Okay, maybe not all of them

First, a personal note.  For my mental health, would you all please stop sending me links to white adoptive parent forums?  Thank you.  It’s bad enough that they regurgitate the racism of our society, but horrific when you consider that they are raising children of color.

Miley Cyrus is still being discussed, and some of the posts reflect typical white adoptive parent racism:  “Oh, I’ve done that too, I’m sure. If that the stuppidest thing she will ever do in her teens, I praise her.”

“Kids will do dumb things. It’s part of growing up.”

“It did not bother me. I think they were just being silly.”

“Ok, I guess I’m evil because I thought the picture was funny.”

“Is making the gesture racist itself?”  [Uh, yeah.]

“I sure hope I can raise my child to not be overly sensitive and to not make a quick judgment that someone is being racist.”

“I am raising my daughter to not be offended by every little thing that goes on out there. ”

“If we teach them that having others acknowledge the slant of their eyes is a bad thing, then we are teaching them not to celebrate those eyes, but to be embarrassed by them.  Correcting racism isn’t only about correcting the actions of others.  It is also about correcting how we respond to those actions.”

But here’s the OMFG kicker:

Okay, I’ve got to be honest here.  SoccerGirl has had kids “slanting their eyes” at her for years, and she could care less.  She knows her eyes are beautiful, so the gesture from others isn’t taken by her as an insult.

Say WHAT? This has been happening to your kid for YEARS and you haven’t done anything about it? This is abusive parenting.

But here are some other responses to restore some hope to your heart:

“Well as someone who is dealing with this issue in my children’s school, I think that it is worth making public comments on public figures doing the wrong thing.”

“I think it’s different for most of us (as I am assuming most of us are not Asian) to say how *we* feel about the picture. Most of us have probably grown up being in the majority and experiencing some level of white priveledge. I don’t think we are in the position to say ‘gee whiz, that’s no big deal.’

Also, in contrast, to all those who say they don’t want their child to get offended…………. I sure as heck don’t wish to minimize racism in any form to my child. I think doing so allows things to continues.”

“Racial teasing can leave lasting scars. So can any other type of teasing – but from the reading I have done, racial teasing is far, far worse. Especially if the kid is being raised in a white family who tells her, ‘Oh, I got teased as a kid too, just get over it.’

The thing is – adults seem to think it’s okay to ‘tease’ like this too – ie Spanish bball team.

So why do we condone it?

Do we want our kids to feel shame and worth less because they are not AND NEVER WILL BE the same as the other (white) kids?”

So what is the moral of the story?  The moral of the story is that white adoptive parents to children of color are simply a representative cross-section of the population.  Some are anti-racist and some are racist.  But it matters more because of the children.

36 thoughts on “Okay, maybe not all of them

  1. Your last paragraph represents something that became clear to me over time – that parents like myself must live up to greater expectations.

    We even need to cast off the motivation that led us to adopt in the first place.

  2. Over the years, I read white adoptive parents saying how they should raise their Chinese children to have high self-esteem, to be comfortable in their own skin, so that they will be more prepared to deal with racism. After all, no one can control how the world works around us, we can only prepare our inner
    strength. True.

    But why does anti-racism has anything to do with our self-esteem and self-confidence?

    It is like saying if you don’t want to get killed on the freeway, we should all practice defensive driving. While it is true, but it does not mean we as a society will let bad drivers get away with killing people. We prosecute them. We take the license away. Why shouldn’t the same mentality be applied to racists?

    Why is the burden on us? Why do we have to be strong FOR the racists? So that they can commit the crime again and again?? The logic totally got screwed up.

  3. Wow, those comments are enraging. I see now what triggered the ranting.

    “Raise my child to not be overly sensitive”! OMG.

    I mean if those comments were coming from the general population, it’s something I’ve seen before. But they were coming from white adoptive parents, and I expected better, for no reason than because I am taught that white people who adopt non-white kids are left-wing and open people, and that parents usually love their kids. They should know better, and when I see that they’re just typical white people except they happen to have children of color, there’s a sick feeling inside. (This is more proof that simply having people of color as your close family or friends doesn’t teach you to be more open. Unfortunately, unlike a gf/bf/wife/husband of color, a child of color who is abused by your racism can’t leave.)

