Tag Archives: transracial adoption

Somewhere Between Explores Transracial Adoption And Identity

TRAILER: Somewhere Between – A Feature Documentary from Linda Knowlton on Vimeo.

 

Check out the synopsis:

Four baby girls are born in China to families who are unable to keep them, largely because of China’s “One Child Policy.” Instead of being raised by their biological parents, the baby girls are raised in orphanages, and then eventually adopted by American families to be whisked halfway around the world to the United States. There, they grow up with Sesame Street, hip-hop, and Twitter. They describe themselves as “bananas”: white on the inside and yellow on the outside. All is well, until they hit their teen years, when their pasts pull at them, and they begin to wonder, “Who am I?”

All four know they were probably “given up” because they were girls (they are understandably uncomfortable with the word “abandoned”), and grapple with issues of race, gender, and identity more acutely than most their age.

Documentaries have been made before about international adoption, but they have always been from the point of view of the adoptive, Caucasian parents, or the adult adoptee. Young women’s voices are rarely heard—especially young women of color. SOMEWHERE BETWEEN lets four teenaged girls—Fang, Haley, Ann, and Jenna—tell their own stories, letting the film unfold from their points of view and shedding light on their deepest thoughts: about their families, their feelings of being “other,” and their powerful connections to a past that most of them cannot recall.

The film captures nearly three years in the lives of these four dynamic young women.

The screening schedule is here.

On Discussions of Transracial Adoption

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Carleandria sent us this LA Times article over the weekend:

The telephones kept ringing with more orders and although Duan Yuelin kept raising his prices, the demand was inexhaustible. Customers were so eager to buy more that they would ply him with expensive gifts and dinners in fancy restaurants.

His family-run business was racking up sales of as much as $3,000 a month, unimaginable riches for uneducated Chinese rice farmers from southern Hunan province.

What merchandise was he selling? Babies. And the customers were government-run orphanages that paid up to $600 each for newborn girls for adoption in the United States and other Western countries.

“They couldn’t get enough babies. The demand kept going up and up, and so did the prices,” recalled Duan, who was released from prison last month after serving about four years of a six-year sentence for child trafficking.

When we post articles about taking the time to consider children in the adoption discourse, I am always surprised at the number of comments that assume we are anti-adoption (or as one amusingly put it, leaving these poor children to rot) when we believe in listening to perspectives from adult adoptees and adoptive POCs.  The perspectives are quite different from the standard narrative on adoption.  Just check out what Paula, of the Heart, Mind, and Seoul blog had to say:

[W]hy do so many people casually accept (and perhaps even secretly celebrate) it as fate, good karma, a higher power at force, destiny, luck, etc. when a woman who is without a true, just selection of choice or is told that the only real choice she has is to place her child, and believe this to be perfectly acceptable so long as it benefits our agenda?  Our plans.  Our lifelong hopes and childhood dreams.  Why is okay for other women to find themselves in a position to have to make arguably the most God-awful and heart-wrenching, hellish choice or worse – to find themselves WITHOUT choice – when it suits us or those we love?  And why aren’t more of us or more of those we love willing to make the same kinds of sacrifices that we expect, assume, hope and accept that other women will do? Continue reading

The Dangerous Desire to Adopt Haitian Babies

by Guest Contributor (and frequent commenter) Atlasien

Haitian American Adoptive Parent Margalita Belhumer

Haitian American Adoptive Parent Margalita Belhumer

I’m a foster care adoptive parent. I can’t speak for all of us, since we’re a diverse bunch. Some of us have also adopted internationally and support international adoption strongly. Others despise the institution, and are angry about what the perceived hypocrisy of parents who walk past the foster kids in their own cities and states so that they can adopt from a far-away country. I’m somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning more towards the anti side, especially after this week.

This week, I’ve been deeply disturbed at the swelling public desire to adopt Haitians. Haitian orphan babies. The very name is problematic. In our imagination, an orphan has no family, but the vast majority of “orphans” all over the world have living parents, and almost every single one has living extended relatives. And the children that need family care are, overwhelmingly, older children.

Quite a few other parents I know are really pissed off about it. If you want to adopt, why not consider adopting from foster care? Why Haitian babies? I can guess at some of the answers. Most of them will not be very flattering.

