy. This, like Michael Richards, is a stark and strong reminder of no matter who the white person is, no matter if they are close to, work with, love, are in a relationship with, or adopt a black person, they have to be on a constant job, and always aware of how their whiteness is like a veil, no, a cloak that covers them from their ability to see the world and their position in it.
Two other thoughtful posts on the JM debacle that point out JM’s racism, misogyny and homophobia:
Its Impossible to Have a Benetton Heart and a White Supremacist Dick by firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Racefail Meets Playboy by Andrea (AJ) Plaid
And for me, (no surprise here, dude its an adoptee blog!) this incident is completely and utterly related to transracial adoption (and interracial relationships I might add). and I immediately thought of the multiple times in my life that the white people who were close to me, not just my family, people who I thought were friends, both girls and boys at one point or another when ‘the shit got real’ around race, revealed themselves to be racist, and basically betrayed me and our friendship or relationship.
It is completely possible for white people to love and respect black people and still say and do racist shit toward them. Its called white privilege for a reason! I’m not calling anyone out, but my brutha’s & sista’s who are in interracial relationships, don’t act like this doesn’t come up for you. Adoptee’s with white parents have it happen ALL the time. Even if their parent has been for years and years engaged in anti-racist struggles, there have been more times than not, that they trip up and do some racist mess and totally hurt, disrespect or devalue their child and their child’s culture. I can point out so many instances right now, in my work educating and working with AP’s, even one’s who think they ‘get it’, where they continue to display their internal and ingrained ideologies about race and blackness.
For me, it’s about protection, what is or isn’t my ally, my parent, my teacher, my friend doing to protect and assist me in fighting and coping with the constant barrage of racism that exists outside in the world? Now I’m not arguing that John Mayer is an active anti-racist ally, what I’m arguing is that the cloak of white privilege sometimes is so thick, you are completely covered with it, and you get comfortable and forget that you always, your entire life, have to be on guard with the ways you are fighting back. JM got comfortable with his relationship to blackness, and forgot that he was white. I’m totally irritated too, because much like most white celebrities who ‘make mistakes’, this fool will be forgiven and back in action like he didnt say anything. Unlike Isaiah Washington, who displayed his homophobia, he apologized and Hollywood has basically blackballed him. Will he be forgiven? Will he be given a pass for just, ‘making a mistake’ and given an opportunity to rectify his mistake? I doubt it.
The only thing I have to say about his video apology last night, is why did he feel the need to thank his band for coming on stage and playing with him? He’s thankin the negro band like he’s not paying they rent. You know what, John? Black folks have been workin for and with racist white folks forever.
My dear friend and fellow AFAAD Board member Karie Gaska, who is in ATL now for her Ph.D. and who is also a fan of JM, and I had a conversation today about his interview. Here’s what Karie had to say:
“I think the other bloggers LM mentioned above did a good job of pointing out all of the racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc in John’s comments so I wont pick it apart again. I’m moving from the understanding that this interview reveals underlying, latent racist, sexist, homophobic thoughts and am just sharing what I think we have to contribute to this incident as TRA’s who live in that place where we may really really love people who really really disappoint us in terms of understanding racism and validating our experiences.
I’m not as deeply disappointed in John Mayer in particular as much as I’m just sad and disappointed in what this represents. I don’t think that John Mayer’s comments are any different from what millions of other people think, he just happens to be famous so its easy to call him out on it. But this definitely has parallels to the transracial adoption experience for me. As a TRA who grew up around all white people, this reminds me of that day when you confront the reality that maybe all the people around you are really racist and talk about you behind your back (or in many cases in front of your back). Then you swear off white people and their racist attitudes for a while, only to be brought back and hold on to the hope that maybe you were wrong…. maybe all white people aren’t racist? Maybe you can have white friends and not tensely wait in fear for them to say something ignorant that makes you cringe and then find yourself not returning their phone calls. Then something like this happens and you remember….”oh yeah they really all are racist”. Not because they actively want to be racist, but just because we live in a racist society. If you are a white person and just live your life in America, you will live, breathe, and absorb all sorts of overt, covert, implicit and every other kind of racist, sexist, homophobic stuff. And if you never stop and examine your values, your life, or your thinking, you will just go along regurgitating it. So this just reminds me that America is a racist society and white privilege is powerfully alive yet seldom acknowledged. And too often it can be commonplace for someone to have a blatant disregard for others humanity and totally not see it. It happens everyday.