    Then there are new types of racist ideas that come from the intersection of white privilege and being a white adoptive parent. “You’re being over sensitive!” is a typical white response. But now I am introduced to new screwed up ideas I hadn’t thought of before, like “raise my child to not be overly sensitive”, which takes “you’re being over sensitive” and multiplies the psychological abuse by tenfold.

  4. Hey Restructure!, your point that a child isn’t in an equal relationship is well-taken. I do think that it is abusive for parents to ignore racism. And if kids hear this kind of stuff vomiting out of their parents’ mouths all the times, they probably aren’t going to say anything about their own experiences.

  5. As a white person, I want to know what the hell is wrong with all these people who think it’s normal for kids to make racist gestures. I never did it and it’s not because I’m better than they are and looking for applause, just that even as a child I had a brain and a sense of justice and it was obvious that making fun of someone is making fun of someone and making fun of someone in a racist way is totally unacceptable. Yeesh.

    And I think I may have said this here before and have certainly said it elsewhere, but I think it’s very important as I’m preparing to parent a black child that I not equate it at all to being in a relationship with my black partner, who didn’t have to grow up in a transracial family or with two moms or after foster care. It seems obvious to me that a child needs even more respect (and I don’t mean that I don’t respect my partner’s race or culture) because he won’t have the language to speak up for himself unless we’re able to teach him that it’s fine to speak up. If I silence him, I’m doing him a disservice when he’s going to have to grow up black in a racist society.

    I can’t make what I’m saying make sense the way I want it to, but I appreciated this post and the wake-up-call aspect of some of the comments in the link.

  6. Restructure, probably most white adoptive parents are not left wing or open, in fact, I would guess that most white adoptive parents are filled with a sense of entitlement due to privilege, and are more interested in the desire to have a baby or child, I would also guess that most white adoptive parents today,( not all, but the vast majority) still believe that love is enough, and in fact probably try to justify themselves with Maslow’s hierarchy, which ignores or puts identity on the bottom of human needs, and yes I agree with Resistance that you are spot on about the unequal power relationship between parent and child.

  7. Kathy is spot on as usual (don’t you have a stinking blog?). Adoptive parents actually represent a pretty broad cross section of the population, which means most of them are white. Many of us forget that the only people with no choice in the adoption are the kids. We often tend to think we can speak on our kids behalf as it pertains to these topics.

    It sounds asinine, but I have heard statements out of white adoptive parents that we’re less likely to be racist because – hey, we adopted kids of another ethnicity! They ignore the fact that we they have the ultimate power in that relationship, which is one of the keys to racism at it’s core.

    I agree with the others that have said one could argue we have a greater responsibility than other whites to root out racism because of the position we hold over people of color in our own households. I did not always feel that way, and I don’t always “get” or agree with everything I read on sites like this. But keep blogging your arses off because you are getting through to some of us.

  8. Restructure: I have been a white-adoptive-parent-of-Korean sons for about seven years now.

    I have never met a “left-wing and open people” type adoptive parent yet. Or anything within a parsec of where I tend to stand on these things. My wife has though as I recall, a few years ago.

    And I live in Northern California. Yipe.

  9. I think parents have a responsibility to advocate for their children. If you are white parent of a child of colour, ignoring situations such as reported on the forum from which you quote is appalling. In the last couple of days in Canada, there has been an uproar about a school exercise (see link http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/02/18/nb-education-expert.html)

    I think the parent who listened to her child and called the teacher and principal on their racist “diversity exercise” modeled positive, empowering behaviour. Her child knows that if she shares anything with her mom, that she will be listened to, and where needed, receive the kind of advocacy all children should receive.

    It’s too bad the mom of SoccerGirl hasn’t done likewise. I wonder what her daughter really thinks?

  10. Unbelievable quotes! I agree with pinkpoppies: seeing parents model confronting racism, not overlooking it, is empowering to children. I’ve seen it in my own kids and the children of friends – watching a parent address racist incidents with schools or individuals lets that child know it IS important, it’s NOT acceptable, and they don’t have to just learn to live with it, and they are not being oversensitive. They see it enough, they’ll soon be addressing that shit on their own.

