The Angrier Adoptee, part 1

The Angrier Adoptee: I have some feedback for you, Professor. Meaning no disrespect. But some of us think you haven’t gone far enough. I do appreciate the energy shown in your recent posts. But we thought we’d give you a chance to explain yourself further.

John: Um, okay? I always welcome feedback from other adoptees. Even the ones who might disagree with some of what I’m saying. And by the way, you can call me John. You don’t need to call me “Professor.”

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The Angrier Adoptee: Okay, cool. Well, John. To start with, do you think all the people at that rally in Nebraska voted against Trump? I was looking at the voting patterns data in your state. And I’m pretty sure there must have been a ton of people at that rally who voted for him. It could be that they just decided that their president crossed a line when he told ICE to lock kids in cages. Even though they disagreed with him on that one decision, they could still vote for him again in 2020. Especially if they mostly like the other stuff he’s doing.

John: Yeah, I didn’t think about that. And that would explain the lack of real outrage expressed at the Lincoln rally. We also have this dynamic called “Nebraska Nice,” where we don’t like to treat our neighbors disrespectfully. There may be a gendered and class-based element to that. I mean, it seemed like there were more middle-class female protesters, and speakers, at the Lincoln rally. I know some immigrant friends who told me they couldn’t attend, because it would violate their visa status. Or maybe they are undocumented. So the diversity among the protesters wasn’t representative of the level of outrage and anxiety throughout the community. But you make an excellent point. I wanted to believe that I was among friends and allies. Which to me means committed anti-Trump folks. Now that you mention it, the publicity for the rally did say that it was open to people of all persuasions, not just people in one political party.

The Angrier Adoptee: Next, I wanted to talk to you about gender issues. To start with, why are most of your images on your blog boys and men? I don’t see a whole lot of women. Or girls, or non-binary people. But you write a lot about women, such as birth mothers and grieving moms, for instance. Or in your example of the traumatized adoptee keeled over in the fetal position, why did you make her female?

John: That’s a fair observation. The reason that my original artwork features guys is because the people I ask to pose for my photos are friends, or people I know personally. As a gay artist, I tend to make art about other males. That’s just my preference, where my interest lies. But yeah, I could do a better job including more images of women, girls, and gender non-conforming individuals. If that was your criticism.

The Angrier Adoptee: What about that traumatized adoptee? Why did she have to be female? You’re not female. As a male writer, isn’t it dangerous for you to talk about the experience of a female adoptee, as if you know what that feels like?

John: I guess I was thinking about the movie, Adopted. That movie, which everybody should see, by the way, was made by female adoptees,. You get to hear some powerful stories about adult adoptees. For me, the most poignant ones described the experience of adoptees who happened to be women. And let me add that I would hope that writers are allowed and even encouraged to write from various perspectives. We shouldn’t have  to limit ourselves to writing from one particular gender, should we?

The Angrier Adoptee: If you’re a good enough writer, yeah. Then maybe you could pull it off. Moving on, why don’t you come right out and offer people some concrete solutions? Where’s your sense of urgency? Your writing is very cerebral. It’s like you’re living in your head. What are readers supposed to do? Are they supposed to just think their way into social justice? When are you going to come down from your academic ivory tower? Children and families are suffering, yet you just blog.

John: I think about that, every day. I ask myself if doing research, teaching courses, and offering a few workshops and keynotes, when I’m invited, is doing enough. And I’m not sure what the answer is. I know that blogging is one action I can take to resist. But I also know that blogging isn’t enough. One thing I can do is put more energy into healing myself and strengthening my family. So I’ve been working on that, for a while now.

I did notice, at the rally, people seemed to get really riled up when a few speakers encouraged them to “remember in November.” As if voting for a better candidate will make much of a difference. They seem to forget that President Obama was the one who intensified the round-up of families by ICE. Obama deported so many families, and caused family separation when he deported thousands of parents out of the country. The Democrats have as much blame as the current administration, which calls itself Republican.

The Angrier Adoptee: But why don’t you tell people to conduct civil disobedience? If the adoption business is so immoral, as you claim to believe, how can you tolerate its existence? How can even you go to their agencies and give trainings? We should be chaining ourselves to the gates, and disrupting business as usual.

