Just to be clear on this

Subtitle: Why I hate white adoptive parents, reason number 625.

You can blame this post on js718, who wrote the following in a comment:

I really hate how adoptive parents always say their children hate their culture classes. When your daily life creates an atmosphere that doesn’t involve or even promotes a sense of ‘otherness’ with that culture it’s no surprise a young child will not be interested.

I feel that this type of announcement (“Oh, little Lily is just a regular American girl! I took her to Chinese school but she just hated it!”) is often a source of pride for some adoptive parents. They like that their kids are fitting into the white world. They’re “regular” kids, yanno. They’re Americanized. They’re not like those troublesome Asian Americans, and they’re not those funny-talking immigrants!

And they drag them along to culture and language classes because it’s so good for them to see how far they’ve come!  And so they can exercise feelings of superiority and worldliness.  “Oh yes, we take our children to that Thai temple!  Really, it’s fascinating!”  “The Chinese school we go to is full of Chinese-speaking families!  And they have odd Chinese snacks for the children!”

White social workers and other white parents nod along in approval.  Yes, how wonderful of you!  How big of you!  It’s like slumming, but all for the good of the child!

Just to make it really clear:  Culture and language classes for your adopted kid of color aren’t about the kid learning the “culture.”  Since your kid can’t learn a culture he or she is not immersed in.  And it’s not about being fluent in a language, although language is a huge loss.  And as such every effort to maintain the language should be expended.

It’s about the relationships.  (Sue already said this.)

But just to make it clear:  I cannot have a relationship with you if you are busily enacting your privilege wherever you go.  And if you view me just as the “exotic other” that you drag your child to see.

Over the weekend I was helping out with a cultural and language program.  (By the way, I have the misfortune to be involved in not one, but two communities that attract Cultural Tourists and Cultural Tourist Adoptive Parents.  Just wanted to put that out there so nobody thinks my pathological hatred of white adoptive parents is unfounded.)

A white neighbor used to attend this program with her adopted kid.  And when we were talking about divisions in the classes, she actually said that the reason the white adoptive parents didn’t talk to the other parents was because of the language divide.

Me:  Say what?

Her:  Well, it’s obviously harder to talk to people if they don’t speak your language.

Me:  And you’re saying this to me?  With a straight face?

You can see that I failed Dale Carnegie.  But I went on to point out that just about everybody there worked and lived in in an English-speaking environment.  At least five of the adults have Ph.D.’s that were earned in their second language.

In other words:  It’s not the language.

And the kids with white parents?  They pick up on the lack of connection.  They know they aren’t supposed to make friends there.  They know their parents only speak with other white adoptive parents.  So they don’t go for playdates at the homes of same-race families.  They don’t hang out together.

They have learned that the other exists.  And if they’re not careful, they will be the other.

Anyway, that neighbor has long stopped coming.  Because the kid has soccer practice.  And then there are all the birthday parties.  They’re really busy with school.  And this nebulous idea of Culture Being Good For You has sort of gone by the wayside.

But let me tell you two things:  Soccer practice and birthday parties and schools with predominantly white kids will do nothing to help build a positive racial identity with your kid.  If anything, it just promotes the sense of “otherness” that js718 mentioned.

The problem is that you don’t really like entering an environment in which you’re the oddity.  It’s undoubtedly a huge amount of mental energy.  And sometimes you just don’t know what to do or how to act.  It all makes you uncomfortable.  I understand this.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Because if you bring your kid to culture and language classes with your worldview of the other, your kid will pick it up too.

(I should mention that no doubt many kids raised in their birth families hate going to language school.  But hey, it’s not a negotiable point.  Neither is toothbrushing.)

This weekend a white adoptive parent asked me to make some photocopies for her kid’s class.  No please, no polite request.  I got the copies stabbed out at me with the request phrased as “We need these …”

By the way, I speak English.

So I made the copies and took them  to the class and set them on the desk.  About an hour or so later the same parent came back to my office.  She said, “We’ve been WAITING for these COPIES because we NEED them.  Where are they?”  I reverted to my Be Sticky Sweet In Response reaction to racism, “Oh!  I already made the copies and I brought them to your room right away!”  (“Asshole!”)

It seems pretty obvious that she isn’t interested in having a relationship with me.  Or any of the other folks, it seems.  We’re there to serve the exotic fantasy.  And I have to say, I’m particularly bad at it.  As a result, I tend to find lots of white adoptive parents avoid me like the plague.  Nothing like having an Angry Person of Color with a Chip on the Shoulder who is Anti-Adoption hanging around your kid!  Worse yet if they have no particular inhibitions about speaking the truth to you about issues of race and racism.

