Were your adoptive parents racists?

If so, what gave you that impression?  How did you deal with it? Were other family members (grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings,…) racists?”

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9 thoughts on “Were your adoptive parents racists?

  1. Malcolm X, in his book The End of White World Supremacy, says:

    The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the “smiling” fox.

    I post this quote because I think that, reflecting on the writings of X, Fanon, Memmi, Said, etc. on various aspects of racism, the discussion within adoption shows up something very interesting, in that the approach to racism in and of itself reflects the discourse it comes from.

    By this I mean to say that within the dominant discourse, itself focused on individualism and a binary view of the world, racism is seen as something that is of a person: One is racist, or one isn’t. Archie Bunker is a racist; Meathead isn’t (no one stops to think that the whole premise of the show in its tokenism is in and of itself racist). On the literally Other side, communal and collective in nature, racism is seen as something of a culture, with manifestations of that showing up in greater or lesser degrees in greater or lesser proportions of the population.

    I like Malcolm X’s quote because it warns us not to be complacent in what is seemingly not racist (I would include the election of a “black” president in this category, but that’s another discussion). Such that we are often told that by virtue of adopting a child from a different race our adoptive parents cannot possibly be racist.

    I now believe the exact opposite is true. I believe that my adoptive father’s greatest concern right now is that somehow I am “reverting to form”, than I am rejecting his Americanization of me. Growing up, as we have discussed elsewhere, I have listened to hundreds and hundreds of racist statements made both within the family and without, and I tend to go with the idea that Anglo-Saxon culture is, in and of itself, a racist culture. There is no escaping this basic fact. But I want to take a step back and say that adoption, in and of itself, in the subjection of an abject population, is ultimately and in the end an act of racist violence. This has to be the starting point of the discussion.

  2. I wouldn’t say my parents were racist (I feel that is too strong of a word and I think of hatred when I think of a racist). I would definitely say they were ignorant! My parents were born in 1930s so they were a product of their environment. My grandfather was born January 1900! When I looked at an old photo of my mom in grade school they had some kind of school function where the white kids had black paint on their faces. I thought that was interesting. I also thought it was interesting when my ‘family’ was looking at the photo and nobody mentioned what a RACIST thing to do! As if it was normal. I am 39 years old so you can imagine how their old way of thinking was for me growing up. I don’t think my grandparents ever truly acknowledge me or my sister (Korean adopted) unlike they did my white brothers. They just didn’t feel the need to acknowledge us as part of the family or feel like they should show any love or nurturing. My mom would often say “I love you but it doesn’t mean that I have to like you”. They did show us ‘tolerance’ but ‘tolerance’ sucks. It means, ‘I hate you but I’ll put up with you’. My dad remembers as a kid not wanting to be last when the kids raced because you didn’t want to be called ‘niggertoes’….When I ask him about it now he says that is just what they said ‘back in the day’ and it would make him run like hell because he didn’t want to be last! (He is 80 years old and does not run at all now!) He lives with my sister and is the minority in the neighborhood. Talk about Karma! ADOPTION is a catch 22….I am not thrilled to have been adopted because of the lack of love from my adopted mom but then I am happy I am adopted because I didn’t pick up any DNA from her either! I think the elderly racist are dying out….for the betterment of the UNITED STATES! The old antiquated ways of thinking are going too! As far as adopting outside of your race… I would not recommend it, I am always for the birthmother keeping her child…but I think Adoptees are strong and hopefully grow up with LOVE and a mind of their own! Adoptees should think on their own and not pick up on their AP thought patterns unless their AP are trully living an example of LOVE, Unconditional LOVE! That includes adopting ‘not out of their selfish need for themselves to have a child’ but rather because they actually care for the child and the child is TRULLY an orphan, which means death certificates of the birthparents….

    • Personally, I think we’re all racists to various degrees: it is a natural human tendency to categorize and is part of our survival instinct to feel suspicious of those who are others and obviously not part of our known tribe.