As a TRA growing up I faced this on an interpersonal level and I still see it with white adoptive parents today. A lot has changed but you know a lot has stayed the same. The John Mayer incident reminds me of how you can align yourself with Black people to the extent that it benefits you but divorce yourself from the part you don’t like. Like when JT exposed Janet’s boob at the superbowl. He can be involved, apologize and still go to the grammy’s but Janet is the “black whore”, “jezebel”, etc who is oversexed and must be stopped! The shit is ridiculous. and I’m not mad at JT…I’m just sayin that’s how it works. Align yourself with the Black people as much as it benefits you but then when shit gets real….where are you? That is white privilege…because you can do that…you have the option to divorce yourself from it. And I see white parents do that all the time. Align themselves with the struggle…enough to want to adopt a child, but not enough to help a family work toward reunification. Align themselves enough to move to a more diverse neighborhood, but not enough to change their own social circle.
And his comments resurfaced one particular memory for me that I’ll just give as an example of how white people think they are not racist (or insert another ism), but clearly prove their racism…. in their demonstration of their “non-racism”. When I was about 14 the same kind of incident that John was talking about with Perez Hilton happened with me. I was hanging out somewhere and there was a white-dude in another conversation near me talking about how he wasn’t a racist to another white dude. And then he randomly kisses me to “prove” his non-racism. And I remember how that felt…like I was a piece of meat, or an animal, or a joke, not a person. So you can just kiss someone and violate their physical space without permission and that proves you are not racist? No dumbass that proves you ARE racist. In the same way that John Mayer kissed perez hilton violated his space, and had no regard for him as a person…only as a joke…and then he used the word “fags” DUH! You are homophobic buddy! And the whole interview he is trying to counter the popular belief that he is a douchebag….ironic?
Anyway thats enuf rambling, the whole thing just leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth…. “
final word from LM:
When Karie and I were chatting about this and she recounted her story of the white-dude above, it also flashed me back to remembering hatred from white men and boys around me as a child, and the sexualized way it played out then. White boys in my school and church community would always deny publicly that they found anything about me attractive, and at the same time would express their repulsion/attraction to me in mostly sexually violent ways when they knew they wouldn’t get caught. It also worked in the reverse, a white boy would say they liked me, but then once other friends found out, he would reject me publicly an the verbal part of the rejection was always about me being a black girl.
(I cant help but think about this new group of young women coming up right now in all white communities.. sigh).
I cant even begin to talk about how angry I am over the Kerry Washington and “i dont date black girls” = “david duke penis” thing and how that relates to the continued devaluation of black women as desirable. What you can steal black music but you cant fuck a black woman? Oh right, you can fuck em, you just cant tell anyone. I can’t wait until there is a black girl who comes out sayin she slept with JM.
So John Mayer, I’m officially over it. and I’m pissed I have to make a decision about what to do with my albums, like I had to do with Chris Brown.
and let me remind everyone of what I said in 2005.
I was interviewed on Monday by Gus T Renegade from C.O.W.S. blogtalk radio. Well, maybe it was more me just talking my ass off, but I look forward to your comments. In this podcast interview, I talk a bit about my childhood, my own development of my black identity, the development of AFAAD, transracial adoption as a global phenomenon, the issue of adoption of children out of Haiti and its position in the history of white movement of children of color during times of war and disaster.
Here’s the link to the video sketch i was talking about around 35:40.
Please download the interview here, check it out and leave me comments and questions here.
and by the way, here’s another one I’ve done.. in case you wanna hear this too.
Me on NPR in 2007 after the Chad child trafficking scandal.
Please read and share this Statement on Haiti released by the Adoptees of Color Roundtable:
“This statement reflects the position of an international community of adoptees of color who wish to pose a critical intervention in the discourse and actions affecting the child victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. We are domestic and international adoptees with many years of research and both personal and professional experience in adoption studies and activism. We are a community of scholars, activists, professors, artists, lawyers, social workers and health care workers who speak with the knowledge that North Americans and Europeans are lining up to adopt the “orphaned children” of the Haitian earthquake, and who feel compelled to voice our opinion about what it means to be “saved” or “rescued” through adoption.”
“We understand that in a time of crisis there is a tendency to want to act quickly to support those considered the most vulnerable and directly affected, including children. However, we urge caution in determining how best to help. We have arrived at a time when the licenses of adoption agencies in various countries are being reviewed for the widespread practice of misrepresenting the social histories of children. There is evidence of the production of documents stating that a child is “available for adoption” based on a legal “paper” and not literal orphaning as seen in recent cases of intercountry adoption of children from Malawi, Guatemala, South Korea and China. We bear testimony to the ways in which the intercountry adoption industry has profited from and reinforced neo-liberal structural adjustment policies, aid dependency, population control policies, unsustainable development, corruption, and child trafficking.”
