Dear white adoptive parents

Once upon a time, dear adoptive parents, I expected better of you.

And I kept hoping beyond hope.  Even as you walked past me.   Because I am invisible in your eyes.  As your grown children are invisible as well.  Those angry adoptees will never be your children, because your kids will not be oversensitive or have a chip on their shoulder.  They’ll be able to laugh it off.  They’ll have a thicker skin.  They’ll be able to roll with the punches.

Because you’ve already told them how to feel.  They push their own feelings aside, stuff them under, keep them hidden.  Turn racist hate inward until it becomes internalized racism.

You tell them in thousands of overt and covert ways.  Because we live in a colorblind society.  Because Martin Luther King wanted us all to judge each other by the content of our character.  Beause we have a black president.  Because racism is over.

And because our perceptions of the world are faulty.  Case in point:  Paula recently wrote a post in which her son commented “people are nicer to daddy because he’s white.”  An adoptive parent was quick to respond:

I am willing to agree that you are probably the suject of racism at times, but the plane incident could of just been a cranky flight attendent. We’ve all experienced people treating us second class not matter what color we are.

We’re all in this together, because everybody gets mistreated sometimes! It has nothing to do with color. Although I am willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, you might experience racism.

Because racism is only racism if a white person says so.   They are the best judges and they can quickly and accurately sum up the situation even if they weren’t present.  Because the perception of people of color is so markedly distorted because they’re always pulling out the race card and looking for a reason to be offended and seeing racism in everything.  Because we can’t trust the evidence of our eyes and ears.  Because it’s not like we’re making excuses for other people all the time and conveniently “forgetting” about racist acts as a means of self-preservation.

Jezzy wheezy, our “concerns” have no merit.  We should take a chill pill.  Because we are taking every little thing and making it twisted and turned into something ugly.  Because it has nothing to do with racism.  Because we are LOOKING for ANYTHING to be offended by.

Because our concerns as people of color are not important and can be dismissed with the cavalier phrase “chill pill.”  Because a child replicating a racist gesture that has been used for years is just a “little thing” and is not ugly.  Because racism is such a part of our society that it is seen as normal and not racist.  Because the colorblind cannot see institutionalized racism and how that differs from something being “offensive.”

Dear adoptive parents, your children hear how you talk about race every day.  And they hear how you don’t talk about it.  And they hear how you respond to people of color.  So they know better than to tell you what they are thinking or feeling.  Instead they are alone with your hate.

A white adoptive parent once told me that she wanted her daughter to grow up to be an adult who was resilient and who rolled with the punches.  Unlike me.   A common, fucked-up viewpoint that tells the recipient of racism and hate to learn to deal without addressing the cause.

I told her I am resilient and I roll with the punches, as I imagined her daughter to be.  But that she needed to stop punching us.

P.S. You seriously think your small child hasn’t experience racism yet?

26 thoughts on “Dear white adoptive parents

  1. Pingback: I Can’t Let This One Pass « Exile of Xingnan

  2. Thank you! I was tempted to do a bounce, but thought, “Damn, I’ve already wrote about this subject, and so have countless other transracial adoptees.” Apparently there are still some who haven’t gotten the memo.

  3. Thanks very much for this post.

    I do not believe Chill Pill for one minute.. her child most likely had some other kid do that to her on the school bus or classroom, and that is why she did that gesture.. Oh and I am so impressed by her collection of Chinese objects that she surrounds her child with:)

  4. Reading this made me very grateful for my white adopted parents since they never treated me with this disregard of trying to say that racism was not racism if I encountered it. Luckily we traveled and live abroad and experienced all sorts of cultures together, which I feel lead us to having a tighter bond than most families in general. Whenever though I needed to talk, about whatever the topic might be, my parents were always there to listen.

  5. Who is this crazy blogger who thinks her child’s “slanty eyes” gesture is cute?! I read about it on Mei-Ling’s blog, but since I don’t read very many AP blogs, I cannot figure out who she is. Can someone give me some info so I can read her original post? This is so bizarre…

  6. I’m just wondering on the likelihood that her daughter did this gesture specifically because she was comparing her facial features to those of other Chinese people in a book. I mean if her daughter had NEVER seen this gesture being done before and was using it to display similarities between herself and the picture.

    Small probability, but it still blows my mind other people think this is funny.

  7. I am really struck by the display of blatant ignorance. Adoptive parents often insist their kids have never been the recipients of racism, even as they live in a segregated neighborhood and within a racist society. They lack any knowledge of history, race and racism and power dynamics. And they remain willfully ignorant.

    On top of that, they post their kids on the internet.

    They’ve been getting the memos. They just continue to discard them.