      Part of the problem of transracial adoption is the denial of this aspect of our human nature. This is where qualifiers such as, “like my own” or “as if s/he was my own” etc. in reference to adopted children becomes so ironic. When the adoption is transracial, the obviousness is ludicrous: clearly, this child is not natural offspring. Clearly, the child as other will elicit responses from everyone who does not match the child’s appearance, and this includes the adopting parents who must constantly check (hopefully) and monitor their own response and defend their decision to adopt an one of those. A tiresome state of being, especially for the child: A state of being that is omnipresent.

      My parents did a good job in diminishing the fact of my otherness, at the expense of connecting me superficially (’cause really, that’s the only thing that is possible) to my racial/cultural birthright/identification. Other parents took the opposite tactic and were hyper-vigilant in exhausting all racial connections for their child. Both tactics danced around the fact that everyone was acutely aware that the child’s race was an issue that can’t really be resolved outside of a same race-full environment.

      A color blind world was, for my parents, a theory they tried to test. Colonial mind-set Christian charity aside, I believe in their minds they were enamored with the idea that they could be above this natural tendency. And so to validate their lack of ignorance, they not only quashed any recognition of my race but also made sure to illustrate, whenever there was an opportunity, how they were racially tolerant. In many ways, one of the benefits of adopting me was to purify them of racism – my presence would be a constant reminder of the non-racists they were striving to be.

      I commend them for their efforts to be less racist and I’m not sure what came first, this effort or transracial adoption, but I do think many of us transracial adoptees feel like an exercise in some liberal experiment gone awry. A lot of complicated reasons go into adopting, and this desire to become more racially liberal is a common one. As a racist myself, I am content to try and connect to other races & their cultures by meeting them and learning from them, instead of co-opting them literally.

      In reality, race was often on their minds and they probably censored themselves a lot, but their natural racism had a way of manifesting itself, which is understandable in that they were the products of a racist environment, from their own upbringing to the area in which we lived.

      I won’t go into the many examples of this, but I will say they were proud of adopting someone not of their race. I see/hear this same pride in transracially adopting parents today. I see/read articles for parents & books for adopted children trying to promote this pride and pass off the children’s otherness as being special because we were chosen. And I marvel at all the effort while they concurrently claim there is no race problem. And, as a once adopted child I know how suspect all the extra hoo-ha is. It indicates an uneasiness or subtle paranoia on the parent’s part, a suspicion that we adoptees can tell that our parents see our difference too, lie, and tell us they don’t, or that it doesn’t matter when it does, or that we know that this is a kind of special we wish we didn’t have to deal with.

      Adoptive parents have told me, “gosh, we can’t win for losing.”

      And to that I have no comment.

  3. I agree that ‘racist’ is a very strong and negative word to describe members of my family, but if I am honest I would have to say that indeed I grew up in a racist home.

    When I was in high school, I wanted to go to a formal dance with the only African-American in the school. Being only one of a few minorities, I guess we hit it off. When I was heading out for the night my dad cautioned me to be careful not to get serious about dating this boy because he was black. I was confused. I asked him what he meant. My dad explained that he thought I should date someone like me…. My retort was “Well, in that case, I should only date other Koreans…”. He was a bit dumbfounded at my response because he had come to think of me as ‘white’.

    My extended family also pushed the Asian stereotype on me that because I wasn’t white I would be the most successful person in the family and would remind me that I should never forget my family – ie when I make a lot of money, I should remember them when they need handouts…. The funny thing is that I am the most successful person on that side of the family and I have more money than they do, which is not saying much, and now I know enough to tell them to figure out their own lives!

    My grandfather was a WWII veteran who fought in the Pacific. He was always saying “Japs” and sometimes made comments about Asian people. I loved my grandpa to pieces, but I went through a period where I didn’t want to spend any time with him because he made me uncomfortable with his comments.

    While I appreciated that my family wanted to accept me as if I were “just like them” including being ‘white’, I would have more appreciated that they accepted me for being different and acknowledging that I wasn’t actually white and was never going to be….

  4. I am one of the few whites who was adopted by a black family, back in the late 70’s. My birth parents past away when I was a baby and i still was not talking when I was 2, so they thought I was retarded and I was considered unadoptable. my adoptive parents (thought they) couldn’t have children and they adopted me (they later had three boys of their own). I can’t speak for everyone, but my parents seemed to hate me. not sure if it was because I was white but it sure seemed like it.