“For more than fifty years “orphaned children” have been shipped from areas of war, natural disasters, and poverty to supposedly better lives in Europe and North America. Our adoptions from Vietnam, South Korea, Guatemala and many other countries are no different from what is happening to the children of Haiti today. Like us, these “disaster orphans” will grow into adulthood and begin to grasp the magnitude of the abuse, fraud, negligence, suffering, and deprivation of human rights involved in their displacements.”
“We uphold that Haitian children have a right to a family and a history that is their own and that Haitians themselves have a right to determine what happens to their own children. We resist the racist, colonialist mentality that positions the Western nuclear family as superior to other conceptions of family, and we seek to challenge those who abuse the phrase “Every child deserves a family” to rethink how this phrase is used to justify the removal of children from Haiti for the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Western and Northern desire for ownership of Haitian children directly contributes to the destruction of existing family and community structures in Haiti. This individualistic desire is supported by the historical and global anti-African sentiment which negates the validity of black mothers and fathers and condones the separation of black children from their families, cultures, and countries of origin.”
“As adoptees of color many of us have inherited a history of dubious adoptions. We are dismayed to hear that Haitian adoptions may be “fast-tracked” due to the massive destruction of buildings in Haiti that hold important records and documents. We oppose this plan and argue that the loss of records requires slowing down of the processes of adoption while important information is gathered and re-documented for these children. Removing children from Haiti without proper documentation and without proper reunification efforts is a violation of their basic human rights and leaves any family members who may be searching for them with no recourse. We insist on the absolute necessity of taking the time required to conduct a thorough search, and we support an expanded set of methods for creating these records, including recording oral histories.”
“We urge the international community to remember that the children in question have suffered the overwhelming trauma of the earthquake and separation from their loved ones. We have learned first-hand that adoption (domestic or intercountry) itself as a process forces children to negate their true feelings of grief, anger, pain or loss, and to assimilate to meet the desires and expectations of strangers. Immediate removal of traumatized children for adoption—including children whose adoptions were finalized prior to the quake— compounds their trauma, and denies their right to mourn and heal with the support of their community.”
“We affirm the spirit of Cultural Sovereignty, Sovereignty and Self-determination embodied as rights for all peoples to determine their own economic, social and cultural development included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Charter of the United Nations; the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The mobilization of European and North American courts, legislative bodies, and social work practices to implement forced removal through intercountry adoption is a direct challenge to cultural sovereignty. We support the legal and policy application of cultural rights such as rights to language, rights to ways of being/religion, collective existence, and a representation of Haiti’s histories and existence using Haiti’s own terms.”
“We offer this statement in solidarity with the people of Haiti and with all those who are seeking ways to intentionally support the long-term sustainability and self-determination of the Haitian people. As adoptees of color we bear a unique understanding of the trauma, and the sense of loss and abandonment that are part of the adoptee experience, and we demand that our voices be heard. All adoptions from Haiti must be stopped and all efforts to help children be refocused on giving aid to organizations working toward family reunification and caring for children in their own communities. We urge you to join us in supporting Haitian children’s rights to life, survival, and development within their own families and communities.”
Please contact the Adoptees of Color Roundtable by leaving a comment on the statement page if you would like to endorse this statement, and keep checking back as the site will soon be expanded.
I’m working on a longer post that will clarify my thoughts and my position on the rising number of Haitian children in need after the disaster in Haiti. AFAAD is also planning to release a statement soon.
Overall, I have to say, what’s happening for me is that the rhetoric of United States is reflective of the rhetoric they spouted during “Operation Baby Lift” in the Vietnam War. Its troubling and frightening, and its the same old story about the colonialist paternalism that appears whenever the US thinks they understand what a country and black people need better than the country knows themselves.
I continue to ask. Why is removal the only answer? I want to issue a direct challenge to the ‘good intentioned’, monied, Christian, white folks who are lusting after the “new crop” of Haitian disaster orphans.
Can you please, sit an rethink, can you TRY to re-imagine the discourse of ‘orphan’, ‘savior’ and ‘adoption’? Can you think of alternatives that can address the immediate and dire needs of these children besides removing them from their country & culture. What about utilizing your adoption fee to rebuilding infrastructure of the country? or one town? or support existing organizations IN the country that support keeping families & communities together? Removal is not always the answer!
My colleague and adoptee activist, Outlandish – has written a post that reflects my deep feelings about the language of ownership that is already being thrown around, that is a language of potential adoptive parents who are only concerned with their desire to have a child, and not with the trauma of separation and loss.
Organizations I know and have checked out to donate to:
New Study from the Donaldson Institute is here.