There’s a certain group of white adoptive international parents that dominate much of the discourse around adoption in this country. The most organized of these are evangelical Christians, but many of them are secular in their beliefs on adoption. They’re across the political spectrum, ultraconservative to ultraliberal, though if I had to hazard a guess, most of them are center-right in politics. I believe these people are, basically, a force for evil. If I put it in any nicer words, that would be a lie. Examining their belief system, and their potential political influence on the recovery efforts in Haiti, is a pretty terrifying process. Continue reading

Quoted: Rebecca Walker on Capitalism and Transracial Adoption

It is beautiful that people can open their lives to human beings of any background, but I think that all of us – every human being – runs the risk of being commodified in a hypercapitalist culture. For example, I feel that as a biracial person I have more social currency now that we have a biracial president. So when we think about which bodies have currency, it’s an interesting question.

One of the writers [whose piece] didn’t make it into One Big Happy Family wrote about how the process of adopting a child from another country made her more aware of human trafficking. Ultimately, she had to question whether her child had been put up for adoption or was stolen. If we look at plunging fertility in developed nations and raging underdevelopment and poverty in others, we can see how children can become the ultimate product.

Many people don’t realize that there are more human beings in slavery today than ever before. The discussion of transracial adoptees should be part of a growing awareness about the modern slave trade, but I think the glamourization of them in popular culture often does not lend itself to a deeper dialogue.

— “All In the Family: A Q + A with author Rebecca Walker”, Bitch Magazine, Fall of 2009, interview by our own Nadra Kareem

Note: Racialicious often critiques transracial adoption practices. However, we prefer to not demonize the participants, and to respect the narratives of those most directly affected. Please keep this in mind when commenting.

Default Divisions

by Guest Contributor Sumeia Williams, originally published at Ethnically Incorrect

I came across an article on the Pact website written by Elizabeth Bartholet. In it she says:

    The research does indicate some interesting differences in transracially-adopted people’s attitudes about race and race relations, which critics of transracial adoption cite as evidence that supports their position. But this evidence is positively heart-warming for those who believe that Blacks and Whites should learn to live compatibly in one world, with respect and concern for each other and with appreciation of their racial and cultural differences as well as their common humanity. The studies reveal that Blacks adopted by Whites appear more positive than Blacks raised by Blacks about relationships with Whites, more comfortable in those relationships, and more interested in a racially integrated lifestyle. They think race is not the most important factor in defining who they are or who their friends should be.

The Editor’s Commentary makes some good points concerning Bartholet’s ignorance of the realities of transracial adoptees and people of color. Part of me laughs at her myopic interpretation of the study she mentions while another, less eloquent part screams, “Duh!” Of course “Blacks adopted by Whites appear more positive than Blacks raised by Blacks about relationships with Whites, more comfortable in those relationships, and more interested in a racially integrated lifestyle.” It’s not like they have much of a choice. Being raised by white people forces the adoptee of color to be open and tolerant towards white people because “White” becomes the dominant race in their lives.

Whether transracial adoption promotes “respect and concern for each other and with appreciation of their racial and cultural differences as well as their common humanity” is questionable. It might force an adoptee to be tolerant, but it doesn’t necessarily carry over into the larger community. In fact, quite the opposite can happen, or even worse, cause an adoptee to be alienated or rejected from that community. Did Bartholet ever stop to wonder how comfortable those adopted “Blacks” would feel in relationships with other “Blacks”?

Are TRAs suppose to act as Trojan horses sent out to win over the rest of the community? Are we suppose to scream out, “Look! My white adoptive parents saved me (from you), and I turned out great! White people rock!” It seems in her zeal to create this racially tolerant world of hers, Bartholet forgets something. Most transracial adoptees don’t grow up with an appreciation for their birth ethnicities, they grow up with an appreciation for that of their adoptive parents. Continue reading

Freaking out over Freakonomics

by guest contributor Jae Ran Kim, originally published at Harlow’s Monkey

I was dumbfounded to read Freakonomics author Steven D. Levitt’s response on his NYT blog to a reader’s question about the economic ramifications of international adoption (thanks to durgamom on resist racism for bringing this to my attention). I’ve commented on Levitt before in this post.

