Monday, July 31, 2017

Lessons in Whiteness: The Fragile Oppressor

It becomes increasingly difficult in the current sociopolitical environment to not feel acutely sentient of all that I have lost to Whiteness.

I read an article recently about Mike Vick criticizing Colin Kaepernick for his activism. Kaepernick happens to be a transracial, biracial adoptee, but nonetheless is perceived as Black. As a transracial adoptee, he was raised by White parents, and yet he has become an unapologetic activist for the rights of Black Americans and all people of color.

As I read the article, it dawned on me that I could relate to Kaepernick, not only as a transracial adoptee, but also as an activist--specifically, that my activism is in part a reclamation of my Asian identity and a reprehension of the Whiteness forced upon me.

As an Asian person adopted into White America, I spent the first 30+ years of my life erased by Whiteness. Drowned by Whiteness.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Found Daughter

My mother & I doing a Facebook Live event.
The woman who gave birth to me lives two miles down the road from my house. Ours is a fairly ordinary mother / adult daughter relationship. She is the one who picks up my kids when I can't do so, or checks in on the dog if I am out of town for the day. She helps me out with my direct sales business on occasion, and we get together for a movie or a meal when we can find the time. We don't see each other as often as we'd like because we both lead extremely busy lives, but we take comfort in knowing the other is nearby. All in all, our relationship is most remarkable in its unremarkableness.

Unremarkable, that is, except for the fact that we didn't see each other at all for the first 30 years of my life. We were separated on the day of my birth, and I was placed for adoption in another family.

I grew up happy yet broken. That may seem like a contradiction, but it isn't really. I grew up in a loving, stable family in a small town in a beautiful part of the country. I had friends. I did well enough in school and participated in extracurricular activities. I hit developmental milestones and seemed fine. But there was no acknowledgement that I had experienced profound loss. Not from others. Not from myself.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Official Apology & Clarification

I want to use this opportunity, to offer a sincere official apology, to first and foremost my fellow LD sisters. Second, I also apologize to readers, followers, associates, women, single mothers, the LBTQ community, and fellow adoptees. 

I did not want my post to be misinterpreted as it appears to have been. Occasionally the topic of same sex adoptions is brought up for official and political discussion. At the time I wrote (and published the original post) such debate was once again discussed in national media.

If anything my post, was meant as a societal reflection on the topic and not meant as a direct reflection of my personal opinion on said topic. I actually applaud every single mother out there, because parenting is never easy and once sexual orientation does not determine whether or not someone will be an ill-suited parent or not.

Believe it or not, but in terms of single adoptive parents I think there's a slight but not so insignificant difference. If you do, eventually end up raising your children as a single mother - then it is what it is. But when you consciously decide to pursue single parent adoption you already know you do so on your own. That and only that is the only difference - single mothers and single adoptive mothers either have to be very stubborn and determined or have a larger support network. It seems especially important if there is no present father figure , or for that matter a make role model around.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Adoption Jokes and Adoptee Punchlines: Journalists Should Do Better

I get it. Adoption jokes are low-hanging fruit. They dangle within easy reach. Tempting. Requiring so little effort. Overripe and starting to rot, yet still solid enough that if thrown at flesh they'll sting and leave a bruise.

And adoptees? We're just such easy targets.

Some folks simply can't help themselves. They pluck that fruit, take aim and hurl it, then snicker a like grade-school boy who just used his armpit to imitate the sound of a bodily function.

Because adoption jokes are funny

Remember this one?


And this ?

Funny, right? a "you throw like a girl" kind of way.

More recently, there was this exchange between New York Times writer, Sopan Deb, and White House correspondent James Oliphant:

The entire thread is notable not only for the original interaction, but for the overwhelmingly affirming responses. Angela Barra, Huffpost contributor and adult adoptee, countered the sentiments with her post, It's Not Okay to Mock Adopted People Even When Taunting Trump!, saying, "7.5k people liked Sopan Deb's tweet, and this evidences that many people think that this kind of casual disparaging humor is okay."

There is a mass lack of understanding of the varied and complex experiences of adoptees, so much so that being the butt of the joke, yet again, isn't too surprising. This isn't the first time adoption jokes have been addressed at Lost Daughters. We've been tackling this for years. Take for example this post from 2013this post from 2014, and this post from 2015. When adoptees say we're weary of repeatedly addressing the same issues, it's not hyperbole. 