    My brothers definitely hated me and i was abused by all three of them (in a bad way). and they called me names constantly and made me feel like dirt. my parents wanted nothing to do with me so when i turned 18 i moved in w/ my boyfirend and they have not been in contact with me since. I HATE TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION> HATE IT. HATE IT.

  5. I am signed in on AdoptionParadox. I rarely use this blog anymore since I usually just write over at my personal blog.

    I did want to speak up in regards to girl4708’s comment about parents who say “We love our child as if s/he were our own” and then when that child is an adult, asks about that child’s ethnicity/would-be mother tongue as if it is a cultural convenience.

    It’s like saying “Oh, you’re not really Asian because you’re our daughter” and then saying “Oh yeah, you’re Asian and you took classes, what language are these waitresses speaking?”

    A lot of it is a matter of cultural convenience.

  6. My mother’s family was quite racist I think. Apparently, when my brother and later I and my sister were adopted, they no longer came to visit the house or not nearly as often. I remember being excited to see them but they just seemed old and stone faced to me. Surely, my mother could see that. It was her oldest brother and less so her middle brother. Interestingly, my dad’s family from Minnesota- his sisters took a keen interest in us and always showed so much love through hugs and and birthday letters and overall acknowledgement. It was such a weird difference. Sometimes, I think my mom adopted us because she wanted to be as far from her family in terms of cultural ignorance, as possible. But then again, it is not always the case, but my dad’s sisters who were born in the 20s were well educated. One was an architect and the other had a Master’s in social work. His parents were also educated. I think that had something to do with it.

    • Ya, my parents are racist but i love them anyway. They are both in such deep denial about white privilege that they cant understand how their actions are hurtful.toward me. My whole life i put up with it. There is no real solution. Just deal with it

  7. There is a letter that my mom wrote to an orphanage that explicitly requests that the baby have no deformities, troubles and no black lineage, because that would look bad for the neighborhood. When I was brought home, they were so proud to contact the paper and be commended for adding diversity to the neighborhood. I was a mascot. I was told all the time as a kid that I could be sent back to where I came from at the drop of a hat if I didn’t agree with them, or sang or danced, or asked not to be hit so much. They told me I should get down upon my knees and thank them for what they did for me, and I don’t deserve to even be here. My dad tried to get me to lick my moms feet once and praise her for being perfect, and I punched his balls with the blunt end of a hammer instead.

    My parents say Ching Ching you look Chinee and tell people that I am their slave because I make washee da dishee. If they need help carrying something heavy, and the neighbors see and want to help, they tell the neighbors that they got a Mexican, so they’ll always have someone to do the hard labor around the house. They tell me not to dance because that’s what black people do. To them, Black people do not exist for any reason except to be pitied and as a model to show what never to be, or want to be. Do not smile, because I don’t deserve it.

    My dad likes to tell people that he thought it was cute when people would tell me when I was little that they didn’t know Mexicans can paint. They tell me not to speak Spanish because people will think I’m poor. If I sing in Spanish, I must be insulting them. I know German, French and Russian instead. My dad says to never have a tattoo, because tattoos are for counting people in Auschwitz before they die. My mom says to not tell people that I’m Native American. If I really have to mention race, I should call myself Hispanic, because that means White From Spain. I’m not to bring tacos or burritos home, but I can bring takeout Chinese food. My brother, ( adopted parents biological son) hates Mexicans and will not touch them. He married one because he believes he’s at an age where he must be married, and he didn’t hate this one too much. She smiles enough and shuts up. She has nothing to say. She does what he says and nothing more. He has told her family that he will not hug them because he is white, and whites don’t do that. I love myself, because I am not truly part of this family.

    They are so damaged, that I had to grow up all on my own, and teach myself morals, despite having adopted parents around me. Adoption is so damaging and alienating. A child of a different race should never be the first contact of another culture that the new parents have. I do not love them. I Have never loved them, nor do I pretend to or act like I do. I will help them, because they are people, but there is no life, no love in them.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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