Q: What is your opinion on how international adoption affects the economy, race and class divisions, and the widening income gap within the U.S.? What do you think of the argument that children are “readily available for adoption” in the U.S., and, further, that adoption is marketed as a product with benefits?

A: I don’t think international adoption affects the economy in any meaningful way. We are talking about very small numbers of children being adopted from foreign countries into the U.S. each year – perhaps 20,000 children total, compared to the 3 million children born each year in the U.S. Adoption does, however, profoundly affect those families that adopt. My life has been completely changed because of the two daughters my wife and I adopted from China.

You’re right that some people in the U.S. really don’t like foreign adoption. Some have argued that it is a form of subtle racism, in that parents like me will go to China to adopt, but won’t adopt a black child here in the U.S. This is a complex issue – far too complex for me to discuss in all its richness here. But let me at least explain some of the thinking underlying my own decision to adopt from abroad. The first factor was that our son, Andrew, had just died. We were not emotionally prepared to navigate the U.S. adoption scene, which is full of uncertainty for adoptive parents for two reasons: 1) the relative scarcity of healthy but unwanted babies being put up for adoption since the legalization of abortion; and 2) the emphasis on birth parent rights.

We did give some serious thought to adopting either a black child domestically, or adopting from Africa. It turns out that African adoption is extremely complicated, as Madonna discovered the hard way. Ultimately, my own view was that the identity issues faced by a black child raised by white parents would be too difficult. Some of my academic research with Roland Fryer has made clear to me the stark choices that black teens, especially boys, have to make about “who they are.” As a parent, I was not willing to take the chance on loving and raising an adopted child, only to know that when he became a teenager he would have to face the choice of being “black” or “white,” and that either choice would be very costly for him (and also for me). That same sort of racial “all or nothing” choice is not at play for Asian youths in our society.

First of all, Levitt doesn’t really respond to the majority of the reader’s question. He only tackles the economy part in terms of how it affects the overall US economy. Using the average fees for the most well known and respected adoption agency in my state, if adoptive parents paid an average of, say, $20,000 – $25,000 a child then those 20,000+ children adopted from other countries last year add up to $400,000,000 – $500,000,000. We know that not all of this money stays in the United States economy. So, granted, Levitt is correct that this sum is pretty insignificant in terms of how it affects the overall US economy. If you calculate the 108,006 children adopted internationally from 2002 – 2006 at an average of $20,000 per child, that pumps in $1,080,060,000 that pays for adoption workers and adoption agencies. However, Levitt doesn’t mention that the overall “adoption industry” expands way beyond the singular item of agency fees. There are all the post-adoption services provided by agencies, books, those damn t-shirts, culture camps, therapy, trainings, etc. Considering that in 2000, the adoption industry generated 1.5 billion dollars* and prices have only risen exponentially, I argue that Levitt is minimizing the economic impact because, like many of us, it appears unseemly to talk about children in terms of a financial spreadsheet.

Levitt’s response to the next part of the reader’s question really begins to veer away into his own personal rationalizations. Continue reading

Color’s in the Works on SATC, the movie

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

I love Sex & the City as much as the next woman (well, ok, fine–only when I disregard the classism, sexism, and racism in the show, ahem), but I worried when I saw the extended trailer. Mainly because I will have to use more than one hand to count the female characters of color ever featured on the show:

  • Adopted daughter of Asian descent (Chinese, presumably, considering that Charlotte was hoping for a “Mandarin baby”)
  • Carrie’s personal assistant (why she needs one, I still can’t figure out. Does this woman work…EVER?), played by Jennifer Hudson

I’m glad to see SATC hired these ladies to be in the film, yet part of me wonders whether or not their characters will end up much like the other POC featured in the television series (read: background extras or involved in the four women’s lives for a brief period to satisfy their need for entertainment, only to disappear an episode or two later) . . . Will everyone want a Chinese adopted daughter as much as they wanted Manolos? Will they oversimplify issues involved with transracial adoption? And what about Jennifer Hudson’s character–will she end up being written as a neo-Mammy, or is something more progressive in the works?

