Thursday, November 15, 2012

Giving the Adoptee's Credit to Adoption

Faith Hill, Steve Jobs, Dave Thomas, Sarah McLahlan, the list goes on.  All adopted.  All super successful.  All because....they are adopted?  Some might say so.  While I think it is a great and necessary thing to celebrate the accomplishments of adoptees, how this gets done determines the ultimate message that is sent.  Are we giving adoptees the credit for their great accomplishments?  Or are we giving credit to adoption for the great things adoptees have done?

I do not think that adoption gave Faith Hill or Sarah McLahlan their amazing singing voices or Darryl McDaniels his ability to rap and engage a crowd.  I don't think that adoption put all of the components that is the Apple company, and its products, magically in Steve Job's head.  I don't think that adoption endowed Dave Thomas with all of the secrets to running a successful food chain or running a large national campaign that advocates for foster kids.  These things were probably a combination of nature, nurture, circumstances, and a lot of hard work.

Let's give adoptees credit for their hard work.

Alternately, I think the main idea behind why these famous faces are so heavily associated with adoption is that adoption places children in affluent homes that can offer them better opportunities.  What we give adoption credit for in this instance is essentially the effects of inequality and privilege.

I went to a private school.  My adoptive parents could afford to pay for it.  My original mother probably could not have afforded it.  I did not attend a private school because of adoption.  I attended one because of class privilege.  In fact, a great number of my successes in life were influenced by unearned privileges.  White privilege, class privilege, Christian privilege, coupled privilege, married privilege, cisgender privilege, heterosexual privilege, the list goes on.

When we discuss the accomplishments that adoptees have made, we need to remember that the accomplishments were made by those adoptees, not by adoption.  This doesn't mean adoption wasn't beneficial to them.  It means that adoption is an institution; it is not a person.  We must put people-first, strengths-first.  We also need to stop sending the message that lower-income families by default can never provide opportunities for their children.  To help those in need, raise them up.  Work to alleviate poverty.  Advertising adoption using the faces of adopted superstars further draws a dramatic distinction between poor and wealthy homes.  It does nothing but further classism in our society.