Monday, December 6, 2010

Adoption & Privilege


In school, we talk a lot about the privileges that come along with being a part of the majority.  Whether it be the  majority gender, race, religion, so on and so forth, where there are more people, other people tend to get out-voted.  Their needs might not be considered, and others, well, they simply aren't very well represented.  Which, in turn, can make things in law and society, very unfair for minority groups.  We're asked to reflect on issues and think about how others feel, how others experience difficulty with things that we never would have thought about because we don't have the same experience.

Adoptees, 2% of people, are often asked by others to ponder how their lives "could have been."  "Your mother could have harmed or abused you, you could have grown up poor and your parents took you in."  This is a basic assertion that the adoptee now lives a life of privilege because of adoption.  And perhaps, economically (which is only one facet of life and privilege), they do.  But when you point out that those things are stereotypes and don't make much sense when you actually sit down and hear people's stories....what is there left to ask a person to be more grateful for than every one else is asked to be?  But turning it around, there's a lot an adopted person could ask a biologically-raised person to be grateful for, instead.

Those who have been biologically-raised have likely....
  • access to their birth documentation.
  • no birth certificate related difficulties at the passport office, with driver's license or jobs where security clearance is needed.
  • grown up knowing their lives from birth-forward.
  • been in the same room with or grown up with other biological relatives; people who look like they do.
  • have access to family medical history.
  • have never had to answer awkward questions or stereotypes/assumptions about the other family that they have out there.
  • have had to deal with issues that may arise from having two families in two different roles in their lives.
  • have never dealt with harsh state laws that hold information on their heritage under lock and key.
I am sure others could think of other things.  Perhaps they experienced because of their adopted status; perhaps things other adoptees did not experience or that some did.

Reading the blogs of Adult Adoptees of International Adoption and Transracial Adoption has opened my eyes that some of these issues that they face that others in the adoption community may not face.

Faded Footsteps writes about such difficulties.  Not being able to communicate with her family without a translator; a third party where private moments are shared with a person in between is something  everyone, other adoptees included, may take for granted.  Not being able to communicate with them on her own in the way that she wants to is another thing many people may take for granted too.
"I’d like to communicate with my parents. 
Without a translator.
Without a third-party, without someone who gets to hear about my adoption details and witness the most private details of my life.
Unfortunately there is no magical power. There is no magical scientific equation in a language barrier. There is no magical solution that suddenly makes this Go Away. No, a translator does not make it better – merely on the surface level. Why?"
These are things I have never thought about.  How I take it for granted that I can communicate in the way I want to, without a third-party to translate, with my Original Family.

I remember at Yoon's Blur, Melissa discussing how she has been scolded by other Koreans for not knowing how to speak Korean.
"It's understandable to me when Koreans or Americans show surprise when I say that I don't speak Korean. I can deal with that. But it's when I get these looks and remarks of how unfortunate or irresponsible it is to my heritage and people that I don't know the language--first of all, as if I don't already have to deal with feelings of failure and inadequacy without you pointing it out to me, and second of all, as if I could have done anything about it. What, as a 6-month old Korean infant adopted into an All-American White family surrounded by other All-American White families, I was supposed to teach myself the Korean language and figure out how to make kimchi? That sounds feasible."
 Growing up surrounded by your culture and being able to be immersed in the language of your roots; something many of us take for granted.  Not having to learn these things as an adult--something else we take for granted.

Again, what transracial adoption is like for many; these are things I've never imagined.  Not only is being Korean, Chinese, so on and so forth, in the U.S. its own experience, but being an adopted Korean, Chinese, etc. person is its own experience.

Because 98% of the United States is not adopted aren't there privileges that come a long with that?  How often are adoptee issues really heard, represented, and understood if 98% of people have no clue what it is like to be adopted?

None of pointing these things out is about asking for some one's pity or sympathy.  Pointing out privilege is not about making someone else feel badly.  There have been times I've encountered so little sympathy for adoptee issues that it honestly would be an absolute waste of my time to write about adoption for that purpose.  No, this is not about pity.  Asking others to empathize with another group, not assume, and imagine the challenges they face is not about pity.

The LGBTQ community asking people to understand how hard it is not being able to marry, have their relationships respected under the law, and not be able to have the benefits that come with marriage is not about pity.  It's asking for your help.  Remember them the next time you walk into a voting booth.

A woman explaining how she's not taken seriously or paid fairly at work is not about pity.  It's about asking for your help.  Remember her the next time company policies come up; evaluate how the company can better serve the right of equality of its female employees.

When a racial or ethnic minority talks about experiencing discrimination, it's not about pity.  It's about asking for your help.  Remember them the next time you see discrimination and point it out.  Take a stand for a fellow human being.

And when an adoptee tells you part of adoption that are broken and unfair, it's not about pity.  It's about asking for your help.  Support the adoptee rights movement.  Look up national or local state groups.  Is there a bill in your state pending?  Write a letter to your legislator and ask for support.  There are loads of individuals out there blogging about reform and adoption issues (see all the fabulous blogs in my blog roll to the right!), all it takes is one moment to sit and read.

"The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life."  --Jane Addams

Photo credit:  graur razvan ionut

4 comments:

Von said...

Seems to me supporting the adoptee rights movement is something all adopters could do for 'their' adoptees and all other adoptees; the very least they can do to redress some of the imbalance in the world of adoption.

Mei Ling said...

Been incredibly busy and don't have a lot of spare time on weeknights, but yeah, linking me is fine. If you do that, the pingbacks will notify me. :)

Julia said...

Amanda,
Could I cross-post this to Love Isn't Enough?

Let me know what you think. team@loveisntenough.com

thanks.

Melanie said...

Thank you for this post. Doesn't it seem like those with privlege are so afraid to spread it around sometimes or even analyze it. Like admitting you have it will automatically make it disappear which is impossible given the centuries it's taken to build up the institution of have vs. have not.