Click here to view the new extended official trailer.

The New York Times censors adult adoptees on adoption blog

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Update 11/14 at 10:25 am: Please click here to digg this story so we can bring more attention to it.

Update 11/14 at 7:40 am: Yesterday evening, shady things started happening where the NYT apparently started to add back in some old comments that it had not previously approved. And they’ve now completely shut down comments to the post. Also, check out this comment that Sarah Kim tried to leave, but was not approved. Hmm… I don’t see a thing in that comment that violates the NYT’s comment moderation policy. And yet they still chose to censor her. Meanwhile, a much harsher comment was allowed through – but that came from another adoptive parent, instead of an adoptee. It’s clear whose perspective this NYT blog is pushing.

The New York Times started a new blog this month called Relative Choices, about “adoption and the American family.”

The blog has been met with mixed reactions, especially since many prominent thinkers like Jae Ran Kim who are critical of certain adoption practices were deemed to be “too out there” to contribute. Also, the blog has featured some rather questionable posts written by adoptive parents.

This one, titled Finding Zhao Gu, is an example. Author Jeff Gammage goes all magical thinking on us, with a healthy dose of orientalism and white savior stuff thrown in:

Before I knew there was a man named Ma Guoxing, I imagined his existence.

I wondered what he — or she — might look like, whether he was married or single, had children or not. Most of all I yearned to know the secrets that he, alone among millions in China, held within himself.

Sorry Jeff, but we’re not allowed to tell. No ancient Chinese secret for you!

But yesterday’s post really takes the cake. Writer Tama Janowitz wrote an oh-so-funny post about how all kids hate their parents, so therefore it’s ok to ignore all the critiques that center around race, culture and ethnicity:

A girlfriend who is now on the waiting list for a child from Ethiopia says that the talk of her adoption group is a recently published book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly about being treated as if they did not come from a different cultural background. They feel that this treatment was an attempt to blot out their differences, and because of this, they resent their adoptive parents.

So in a way it is kind of nice to know as a parent of a child, biological or otherwise – whatever you do is going to be wrong. Like I say to Willow: “Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”

And she says — as has been said by children since time immemorial — “So what, I don’t care. I would rather do that than be here anyway.”

Wow. Imagine what other you’d-better-be-grateful crap gets said in that household, even as “a joke?” And that deliberately unnamed book that she writes off as a bunch of whining? That’s actually the critically acclaimed Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption.

As if this post itself wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that comments from at least four 13 different adult adoptees and allies critical of Janowitz’s post have not been approved. (Check this post for the latest numbers – Jae Ran is updating every couple hours.) So not only does The New York Times refuse to include contributors who are critical of certain adoption practices, it seems that they won’t even let critical comments through the gate!

This begs the question: just what does The New York Times have against adult adoptees? Why does it believe that adult adoptees’ experiences are just not valid? Somebody over there really needs to read Jae Ran’s How to suppress discussions about transracial and transnational adoption.

For more on the NYT blog, see these posts:

Save one, win valuable prizes
Relative choices?
Nail? Meet hammers.
Racist M/Paternalism at its Best
Whoa. Hey. People — this isn’t ok
Shut Up, Tama Janowitz. Just shut up. And turn in your parenting license while you’re at it.
To Willow Janowitz: You’re not alone….
All The (Adoption) News That They See Fit To Print
A Comment About the Comments
The New York Times: Gatekeeper, Censor
Tama Janowitz, My Canidate for Mother of the Year
Tama Janowitz on NYT adoption blog
Fairness Doctrine
New York Times aka “the Adoption Police?”
censorship on new york times adoption blog
New York Times Adoption Blog Censoring Adult Adoptees
Where are the Outraged Parents here?
New York Times’ Adoption Blog Censors Adult Adoptees
Late to the Party
Surprise – The NY Times is filled with Red Thread Ladybug Arses
NYT Adoption Blog Salts Wounds In International Adoption Community
Adoptees Are Not Your Therapists
Appalling

Tama Janowitz, let me introduce you to
Dear Tama,
Willow’s day

NYT Relative Choices ~ Adoption & censorship?
“Either Chinese, or some black dude – who can remember?”
Dear Tama Janowitz