If you’re not careful your kid will end up like that too!

Better your kid internalize the racism of the majority society.  That contributes a great deal to the high levels of depression and suicide among Asian Americans.  Better that your child learn to be the Exception to the Rule, or the Model Minority.

Better you grip your child and pull them close to you when you see me walk nearby.

Because I am the other.  And although she doesn’t know it, she is too.

33 thoughts on “Just to be clear on this

  1. More food for thought. My assumption has been that my daughter hates Chinese school because she is not very successful at it, like most people she prefers to do things that she’s good at. It is difficult to leave my comfort zone and enter a community where I am the outsider. Maybe my daughter is picking up on that and that is the reason for her aversion to Chinese school.

    Thanks for, once again, challenging my thinking. I am one a-parent who hopes you never stop hating.

  2. yep…
    this topic is nothing new to the adoption community, but for some reasons ap’s in particular seem to ignore it or think it’s not important.

    I hope that transracial/intnl adoptees in this situation will realize where they stand and learn to have a true sense of pride in their heritage and culture. Then maybe they will seek it out in ways that make it a part of their life rather than the occasional trip to the chinese restaurant, or a culture school that you would have no doubtably (and understandably so) dropped out of as a kid. After all if your parents don’t have the desire to involve themselves how would they expect you to do the same, it’s a lot of pressure for a kid.

  3. js718 wrote, “I hope that transracial/intnl adoptees in this situation will realize where they stand and learn to have a true sense of pride in their heritage and culture.”

    Ironically, those who are most likely to do that are the ones who will be accused by their adoptive parents of “rejecting them” or “going native.” It takes a very resilient and persistent adoptee to seek out their “heritage and culture” on their own.

  4. I agree it takes a lot for adoptees to pull themselves out of their learned (assuming white) comfort zone and explore their birth country’s heritage. I still encourage and applaud it.

    and honestly if ap’s still can’t understand or accuse their adopted children of “rejecting them,” than that to me sounds selfish. however that is one aspect of adoption I’m not sure I can comment to much on.

  5. Unfortunately, the white AP who do this will not be reading this column. Too bad. One actually said to me that she did not bring her child anymore because the people “talked funny.” Yes, she also said this with a straight face. and I am thinking to myself how funny she would sound if the reverse was true. Except of course that she probably only speaks English. LOL.

  6. @MA

    “Unfortunately, the white AP who do this will not be reading this column. Too bad. One actually said to me that she did not bring her child anymore because the people “talked funny.” Yes, she also said this with a straight face. and I am thinking to myself how funny she would sound if the reverse was true. Except of course that she probably only speaks English. LOL.”

    ___________________
    sounds so typical, i can’t decide whether to laugh or feel disgust for the pathetic landscape of transracial adoption world.

  7. Every time I step into a room filled with people of my children’s race/ethnicity and I am the only “other”, I am momentarily filled with anxiety and self-consciousness. Then I remind myself that if I am an adult and *I* feel his way, it must be that much worse for my children when the situation is reversed AND they don’t have the power to decide whether to high-tail it out of the room or not. So I relax, and introduce myself to people, make conversation, and try hard to be a polite gues like a normal human being should.

    On a somewhat related note, I’d love your take on APs/PAPs who think that their children adopted from Ethiopia will not be considered “African-Americans.” It’s an issue that comes up often (waaaay more often than I’d like) and I’m having a hard time articulating in a concise manner why Ethiopian adoptees don’t make up some special race of their own. I don’t know if this is an issue for Korean or Chinese adoptees, being (or not being) considered Asian-Americans, and I’m curious to know if this magical thinking occurs across all races in the adoption world or if it’s unique to Ethiopia.

  8. IMHO, Korean and Chinese Americans are voluntary immigrants who have been coming here over a continuum of time. African Americans are seen as not so much simply Africans in America but involuntary immigrants who have been here for generations and share a specific history as opposed to more recently arrived African immigrants. I think blackness is different from African Americaness — black Americans are born here, born abroad, ninth generation, first generation, Louisianans, Kenyans, Bahamanians. I’m not sure that Ethiopian babies are so much considered a diff race than a diff culture. I also think that some people (not you) prob don’t want Ethiopian babies to be considered African Americans, with all the negative stereotypes attributed to AfAms, when they can be exotic, the new model minority, when often they have features different from what are thought of as typical AfAm features and more Euro-pleasing — more loosely curled hair, thinner noses, etc. I’m wouldn’t be surprised if some of this attitude had an undercurrent of “No, don’t lump your baby in with those people, she’s Ethiopian!”

