The Adopted & the Incarcerated

I simply wish to pose the question: what links of solidarity do you discern regarding prejudice against the adopted and the incarcerated?

By this, I do not intend to imply that a most adequate way to understand adoption occurs if we think about it in a metaphorical or literal way as a prison, though such a linkage may precisely disclose useful insights, &c. In the case of both adoption and prison, certain cultural interests desire to name and delimit the adoptee and the inmate in a particular way for their particular ends, &c; other links to other such “classified” individuals would illuminate this all the more. &c.

At the same time I welcome all such thoughts on this, I remain especially keen to hear specifically about the prejudice–the gut-level, garden-variety, everyday, in-the-grocery-checkout-lane visceral negative reaction–not simply experienced separately by the inmate and the adoptee but as shared in common between them.

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7 thoughts on “The Adopted & the Incarcerated

  1. You raise an intense correlation between adoption and institutionalization. It seems the origins of much of the resentment, distrust, lack of self-esteem and at times, and sadly in many cases, the motive for revenge, stems from the fact that we have been ‘institutionalized’ from birth – years before we have a voice.

    • In what ways do you see every day people discriminate in similar ways against adoptees and inmates (or formerly incarcerated people)?

  2. [Moved from the item “Adoption as House Arrest”]:

    There are three randomly connected ideas/facts that have come together for me in a rather disturbing way.

    First is a footnote from the conference paper I’m working on:

    As is often the single most common comment made when international adoption is discussed in online forums, the question arises: “Why not take care of American children first?” The fact that child poverty reaches levels of sixty percent in certain regions of the United States only highlights the readily apparent hypocritical gloss to such international efforts.

    Second is a posting from Twitter today, basically stating that there are more black American males in prison now than were slaves in 1850.

    Third is another footnote from the paper focusing on an article in the Toronto Star entitled “Unequal justice: Aboriginal and black inmates disproportionately fill Ontario jails” [link]:

    This idea deserves further research and analysis. Populations whose children first served as adoptees are often over-represented among the incarcerated. Beyond the obvious class markers at play here, might we further say that the attempt to integrate the marginalized via adoption, once it is seen as failed, results in a fallback position which has a historical precedent in the poorhouse?

    I’m thinking of adoption in terms of social experiment. I’m thinking of adoptees who are being deported as punishment for perceived infractions of the law. I’m thinking of the punishment that Calvinist capitalism would have the poor suffer as their lot in life.

    I’m intrigued by this from the article:

    But consider the cost of crime, the justice system and incarceration on Canadian families, communities and Canadian taxpayers. Study after study has shown that investing in families, education and mentally and physically healthy communities is less costly than the tab we are paying for sick, poor communities in terms of health costs, opportunities lost, policing, courts and jails.

    Could we say that adoption is, economically and politically speaking, akin to “house arrest” of marginal populations? Is this why we get “time off” for “good behavior”? Is this why reunion and/or return are imagined as “freeing”?

    • In what ways do you see every day people discriminate in similar ways against adoptees and inmates (or formerly incarcerated people)?

  3. More and more I am centering everything along lines of displacement and dispossession. This crosses various categories whether political, economic, theological, sociological, etc. It informs how I deal with my day to day. I’ve kind of settled into it as a framework, and it fits.

    As always, I try to look at things historically speaking, and in this light, given that adoption grew from indentured servitude (as a means to empty poorhouses), I think there are vestigial traces of how the adoptee (as someone displaced economically and politically) might be compared to someone who has been imprisoned.

    I think we also have to deal with the built-in contradiction that treats connection to land in different ways for different classes of people. So you have the post-modern ideas of those who have the luxury to be “nomads”, “border-crossers”, and “hybrids”; and then you have the reality of those who are refugees, prisoners, and actual nomads.

    This spills over into marketed notions of displacement, such as the “starter home”, the cachet of traveling for a job, being “on the go” or “cosmopolitan”.

    And so the adoptee has unwillingly been transplanted, and in the mythologized, marketed realm, this is to be celebrated, and is celebrated, even among adoptees themselves. This is a celebration of the class adopted into. A prisoner is either damned or celebrated for similar class differences, meaning, we revile the poor; exalt the rich in terms of such punishment.

    The discrimination is, to me, on a quite subliminal level, and is based on the direction the adoptee or the prisoner wishes to travel. Toward the “place” stolen from him? Then they are reviled if not exiled. Away from that place, in a way that reinforces the status quo? Then the world is his oyster.

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

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