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Adoption and Child Separation at the Border

On June 1, 2018 Rebekah Henson published an important thread on Twitter critiquing the hashtags #FamiliesBelongTogether and #Ke...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Don’t be Scared: An Angry Black Woman Adoptee Speaks

“Anger is loaded with information and energy.” (Audre Lorde)

Don’t be Scared: An Angry Black Woman Adoptee Speaks

It’s a common tactic. Brushing off what youth and adult adoptees have to say when we begin to articulate our experiences growing up or as adults with our families as less than perfect. The narrative of adoption in U.S. society and globally continues in the same vein it has for years. Be grateful. Be a good girl. Don’t rock the family boat. Don’t do anything that points to you being a “different” part of the family. Don’t ask about your birth parents. Don’t wonder what your life would have been like. Don’t give any indication that the family you are growing up with or grew up with is causing you pain or anguish. Don’t talk about loss. If you are transracially adopted, don’t critique racism in your white family. Don’t point out white supremacy or police terror or racial profiling. No really, be grateful. And most of all – don’t be angry. If you do, you are in danger of being labeled an “Angry Adoptee.”

I think about the angry adoptee mythology in the same ways that I think about the angry black woman mythology. It is a tool to try to name me and shame me so you can dismiss me. So you can silence me. So you can silence us. My experience as a black woman and as an adoptee are not so different when it comes to the nature of oppression and those in power. I think of the phrase “Angry Adoptee” as a tool created by non ally adoptive parents, social workers or baby brokers who have something to lose if they actually listen to the lived experiences and critical research of adoptees. It is easier to write someone off for having and expressing a strong emotion. It is easier to have them remain in a state of gratefulness for adoption or a state of non-critical acceptance of painful racist practices in our world. For then, those in power have no reason to change.

The Ties That Bind: Motherless Mothering

2002, NY. The miracle of my own pregnancy. “I am sorry I was born and caused you so much pain.” The scribbling in my old dusty notebook brought back an old familiar pain, long forgotten and buried in the rubble of my foster sister’s basement. As an introspective young girl and a bit of a loner, I filled notebook after notebook with endless internal observation. My private thoughts were not entirely meant to be private. Someday I hoped to hand them to my mother, who I was taken from at 5 and saw sporadically through my elementary school years. I never had that chance. In 2004, holding my own newborn daughter in my arms, I was told my mother died years before and did not want me notified. In my daughter’s big blue eyes, I found a solace that notebook never brought me. Motherhood closed the door on most of the past, but not all.

The day I found out I was pregnant with my mini me, I sat in my car crying alone before I called anyone with the news. Fear, excitement, nervousness washed over me. What would she look like, a relative? I knew none. I never even saw a baby photo of myself: What mysteries would my genes bring? Would I know how to be a mother? I never really saw one for very long.

Before having my daughter, I envied my friends families with their normal family struggles and battles. Their photos on the wall. Their smiling parents at games, graduations, their shared expressions, their family fights, and their tangled emotions. I was envious but just carefully observed. Now, with this new person growing inside me I had the chance to see myself in someone else. I had the chance to undo the past and bring a loved person into the world.