I decided to change the images across the top of the blog, even though I do love the old banner photo of me hanging out with two campers from Pact Camp taken a few years back.
In trying to counter the public perception of adoption as being “all about kids”—and the idea of adoptees as Perpetual Children that are never allowed to grow up—I felt like I should just use images of myself in adulthood. After all, adulthood is where adoptees spend our lives once childhood ends, and adoption and race STILL affect us in significant ways.
The first image is a still from the film “Struggle for Identity: Issues in Transracial Adoption.” Several people came up to me at the recent NACAC conference and thanked me for being in that movie. One person pointed out how many thousands of individuals have watched the film and learned from it. So, since many people associate me with that movie, I used the still (the one with the long curly hair back in 1995).
The second headshot was taken when I became a professor at UNL. Using this one symbolizes that I am no longer just another adoptee “telling my story.” Rather, I have become a serious researcher and scholar of adoption and race.
The two slides are from my July 2011 webinar on “Adoptees and Parents, Adoptees as Parents.” They represent my latest thinking about what’s wrong with transracial adoption. My analysis includes a discussion of oppression theory, and the way that all transracial adoptees are triply oppressed—through racism, adultism (the oppression of children and youth), and adoptee oppression (being treated as second class citizens without equal access to information and our histories, for example).
This triple whammy of oppression makes it extremely challenging for adult transracial adoptees to be heard, especially if we articulate a sharp critique of adoption and call for anti-racist action for transracial adoptees and communities of color. As Perpetual Children, adult adoptees can choose to side with children and youth to fight adultism. After all, as kids, most adoptees have no say in whether to be adopted, or whether to leave our original families and communities. We have no say about where we will grow up. As a result of this disempowerment and dependency, transracial adoptees live at the whim and mercy of often under-prepared and ignorant families, who, sadly, are usually not in any position to help us navigate the complex race or adoption issues we inevitably face.
I have come to believe that the liberation of children and youth is a necessary component in any struggle to reform (or ultimately abolish) adoption. This means, first, that children must never be bought and sold. Next, whenever possible, young people MUST have a say in placement decisions when adoption becomes necessary. Remember, adoption is a response to a crisis. Adoption should be primarily about finding safe homes for children in dire need, and NOT used as a convenient solution for adults (for their infertility, family-building desires, or to get rid of unwanted pregnancies). Placing adoptees front and center will not happen without the liberation of children and youth (hence my call for “kid lib, an idea whose time has come”).
Working to dismantle adultism that keeps young people powerless and infantilized means sharing power with the young. It also means fighting patronizing adultist views that try to keep all adoptees in a child-like state as Perpetual Children.
Children, youth, and adult transracial adoptees are natural allies, then, as long as adult adoptees strive to incorporate social justice (and specifically anti-adultist and anti-racist) values into our work and practice. Young adoptees of color should have a say in where they go to school, what religion they follow (if any), what nation’s citizenship they claim (if adopted transnationally), and even where they will live as children and as adolescents.
The kind of community—monocultural and all-white versus multicultural and integrated—can make or break the spirits of transracial adoptees. Racial isolation and imposed segregation are wrong. Children of color adopted into white families, whether through domestic adoption or transnational adoption, deserve the support and understanding of adults of color who look like them and who share their cultural and racial designation. Transracial adoption is NOT about fulfilling the fantasies and desires of white adoptive parents. Transracial adoption MUST be about fully supporting adopted youth of color, who are already burdened enough with the twin tasks of navigating race and adoption. It’s high time that adoptive families stepped up and educated themselves on how to better support family members who are people of color, and who are doubly oppressed as adoptees.
This is what this blog is about: supporting the transracial adoption community through education and research. And even though I have paid a huge price in speaking out to educate non-adoptees about transracial adoption, and to critique transracial adoption over the years, this is what my life’s work continues to be about: fighting so that younger transracial adoptee voices can be heard, fighting to empower transracial adoptees, and working to ease the triple threat of racism, adultism, and adoptee oppression.