John: It could eventually come to that. But first of all, I try not to tell people what to do. And I tend to think we need to educate a few more people, first. Without education, our neighbors aren’t going to understand, or care to understand, why direct action is being used as a tactic. They’ll just write off the adoption abolitionists as a bunch of loudmouth anarchists and malcontents. I want people who have been touched by adoption to look inside their hearts. I want them to reflect deeply on what would be just, and right, and fair, if they found themselves in dire circumstances. Facing the kinds of decisions many desperate women have faced, that too often leads to losing their children.

The Angrier Adoptee: Did you ever stop and think that maybe some women don’t want to be mothers? They have a right to choose what to do with their bodies and the babies they bring into the world. Sometimes you sound like it’s okay to deny women their reproductive freedom.

John: I do struggle with this, I admit. It’s complicated. Setting aside the issue of abortion, for a minute. I will say that, as a feminist, I support a woman’s right to control her own body and destiny. As a parent, I have also tried to imagine what I would do if I found myself unable to care for my child. Or if I could not guarantee the safety of my child. Then, too, I think about my enslaved ancestors. We know that many anguished parents literally threw their children overboard on the slave ships. They must have thought their children would be better off dead than trying to eke out an existence as slaves.

But I’m here today because my ancestors did not make that choice. I am descended from survivors, from strong individuals, who endured and persevered. Our ancestors chose not to end the lives of their offspring. Instead, they raised children as best they could, under exceedingly difficult circumstances. They taught them how to struggle, how to conspire, and how to survive. So the next generation would have a fighting chance. I think that’s worth remembering.

The Angrier Adoptee: If my birth mother had aborted me, I wouldn’t be here, either. But thanks to her, I had to grow up with all the crap that comes with adoption: the trauma, the pain, the questions and insults, and the not knowing. The second-class citizenship. The denial of rights to our personal information. Some days, adoption trauma feels so unbearable that I actually wish I had been aborted.

John: Wow, that’s intense, Angrier. I want you to know that I can relate.

The Angrier Adoptee: Last question for now. John Brown or Harriet Tubman? Since you’re so fond of equating anti-adoption abolition to the anti-slavery Abolitionists, pick one to follow.

John: Hm, interesting choice. I have always admired both of those committed Abolitionists. John Brown, as a dedicated person of faith, and as a man of conscience, decided to lay down his life for what he believed in. He armed and then fought alongside enslaved Africans. He did way more than just give rousing speeches against slavery. To me, John Brown epitomizes what it means to be a genuine ally in anti-racist struggle. But Harriet Tubman was another incredibly brave and daring activist who led countless runaways away from slavery and into freedom. She risked life and limb, time and time again, to take those who wanted to flee away from the plantations on the Underground Railroad. So, for me, she’s another heroic example of what it means to be an ally.

I’d rather use the power of persuasion than violence in the cause of abolition. I do believe that history is on our side–the side of justice, which is the side of abolition. The tide of public opinion will turn against child removal and family separation. People are waking up to the crime of human trafficking, and making the connection to adoption. People will come to reject the entire child removal /foster care /adoption industry as an evil, money-making institution. Especially younger Americans, the children of the Baby Boomers.

The Angrier Adoptee: Real talk. At least we can agree on that. The Boomers have had their day. It’s just a matter of time until you Baby Boomers die off and relinquish power. Meantime, young people are making other choices about the kind of society we want to live in.

John: Right on. You all are going to figure out another way.

The Angrier Adoptee: Word. Alright, John, thanks for your time. I’m off to meet up with my DA posse.

John: DA?

The Angrier Adoptee: Yeah, man, direct action. We got work to do. Later.

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“I really don’t care. Do you?”

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Why did the First Lady, a fashion-conscious former model, decide to wear this particular jacket to tour a detention center for immigrant kids? Did she think she was going to the Hunger Games?

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Kids have to look at this mural inside a Texas detention center, a converted Wal-Mart building… But hey, at least it’s bilingual, right? That should make them feel welcome.

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When kids are labeled “illegal” and “undesirable,” and nobody is paying attention, what could possibly go wrong?

 

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Detaining “undesirable” children is becoming normal again. We are being conditioned. And we accept this conditioning at our peril. How will history judge us?

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Your grandchildren will wonder, why didn’t you stop the madness?