Adopted From Korea and in Search of Identity
By RON NIXON
Published: November 8, 2009
New York Times
“As a child, Kim Eun Mi Young hated being different.
When her father brought home toys, a record and a picture book on South Korea, the country from which she was adopted in 1961, she ignored them.
Growing up in Georgia, Kansas and Hawaii, in a military family, she would date only white teenagers, even when Asian boys were around.
“At no time did I consider myself anything other than white,” said Ms. Young, 48, who lives in San Antonio. “I had no sense of any identity as a Korean woman. Dating an Asian man would have forced me to accept who I was.”
It was not until she was in her 30s that she began to explore her Korean heritage. One night, after going out to celebrate with her husband at the time, she says she broke down and began crying uncontrollably.
“I remember sitting there thinking, where is my mother? Why did she leave me? Why couldn’t she struggle to keep me?” she said. “That was the beginning of my journey to find out who I am.”
The experiences of Ms. Young are common among adopted children from Korea, according to one of the largest studies of transracial adoptions, which is to be released on Monday. The report, which focuses on the first generation of children adopted from South Korea, found that 78 percent of those who responded had considered themselves to be white or had wanted to be white when they were children. Sixty percent indicated their racial identity had become important by the time they were in middle school, and, as adults, nearly 61 percent said they had traveled to Korea both to learn more about the culture and to find their birth parents.
Like Ms. Young most Korean adoptees were raised in predominantly white neighborhoods and saw few, if any, people who looked like them. The report also found that the children were teased and experienced racial discrimination, often from teachers. And only a minority of the respondents said they felt welcomed by members of their own ethnic group.
As a result, many of them have had trouble coming to terms with their racial and ethnic identities.”
Since yesterday I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with so many feelings around Michael Jackson’s death. I’m in the process of writing a blog from my perspective on this. Michael Jackson had a major impact on me as a black child who was a singer and performer growing up in an all white setting. I have much to say. soon.
I will miss him and will always love the music, passion and love he brought to the world.
until then read these:
Adrienne Maree Brown at Colorlines Blog
Michael Jackson – Who’s Loving You?
Jessie at Racism Review
Michael Jackson RIP
The Meaning of MJ at Feministing.com
Next week I’ll be headed to LA for the Mixed Roots Film and Literary festival. Its held at the Japanese American United Museum in downtown LA!!
I’m performing a short piece from “Ungrateful Daughter” and be co-presenting in a writing workshop with my good friend, amazing writer and blogger Susan Ito about mixed-race adoptees and writing.
The festival is FREE. You should come.
Video version of a presentation Kevin Minh gave at the Asian Adult Adoptee Gathering in Honolulu, Hawaii in October 2008. More about Kevin on his blog.
This is actually the place where all the papers are. Don’t be fooled by the first cell phone photo that doesn’t really fully capture the mess that is my work space. Wait until I get home and take a photo of that work space. You’ll be like, “oooooooh!, I see how it is!”
So even though I’m technically on lockdown, I was able to get some internet yesterday at the Olympia public library to catch up on the mess that is Oakland. I wanted to share some resources with you that can be an alternative to the mainstream news about the young man, Oscar Grant who was shot and killed by BART police on New Years Eve.
When I get home I’ll post the actual videos, right now I’m just doing links because I don’t have the bandwidth to upload.
The Actual Video (Be WARNED! This is very intense! You cant help but think about the man’s parents and daughter.)
Davey D’s Channel (Video about whats happening on the streets of Oakland)
Local Oakland Hip Hop Artists responses (this amazing video articulates so much of what we already know about the racialization of black youth across the country by the police, the artists featured are such a great example of how deep Oaklands activist roots go. This is the video that you don’t see!)
From the facebook invitation to the event! This looks amazing – when ya’ll coming to SF?
“The Korean Cultural Service NY co-present the exhibition “Adoption: Palimpsest of Identity” with the AHL Foundation, Inc. from August 27th to September 24th, which features the works of six artists: Kate Hers, Jane Jin Kaisen, Mihee-Nathalie Lemoine, Jette Hye Jin Mortensen, Kim Su Theiler, and Maya Weimer. This exhibition is curated by Jeehey Kim. Exhibition goes through -Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 7:00pm
Through video installation and photomontage, the six artists deal with the identity of the adoptee, an identity that is barely discussed in identity politics. The artists demonstrate how the issue of adoption disrupts and disturbs the existing circuits of enunciation of one’s identity. As a palimpsest shows both the overwriting text and the overwritten one beneath at once, the works in this exhibition reveal how one dimension, one nation, one dream, and one world bumps into another. Positing identity as hybrid and fluid, their works transform and challenge the established and fixed order of things.