  9. Flower”I’m wouldn’t be surprised if some of this attitude had an undercurrent of “No, don’t lump your baby in with those people, she’s Ethiopian!”
    __________________________

    LOL, you framed that just right, I bet they think that too!

  10. My daughter, when I was trying to figure out why she hated Chinese school so much, at age 4 articulated that she thought it was a way for me to get her ready to be sent back to China.
    now she likes it sometimes…. her closer friends are all from that school.

  11. more on this.

    My daughter was upset about going to Chinese school also – I suppose the difference is that I considered this a problem to be worked on, and I was distinctly unhappy about it. She said that I was making her go because she is Chinese. And there is some truth to that. It didn’t stop me from making her go to Chinese school though.

    So at a very young age, she already had that concept of being othered by being Chinese. The people we are close to include Chinese and multiethnic people. I don’t know how she acquired that concept of otherness so early – though I think at a year old when we adopted her, one of the things she didn’t like about us at first was that we looked weird.

    By the way I do not feel like an outsider at Chinese school but maybe that is because I am obtuse and don’t notice when others are othering me.

  12. I’m not an AP, just an Asian guy who felt heart-sick for these adopted children. I only pray that when they are old enough, that they will discover the POP culture of their home countries. I don’t know much about Africa, but I know so many adopted or American-ized Asian kids who found self-confidence through the discovery for current Asian pop culture. Yes, Asians can be beautiful, cool and in control. Many Asians hotties put white people to shame, and they are one of them. That, more than anything this racist society has to offer, will do more in building a sense of self-pride than anything else. Yes, you too can exist in a world where white people’s stereotypes don’t apply to you. Please grow up to be a Big Bang or Jay Chou fan, little adopted Korean or Chinese girl.

  13. Just wondering why it is ok to stereotype white adoptive parents? From reading these posts, we are all portrayed as ignorant, self-centered, ethnocentric losers.

    Why is it ok to hate us?

    And why is it ok to say such hateful things like you “felt heart-sick for these adopted children?”

    Just curious…

  14. I’m not sure why it’s “hateful” to feel heart-sick for adopted children. Adopted children lose their birth parents, home country, language, etc. For them to additionally be alienated from their people and to absorb the racism of the dominant culture does make me feel heart-sick.

  15. I am quite aware that children who are adopted have experienced great losses in many areas of their life. Feeling “heart sick” sounds like pity to me and I feel this disempowers them. Perhaps this is just symantics.

    What about the other issues I brought up???

  16. “For them to additionally be alienated from their people and to absorb the racism of the dominant culture does make me feel heart-sick.”
    Resistance

    “Feeling “heart sick” sounds like pity to me and I feel this disempowers them. Perhaps this is just symantics.
    white girl

    white girl, disempowers them?pity? wtf?

    symantics this is not, please. DISEMPOWER, think about it.

  17. whitegirl, if you are “quite aware of” the losses of adopted children and DON’T feel heartsick, then I would have to wonder if you had a heart.

  18. whitegirl, you have stolen the name I was going to use for a comment about the girl who bullied my daughter last summer.

    but since I can’t find the post I wanted to respond to, keep your name as your very very own.

    I’m sure you deserve it.

    Probably I don’t mean that in a way you would like. Or maybe you would.

  19. on absorbing the racism of the dominant culture….

    so last summer, my daughter was bullied by the girl I was going to refer to as whitegirl, but shall instead refer to as Earthworm. My four year old would crumple in a heap on the floor, sobbing, “I’m not pretty!” On questioning, Earthworm (who is also a physical bully and older than my daughter) had apparently said, among other things that my daughter wouldn’t tell me, that she would only play with BlondeBystanderGirls #1 and #2. None of the girls with dark hair. This is _at_ immersion school, so most of the girls have dark hair and are Asian or multiethnic.

    I called the school, informed them that there was bullying with racist / racial overtones – they were politely astounded and didn’t seem to know what to do. I told my daughter that I thought she was beautiful and that the other girl looked like an earthworm. I explained that some people are very mean inside and especially while she is so little, the best thing is to stay away from them. And I told her that she can push back, but with words not pushing. But just in case she forgets about the not pushing, mama won’t be mad even though I’ll tell her again not to push. And I visited the school a couple of times so I could tell my daughter, in the other girl’s hearing, that she is beautiful and smart and sweet and mama loves her so much. My daughter seemed to feel much better about things.