R E S I S T

 

Resisting family separation

Current events are calling us to respond with compassion and/or outrage. Here are some follow-up thoughts I’ve had since my last post.

World Refugee Day was observed June 20th. (Check out Democracy Now!’s coverage here.) Its observance, along with the media spectacle of the crisis at the U.S./Mexico border, have prompted much reflection and discussion.

One thing I’m clear about: The proper response to the current tragedy is NOT swooping in to “rescue” kids, as North Americans are prone to do, for example, after disaster strikes. Adoption industry professionals should take a hands-off approach and curb their self-serving child-snatching tendencies.

Predictably, at least one cable news anchor, Mika Brezinsky, voiced the naivete of many well-meaning Americans, when she said she is thinking about fostering one of the refugee kids, as if that will solve the crisis. Keep in mind how eerily reminiscent of the Native child-snatching “maternalists” (documented by Margaret Jacobs) such a naive  response actually sounds.

Our immediate goal should be to reunite families, and keep them together. Our goal is NOT to feed the adoption, foster care, and detention industries that profit from keeping kids “in care”.

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Free our kids, free our minds

As heartbreaking as it is to listen to the cries of refugee children who have been forcibly taken away from their parents, we should remember that the forced separation of families is nothing new, especially when it comes to communities of color.

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Source: AP via US Customs and Border Protection. An agent keeps watch as children file out of a cage.

Before I go further, I want to state the intention behind this post. I have been heartbroken and appalled by the lack of compassion being shown to desperate families from our neighbor nations to the south. My heart goes out to parents who seek respite from the dangerous circumstances in their home countries.

As a U.S. citizen, I try to recognize my nation’s complicity in creating the dire conditions these families are fleeing, whether in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua. I am clear that part of the reason why so many desperate parents risk everything to bring their children north is directly related to the legacy of weapons, war, drug money, deported gang members, and political destabilization exported from the United States during my lifetime.

Furthermore, as the adopted son of immigrant parents, as a transracially adopted African American member of a multiracial family that includes refugees from the Nazi Holocaust, as a teacher educator of color, and as the adoptive father of black sons who survived the traumas of foster care, adoption, and incarceration, I must speak out.

It is tempting to feel powerless. I ask myself, What can I possibly do? Well, I know how to write, and I have loyal blog followers. Maybe my words, in some small way, will help strengthen our resistance movement. It is for all these reasons that I feel compelled to break my self-imposed blog silence and use some of my privilege and cultural capital to express my thoughts on child removal, family separation, foster care, adoption, and schooling–all topics that I have studied and personally participated in, for better or worse.

While I have taken a break from blogging for some time, I have been diligently working to make amends for the harm I may have caused through my involvement and participation in social institutions which I have come to recognize as fundamentally unethical and untenable. As a grandfather now, I feel more and more driven to work to hold myself accountable. These feelings are the genesis of this post. And so…

While it is shocking to witness, in our own time, media images of incarcerated children confined to oversized dog kennels, the roundup of children on the border is but the latest manifestation of an age-old government policy. Many Americans either don’t know or don’t care to think about how child removal has a long, shameful history as U.S. government policy. Even so, this policy can be understood as part of the larger attempt to manage the “problem” of diversity within the unfolding great American social experiment.

In terms of U.S. history, child removal has proven to be an effective strategy for domesticating communities that the power elites view as their enemies. Back during slavery times, enslaved parents had their children sold away, sometimes as a punishment for disobeying the master’s wishes, other times as intimidation designed to keep enslaved adults in line.

Later, long after slavery was abolished, child removal continued to be used to control black bodies. Think about it: It made a kind of sense for white authorities to fear the resentment, if not rebellion, of their former slaves. Systems were put in place to monitor and contain black aspirations for freedom, including the Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, the penal system, chain gangs, and “hyper policing” of black neighborhoods. Don’t forget about the lynchings, torch-wielding night riders, White Citizens Councils, etc. that used violence and intimidation to shore up white dominance. Want some documentation?  Read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow for an excellent analysis of how white power came to be maintained after slavery ended. Alexander shows how mass incarceration became a preferred way to keep watch over potentially rebellious malcontents, namely, African Americans and poor people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

As the social welfare and justice systems slithered their icy tentacles into African American communities, forced child removal was added to the arsenal of the surveillance apparatus. Why do you think there are disproportionate numbers of black and brown children in foster care? Why are so many black and Latinx youth living behind bars? After reading his autobiography in which he describes his childhood experience surviving both foster care and incarceration, you begin to understand why the legendary African American leader, Malcolm X, referred to social workers as “home wreckers.”