Collage works of kate hers interrogate the construction of ethnic and cultural narratives in landscape and analyze the mythological power of the Other while engaging tropes of appropriation, allegory, and conceptualism. She is not just interested in a crude depiction or reduction of anti-colonial anti-sexist viewpoints, but rather the questioning and engaging of the complex and layered meanings of appropriation, colonialism and gendered narratives in a global art context. In the re-inscribing of narrative through phantom landscapes, she desires a re-contextualization of meaning through its original form, however she is uncertain whether it is feasible to resist contributing to the spectacle of cultural colonialism. Is it possible to destabilize and disrupt something in which one is an active participant?
In her video work “disadoption”, Mihee-Nathalie Lemoin’s sings a song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with transforming its lyrics into the following: avouerai-je, dis papa/ ce qui cause mon tracas/ tu me dis que mon agence/ d’adoption point ne vous ment/ par la rumeur surprenante que tu dis preoccupante: de deux familles appartenantes/ par le bon sens tu me commandes/ L’annulation de l’adoption/ que cela est ta solution/ a vous disais-je papa/ omma-deul-appa-deul isseulka ? (to tell you, dad/ what is my worry/ you tell em my adoption/ agency is not lying/ by the surprising rumor/ of two families I belong/ by the common sense you order me/ to cancel the adoption/ it’s your solution/ to you, i was telling, daddy/ oma-deul (mothers) appa-deul (fathers) isseulkka (will be)?
Jette Hye Jin Mortensen often focuses on and debate adoption, family, nationalism, stereotypes, racism, and how we construct our identity from these structures through her videos and video-installation. In her video “My Great Grandfather,” she talks about the Danish composer Carl Nielsen as her great grandfather in a split screen with interview and archival footage. In this mockumentary she writes herself as the Danish person “of color” into the national history to mirror cultural complexity. It caused a lot of e-mails and letters with the questions: “Is Carl Nielsen your real, biological great grandfather? “Are you adopted into the Nielsen family?”
In Kim Su Theiler’s work “Hair Watch,” a Korean woman with a short haircut is seen in time lapse over many days. An off screen dialogue reveals that the woman’s hair length starts with the picture the adopted parents used to choose the child, and the end length of hair is the picture of the child taken for her passport so she could be transported to the United States to her new family. An off screen voice asks,” How long were you in the orphanage?” Subject answers,” For as long as it took for my hair to grow from the first picture to the passport picture.”
Maya Weimer’s groundbreaking video installation, “Untitled (K.H., S.H., H.S.),” gives voice to an important, but invisible, side of the adoption industry. Potential interviewees jeopardized their jobs and family statuses by coming forth to discuss their secret experiences and only with the promise of complete anonymity would a handful of women eventually agree to participate. The three women’s voices presented in this installation are in their mid-20s, -30s, and -40s. The formal constraints established in order to realize this project prevented the possibility of producing a traditional documentary. Rather than reinscribing onto these women narratives of victimization, the artist’s intention has been to highlight their resilience within a patriarchal Confucian culture.
Jane Jin Kaisen’s video work “Tracing Trades” chases and traces the history of human trade and trafficking between Korea and Europe, starting with the investigation of the history behind the mysterious “Korean Man” by Peter Paul Rubens. Shedding light upon Korean-European relations, and particularly international adoption, the quest leads to 19th century emigration of Scandinavians to North America, especially to the state of Minnesota. A department of Alien Affairs starts investigating how the first East Asians came to Scandinavia. In their search, Denmark’s prime tourist attraction, “Tivoli” keeps appearing in historical documents. Following these trades, they begin to look for traces that could help explain Scandinavia’s colonial history, repression, and worship of certain exotic elements.”
Reprinted from an article I wrote for Pact’s newsletter in 08.
I recently met an African American woman who was really interested when I told her I had adopted from Ethiopia. The conversation was going well, but at one point it seemed the woman became offended that I identified my child as Ethiopian and not as African American. I am involved in a support group specifically designed for Ethiopian adoptees and parents, and I have reached out and made what I feel are good cultural connections to the Ethiopian immigrant community so my child will feel connected to her country and culture. On the flip side, some of the Ethiopian people I am getting to know have very disparaging things to say about African Americans and I am not sure how to respond to this. I don’t really understand the issues between these communities and I am not sure how to navigate them, let alone help my daughter do so. Can you help?
I meet more and more parents committed to supporting their children as anti-racist allies, and who are supporting their children’s growth as self-aware, strong, culturally connected individuals. So I love these questions from thoughtful parents who are really trying to understand how complex the issues get when race, adoption and parenting collide. I will first provide some historical context for your question, then explore how that context specifically impacts adoptive families.
