About johnraible

Cast member, "Struggle For Identity" movie and "A Conversation 10 Years Later" Born and adopted in Wisconsin and raised in Massachusetts. Taught school in New Mexico, California, and New York. Studied Multicultural Education with Sonia Nieto at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (B.A, M.Ed, Ed.D). Currently live in Lincoln, Nebraska.

No More Tears, Let’s Do This

Today, I found myself surprised by actually crying in reaction to Donald Trump’s remark about so-called “shithole nations.” I feel compelled to tell my readers–especially those living in other countries– that I speak for many Americans when I say I’m sorry. Many, many Americans feel embarrassed, heartbroken, and outraged by our president’s willful ignorance.

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I’ll even admit that I have become wearily accustomed to hearing about his latest outrageous tweets and rants. It’s reached the point where many of us feel quite desensitized. I feel myself becoming hardened in response to the daily onslaught of almost unbelievable disinformation and propaganda coming from the White House. But recognize this: that’s part of the plan for governing under Trump–to keep us off balance, shocked, anxious, and passive.

But something about the ugliness of this particular remark really got to me. And so I found myself in tears, thinking about all the people I know personally, especially transracial and international adoptees, who would be classed with those that the president was rejecting as inferior and unwanted.

Maybe I found myself in tears, too, because I’m still coming down from the high of celebrating the Christmas season. I mean, I was feeling so energized after the holidays. Enjoying quality time with my multiracial family and friends, attending lovely candlelight church services, feeling moved by the inspiring seasonal concerts I went to, hearing again the wondrous tale of the rejected babe lying in a manger because there was no room at the inn–all these recent experiences recalled the idealistic message behind the Christmas holiday, a message freely available to all who choose to take heed.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking about the nativity of that holy child who grew up to teach his followers to love our enemies and care for strangers. He would have us bestow mercy on the poor, heal the sick, and even visit prisoners. If we follow his example, we’re supposed to welcome into our midst all those who have been rejected by society. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that I find his message particularly comforting as a transracial adoptee, and all the more so as a father whose children have, unfortunately, spent time behind bars.

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This image created by J. Raible  © 2017
Click here for info on Rev. Bonhoeffer’s life and work.

And so, in the warm post-Christmas glow, I was feeling hopeful and rejuvenated. Then along comes Trump’s latest hateful reminder of how far we have fallen from the moral heights that so many of have been working towards for generation upon generation.

Another cause for my tears, I suppose, is because lately I have been rethinking my identity. I have come to recognize the way that being raised by a parent from another country has profoundly influenced me, for instance, shaping my values. I appreciate how being an adopted son of immigrants clearly has impacted the way I see the world, and the way I have come to understand social justice issues. For that experience, I am grateful.

I wept also because I share this “child of immigrant parents” status with friends whose own families come from Haiti, Africa, and Central America. I cried because I’ve had the privilege of teaching students whose homelands are on Trump’s list of “shithole nations,” yet he discounts their value. I cried because apparently this president admires only the immigrants who have risked and sacrificed so much after departing from European nations, but not black and brown immigrants from respective motherlands on his despicable list of “shithole” sending nations.

Not that I have anything but respect for Norway, mind you. For starters, my white birth mother was partially of Norwegian descent, so I have a personal investment in my Norwegian heritage. I have long admired the heroic Norwegian resistance to the Nazi regime during World War Two. And after I was invited to present at a recent conference in Norway, I came home impressed by that nation’s social democracy, including its free college education and health care, the generally optimistic outlook among its citizens, and the generous welcome that they extend to refugees. The Norwegian government even has a position called the Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, which is something I can only imagine having here in the United States as an actual cabinet position, on equal footing with, say, the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State.

When my president makes his ignorant and mean-spirited comments, praising Norwegian immigrants while vilifying those from the Caribbean and Africa, I cringe. As the head of our national government, Trump supposedly speaks on behalf of the American people.

I am ashamed and mortified to think that people around the world conclude that most of us here agree with Trump’s narrow-minded worldview. I want to state here and now that I, for one, do not. Donald Trump does not speak for me.