The long and valiant efforts to defend the Native way of life from encroaching “settlement” by hostile invaders ultimately ended in the military defeat of resistant Indigenous nations. Conquered Native Americans had to watch their children being forcibly removed from their families. The most resistant and defiant tribes had their children snatched first. Captured children were sent away to residential “Indian schools,” where forced assimilation into the white man’s way of life was foisted upon them.

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Carlisle Indian School (or indoctrination center, depending on your loyalties)

Even today, many Native and First Nations communities throughout North America struggle with the long-lasting effects of this historical trauma. Trauma today shows up in a complex of social problems, including alcoholism, child abuse, domestic violence, and high rates of youth suicide. It is not easy to “get over” and simply forget the deliberate breakup of families, which arguably serve as the backbone of vibrant, culturally intact communities. It is a testament to the resilience and beauty of their cultures that my Indigenous friends are still here. In gratitude for your example, in admiration of your courage, and out of a sense of moral outrage at the colonization you continue to endure, I rise in solidarity.

It is no exaggeration to say that child removal policy has been a primary strategy for building and maintaining the white settler nation state. If you need further evidence, study the work of historian Margaret Jacobs, my award-winning colleague here at the University of Nebraska. Her book, White Mother to a Dark Race, details the way self-appointed white women rushed in to Native communities at the end of the so-called Indian Wars to “rescue” children from what they saw as a barbaric, dying culture, by ripping them away from their supposedly “uncivilized” parents. Jacobs points out how Indian child removal by these ethnocentric reformers, even though they acted as if it were for the children’s own good, was actually part of a deliberate process of white nation-building during Westward Expansion. She also hints at the way the seeds were sown for the later transracial adoption experiment of placing Indigenous children in white Christian homes. Jacobs’ impressive book documents the same approach taken by similar white settler nation states, such as Canada and Australia, where white invaders snatched Indigenous children as part of their own nation-building process. I’m not making any of this up, folks. Go check for yourselves.

While you’re at it, read Joel Spring’s book, Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality. In it, he discusses the uses and abuses of schooling, along with other U.S. government policies, to control minoritized communities. Spring systematically chronicles the treatment of Native Americans and former slaves, Asian immigrants, and colonized Latinx communities, including families living in occupied territory claimed by Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Separating children from their families was found to be an effective way to intimidate and coerce resistant adults of all ethnicities. Confining children in schools and other institutions continues to be used to manage diversity, principally by assimilating and socializing the next generation of conquered and resistant peoples into accepting their subordinate status.

Even the white children of European immigrants weren’t spared, back in the day. What we like to think of rosily as the “American Dream” is actually rooted in the nightmare of cultural imperialism, enforced through loss of languages and given names, Americanizing “foreign-sounding” family names, and erasing cultural identities. Europeans from different nations were coerced and bribed into leaving all vestiges of their respective motherlands behind in order to gain the privileges reserved for white Americans.

And even though we are not often taught this tidbit from history, it is a fact, nevertheless, that thousands of immigrants returned to Europe. Once they had a taste of the racist, misogynist, and unfriendly American class structure, not to mention the abysmal working and living conditions, they were like, “I’m out of here.” Don’t believe me? Check out James Loewen’s revealing book, Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Schooling has always been key to the assimilation and domestication agenda. (Read Paulo Freire’s excellent critique of what he calls the “banking model” of schooling in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In fact, it may be time to revisit his contemporary Ivan Illich’s ideas in his book, Deschooling Society.) Schooling is based fundamentally on removing children from their families, albeit temporarily, but for large and recurring chunks of time. (See award-winning educator John Taylor Gatto’s book, A Different Kind of Teacher for some great insights into how this all works.) Because most of us have been effectively tamed through schooling, it should come as no surprise that many of us timidly and obediently accept this process as a social good, even as a necessity. But given the emerging social and political crisis facing the United States, it’s time we ask ourselves: At what cost do we willingly submit our children to domesticating education?