    Then we went to the fancy doll store featuring dolls of many skin and hair colors, advertising itself as “dolls that look like you”, and my daughter tried to pick the one with blonde hair.

    And that made me heartsick.

  20. Lori, I’m so sorry about the way your child was bullied – it is totally unacceptable and it makes me sick that your daughter was treated that way.

    “Earthworm” sounds like a horrible, nasty person.

    You replied to me “keep your name as your very, very own. I am sure you deserve it.” I’m not sure exactly what you mean by this but I sure as heck don’t appreciate the way you have implied a connection between myself and this nasty person. You don’t know me and you have no right to be, in turn, nasty to me.

  21. Lori posted: “whitegirl, you have stolen the name I was going to use for a comment about the girl who bullied my daughter last summer. but since I can’t find the post I wanted to respond to, keep your name as your very very own.I’m sure you deserve it. Probably I don’t mean that in a way you would like. Or maybe you would.”

    Lori, I’m sorry that your child was bullied – its horrible that she was treated that way. The bully sounds like a nasty, insensitive brat. I hope that the school figured out an appropriate way to respond and send the message to all children that this behaviour is completely and totally unacceptable.

    Lori, from your post, it sounds like you are somehow connecting this child to me – I’m not sure what the connection is, unless it is our skin colour. You don’t know me, and I’m struggling to figure out what you are getting it. I’m also not sure what you mean by “I don’t mean that in a way you would like. Or maybe you would.”

    What is with all this nastiness??? This site is called “resist racism” yet it is acceptable to make rude comments because I signed a post “whitegirl”? A collection of posts are entitled “Why I hate adoptive parents” – you have stereotyped a group of people and decided to hate them all ????

    This site has the potential to be raising awareness and having a positive effect – instead the negativity, nastiness and anger just makes it a complete turnoff.

    I am signing off, I’m sure I can find a site on the internet where I will have more constructive discussions.

  22. Sorry, moderator – I guess I’m a little slow – it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t inputing my comments wrong but rather that they were being pulled by the moderator.

    Interesting because my comments were facts, not attacks. I guess I’m not allowed to respond to Lori’s nasty insinuating remarks based purely on my name (I called myself whitegirl because I wanted to be open and upfront and not have any chance of appearing to misrepresent myself – so much for that!)

    I would suggest you try making a comment and signing “white” to your name as see the difference in the response you get. What is that about???

    I’m off this now – going to a site which is more productive, constructive and not a forum for people’s nastiness.

  23. General observed pattern: White adoptive parent comes to blog without any understanding of Racism 101 and repeats a number of WHIBs. Wants to know how site can be called “Resist Racism” when it’s obviously racist to white people. Throws around a couple of ad hominems. Then announces intention to leave and slams the door. Did you hear? Announces again and SLAMS THE DOOR! That will teach you dirty racists!

    Sigh..

  24. white girl:”(I called myself whitegirl because I wanted to be open and upfront and not have any chance of appearing to misrepresent myself – so much for that!)
    ______________
    since the door slammed, is it ok to laugh?

  25. Kathy I think it is Ok to laugh, I’ll join you. Good post, this in particularly grabbed me:

    “(I should mention that no doubt many kids raised in their birth families hate going to language school. But hey, it’s not a negotiable point. Neither is toothbrushing.)”

    I was bashed on a forum for stating that my kids go to language classes and that they had no choice. I was told that I was traumatizing them. That Chinese adopted children should never be forced to learn Mandarin, it should be a choice. Forcing them to learn Mandarin would further damage them. So I guess adopting them and washing away all semblance of culture is not trauma? When I came to this country as a small child, all I wanted to do was assimilate but my parents forced me to keep reading and writing in my native tongue. Now, many years later, I realize that the only thing keeping the connection to my native land is language. I did not forget the lesson.

    Thanks for this post.

  26. actually I hadn’t been back to this post enough to scroll down and see that W.G. had posted more comments.

    but, what I would like to say to anyone who read the above…. I do feel I did a horrible thing by using derogatory words about the other child to my daughter. And gave a _very_ wrong message about the way to treat other people. I was so desperate, watching her be so hysterical, and at an age when I couldn’t exactly start talking about abstract concepts of beauty. Not an excuse, but I would like to say that a good part of my life is spent working on the innumerable things about myself that need improvement, this among too many others.

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