Thoughts on #nationaladoptionmonth

It’s a week into November, and on several of the online communities I am a part of, #nationaladoptionmonth has been trending. I remember learning about this month several years ago under the Obama Administration, and now I am reminded it again under the Trump Administration. This is the first year I have ever read the proclamation from the Executive Branch, and I take issue with several statements that have been made.

First, I would like to discuss how Trump views Adoption.

 

 “My Administration recognizes the profound importance of adoption for the American family. Adoption is a life-changing and life-affirming act that signals that no child in America — born or unborn — is unwanted or unloved.”

 

Adoption is indeed a life-changing commitment. However, I am unsure if it is particularly life-affirming. In the past few months alone, there have been reports of children that have been killed or severely neglected by their adoptive parents. Adoption does not always promise a better life, but it promises a different life. I recognize that I use international adoption as an example, and I recognize that I am an international adoptee. My experiences do not apply to “no child in America,” yet here I am due to the (un)fortunate experiences of globalization and the adoption industry. This removal provides me a particular insight on adoption in how Trump discusses that no child is unwanted or unloved.

 

Earlier this year, Trump decisively declared a crackdown on immigration and the deportation of anyone who came to the United States undocumented. However, it is incredibly important to note that most of the undocumented immigrants that are residing in the United States were here legally at one point. Some were seeking asylum, refugees from wars that the United States participated in, or simply students. Language barriers, lack of support and opportunity, and just general hassle of complicated bureaucratic systems can prevent individuals from attaining legal status.

Many children that are in the system are not unloved or unwanted. They are part of families that are systematically discriminated against and oppressed. Yes, there are circumstances in which biological families relinquish children or horrendous parenting misdeeds, but those are not the only reasons how a child ends up in in the System. For example, before the sudden complete repeal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, Tump stated that DREAMers could stay, but their parents had to go. This is at the core root of how to separate a child from their family. These children are not unwanted or unloved, but they would be placed in a system

Trump later states in the proclamation:

“We must continue to remove barriers to adoption whenever we can so that the love and care of prospective adoptive parents can be directed to children waiting for their permanent homes. This year’s National Adoption Month, we focus on our commitment to helping older youth experience the transformative value of permanency and love.”

He’s right. Adopting older youth and providing the care and value of permanency of love is great if that was the only thing that mattered in an adoption. Speaking as someone who was adopted as an infant and has no history of my past, I still struggle with the value of permanency. If you add documentation into the mix, legal separation from a family you’ve known your entire life, and more…I can only imagine the trauma that may come from it. Older children that are waiting on permeant homes are not always orphans or in desperate need of loving supportive parental figures. They’re in desperate need of the family that was just deported.

The irony of this all is that Adoption is usually celebrated in a way that brings people together. It’s supposed to build families and have happy endings. But adoption does not always end like that. Adoption, more often than not, means the breaking of another family. There are several policies across the Trump administration that contributes to this. Cutting of family planning resources like planned parenthood, the deportation of undocumented immigrants, and so much more tears apart families more often than bring them together. The stigma of adoption still lingers. The prioritization of biological families still reigns supreme. It is not so simple to just say, let us adopt more youth. There is a shame if you cannot take care of the family you create.

Look, I’m not sure what the right answers are when it comes to a lot of these things. I do not have the educational background or the experience to say what is wrong and what is right. Nor do I think that this is an attack on Trump. Under President Obama, there were more deportations than any other President of the United States in modern history. There is a failure to address the deportation of international adoptees under both administrations. Adoption is a particularly hard subject for a lot of people. I am not pro-adoption nor am I particularly anti-adoption. I just think we need to begin to have an honest conversation about adoption in this country and around the world. Adoption ties into so many other factors and is the result of many poorly planned policies that do not always have the desired impact. We need to support young parents who decide to keep children; we need to be able to have realistic sex education for everything (inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community), we need to have better school systems, we need to acknowledge that adoption is not a solution.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I do come from the perspective of an international Chinese adoptee who has had both an incredibly positive and negative experience with adoption. I know I cannot separate my personal feelings when speaking on this topic, but I do not see that as any less deserving of consideration. I urge us to dive deeper into this topic and recognize that yes, adoption can be an amazing and beautiful thing, but it is also an indication of things that are much more insidious going on within a country.

A Letter to my mom

I spent a long time thinking about this topic, how to approach it, and how to write about it. I worried about whether or not I would offend people, or if what I am saying makes sense. In the end, the only relationship and experience I can write about is between my mother and I. I hope that this letter can help people, particularly white Americans with children of color, understand more about how one transnational, transracial, Chinese American adoptee feels about the state of our nation.

