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as a poc adoptee, let me tell you there is no better way to start your day than having to argue publicly with your white adoptive mom about whether or not the racism you experienced is valid.
I didn’t realize how strong and thick my armor against racism had grown until the day I realized I didn’t have it anymore. We were parking outside the Seward Cafe, and a man walked right up to our car and said, “Chinaman, This is my country!” and although I used to be able to just brush it off by thinking, “What a crazy freak!” this time I could not because I have lived 9 years in Korea without people being racist against me (although they are to other people), and because of that I have lost my skills to deal with street racism, and those words hurt just as much as they did when I was a kid, before I had accumulated 30 years’ worth of armor and mental acrobatics to protect myself from everyday life. This happened the day after I got my receipt checked at the door at Walmart and my bag emptied to make sure I wasn’t stealing anything, which was the day after exactly the same thing happened at exactly the same Walmart. Living with discrimination erodes a little bit of your human dignity every day. The fact that we need so much armor to get through the day, and that we have to teach our children to act for the sake of safety rather than the sake of their dignity, and the fact that if I had a child, my child would have seen me targeted and humiliated rather than talk back to that man because I was concerned for my safety — makes me so, so angry.
a thread soon formed with people adding their own experiences with racism. and i added my own comments with some of my experiences with racism growing up in the states, including a reference to a racist question that my uncle (mom’s younger brother) used to ask me every time i saw him:
i remember kids (and even a TENURED PROF AT MY UNIVERSITY) making gibberish noises imitating what they thought asian languages sounded like, yelling at me to go back to my country, pulling back their eyes at me, i had my own uncle asking me where he could “get two little girls like you” every time i saw him, i had people asking me if my vagina was sideways way before i even understood what that could even mean, i had people giving me weird “compliments” like “pretty as a lotus flower” or crap like that, people asking me if i was chinese or japanese, which was still better than the many people who called me a chink and jap. my sister said she had a little girl follow her into a bathroom stall to see if hers was the same… this is just off the top of my head. (and for reference, i lived in maryland, tennessee, indiana, and illinois)
i should mention that i’ve already written (here) about my uncle and his insistence on asking me this question every time i’ve seen him and how i was finally able to tell him to get stuffed at the age of 30.
what is not included in that previous post is that even AFTER that visit when i made my displeasure with my uncle’s question clear, my mom asked my uncle to repeat it in front of jinwoo (as a cute family story!) on my next visit when i went with him to the US and he met my family for the first time. this is how oblivious my white parents are to racism and their dismissive attitude toward my clear expressions of boundaries as it relates to race.
so after i brought it up again in that comment, my mom responds:
Ur uncle loves u and he was never making fun of u.
i think carefully for a full twelve minutes on how to respond. i am basically boiling angry at this point, but part of me thinks i should address this privately, not publicly. but i decide no. i can’t just allow this to stand publicly. i’m tired of being the accommodating one, it has clearly gotten me nowhere so far. still, in an act of enormous restraint, i only answer:
how do you still not recognize that as racist?
to which my mom responds, flat-out:
It was never racist.
oh ok, thank you white mom for invalidating my feelings on the racism that i experienced. this time i think for a good thirty minutes. i do not want to publicly thrash my mom but i have made my decisions about not continuing to sugarcoat discussions with race with my family anymore. and i answer:
mom, i’m not going to keep arguing with you about this publicly. if you don’t think that was racist then that’s deeply frustrating. did he ever ask that question to anyone else but sharon and me? (i.e. my white brothers and sisters) no. does that mean i think he’s a horrible person and i hate him? no. does it mean i’m going to pretend it wasn’t racist and humiliating every time i heard it? not any more.
no word from her (either publicly or privately) since then. my guess is that she is feeling sorry for herself and won’t initiate contact for awhile. still trying to decide if i should call or text her for the holidays.
you handled this beautifully. big props.
Nobody wants a band of kids that is already a family unit.
They are trying to integrate you into them, not be integrated into you.
So why are you telling people you have not just one — but two or three siblings? Say goodbye to them and send the youngest ones off to fend for themselves.
They probably won’t even remember you later.
Maybe you can find them in adulthood through Facebook if you’re sentimental.
Be an orphan.
Do you really expect to be adopted you if want to maintain ties with your birth family?
People fear your mother showing up at their front door. That is why they like to adopt kids from as far away as possible!
"I am a poor orphan. I am a poor orphan."
That is your new mantra, and do stop talking about your mother.
Not only should you obliterate your memory, but you should also ask your social worker to burn any records that suggest you may have difficulty making adults feel loved and needed in exchange for a home.
Adoption is not about what you want. It’s about what adopters want.
Get it straight, kids!
— From international adoptee’s Jane Jeong Trenka’s brilliant satire, “How to stop languishing and get yourself adopted.”
OECD statistics show that the child poverty rate in the U.S. is nearly double that of Korea, with 20.6 percent of American children living in poverty, as opposed to only 10.5 percent in Korea.
Moreover, there were 400,540 children separated from their parents and living in the U.S. foster care system in 2011. Of these children, 104,236 were eligible and waiting for adoption, and another 58,000 lived in institutions.
On the other hand, there were only 16,523 Korean children living in institutions at the end of 2011, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
So why do we insist on sending our children away to live with foreigners? Who brainwashed us into believing that everything is better in America?…Korean adoption agencies owe American children an apology. For every child they send there, they steal a potential home from an American child. How sorry they should be for hurting American children in that way and for being complicit in the lie that international adoption ― in the way that it is currently practiced ― is a service that puts children’s needs in any country first.Jane Jeong Trenka for the win. Again.