Alice Grey dies: Yawn.
Meredith Grey comes back to life: Predictable.
Devastatingly grief stricken McDreamy: Priceless.
But really, enough of Grey’s Anatomy.
If you are an adoptive parent or a prospective adoptive parent and you haven’t yet read Kelly’s post, Transracial Adoption — Food for Thought, then mosey on over there first. Rather than clog her comment section with a response the size of an entire post, I just decided to write an entire post over here with my thoughts on her topic.
So, here goes:
Relocating to a more racially diverse area. Hmmm. I’m not saying this couldn’t be a good thing, but I think it is dangerous to assume it would automatically be a good thing. When I say this, I’m thinking specifically of my sister’s family situation. Their oldest son is adopted and bi-racial (African American & white). The rest of their immediate family is lily white. Short of them picking up and moving to a completely different part of the state or country, the only place with a significant black population is the local Big City area. Relative to actually big cities, it is not that big. Relative to all of the other cities and towns in our general area, it is The Big City. We lived there. They lived there. We don’t want to live there again. It isn’t safe. In fact, the year we moved out, it was ranked something like The Fourteenth Most Dangerous City In The Country. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying the crime is a direct result of the African American population. Trust me — lots and lots of scary white people down there.
So, what is more important for my nephew? That he live in a racially diverse area or that he live in a safe area? I vote for safe. Should my sister and her husband scope out job opportunities in safer, more diverse areas that are hours away from home and family? I think that is unrealistic and a perfect segue into my next point:
I don’t think it is healthy to place so much emphasis on our child’s birth culture that it overshadows our family culture. I’m not saying we should ignore the birth culture. I’m not saying we should pretend it doesn’t exist. I’m saying, if we pick up and move far away from an existing family support system just so our transracially adopted child(ren) can be near other children of that race, then we are putting more emphasis on race than family. Ultimately, I think that is a bad thing. What is the purpose of adoption if not to grow our families? If not to provide a family for a child who needs one? If we live close to supportive, loving extended family, why on earth should we feel compelled to leave that just in the name of racial diversity? I want all of my children to value family over anything else, certainly over race.
While we can and should teach our children that their race/ethnicity is not something of which to be ashamed or embarrassed, I don’t believe we should emphasize it to the point that we are constantly making them feel different from the rest of the family. “Hey kid, you’re going to Korean Culture Camp this summer so you can learn how to be Korean. Your sisters aren’t going though, because they’re not Korean. As a matter of fact, they are going to spend that week with Dad and me, hanging out with their friends, getting ice cream, just being American, and together as a family. Minus you. Have fun, we’ll see you when you get back!” (Not saying we won’t send him if he wants to go).
We are all human beings. We are a family. Let’s concentrate on the ties that bind us rather than the differences that the world would use to separate us. For example: I am not going to take Tank Boy to the local Korean Church just because there are a bunch of Koreans there. My religious values and beliefs are sacred to me, they are part of our family culture, and I am not going to have Tank Boy raised with different beliefs just so he can have regular exposure to people from his birth country. Utter nonsense, yet I’ve read articles that suggest just that. If he decides, when he is grown, that he wants to switch religions and go to an all-Korean congregation then that will be his decision and I will love him no less. But for now, my job is to be his mother and do the best I can do. That includes trying to teach him the values I think are best, the values I am also trying to teach my bio kids. Why should I have a double standard based on race?
When we were taking our adoptive parent training classes that are required by our state, we had to do this exercise with different colored beads. Maybe you did it, too. We were given a clear, plastic cup and a bunch of beads of various colors. White beads represented white people, black beads represented black people, yellow beads represented Asian people, green beads represented . . . hmmm, I’ve forgotten . . . probably Hispanics. But there were green beads. And red ones, too, I think. And purple ones. Good grief, who were they? At any rate, the person conducting the class read a list of different people in our lives: mother, father, dentist, doctor, babysitter, church leader, neighbors, hairdresser, grocery store clerk(s), etc. For each person, we were supposed to deposit the corresponding bead color into our cup. At the end, we were to examine our cups, and, by extension, our lives, to see how we could improve the racial diversity.
I shared this with a friend, an adult adoptee who was born in Guatemala. She was horrified. She couldn’t believe that anyone would imply that we should make decisions based on race. Just as excluding people from our lives based solely on their race would be wrong, she felt including them in our lives based solely on their race would be wrong. It makes race preeminent over values, trust, quality and value. She felt this attitude of making our son’s race a priority in our lives would only serve to re-emphasize that, “Hey kid, you’re different!”
This is not to say that we have totally disregarded the fact that Tank Boy is Korean-born. We’re not trying to ignore that. No sane person would think they could ignore it. So, what do we do?
There are several families in our area who have adopted from Korea. We have found each other. We have formed a group. We get together about once a month. Sometimes we do some cultural-type stuff, most of the time we just get together and eat, chat, and let the kids play. I think this is very valuable for all of my kids because they get to interact with other families like ours: bio kids and adopted kids. They all get to see that adoption isn’t just some weird thing that only their nerdy parents decided to do. I also think it is valuable because, when Tank Boy is older, if he decides it is important for him to have a racially Korean social network, there will already be one in place. If he decides he really doesn’t like any of those kids for whatever reason, I’m not going to force him to hang out with them. It keeps our options open. Plus, we’ve gotten to know some really great people, which I appreciate.
We go to the local adoption fair each year, and I’m sure we will continue until the consensus is: “Mom, do we have to?!?!?”
If we hear about a local cultural event and we can make it, we go. If we can’t, it’s not the end of the world. We have found an excellent Asian buffet that serves food from various Asian countries, and we eat there once every couple of months (but we’d do that regardless). I frequent the local Korean market, because I love food, I love to cook, I love to experiment, and I’ve found some Korean dishes I love to make. McH and the girls all take a Korean martial art. We didn’t choose the school based on the fact that it is Korean, there were other factors; but we are happy that it is Korean. Tank Boy will be old enough to join them in the fall. We have books around the house about Korea and Vietnam. Their are some books of children’s stories from those countries that I plan to purchase at some point. Because of our proximity to a university and a military installation we see people of all sorts of races every time we go to the mall or the grocery store or wherever. That’s not to say that our neighborhood isn’t primarily white, because, like all local neighborhoods that aren’t The Big City, it is. But when we go out, Tank Boy still sees plenty of faces that resemble his.
For now, this is pretty much all we are going to do. As Tank Boy, and later Quinn, get older, we will let them be our guides. If they want to learn more, we will help them. If they want to travel, to see where they came from, we will take them. If they want to search for their birth parents, we will do that gladly. If Tank Boy wants to wear a Hanbok to high school, well, that will be his choice. I don’t think it will help him get a date to the junior prom, but whatever. If he wants to move to a more racially diverse area, far away from family, that will be his decision, and I’ll miss him. ‘Cause I’m not going anywhere.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.