    Soccergirl is surely suppressing a lot. Her mom may not see the signs visibly now (although I suspect others do) but it WILL come out, and at the expense of the child and their relationship.

  11. OMG, I’m so glad I found this blog. Hey, just something to keep in mind. White adoptive parents (of non-white children) who think racism is a HUGE deal and read a lot of adoption-related stuff written by adult adoptees and birthparents and try to truly educate themselves and are totally humbled by these things and are furious about white privilege — don’t hang out in “white adoptive parent” forums and their views are not represented in said forums.

  12. Well, yeah. Of course there is that responsibility. But I see it is a more broad responsibility to educate society generally. White adoptive parents who don’t “get it” apparently need the same education on racism and white privilege that everyone else does who doesn’t “get it.” I don’t spend that much time online so I focus my efforts on the local community where I live.

    Though I can see how there is more at stake with getting adoptive parents on board, sooner rather than later, because of the kids who live in their homes. Hm. Well, your comments are duly noted. Many thanks.

  13. I am an adoptive parent (white) of a Chinese daughter. Thank you for giving me some tools to educate with. I got this link from an adoptive parent on a list serve for ap from CHina. I have been very depressed and deeply saddened for the girls of the parents who say enough of the oversensitivity or we all made those faces. I have wanted to scream. and then there, on your racism 101-their lamea*& arguements verbatim, tearing down logical fallacy after logical fallacy and I said oh thank god…because I knew that they were heartbreakingly wrong -duh. but couldn’t formulate an argument with any ethos because I am white and priviledged and even though I grew up in a diverse community, I only know what it was like to grow up white and comfortable in that community. So with permission, I will post a link to this on the listserve. May I also share it with my students in an AP Lang. and comp class?

  14. Ok, I am a white adoptive parent of a Korean boy and for the life of me I cannot understand why this post is relevant. The fact that I adopted a child has zero to do with my racism quotent. Yes the home study process might eliminate some outright racists from the mix, but on the whole the adoptive process has nothing to do with racism. The fact that we are singled out in this Miley Cyrus discussion is plain wrong headed. Is Miley an adoptive parent? Nope? Are her parents? Nope. So why is this an adoption issue? Just becasue of few adoptive parents said some things about this is ZERO to do with the issue. I bet a lot of biological parents said something – why arent they being called to the carpet.

    If you have an issue with adoptive parents, then construct a real discussion about the issues with adoption PARENTING, not about racism in society in general. That is what this whole blog is about and lets take out the adoption qualifier.

  15. @Bruce Kasrel: In the beginning of the post: “It’s bad enough that they regurgitate the racism of our society, but horrific when you consider that they are raising children of color.”

    Which one do you think is worse: A white biological parent raising a white child who is racist against Asians, or a white adoptive parent raising an Asian child who is racist against Asians?

    Which one is worse: Telling a stranger or acquaintance of color that they are oversensitive, or raising a child of color not to be overly sensitive*?

    * whatever kind of effed up thought-policing that would involve

  16. @Restructure

    Lets take the opposite of your argument:

    If a white biological parent teaches their white children not to be racists, it is BETTER than an adoptive parent teaching their kids not be racist.

    This whole discussion smacks of elitism and racism. You are treating the fact that the parent and the child are of a different race as some unique factor when it comes to racism. Sure it matters when it is about honoring the birth culture but that is 100% different than racism. Racism is not about what the race of the parent or child is, it is about how we treat others with respect and dignity. Miley Cyrus did a racist act and should be called on it. Adoption is not in the mix here – even if adoptive parents are racists.

    I plan on teaching my kid morals just like any other parent. The adoptive aspect will only mean I need to add teaching ABOUT his culture to the mix. The respect FOR his culture part comes regardless of the adoption dynamic.

  17. Bruce,

    You wrote: “on the whole the adoption process has nothing to do with racism.”


