TRA oppression: A word about the new blog banner

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.


13 thoughts on “TRA oppression: A word about the new blog banner

  1. I admire your work and dedication to the adoption community. However, adoption is a lot of things… but convenient is not a word I would ever use to define adoption… for adoptees, adoptive parents or birthparents.

    -future adoptive parent

  2. Thank you for saying what as so long needed saying.
    FAP – In the context ‘convenient’ is entirely the right word, perhaps you’ll understand that better when you have learned more about adoption and adoptees.
    Linking if I may John.Good wishes.

  3. Adoption is quite convenient for embarrassed natural grandparents who care less about their own daughter’s and grandchild’s welfare than about being able to conveniently “make the problem go away” and it’s certainly QUITE convenient to live in the sort of society that allows you to purchase someone else’s baby because you can’t be bothered to, or cannot for some reason, have your own baby, and because you are white and privileged and have cash to buy one. It’s certainly NOT very convenient to be on the receiving end of the violence & trauma of being a baby taken away from their mother, or being a young woman who is bullied, coerced or drugged into surrendering her baby or who has her baby sold or stolen from her by profiteers in order to service someone else’s convenience.

  4. Thanks “Future adoptive parent” nice to hear you consider your potential adopted child “inconvenient” already. Can’t say I’m surprised though.

    -Adopted adult who lives in the real world of adoption!

    • I was in no way alluding to any such though. I am sad for you that your immediate assumption would be that my intentions and/or emotions toward my future children would be anything other than full of love and joy.

      My apologies if my previous response was in any way unclear.

      -Future adoptive parent

  5. I absolutely see the point John was making. Adoption has been long hailed as being convenient. I have read this description in adoption literature, both popular and professional, where it is described as being a “win-win” situation. Sometimes when the adoptee’s perspective was spoken for (yes, usually spoken for, not actually voiced by an adoptee themselves), it’s seen as “win-win-win.” Historically, adoption was an act of redemption for the unwed, “promiscuous” mother, an important part of helping couples become parents, and necessary to provide an illegitimate child with legitimate (married) parents. This view has slightly modernized where adoption is hailed as providing surrendering mothers with a way to just “move on” if they don’t want to parent, again make couples/individuals into parents, and as for the adoptee…well….we’re still simply not supposed to care about any of it.

    This is how society (and even those within the institution of adoption) view adoption. It is viewed as being so very simply in the best interest of all involved — to the point where loss becomes invisible and no one is able to see a downside to adoption or being adopted. Adoption is viewed as so unquestionably wonderful by so many that anyone who speaks of the realities of loss is immediately labeled “anti-adoption,” and scolded, as if adoption was some sort of anthropomorphic/anthropopathic entity that needs vehement defense when scrutinized for fear its feelings might some how be hurt.

    That’s precisely why we still have 80 year old adoption laws on the books folks 😉 No one wants to fix what they believe is too wonderful to be broken.

  6. You’ve probably read this but maybe readers would be interested. John Holt has a book on this subject. He wrote a lot of books on schooling too, however he is NOT an advocate for fundamentalist homeschooling separatism.

    “The case for treating children like real people, not pets and slaves, and for making available to them all the adult rights and responsibilities as outlined in the US Bill of Rights. This book will challenge not only your ideas about what constitutes “childhood” in today’s society, but your ideas about society as a whole. “

  7. This idea comes up in (completed) adoptions a lot. Just today (and often!) I read about how adoptive parents “allow” their children to see their original parents, or they “allowed” the original mother “one last visit with their child,” and so on. This type of talk and thinking is horrifying. It turns something natural (seeing your family) into something an adoptee should be grateful for, and that the adoptive parents are generous to bestow upon the child and mother. This attitude is pervasive in adoption, and no one thinks twice about it.

  8. Declassfied –
    “as if adoption was some sort of anthropomorphic/anthropopathic entity that needs vehement defense when scrutinized for fear its feelings might some how be hurt.”

    Many people talk about their adoption agency this way too, especially when defending it. Their adoption agency “cares about children,” as if it’s a person with feelings rather than a business.

  9. I love that I am finding so many varied opinions on the topic of adoption. So many sides of a story.
    I am interested in learning some viewpoints regarding “adoption reform”… what is seen as the solution? Is it legislation? abolishment of adoption? more oversight? I hear so many arguments (for and against) adoption–yet I never hear a “solution” to the stated problems with the process. Is there one?

  10. You inspire me John. Just as I was about to call it a night because I was struggling beyond belief in writing my senior comprehensive research proposal, I read this post. This is EXACTLY the magical lightbulb moment I have been crossing my fingers (and toes) for. This is what I want to expand on and explore further for my senior thesis. Thank you for giving me hope. Thank you for making me think. Thank you for inspiring me and supporting me through it all. Con mucho carino – Sofia

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