Do you think transracial adoption is easier on the adoptee when at least one of the AP is from the same racial background?

I have been reading your blog with some interest as myself (British) and my husband (Indonesian) are just starting the process of adopting. We plan to adopt in my husband’s home country of Indonesia and plan on living there for the foreseeable future.

So my question is as adoptees do you think you would have found it easier if at least one of your parents was from the same racial background as you? Also would being allowed to grow up surrounded by your birth nation’s culture and language (I am also fluent in Indonesian) have benefited/helped you?

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6 thoughts on “Do you think transracial adoption is easier on the adoptee when at least one of the AP is from the same racial background?

  1. When I first read this, I had all kinds of responses. But on my second reading, I am saying to myself, “um, duh…”

    Of course it’s better your family reflect your race and be raised in your birth culture so you get an authentic understanding vs. just a caricature.

    Ut oh. More responses popping up. The whole notion of “starting the process of adopting” as a remote exercise really makes my skin crawl. The whole match-making process is just all f**ked up. (excuse my language, but I feel strongly about this) It’s still essentially a sight-unseen, divorced of relationship process where child to be “saved” is a blank slate to be molded entirely by the adopting parents. The child is merely a concept available for purchase, interchangeable with any other child that completes the picture of family which completes the adopter and will allow them to feel successful and meaningful.

    Why don’t you move to Indonesia first? Learn about Indonesian class and social structure. Find out more about how these children come to be orphans. Get to know these children personally. And then, then if one of these children falls in love with you, become permanent residents, and adopt domestically while working to make a world where no child becomes orphaned in the first place.

    I realize those aware of their privilege believe adoption is a wonderful thing they can do to help, but it isn’t wonderful if it perpetuates a supply and demand vacuum. The idea of saving needs to be expanded to include empowering women, saving families, strengthening communities, and eliminating the creation of orphans for world markets.

  2. I agree completely, and would only add that the question is so loaded, reflective of this belief that adoption is a valid and beneficent act, that it is hard to reply without turning the question around.

    But first, the ugly facts:

    http://www.brandeis.edu/investigate/adoption/indonesia.html

    Second, historically speaking, Indonesia reminds me of Chile and adoptions from there (well, for that matter, any country given the “Shock Doctrine” treatment) in that a popular leader was assassinated and a dictator put in place, with a million deaths following in a purge of the political left-wing.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/aug/01/indonesia.comment

    So again, the class of people who benefit from adoption is also the class of people who did more to create the problem in the first place than anyone else.

    Finally, what bothers me most about this question is that in exactly this way we are shifting attention away from the institution and personalizing it in a way that makes no logical sense.

    Would we ask a black slave: “Would it have been easier for you had your plantation owner been black as well?” This is not a facetious question; it is meant to point out the fact that the reductive view of culture from a First-World perspective is evident in the question itself. My home town in New Jersey had a large Lebanese community; based on what I know about where I am likely from, as well as where I currently live, I have little to nothing in common with them.

    Would it have been “easier” with them? Perhaps. But no less a lie for denial of this local aspect of culture. And no less painful were I to come back and find out the truth of my origins. This is not a valid view of culture, and instead shows up the globalizing erasure of local cultures that is also a function of immigration and assimilation.

    The injustice, class warfare, and taking advantage of a power differential doesn’t change simply because the parameters of race in the equation have changed.

  3. oh yes. I have always felt as a “matched” physically, class, and intellectual promise adoptee to my adoptive parents that I have it easier than transracial or transnational adoptees. I didn’t even lose a county. I am as classic of a domestic as can be.

    I think I have it tremendously easier than transracial adoptees. I even have been told I look more Scandinavian than my Scandinavian adoptive family. That is what freaks me out so much. It almost killed me and I am a tough bitch, and I had it “easy”

    Why would you want to be a party to that?

    You might counter by saying lots of adoptees do not report feeling like that, true, it takes a lot of courage to stand up against the system. A lot of adoptees are totally lost, some are dead. A lot of people from orphanages go on to have normal lives, people forget in the western world lots of normal people grew up in orphanages before WWII.

    Too many of us are too damaged by the inhumane practice of changing of identity. What kind of message does that send to a developing psyche? As an adoptee friend of mine in the pharma industry said, “If adoption was a drug, it would not be legal”

    There are lots of ways you can nurture others if your desire is to nurture that do not include ownership.

  4. I think Joy21 brings up a really interesting point. In the way she is positing it, TRAs have it easier because we know we don’t belong; it is obvious, and it is made obvious to us. The adoptee who doesn’t “stick out”, in contrast to this, would seem to make for a “perfect case”. Yet if we look at adoptees who are made aware of their adoption late in life, or adoptees from primarily white source countries such as Eastern Europe and Russia, we see a higher incidence of cognitive dissonance concerning this exactly because the feelings of “not belonging” don’t match the physical not belonging. I have often maintained that this, and not the supposed languishing in orphanages, is the cause of so-called Reactive Attachment Disorder, which to me is the natural resistance to the Lies of adoption writ large, and is a complete and total projection onto the child of the APs demand for bonding based on a purely physical appearance match.