Many of us are continually outraged and appalled by what this sad, confused man says, and more importantly, by what his supporters and apologists do that undermines the push for equality, social justice, mutual aid, cooperation, and goodwill around the globe.

I found myself crying because I have worked too long and too hard for a meaningful approach to anti-racist multiculturalism that is rooted in “right relations,” and yet Trump is setting our movement and our progress back decades.

I fear for the damage to my grandchildren and their friends, who must somehow grow to adulthood under this “new normal.” I lament that we elders have not provided adequate education and guidance, and that our basic legacy to the young is a woefully polluted planet on the brink of destruction, fractured through and through with hatred, violence, and environmental degradation.

My heart also goes out to my Native friends, students, and colleagues, who have their own unique migration stories, not to mention their problematic encounters with immigrants and settlers. The ignorance and miseducation spouting from our so-called leader makes it even harder for me, as an activist and educator, to help develop and advance a more nuanced, sophisticated analysis of the interplay between immigration, migration, and Indigeneity. Those of us who seek to call attention to the related and sometimes competing narratives and concerns of immigrant and Indigenous communities have so much work to do, especially if we reject the divide-and-conquer goals of those who would govern us, and instead, seek to promote unity and collaboration.

Lastly, I guess I cried because I find myself once more deeply disappointed in the behavior of powerful adults who ought to know better, and who should serve as positive role models for the younger generations. It is sickening to witness our elected officials misusing their privilege and power to influence the national and global conversations in such a negative fashion, moving them backward rather than forward toward greater understanding, harmony, and equality.

It is tempting to feel helpless to protect that which is sacred, as powerful elites render life on earth ever more dangerous. At the same time, it’s hard to sit idly by and watch passively while they sow their seeds of discord and selfishness, when what we need is more compassion and more empathy. I hope it’s not too late to realize the power of our love by putting it into action.

In short, I apologize for my president’s remarks. I pledge to do more in 2018 to make amends for my past inaction and for the harm caused by my nation. May 2018 be the year of our renewed resistance. May we usher in the triumph over evil of righteousness, solidarity, and peace.

defend-the-sacred-300x200We will all helpUUSC resists

 

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Acceptance speech

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Here I am applauding my “co-conspirators” right after my award acceptance speech. You can read the transcript of my 2-minute video here:

“First, I’d like to thank the founders of NAME for creating such a welcoming community of dedicated and inspiring activist-scholars. I’d like to thank the current NAME leadership and staff for their tireless labors to sustain an organization that I’m proud to be a part of.

I’d like to thank my friend and mentor, Sonia Nieto, for her support and encouragement over the 37 years that I’ve known her. She is largely responsible for me becoming a teacher, and she introduced me to NAME and what it’s all about.

I’d like to thank my UMass Amherst posse, as well as my colleagues at other institutions, because it truly does take a village to do any of this unglamorous work in education. I say thank you to my sons and my grandchildren, and to my students over the years, for reminding me why the struggle must continue.

And I’d like to say thank you especially to the Indigenous people and nations for allowing me to visit and live in their homelands, and for teaching me in different ways, and for reminding me. For reminding us all, of the debt we owe to their nations.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my different sets of parents: My foster parents, Mr. & Mrs. Kelly who were African American. They started me out in life until I got adopted. They showed me the true meaning of Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Childhood,” the one where she reminds us, ‘Black love is black wealth.’

I say thank you to my white birth mother and my black birth father, who gave me life. Even though I was not allowed to know them, I thank them for giving me the chance to experience life on planet earth.

And I thank my white adoptive parents, who are both immigrants, who showed me by their example that those imaginary lines called borders are for crossing. They’re bridges, not walls. I thank Mom & Dad for raising me in a progressive faith community, and for making it possible for me to go to college, so that I could join a community of awesome co-conspirators like the people gathered here at this conference.”

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Multicultural Educator of the Year 2017

I am honored to have received the 2017 Multicultural Educator of the Year Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education.