Let’s begin by considering the term “black.” Understanding black in the diasporic sense acknowledges there is a global phenomenon of anti-black sentiment, not just reserved for American Blacks, but for African, Caribbean, and sometimes simply dark-skinned people who aren’t even of identifiable African descent. This diasporic blackness takes on different cultural meanings in different nations. Yet even if the “black” that is applied to a South Asian in England or the “black” applied to an Aborigine in Australia seems different, we can’t ignore the many similarities in the way racism operates locally and globally. So we have to think about how stereotypical “blackness” functions as an overarching racial concept that impacts any group of African descent, immigrant or not (and closer to home, will impact your daughter).
I heard someone say that when white parents adopt internationally it is because of “racism” and for many years white Americans adopting internationally adopted many more Asian and Latino children than African children. It seems reasonable to say that these choices reflect the existing racial hierarchy in this country. At the very least, it is certainly true some white parents choose not to adopt children of African descent because they do not feel capable of dealing with the racism they know these children will confront. I thought about that comment for quite a while, and after I sat with it for a bit, I realized that, yes, racism certainly can play a part in some parents’ decisions – but what kind of racism are we talking about?
Let’s talk about the historical tension between African, Caribbean, and African American communities. There is an assumption that because black people share skin color that somehow we will all get along or that we all have the same political beliefs and cultural values, but of course, depending on a multitude of things–class, geography, culture, life experience–beliefs and values vary across black diasporic cultures. But what is common, as I mentioned above, is an experience of racism.
After slavery, when immigrant African and Caribbean peoples began coming to the United States, in exile or in search of work, Black Americans who had been here for generations had been living in circumstances that distanced them from African cultures. And just like most people of all races in the United States, many African Americans have limited or inaccurate ideas about Africa and its people. Similarly West Indian/Caribbean and African people have been fed images about black people in the United States that are not true. So when African and Caribbean people come to the United States they may not be privy to the complex dynamics and beauty of African American cultures and fall into the same trap as any other immigrant group who accept racist assumptions about Black Americans. For a complex combination of reasons, including a desire to maintain their own cultural identity or the wish to avoid being targeted by racists themselves, some African immigrants in the United States have found it advantageous to distance themselves from Black Americans and Black American cultures. Further, some African immigrants perceived as “exotic” may more rapidly gain access to privileges or class mobility long denied to African Americans burdened with less flattering stereotypes.
Interestingly, there are extensive histories of Black Americans and other diasporic Africans working in collaboration with African and Caribbean peoples during the anti-colonialist movements of the early twentieth century. Pan-Africanism and Negritude are key movements in African Diasporic history. People like W.E.B. Dubois (United States), Marcus Garvey (United States/ Jamaica), the Nardal sisters (France), Aimé Césaire (Martinique), and Jessie Fauset (United States) are only some of those who participated in global African political work during this period. It is important for you and your daughter to know and understand Pan-Africanism and that the Pan-African community is still strong and doing major political and social work.
How does this history relate to adoption? The reasons prospective parents choose to look overseas to adopt a child have long been discussed in adoption circles. Many myths persist about the domestically-born children of color who are available for adoption, including birth parent drug use, poverty, “bad” family history, and, perhaps most significantly, intrusive/needy birth parents. Sometimes there is the mistaken assumption that international adoption is somehow different from domestic transracial adoption. There persists a belief that in international adoption there will be no birth family emerging unexpectedly because “all” international adoptees are “orphans”.
If we place these ideas about international adoption alongside the pattern of immigrant exceptionalism and exoticfication discussed above, it changes the way parents need to think about the dynamics between African-born (or Carribean-born, etc.) and African American-born adoptees. If a parent hears a voice inside their head that say, MY child won’t be like that, my child won’t be like those other American black people then it is possible they need to confront the fact that their child is now a black person in America, and think about what kind of messages they will teach their child about other people of color. Will they reinforce stereotypical images that pit more recent immigrants who “make something of themselves” against American-born blacks who “won’t get off welfare”? Or will they place the tensions between these communities in historical perspective and emphasize the common experiences they share?