  8. @Vanishing Point, thanks for the link. I think those blog posts and that blog in general has some of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read on a blog. I’m glad I looked at the post and the comments, but I think I’ll never visit her “fan club” again. Strange how most people who write blogs like to have discussions, but this blog seems for fanmail only. I’m surprised she doesn’t do a closed Facebook page instead. Kudos to the people who wrote to disagree with her, but she and her fan base seriously don’t get it. The post and most of the comments are pretty damn scary.

  9. Re Mei-Ling’s comment – I seriously doubt the child’s actions was motivated by anything but having experienced this.

    Sick blog, truly sick.

  10. “I told her I am resilient and I roll with the punches, as I imagined her daughter to be. But that she needed to stop punching us.”

    Ohhh, good one!

  11. As a white ap, I cannot begin to tell you the number of times my relatives have “gently suggested” that maybe we are going a bit “overboard” with all the “attention” we pay to the fact that our children are another race. Maybe if we “emphasize” the fact they are Black, they will feel more ostracized and separate. Thank you for your clarity in expressing this, I just usually get so angry about it I cannot have a logically organized response. This gives me the words.

  12. This post just resume my week. Thanks. I know i’m not crazy.

    About the slanty eyes, I get that a lot, and my parents used to make joke with us as kid. I never really thought about it, since I never viewed myself as a chinese person before turning 10. Anyway, I find it quite sad to see how “responsible” adults who are, IMO, in charged of teaching of to fight racism, encouraging it (aka no doing anything to stop it).

    For exemple, this week, in my college class full of 18 years old, the teacher drew a picture of smiley on the blackboard. Nothing of importance until he decided to draw : (-.-) And the girl in front of my row decided to shout : CHINESE!

    Everyone laughed to their heart’s content.

    The teacher didn’t do anything but smiled and stared at me.

    “Slanty eyes” isn’t funny anymore. Not at 18, nor when you’re 4. I don’t even know why it is funny to start with.

    I felt bad because I couldn’t do anything to defend myself. I thought, if I were to say something, I would only be seen as the “angry” racist person for the rest of my college year…

    And, I wondered…if I am in college and can get to stand up in these situations, what do you think a kid can do ? (actually saying i’m not a kid anymore :P)


  13. “Because racism is only racism if a white person says so.”

    This bothers me on a few levels. One is the example in your post (“we’ve all been mistreated; this isn’t racism”). Another is because I have seen white people calling out people of color: “Black is discriminatory; use African American!” I’ve also witnessed people trying to tell me how I should feel about my culture and ethnic background.

    It’s bothersome. I know that there are white people who genuinely mean well, but some of them need to accept that they will *never* know where people of color are coming from on this front. It doesn’t matter if they grew up in a neighborhood that was predominately not white, or that their best friend isn’t white. This is one of those things you can’t really understand if you haven’t been through it.

  14. Why is it that those who control who gets to adopt kids, thinks that white adopters can raise kids who are not white , prepare them to encounter and deal with racism? Of don’t they care?

  15. randomadoptee, you’re not crazy. But our experience says something about a racist system that makes us question what we see and hear and believe to be true.

  16. Now that I’ve left behind the acculturation of the Anglo-Saxon society I grew up in, it has become thankfully much easier with hindsight to criticize and comment on what I always knew to be true, but which the dominant discourse always prevented us from voicing. Having said that, I think we have common cause here with minority groups who are experiencing this in terms of the various Occupy [place] movements where there is still a “lefty” and “progressive” inability to discuss race, not to mention class. Here is the bigger picture of the ills of a society that allows a woman to post such offensive tripe on a blog and then tell everyone to “get over it”.

  17. thank you for writing this. as a white adoptive parent, i actually couldn’t agree more. it is the gray twilight within which i now live: i’m white, but as the mother of an african amercian child i see racism every day. people of colour tell me that i will never understand, people of my own race make excuses and tell me that i’m reading too much into what i see. but i’m a parent. and i know what goes on with my daughter, as young as she is at 3-years-old, and it is racism. so i will speak out against it, talk to her about it ever day, make it a point to notice, and celebrate, those things which define us (as well as understand how society defines us). my heart breaks for the day when my daughter will have that lightbulb go off in her head; the day when she finally understands what the differences in our colour REALLY means in this country. my friendships have been, and will continue to be, tested over the colourblind world within which my white friends live versus the colour conscious world within which our family lives.

  18. I mentioned this very point on a popular adoption board a few months ago and the response from a few were pertty much the same you described… and of course I, being the minority, was accused of being overly sensitive, which anyone who knows me could tell you is as far from the truth as one can get. Anyway, thanks for posting this, its something that needs to be said more often, and to as many people as would listen. (via gTab)

  19. Can’t be said often enough.By the way our blogging adopter who thinks the gresture isn’t racist, nor do her friends and supporters posed that photo and admitted so!! Does it get worse?

  20. wow well said:) I grew up with parents who were nuts, they adopted me from Korea and told my features were ugly when they were drunk.

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