    I can think of some adoption-related privileges that could be added
    to the list Peggy McIntosh identified in her essay, “Unpacking the
    Knapsack of White Privilege.” If you have not read this essay or it
    has been a while visit http://mmcisaac.faculty.asu.edu/emc598ge/Unpacking.html

    Here is my list of adoption privileges that white prospective adoptive parents can take for granted:
    1. I will easily be able to find agencies staffed mostly by people of
    my same race.
    2. There will be a standard application form designed with applicants
    like me in mind.
    3. Media outreach recruiting adoptive parents will be focused upon my
    race to a much greater extent than any other race.
    4. The babies of my race will be valued highly and services to obtain
    them will not be offered at a discounted rate. (How does it make you feel knowing that babies who looked like you as a kid are valued the highest by the adoption industry?)
    5. The healthy babies of my race will be adopted domestically, not
    internationally. (If you don’t think getting to remain in your country of origin, surrounded by people who speak your first language and look like you is about white privilege, then I’m guessing you are going to minimize your son’s adoption losses.)
    6. News agencies like the NY Times will be interested in stories
    about any difficulties faced by APs of my race gaining access to
    children of color.

    You also wrote: “This whole discussion smacks of elitism and racism. You are treating the fact that the parent and the child are of a different race as some unique factor when it comes to racism.”

    My response: It is a unique factor, for your child and my child and all the kids of color who were adopted by white parents, most of whom did not expend significant time and effort to learn about white privilege prior to adopting. Kids who are raised in families with at least one parent of color have contact with people who can teach survival skills based upon a lifetime of dealing with racism.

    If you don’t think this is a big deal, WTF!

  18. As an adoptive parent to children of color, I find these types of blogs very helpful. We have a very diverse extended family and often forget when out in the community that people may see us differently. While I am white, I abhor racism and any kind of racist act. It saddens me to know my children may experience this. Please do not think that all adoptive parents of children of color think the same, as we do not. There are a lot of us who arm ourselves with knowledge and seek out information so as to try to help our children in all ways possible. Thanks for all the useful information as it only helps us help our children… and that’s what matters.

  19. The title of this post is “Okay, maybe not all of them.” The concluding paragraph reads as follows: “So what is the moral of the story? The moral of the story is that white adoptive parents to children of color are simply a representative cross-section of the population. Some are anti-racist and some are racist. But it matters more because of the children.”

  20. I would’ve liked to have seen Bruce address Restructure’s questions, rather than flip them around. I was really interested in seeing his answer to the questions.

  21. @Bruce Kasrel:

    Lets take the opposite of your argument:

    If a white biological parent teaches their white children not to be racists, it is BETTER than an adoptive parent teaching their kids not be racist.

    What?? No, that’s not logically related to my argument.

    Anti-Asian racism is horrific when coming from a white adoptive parent raising an Asian child. This is not about ranking the morality of the white adoptive parent against the morality of the white biological parent. This is about the health of the child.

    I.e., it’s not about you. It’s about your child.

  22. Comments from people like bruce really bother me. Interracial adoption and racism go hand in hand, unfortunately too many white people are adopting children of other races and don’t think race is or will be an issue. They just deny there is a problem, “I don’t think race is a problem, so why are you making a big deal about it.”

  23. Chris,
    As I was rereading the blog and comments I noticed a bit of denial on your part. Your children of color WILL face institutional racism and interpersonal bigotry. No “may” about it.

    From my perspective, the question is whether or not we will work the 12 White Steps so that we are prepared to engage in courageous conversations about race with our sons or daughters. Will we put our children first and change our lifestyles to meet their needs? Sounds to me like you are expressing that kind of commitment.

  24. I stand corrected. They “do”…… and they have. I just did not share that. It is unfortunate and it makes me EXTEMELY upset. It is not right. Like I said we have a very diverse family… African American, Hispanic, Korean, South American. Our family has seen and exprienced racism. “May” was a poor choice of words. In denial, I am not.

  25. Resistance: I’d like to raise something that has been nagging at me for some time. It would have been better for an email, so please feel free to delete the comment if it’s inappropriate – but in that case I hope you’ll email me your thoughts.

    I’m a white AP of two Korean children, one in college and one going in the fall. To the best of my ability, within the context of my whiteness, I speak out and take action against racism to the best of my ability. I understand that, being white, I can never truly understand racism, so I look to people who are not white to teach me. I have taught my children about racism and have done my best to bring them into contact with others of their and other races so they can learn from them. I may not have done everything right, but have tried hard.