It’s important to ask yourself, what are your child’s multiple communities, how do they intersect and differ, and how can you support your daughter becoming comfortable moving in and among them? An immigrant shares many similar experiences with a native-born person of color in the United States, and adoptees of any origin share some common issues with immigrants (loss, disconnection from home). The reality that must always be acknowledged for your daughter is how Americanization and racism play out in the United States. They impact any of us with black bodies in very real and sometimes violent ways. Ask yourself, what does your daughter have in common with African Americans, and with Ethiopian immigrants? And what about second-generation Ethiopian American children who have their own specific ethnic/cultural experiences? If your daughter lives here the majority of her life then is she a Black American? She will be American, living in the U.S., going to school, dating, going to church, speaking English from birth (or the very young age she came to you), and having experiences that can only be called American experiences, so it will be important to make sure she feels entitled to create connections with both communities. Sometimes parents make the mistake of narrowing their children’s connections by limiting them only to their child’s ethnic heritage, but this can set them at odds with American-born Blacks in a way that does not serve them. Finally, what about their own comfort with the African American community leads some parents to make connections only with Africans and not with African Americans? What does it say to a child when a parent does not model connecting with people of all cultures?
So while calling your daughter “Ethiopian” isn’t untrue, not acknowledging Ethiopian American or African American as parts of her identity is problematic, because it doesn’t fully acknowledge all of the identities your child will hold. Because the parenting goal is to have children confident enough to move through each of these cultural groups with comfort, parents of African-born adoptees must consciously encourage and participate in relationships with African Americans as well as Africans living in America.
One of the 50 zillion projects i have is working part time at Pact, an adoption alliance in Oakland, CA. I’m working as the Adoption Education Specialist, developing new and revising old adoption training and educational courses for professionals and pre & post adoptive parents. Its a complicated thing working at an adoption agency, particularly one that does any transracial adoptions, even if about 70% of the adoptions we do are same-race adoptions for children of color. Even with this statistic, most of the life-long educational support work we do is for white adoptive parents.
We’ve recently partnered with OFC (Our Family Coalition) in San Francisco and IPride/Fusion to develop a new training/ support group for queer adoptive parents focusing on transracial adoptions called Colors of our Families.
I just wanted to let you all know, its starting soon, pass this info on to folks in your community!!
Colors of Our Families
A six-session peer support group for parents to talk about issues and strategies relevant to race, ethnicity, culture, adoption and parenting.
* Free Childcare will be provided by KidSpace of the SF LGBT Center.
* The Spring 2008 group is for parents of children between the ages of 0 to 5. For families with older children please let us know of your interest as we hope to offer future groups for other age ranges.
Saturdays 2-4 pm – May 3rd, 17th, 31st, June 14th, 28th and July 12th
San Francisco LGBT Community Center
1800 Market Street, San Francisco 94102
The cost for 6 sessions is a suggested sliding scale of $90-$120 ($15-$20 per session).
No one turned away for lack of funds.
Questions or Interest in Future Groups
Please contact Martha Rynberg, group facilitator for questions specific to the group.
(i dont know why the freakin formatting on this isnt working!!)
proof of my christianity
comes snapped in two weathered polaroids
draped in my new crisp robe
waist immersed in lake water waves
a black as sin before shot a washed as white as snow
a gold stamped certificate of baptism
calligraphy signed by the pastor
etched with Christ’s outstretched arms
calling “come unto me”
to all the little children of the world
red and yellow black and white
they are precious in his sight
and as long as I memorize my bible verses
recite on Sunday after services
I can claim both for my pass at the holy gates
shamefaced at my rushed memorization
a virgin mary with hot cheeks
and furious forehead wrinkles
I stare past the teachers sanctified grimace
beg god to let me remember so my squirming will stop
and simultaneously curse him
for having 2nd John write so many words down
I will never make it past the pearly door
unless I have my papers cause
hidden in the folds of my black girl memory
are consecrated christian children who refuse
to touch me during playtime devout in their service of god
they rebuke satan’s hold over my black skin
converge on me with whiteness, with righteous love
so St Peter at the entry to heaven
might catch fire burning out my eyes
may hear whispers of celestial vengeance unspoken
might note forgiveness nowhere in my heart
but I got proof
I got papers
and we all know the documentation counts
and the spook at the door*
just needs an in
to start wreckin shop.
* ”The Spook That Sat by the Door” is a 1973 film based on the book by Sam Greenlee about a Black CIA agent named Dan Freeman who after training in guerrilla warfare, clandestine operations and unarmed combat, uses what the CIA has taught him to train a street gang to utilize the tactics in an upcoming fictitious race war.
Dammit – I wanted to give my Post Seattle report before the drama began! I’m trying to have it done by tomorrow. So, in the mean/ between time -
“Its About Love, Not Race”
“It’s not easy being a gazelle in a family of lions.
Adoption always comes with complications, but there are more of them when the parents are white and the child black. In the 1970s, black social workers said not enough was being done to preserve black families or encourage black people to adopt, and placement with white parents might leave children without the cultural base they’d need to negotiate America’s racial hierarchy.