We are currently living through a terrible period of scapegoating, demonizing, and dehumanizing particular communities, exacerbated but not caused by the current occupant of the White House. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, and the complexion of the nation’s youth generation grows darker with each passing decade, we are being encouraged, mainly through corporate media propaganda, to buy into an “us versus them” mentality. Some of our neighbors, friends, and family members are being labeled as undesirable and treated as expendable. That is unacceptable, and we must resist all efforts to pit us against each other.

Recognize how we are being conditioned and desensitized in order for the state to take steps to further contain and control the burgeoning brown youth generation through a  strategy of divide and conquer. Recognize how they are trying to break our spirits. But before we give in to sheer exhaustion, and before we give up in utter despondency, we must ask ourselves: How do we want history–and future generations–to judge our response to the current manufactured crisis?

Wake up from the desensitization! We have become too desensitized to the ongoing trauma of separating children from their families. We have been conditioned to think of it as normal. For example, most Americans accept sending our own children off to school, where they are taught by strangers, away from the watchful, loving eyes of parents and grandparents. We act as if rounding up the young and segregating them away from adult society is somehow “natural.” We force kids indoors for hours at a time, away from nature, in buildings that look and often feel like prisons, grouped unnaturally by age or “grade,” and we call that education. Then we wonder why so many kids hate school.

We tolerate other professional interventions into family life, for example, by social workers and other authorities. We allow them to physically remove children from any families they decide are unfit. We tolerate the psychic violence done by adoption agencies both at home and abroad, and their unethical trade in children. We make it seem normal and acceptable for a so-called “birth mother” to walk away from her child. We accept as a good thing the transnational movement of children from one “unfit” family to another “approved” family. We tolerate the breakup of largely disenfranchised, struggling families, often impacted by poverty. By accepting as legitimate the global institution of adoption, we tacitly endorse the wholesale destruction of families and communities, and render “birth parents” and other biological relatives largely invisible and powerless.

On top of that, we tolerate the mass incarceration of youth who, in past times, would not have been tried as adults or treated as criminals, but would have been forgiven their youthful mistakes, and probably given a second chance. We have become so desensitized, over the years, that we now accept without thinking that the “best interests of the child” are served by allowing self-appointed authorities to remove children and send them to live away from their families—behind bars, in detention centers, in group homes, in psych wards, in foster homes, or simply spending their days away at school. And now, we watch incredulously as frightened, already traumatized refugee kids are being corralled into kennels and tent cities along the U.S./Mexican border. I can’t help but ask, what would Jesus say?

When you step back and understand U.S. history from the vantage point of child removal, you begin to see the pattern. My writing partner, Jason Irizarry, and I have written elsewhere about the “ideology of containment” as a pattern throughout the history of schooling in the U.S.A. It’s all part of a corrupt continuum that shores up the white nation state’s apparatus for the surveillance and containment of young black and brown bodies.

From the harshest extreme of genocide and brutal slavery to mass incarceration, techniques of hyper policing, mandatory schooling, the coercion that underlies the foster care and adoption industry, to private prisons, youth detention centers, and other institutionalization processes, the elites who govern the white settler nation state are hell-bent on maintaining their power over an increasingly diverse (meaning browner and browner) youthful populace, by any means necessary.

I believe that our children are not expendable. On the contrary, I believe they are sacred. If we are serious about liberation and social justice, especially for young people of color, one of our tasks might be to answer, as honestly as we can, a few critical questions. I would suggest that these are important questions for all of us, but especially for white family members and adult allies who care about creating a multiracial society oriented towards justice and social harmony:

(1) In order to wrest our children’s freedom from the grip of institutionalized authority and the tyranny of experts who have the power to disrupt and displace families, to which communities must we remain especially loyal?

(2) Regardless of our academic fields, jobs, and/or civic engagements, in whose interests primarily should we work? Whom do we serve?

(3) Which structures and institutions need to be abolished–literally–in order for our children to go free?

(4) Lastly, before we can act as effective allies to the young, how do we begin to deinstitutionalize and decolonize our own minds?

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 “ … for I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’

“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ “

Matthew 25

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.

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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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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:

adoption-quote

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.