__________________________

Dear Mom,

We just finished our conversation about Charlottesville, and it was a lot. Speaking about race with you can be exhausting and even a waste of time. It can be frustrating, especially when you tell me that I shouldn’t get mad. But, how can I not? How can I not be angry and hurt and betrayed when there are white supremacists that walk through the streets telling me that my life does not matter. How can I not fear for my life when there are men and women who say that I do not belong in their America when I did not come here by choice? How do I say that another white person is who brought me to their America? You brought me here.

You tell me it’s better to pick and choose my battles, and that people will not listen to me when I am angry. This is probably true. As a woman, as an Asian American woman, my voice will often go unheard more often than yours. This is why I need you to speak up for me. I need you to take up some of the battles for me. And sometimes, you have. When I was younger, you told me a story about how when you went to church with me when I was a baby; a pastor had said the word “Gook.” You told me how that shook you to your core. You said that in church, it was one of the only spaces you felt you could let your guard down. You told me that space was violated. A few weeks later, you interrupted a church meeting, with all white men, and said that you had gotten a pastor a present. That present was a dictionary, and you told him that he should learn better words and that he should be ashamed.

When I brought this up, you looked ssurprizedthat I remembered. I also remembered how a few months ago, you told your older friends that they shouldn’t say Indians, but rather Native Americans. It is moments like these, that means the most to me. It is moments like these, which are what make me proud most proud of you. However, there are also moments when I am ashamed. You will make comments, intentionally or not, that are often racist.

One thing that has affected me my entire life has been your comments about the color of my skin. You would joke and say, “you look like you have been working in the rice paddy fields all day.” You would tell me that you ruined my skin and that I used to be a cream color. When I came home for the first time after my semester in the North East, you had commented how light I had gotten. You expressed happiness, but I thought that I looked sick. I didn’t believe that I radiated the way I did when I was out in the sun.

Having you, a white American whose ancestry reaches back to the American Revolution, as my mom has taught me a lot of things, and I know that I have shown you a lot of things. You now listen to what I have to say and take into consideration about the world around us. You use the correct pronouns for my friends, and you catch yourself when you’re about to say something homophobic. I don’t expect you to march in the streets. But I do expect you to talk to your friends. I expect you not only stand up for me; I expect you to stand up to any form of bigotry. I love you, and you are my hero in so many ways. Probably in more ways than I have ever articulated to you, but this does not mean I cannot be critical of you as you are critical of me. You are my mom, and you will always be my mom. Do better. Be better.

 

Love,
Your radical little girl

Politicization of Death

Funerals are for the living, never for the dead. I learned this at a young age, but I’m not sure if I actually understood it until this past year. I went to the funeral yesterday because I needed space to mourn. I needed space to mourn the countless unnoticed adoptees, and I needed a space to mourn for myself. As someone who has gotten quite used to the idea of asking is my life worth living, and as someone who is still terrified of the stigma surrounding mental illness, I feel like this has to be said. If I were to ever act on my ideation of suicide, please never politicize my death. Please never have cameras or reporters at a funeral. Do not use my death to further an agenda one way or another. Suicide and the decision to take one’s life is tragic, heartbreaking, but ultimately something that is caused by a multitude of factors and cannot be blamed on one single thing.

The politicization of death has become very common in recent years, especially with the advent of social media. Whether they become hashtags or used as examples for people to take action, I question the purpose of using names as taglines. I understand the significance of remembering names and not being forgotten but do we truly want to remember individuals in a moment, rather than who they were? I feel like I’m at an impasse. On the one hand, I think it’s so important that people are made aware of these events and that policy does move forward and provide the necessary services. I believe that adoption agencies should be held accountable and not treat adult adoptees as a burden when they have used our bodies to make a profit. People think of adoptees as babies, sometimes children, but they never realize that we grow up. Holt and every adoption agency have a responsibility to ensure that they children they place are placed in good homes and fight for adoptee rights, like ensuring that adoptees adopted pre-2000 are guaranteed citizenship and fight for the undocumented adults that were sent back to their countries of birth to return. The list can go on and on and on and on. However, Holt is not the only institutions to blame. There are other instances of people and organizations and government agencies to intervene. To blame one organization ignores all of the others that should be held accountable as well.