But kids can’t wait for social perfection.
Children need parents who will love them, advocate for them and equip them to deal with a flawed world. Race matters, but it isn’t everything.
I was glad to hear that message at a discussion of transracial adoption sponsored by The Central Area Forum for Arts and Ideas last week.” Read the rest here.
The HELL? Ummm, Jerry? What panel were you at dude? I’m sorry, the Transracial Adoption panel on Thursday Night, October 11th at UW? Thats the panel that I spoke on! I think this moment, this point – is where we can say is the crux of why many times white parents thinking about adoption will NEVER get it.
Nowhere in any of our conversations, did anyone say that “its about love, not race”! In fact, “race is of primary importance in TRA lives” was almost a mantra from our panel. At one point in the night, the repetitiveness of this mantra actually bothered me a bit because I really feel like we should be WAY beyond this simplistic conversation of whether or not race matters in TRA experience. Over and over, research, conferences, memoirs, articles, blogs, rants, emails, by professionals, AP’s and AD’s have said out loud that colorblindness is exactly that. Blindness. Talking about race, racism and culture is essential to making sure your child grow up a healthy, connect whole person. (I’m planning on discussing the mantra thing further in my Post-Seattle Report #2!).
Oh Jerry… even his article reveals that what he took in, and what we said – didnt connect!! Because if anything did connect he would have never been so arrogant as to trivialize the discussion of the entire evening and write an article title so dimissive! Thanks.
We just keep comin out the woodworks.
Whoa. ummm. Damn. (in my best Wil Smith voice)
Can anybody connect me with this young man? No seriously. In respect to the young man in the video who I need to find, I wont comment on the narrative around this video. (also because the vomit around the back of my throat is choking me.) Sorry.. oops.. can anyone help me find him?
Im working on developing a new workshop on race that I hope will address partially the ways racism tries to hide itself inside the
new liberal white person. Its always interesting to me how work that is done in the Black community becomes co-opted into the discourse of whiteness and then becomes meaningless. Like “diversity”, “political correctness” and most recently, “anti-racist”. I got into this great discussion with Chris over at Race has nothing to do with you and our other friend, Jordan – about why the term “ally” and the term “anti-racist” have now become problematic. As Jordan put it, “I’m ‘pro-life’ for sure, but I’m sure as hell not puttin that button on my backpack. ” What he means here of course is that he is against war, death and destruction – and for the right of women to choose, so the meaning of ‘pro-life’ becomes lost, co-opted by conservatives and useless to us.
Discussion point – I’m really interested in what your definition of “anti-racist” is. Can we chat about this for a bit?
My colleague and friend Kamau Bell in his new show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve – talks about this
new phenomenon of white celebrities coming out the mouth with racism, and then (semi)apologizing for it, before they walk outside and do it again. Bell questions how is that white liberals who claim to be ‘our friends’, think that simply because they say, “I’m not racist”. This phrase, along with “Ive got tons of black friends” is a shield to hide the lack of internal work on how race functions in their lives. When we remain in denial, there is no way we can understand how we impact other people when we continue to stress that we didnt ‘intend’ it to be that way. “I didnt mean it THAT way”.
This SNL skit by Queen Latifah actually does some great work in terms of vocalizing daily stress of this kind of denial in the workplace.
I hope all is well with you! Im in Seattle this week for two events sponsored by Central District Forum! http://www.cdforum.org/
I’m excited about this panel and workshop. If anyone is in the area, or your know folks to pass it on to – I hope to see you! Come through and make sure you say hello to me!
Event 1: On Thursday Oct 11th @ 7pm
Which Way Seattle? Series
Transracial Adoption of Black Children
at Ethnic Cultural Theater at University of Washington
Purchase your tickets here:
Event 2: Saturday Oct 13, @ 1-3pm
CD Forum Presents:
Race and Transracial Adoption Workshop
with Lisa Marie Rollins
1pm-3pm at Seattle University
Pigott Building, Room 106
Broadway and E. Madison Street, Seattle, WA (Directions
RSVP at email@example.com or call 206-323-4032.
Open to the public: For youth (13 and up), adult adoptees and any member of the triad. This workshop attends to the myriad of issues that emerge when we place adult adoptees at the center of a discussion about transracial adoption.
What happens when we stop arguing that “love is enough” and that “race doesn’t matter” and move to the more complicated issues of how white privilege factors into the rising numbers of adoptions both domestically and internationally. Additionally, this workshop focuses on racial identity and adoption and how thinking about oneself as Black, Asian or Latin American has its own particular struggles when adoption is our starting point.