    • On the one hand, I grew up feeling explicitly and literally like an alien from outer space. I used to vehemently denounce anyone who claimed any reality to UFO sightings, not because i refused to believe it, but because the hope that such hoaxes threatened me with was well nigh unbearable. On the other hand, when i hear about the “psychology of belonging” (from Sullivan) or Maslow’s fatuous pyramid of needs where security is the root of all else, I am wholly nonplussed and unconvinced, and this not because I have a secret longing for community (like a secret longing for being abducted by aliens) that I just can’t bear to see unfulfilled. I know people who quite literally “need community” and suffer for want of it, and I am decidedly not one such person. Because I have a mate, the notion of “security” has more urgency, because his continuance is wrapped up in our continuance, but I’ve lived in circumstances that many wouldn’t find secure and it wasn’t a salient issue; my attention wanted (and needed) other things.

      These two things are similar sides to the coin, I think. My definitive and absolute daily demonstration of not-belonging created a sense of, and thus a complete lack of dependence on, community–it’s unreal to me, an abstraction at best (like “the gay community”). It’s never been there for me, and I’m generally fine with that. I’m “alone in the world” and that’s nothing to weep over. Scary when the mobs show up, perhaps even inconveniently fatal when help is needed, but this also means I’m spared the drama and false obligations that community brings. It made me resilient and too inflexible; independent and too impermeable (these are just “positive” and “negative” sides of the same trait.)

      But on the third hand, I went to a conference full of freaks wearing furry tails and ears and everything else besides–people in adorable mascot costumes, etc. And though I dislike crowds, while I was standing amongst some 2000 people like this, I felt I was “home.” So had I found my community after all?

      Not exactly. I’d found somewhere not where I could belong but from which I was not excluded. (I’ll mention my alienation from humanity continues, though I still pursue relationship with humanity–in that I wear a 3′ long furry tail when I go out in public.) I have a long thing–you know it has to be long, of course–that goes with this distinction of being “not excluded” rather than “included”; the short difference is this: to be included, one must have certain characteristics that are desirable to include, whereas to be not-excluded is to be recognized as present, quite apart from whatever traits (good or bad) you might have. These are wildly different things, and standing amongst those 2000 other glorious weirdos, it was clear that none of them gave off any kind of vibe at all that suggested, “You shouldn’t be here.” The ego might be gratified when someone says, “We want you here,” but that comes with the downside of “We don’t want you here” (and empires that starve those who “don’t belong”) When I feel I am not-excluded (when I get no sense that anyone is implying “you shouldn’t be here”) that’s when I feel home. No one is “choosing” me (like my adoptive parents did); I’m being recognized as present merely by virtue of being present.

      So, this is all to further contextualize what Daniel is saying about the numinous awareness of “not belonging” and how consequences can play out from it, at least for one internal transracial adoptee.

  5. First, to the original poster, who may be long gone:

    I am ethnically white and was raised by a Hispanic man who aspired to be culturally (by class) white. I had a very severe sense of alienation growing up, so you might say that was because I didn’t have someone of a racially similar background; except that my adoptive mother is white. Your adopted child’s situation is going to very strongly resemble mine–a “mixed race couple” where the man seeks recognition in middle class/respectable terms? It’s different this much: he looks like the dominant norm, but the dominant norm don’t typically leave Indonesia and marry non-Indonesians, isn’t that so? I suspect I’m over-reading things due to a lack of enough information.

    To everyone else here:
    On the one hand, I don’t want to “merely add” to the reframing that the original poster offered, even if part of me wonders how closely one can have been following to “admit to this crowd” that you’re planning to adopt. But, just to be clear: it seems the poster is say she (British) and her husband (Indonesian) will be relocating to Indonesia and will adopt a child there.

    The things I notice I don’t know, which I’d feel were prerequisites to beginning to respond, would be: (1) what are the varieties of social function for adoption in Indonesia; (2) is the poster saying they will adopt a “white” Indonesian child or a non-white one; the implication (because she says she speaks Indonesian fluently) is that the kid will be “native Indonesia”; (3) and this is kind of related to (1), it seems like the family setting the child would be growing up in would be one where it’s his or her mother who is the “strange outsider,” which is a wrinkle on the usual scenario. Will (per the class rule) the mother end up acting “more Indonesian” than Indonesian women themselves in order to obtain the markers of class membership? How will that play out for her “adopted” child? What will it mean that Indonesia is her “adopted” country? My nascent understanding of all of this comes to a crashing halt before these questions.

    I do note this much: the poster assumes that because her husband is Indonesian (is he culturally Indonesian, or only Indonesian like the Lebanese people Daniel grew up with are/were Lebanese) there would be a similar racial background with an Indonesian child? I’m not sure there must necessarily be the similarity the poster assumes there would be.

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

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