Monday, July 03, 2006

Open Letter to Well-Meaning, Upper- Middle Class Families Considering Adoption


On the face of things, it makes perfect sense that you would want to adopt a child. As we all know, there are many children without parents, and they could all use good homes. If you can find it in your heart to forgo the old chestnut that biologically related children are better, then I'm sure that you would make a difference in a child's life and your own if you would adopt.

Here's the kicker, however. If you decide, as so many of you have, to adopt, must you go to an Asian country and claim a little girl? Apparently you must, as my own 4th of July weekend has been littered with examples of this practice. At Northeastern performance venues, ritzy suburban diners--everywhere I look, it seems, Caucasian families are out and about with their Asian daughters.

"But I'm saving her!" you say, "From a culture which discards girls!" "It's so much easier and faster to get a child from China/Vietnam/Cambodia* than in the U.S. (where you have to be so careful to make sure that they're not crack babies, etc.)." It's good of you to be so simultaneously altruistic and selfish; it might be useful here to research the kind of global economy you are participating in. While it MAY be true that culturally, the Chinese have not traditionally valued women in the same way as America (and here there are several scholarly arguments that insist on the recognizing the complexity of this kind of statement), currently China is on the brink of a girl-shortage. Likewise, U.S. baby trade in Vietnam is currently on hold due to several reports by biological mothers who insist that they did not give up their children willingly. In an era where the U.S. is being accused of global domination, this familial version of colonialism is a dangerous practice to engage in so enthusiastically.

Finally, I'd urge you to think VERY CAREFULLY about the possible, and more likely probable, events and reception that your child will receive. For example, when the little girl with the white family at the diner was playing, a woman at a nearby table remarked: "Look at the cute little Japanese girl!" Much like the daughter of my relative, who at 3, receives sets of plastic food to play house with, but the food happens to be sushi. The chances are good that your adopted daughter will often be looked at as an outsider, as many Asian Americans are. With you, however, she will not even be accepted by outsiders as a member of the family. In some ways, you will always mark her difference, rather than claiming her sameness. In essence, by adopting this child, you will be signing on for a lifetime of conversations about ethnic difference--ones with which you may have little to no lived experience or practice. (For a sense of what these might look like, check out Harlow's Monkey in the sidebar, and the webring of adoptee blogs). In short, telling your child that "people are ignorant" and/or "you're just like us" isn't going to cut it.

Finally, despite the current baby-craze in the U.S., please remember that your child is not an accessory--one who particularly matches your new wardrobe from Harajuku Lovers--nor does she instantiate your outstanding ethics or morals. I'm looking at you, Meg Ryan and Angelina Jolie. Yup, Brad's complicit too.

*Now, of course, the baby trade has also grown to encompass Western Asia (Russia, Belarusse, etc.).


Blogger Bryan Thao Worra said...

And if the above letter doesn't convince you, go ahead and head over to the onion's classic:

"My Adopted Daughter Is The Most Beautiful Child In The Third World

Fun post.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 3:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duh, ignorant satire ... oh, sorry, you believed it was real? (Snort!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 12:55:00 AM  

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