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The photo above shows Dr. Pritchy Smith about to hand me the award (named after him) at the President’s Awards Banquet in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was thrilling to meet him and get to know him on a personal level. Coincidentally, Pritchy has a connection to education in Belize, the Central American nation that I visit with UNL’s College of Education & Human Sciences students.

The criteria state that the educator must show the following as a teacher:

  • There is evidence of long term, scholarly commitment to teaching from a multicultural perspective.
  • There are multiple facets of diversity (e.g., race, ethnicity, social class, gender, language, sexual orientation, exceptionality, belief systems) addressed in the recipient’s work.
  • The recipient is an example of multicultural ideals and practices (e.g., teaching excellence, service in the community, participation in local, regional, or national organizations).
  • The recipient is able to blend theory and practice in a manner that develops awareness, acceptance, and affirmation of diversity.

Past recipients include Carl Grant, Christine Clark, William Howe, Jioanna Carjuzaa, Ann Lopez, Aukram Burton, and Sonia Nieto, among others. I am humbled to be included in this list of distinguished scholar-activists whose work I admire so much.

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Still hoping for change

A few days ago, I received a surprise email from a new student at the university where I work. Her heartfelt message touched me, and she gave me permission to share it with my readers.

I feel grateful that she wrote to me, because it reminded me that the work I have done over the years in the so-called adoption community has made a difference, at least to some people, which is something I often wonder about.

In her message, this student talks about being labeled as a ‘birth mother.’ She alludes to the anguish caused by the momentous decision to place her baby boy for adoption. She basically thanked me for my perspective that tries to bring to the forefront the frequently overlooked participants in the oppressive system that we have come to think of as adoption.

Now that I’ve given you some context, I will share the message sent to me from this birth mother. We agreed that I would not use her name on my blog, for obvious reasons. (And even that right there calls attention to the injustice created through this oppressive system…)

Dear Dr. Raible,

My name is _____. I recently transferred to the university as a nontraditional college student. I was elated to discover that you work for the university as an associate professor. Here’s why:

In 2014, I was pregnant with my first child. It was an unplanned pregnancy, and the only option I had ever considered before this was abortion. But as you know, things change in an instant.

I was contacted by a nonprofit organization in my town at that time that provides services for expectant parents as well as prospective adoptive parents. I soon learned that even before giving birth to my son, I was seen as a birth mother, and trust me, that is a title no one wants to have. Then one day, I came across a quote of yours (please see attached), and it gave me hope, hope that maybe one day birth mothers and birth parents like me will be respected, loved, and held in high esteem, like their children/our children are. Unfortunately, that has not happened for me yet, but I still love looking at your quote from time to time, still hoping for change.

Anyways, I would love to meet with you if you have some time in the next few weeks. Grab a cup of coffee, or whatever works for you. That being said, I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience!

All my best, ______

She attached the following quote to her email message:

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I plan to ask _______ where she came across the quote. I know that she was not aware of my blog, so I am curious to hear how she found it. I have a few other questions for her, as you might imagine, and I’ll be quite interested to learn more about her perspective and experience.

Anyway, I agreed to get together for coffee, and I will share with her the story of being found recently by my own birth family, thanks to my cousins in California, who took the 23&Me test that finally brought us together.

Damn the agencies, I say. Let’s use the latest advances in DNA science to get around their inhumane policies and the outdated laws they pushed through to keep children from knowing their parents. At the same time, we’ll keep working for justice for adoptees and our first families/birth families.

The power of the pro-adoption lobby that profits literally from the separation of children and parents is intensely hegemonic. The loudest voices in adoption discourse–adopters and those who prey upon them– adoption facilitators, adoption attorneys, and adoption agency executives– make it nearly impossible for us to envision a different way of meeting the needs of children and families in crisis. They make it difficult to imagine how women’s rights, even reproductive rights, include the right to keep and raise one’s children.

Even so, I have come to believe that the days of the pro-adoption lobby are numbered. Mark my words: There will soon come a time when society will eventually awaken to see the adoption business for what it really is: unethical, emotionally and psychologically violent, and essentially untenable from the perspective of human rights. Yet despite their best efforts to maintain business as usual, some of us are still hoping for change.