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.