    But in the context of adoption I have all but given up. The forums you describe are more than I can take – seriously, between the bickering and comments like the ones you share here, never mind the overlay of some very specific religious beliefs, I simply find nothing there to bring me back. A whole lot of adoption-related conversation goes on in these forums, however. Am I and other like-minded parents guilty of contributing adoption’s particular brand of racism by avoiding the discussion there?

    I mean, If all we do is talk to people who agree with us, what are we really doing to change things, in the adoption world at least?

  26. Margie,

    This is pretty much why I’ve dived back in after a two year hiatus. I am determine to post about whiteness on an ongoing basis. If not us, who? If not now, when? The benefit is that I will learn how to hone my skills in speaking treason fluently. I know that I have a long way to go.


  27. Margie (love your blog, btw), I totally agree. My online time is very limited, and I loathe the idea of spending it monitoring the above-referenced types of forums. It is exhausting and of questionable utility. But seriously, Mollie is right. If not us, who?

  28. Margie, since you have a blog, maybe you can write general debunking posts, and instead of writing out individual responses to forum people, you can just link to your blog post?

  29. This post is still horrifying to me. I used to think that Asians raised by white parents were “better off” than Asians raised by Asian parents, because I thought that Asians raised by whites would (on average) have cultural, economic, and social advantages, including family and social connections to people in power.

    After reading the comments at the top, though, I’m not sure if it’s worth it. Maybe it is, but it’s not so clear cut as to who has it worse.

  30. Sadly…homestudies don’t weed out idiots. I think that’s all there is to it. Stupid people can have children biologically and stupid people can adopt. I think that the more we APs question ourselves about our views and intentions and the more we listen to what adult adoptees have to say about their experiences, the more knowledge we will have to share with those who just don’t “get” it. Staying off those adoptive parent forums and not giving a voice to what WE feel is important isn’t helping those who are still learning. I know there are some that are set in their own ways and just can’t see any different but maybe after reading our posts time and again, they’ll learn a few things. ;)

    I was very ignorant when we began our adoption process of our son from Korea. I’m embarrassed now to admit that what I thought were honest and loving intentions were very one-sided and very much what I’d been taught by American culture and Christianity about adoption. The minute that child was placed in our arms, however, our hearts and minds were overwhelmed with the responsibility of raising a happy, healthy and emotionally healthy child. Kicking those early “good intentions” to the curb and throwing ourselves into researching what this child NEEDED was something that had to happen for us to evolve as parents. I wonder, if we hadn’t had biological children, if we would have felt the same. I wonder if we hadn’t realized the HUGE difference in adopting vs. procreating would we have felt the same? I feel that many just want a child and their child will be their child, period. We never felt this way. Yes, this is our son and we love him…but he has a family in Korea that has been lost to him and the responsibility that we’ve taken on in asking to raise him in our family is MUCH more intense than if we’d given birth. We cannot raise him as we raised our biological, white children. In a sense, we’re new parents all over again because each major issue we work through with this child is done with three new things in mind (LOSS, TRAUMA and RACE). This is a whole different ballgame and the faster APs realize this, the better for their child/ren.

    The grief my son went through and the trauma that took years to heal (and which will resurface time and again as he grows and develops and tries to make sense of his life and his identity) was heartbreaking and nothing less than a punch in the gut to this mama. To think that I had a hand in one of the most traumatic events in his life is something that weighs on my heart and I am forever questioning my decisions about things adoption and race related. The thing is…we brought this child into our lives. He didn’t ask to be adopted by a white family and ripped out of the only environment he knew. He will never again know what it is to be the public majority. Even if he moves to Korea as an adult, he won’t experience it, because he’ll be lacking the cultural experience and native language skills. The responsibility I feel to do right by him is so much huger than what I feel for my biological kids. Yes, of course, I feel responsible to help them learn and grow….but the implications of doing it all wrong are so much more intense. I think I even feel a responsibility to “make it up” to my child, in some way. I feel guilt for taking him away from a place where he should have been able to grow and thrive and become a strong, confident man. Where he could know family that looked just like him.

    Thankfully, even idiots can learn when they put their hearts and minds to it. Thanks for being a resource for those of us who are still learning!

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