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The Case Against Transracial Adoption

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  • Sunny Jo
    http://www.eurasiannation.com/generic196.html The Case Against Transracial Adoption By Stephanie Cho and Kim So Yung June 2003 Stephanie Cho and Kim So Yung
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2003
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      http://www.eurasiannation.com/generic196.html

      The Case Against Transracial Adoption

      By Stephanie Cho and Kim So Yung

      June 2003

      Stephanie Cho and Kim So Yung are co-founders of Transracial
      Abductees, an organization that works to educate transracial adoptees
      and communities of color and expose the unequal power between the
      white adoption industry and children of color adoptees. They choose
      the word "abduction" to describe how the adoption industry forcibly
      removes children of color from their families and communities and
      assimilates them into their new white families and society.

      In this article, they reflect on their experiences growing up in the
      Northwest United States, when they started thinking about racism and
      adoption, and how they became political about it.

      Stephanie: Sometimes my memories are pictures that are revisited. I
      can't remember if it is a picture I saw when I was younger or if it
      is really my own memory but I think I first noticed racism when I met
      my white family. There have been arguments made that racism happens
      when contact between white and colored meet. This might have been
      true for me.

      When I first came here, my mom used to say I was so small I looked
      like a "china doll". She meant that as a term of endearment but I
      would describe it now as racism.

      Knowing that I was adopted and recognizing racism happened at the
      same time for me. People acknowledging the fact that I was adopted
      was also acknowledging that I was a person of color. This would
      usually result in someone saying I looked like a "china doll" or
      saying something about my imported status, like when did you get her
      like I was just shipped and delivered onsite (which I was).

      I started becoming political when I came out as queer. Queer people
      are all about identity issues and from that I re-identified and
      basically reclaimed me back. I used to work on people of color issues
      without really working on transracial adoption issues. Like my
      assimilation taught me, transracial adoption is not a people of color
      issue. I know now, centrally, my adoption is one of the major reasons
      I organize around people of color issues and that even my queer
      identity is centered around my transracial adoption identity. I know
      other adoptees that work in the people of color movement but don't
      work in the transracial abductee movement. I think that will start to
      change in the next 5-10 years, but for now it is matter of doing some
      strong political education with other people of color organizations.
      They need to learn to be good allies of transracial adoptees that
      work in their movement and learn to support them as a moving force in
      the people of color movement because transracial adoption is a people
      of color issue.

      So Yung: I always knew I was adopted because of the obvious
      difference in looks between my white adoptive parents and me. My
      parents always tried to downplay it, and teach me that I was no
      different from anyone else, meaning that I was "as good as white."
      All the time I was growing up, I wasn't allowed to question my
      parents' definition of what my being a Korean adoptee meant. I wasn't
      allowed to explore Korean culture or ask questions about the war in
      Korea. I especially wasn't allowed to talk about racism.

      I always felt a certain sting when my family or people we met would
      say something racist. They would talk about how beautiful and exotic
      I was. My mom would always coo over my "rosebud lips." My friends
      would express jealousy over my "silky straight hair" and "smooth,
      clear skin." They would always want my hair and acne-free skin, but
      never my skin color or my "Chinese" eyes.

      When I was around middle school age I began to name the racism I felt
      happening. That was quickly squashed by my parents, who used physical
      punishment to keep my brother, also a Korean adoptee, and me from
      "accusing" people of racism. During that brief period of rebellion,
      my brother and I actually talked about how people in our family,
      school, and whole town were racist, and would make a point of calling
      each other by our Korean names. But we were totally dependent on our
      parents. We were very isolated in a small, white town. Everything
      around us taught us that we shouldn't criticize our parents; they
      weren't open to having their views and choices questioned. I became
      really focused on school and grades. I lived in my head a lot,
      reading constantly and being a perfect student. Looking back, it
      seems like I turned the part of me that was critical off. I had to
      wait until it was safer to have those kinds of thoughts.

      It was when I had been living away from my parents for about two
      years, and had started to organize against racism at the university I
      was attending, that I began exploring those questions I had about
      racism and transracial adoption again. I think it took organizing
      around more general people of color issues for me to realize the
      political impact of coming out as a transracial adoptee to other
      people of color, and as a person of color to my adoptive family. That
      may sound strange, but it's exactly what I mean. I tried to assert
      myself as a person of color with a person of color consciousness to
      my white family, and to this day I don't think any of them really
      gets it; they still reassure me that I'm 'just like their real
      daughter,' and that they don't see a difference "whether someone's
      black, red, green, or purple."
      Trying to politicize the transracial adoption issue in general is a
      similar struggle. People aren't used to thinking of transracial
      adoptees as people of color, and really haven't been taught to view
      transracial adoption as a political issue. There's a lot of wrong
      information and stereotypes about transracial adoptees out there.
      We're especially interested in reframing transracial adoption as an
      issue that affects all communities of color. That's going to involve
      breaking down some of the barriers that transracial adoption sets up
      between adoptees and other people of color.

      Our Vision for Transracial Abductees

      We like that Transracial Abductees is an activist organization made
      up of transracial adoptees who are angry and critical and will
      continue to push people's thinking about transracial adoption and
      people of color issues in general. Stephanie is a paid community
      organizer working on low-income issues and thinks it is a great job,
      but the issues are mainstreamed liberal issues. Transracial
      Abductees, on the other hand, can be more outspoken and direct about
      our views on the adoption industry.

      We envision the organization as an outlet and movement starting
      organization that mostly focuses on political education for the time
      being and later organizes transracial adoptees on local, national,
      and international legislation and has deprogramming camps all over
      the world.

      Building a Transracial Abductee Movement

      There are rumblings of a transracial abductee movement just beginning
      to surface. The very structure of transracial adoption is based on
      assimilating to white American society, and mainstream transracial
      and international adoptee organizations continue to exist within this
      structure. Many adoptees are isolated from communities of color. To
      organize and pretty much reverse that assimilation process is a
      serious battle. Also, because racism has changed and evolved into new
      and more sophisticated forms, this has had major impact on the white
      people who choose to adopt children of color. Now, transracial
      adoption is viewed as the ultimate form of cultural competency that
      puts whites on the road to becoming worldly anti-racist people. Many
      choose to adopt children of color, not just because of the "save the
      needy" aspect, but for their own social gain and legitimacy in the
      world of people of color.

      A movement around transracial adoption that is critical of the
      adoption industry is beginning to shape itself in really creative
      ways. Our website is one example and there are numerous groups
      forming in bigger cities.

      In 5 years, we would like to see that the transracial abductee
      movement has become a movement and that there are many transracial
      adoptees actively organizing in their communities.

      In 10 years, there will probably be a mainstream organization that
      works on transracial adoptee/abductee issues that is centralized in a
      major city. Hopefully, there will be a faction of the organization
      that stays pretty angry and more militant. In ten years, the isolated
      pockets of abductees that exist now will be much more connected and
      will really be able to mobilize adoptees on a larger scale.


      About the Author
      Stephanie Cho and Kim So Yung are co-founders of Transracial
      Abductees, an organization that works to educate transracial adoptees
      and communities of color and expose the unequal power between the
      white adoption industry and children of color adoptees. They choose
      the word "abduction" to describe how the adoption industry forcibly
      removes children of color from their families and communities and
      assimilates them into their new white families and society.
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