It pains me to know that we have to use people’s stories to push for these changes to happen. We have to politicize a death of a man or the death of anyone in order for our words to be heard. Not even heard. They’re used in exploitative ways for spectators, validation, views, and so many other things. We are all responsible for how a story is produced and consumed. We are all responsible for how we remember.

I hesitate to send this out into the world. I hesitate because I’m afraid it can be polarizing. I hesitate because it’s generally what I do when it comes to my thoughts and opinions. The politicization of death is how we get people to care, I just wish it never needs to come that far. And even then, whose death actually matters? Does it matter how the life ended? Does it matter if that life was a productive force within our society for it to matter? How many bodies do we need to have for people to care? Do we even need to have people care about these things before we change systems that are inherently wrong and destructive?

Today I went to a Funeral

Content Note: Suicide

Never in my life would I have ever predicted that I would attend a funeral in Korea. Yet, here I am writing about going to a funeral today that I have nowhere to begin. My heart aches and I feel like I have so much to say, but I’m just so emotionally drained at this point to even write it coherently. I went to an adoptee’s funeral. In the past month alone, six adoptees have taken their lives, one of which was Phillip Clay, a Korean American adoptee. He was deported in 2012 due to his undocumented status. It is important to note that all research shows that adoptees are overrepresented in statistics on mental health issues and suicide. This was not an isolated incident nor the last one. My heart aches because this community is so invisible. We are invisible because we are Asian, we are invisible because we are adopted, and some of us are invisible because we are undocumented. In times like these, I feel truly lost. I will write more on the topic and the responsibilities of adoption agencies in regards to post-adoption services and the speculative nature that funerals have become and the policing who is able to mourn,  but right now I just need to process. 

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Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
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Adoptee Rights Campaign
http://adopteerightscampaign.org/aca/

Calling out Online Publications

I originally thought that I was going to post about South Korea on my post, instead, I’m going to post a think piece I wrote last night instead of sleeping before my trip. I submitted it to the Huffington Post, so we’ll see how that goes.

Where are the Asian Voices in the Huffington Post?

The past two years have been incredible for Asian Pacific Americans in regards to visibility. Now, more than ever, mainstream media has finally picked up on the discussions the community has been having for years. Whether it is white washing in Hollywood films, discussing the model minority myth, talking about hate crimes, or the murders of Muslim Americans and South Asian Americans, our voices are finally being heard, or are they?

The month of May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month, and usually, in my experience, it is rather lack luster. In fact, I didn’t even know that the Asian Pacific American community had a month until two years ago. To my surprise, when I opened my Spotify, they had created a page featuring music or curated playlists by Asian and Asian American artists. Looking through the playlists, I felt something that I cannot quite label yet; however, it is a feeling that I did not realize that I needed.
A few days ago, I saw an article circulating amongst some of my Asian friends on Facebook about how Asian Americans have the highest poverty rate in New York City, published by The Huffington Post. When I clicked the link, I noticed that the aesthetic had changed from since the last time I looked at the website, so I decided to take a look around. On the drop down menu, you have a ton of different categories to choose. One that piqued my interest wasScreen Shot 2017-05-10 at 12.01.54 PM.png Voices. Within Voices, are a list of subcategories of groups, with links to pages that have various articles that have been cross-listed in one spot. It includes Black Voices, Women, Queer Voices, Latino Voices, Fifty, and Parents. Nowhere in this category lists Asian voices. In fact, Asian Screen Shot 2017-05-10 at 12.02.01 PMvoices are not even listed anywhere on the navigation tool. Disgruntled, I was going to write this article to explain why there should be an Asian Voices page—it’s not like we don’t have activists, culture critics, and other means of expression. Ironically, all of the links above are articles directly from the Huffington post, and there are plenty more, so where is our page?

Funny enough, when I googled “Asian American Huffington post” to find articles to prove my point, I stumbled across an article explaining how the Huffington post acknowledges that there is a lack of space on the internet for Asian voices, so they created one. I was pleased to know that it existed, but then I questioned: If there’s a page that was established (in January of 2017), why is it not featured in the navigation menu? Part of me thought that maybe it was because the Huffington Post doesn’t have an active Asian reading population and they’re waiting for it to build. But, then I investigated more and discovered that their Facebook community, Brazen Asians, has over 15,000 followers.

My question remains: Where are the Asian voices in the Huffington Post? They publish countless articles about how the Model Minority erases the issues facing the Asian American community and other issues that render the community invisible, yet they have rendered the community even further by not featuring Asian Voices in their navigation bar. Am I petty? Perhaps. But, even the tiniest of slights can build and contribute to largersocietal issues.