Do Deb and Oliphant truly hold adopted people in such low esteem? Probably not. Oliphant's comment, while mean spirited, leaves me scratching my head and isn't worthy of further response. Deb's, however, has hooks. Taken to its logical conclusion, the idea expressed is that adopted sons and daughters aren't really sons and daughters at all. The actions of an adopted son would be inconsequential because he is, after all, only adopted. Here, the adoptee is condemned to an adoption no-man's-land, legally severed from biological family and relationally severed from legal family, all in fewer than 100 characters. Funny, funny stuff indeed.

It's tiresome to continually encounter derogatory remarks such as these, and especially disturbing to see them coming so publicly and unabashedly from members of the press. Professional journalists shouldn't need reminders to choose their words wisely, but when it comes to adoption, these two apparently do.

If members of the press wish to write about adoption, there is no dearth of issues for them to explore. Deportation of adult adoptees, adoptee rights, fraudulent practices, adoptee experiences of racism, adoptee abuse, and rehoming of adopted children are only a few topics worthy of journalistic endeavor. Start by learning from adoptees. Our blogs, podcasts, books, research, and professional papers are easily accessible. If you need help finding information, ask.

It's time to stop using adoption as an insult and adoptees as punchlines. We're not here for your entertainment, we're not less-than, we owe no defense of our own existence, and we're not ashamed.

Yep, some people are adopted.

And that's no joke.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

KAAN - Learning to Listen

Me, Grace, Rosita, Shaaren, Emily, and Susan sharing a moment
“Welcome to Pittsburgh,” the flight attendant cooed over the intercom. “If you’re visiting, I hope you enjoy your stay. For our other passengers, welcome home.” 

The once quiet cabin was suddenly filled with passengers getting out of their seats, stretching their stiff limbs, and rattling the overhead compartments in search of their luggage.

It had been 10 years since I had visited Pittsburg, and in more ways than one, a lot had changed since then.

The weekend marked the first time I would be sharing my story at an adoption conference. And I was a little nervous.

When Rosita asked me last summer if I’d be interested in sharing my experiences as part of a panel of transracial adoptees, I told her, yes of course. But as the weekend drew closer, I started wondered if I was going to feel out of place. I mean, it was called the “Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network” Conference. What was an adoptee from Haiti going to share? How I would I be received?

But despite my apprehension, over the course of the weekend, I was openly welcomed into the Korean adoptee community.  

On Friday afternoon, I was a part of a session called “The Global Diaspora.” With Rosita moderating, Grace, Shaaren and I shared what it was like to be adoptees from China, India, and Haiti. As Grace and Shaaren spoke, I found myself nodding my head throughout their segments.

Sharing with Rosita and Grace.                  Photo: Allen Majors

I listened as they each shared their struggles of identity growing up. All three of us talked about feeling more comfortable with ourselves when we moved away from home. Through college, different cities, and new friends, we shed our “adoption background story” and learned how to rebuild ourselves.

We talked about finding mirrors for ourselves through movies, our children, and connecting to adoptee communities online and in person. We also discussed our frustrations and successes in searching for our birth families.

There was so much that the three of us shared. Our histories, although separate, had some of the same threads woven throughout.

And as the weekend unfolded, I found that I had a lot in common with other adoptees too.

On Saturday morning, Rosita, Shaaren and I hosted a session on how being an adoptee influences our mothering. We had other adoptees sit in the inner circle, and for an hour we had a candid discussion. We cried about the obstacles that our children face - some of the same obstacles we endured growing up. We laughed about the craziness of pregnancy, and we connected over the desire to have children - to see our faces and features in someone else for the first time.

During our two sessions, I felt comfortable sharing. During the question and answer period of our sessions, people asked me questions. I talked. I explained. I described. And they listened.  

Listening and learning with Shaaren.        Photo: Allen Majors

But after Saturday morning’s session, I decided to stay quiet and become a listener again.
I listened to a panel discussion about Asian masculinity. I went to a session about navigating the sometimes complicated relationship with adoptive parents as an adult adoptee.

I attended a packed and very lively discussion about racism. The participants talked about white guilt, micro aggressions, and being an ally. There was so much to take in. So much to unpack. But I (tweeted) and listened.

Listening means holding back. Listening is humbling. It’s quiet. It means sometimes wanting to say something, but then turning the thoughts over in your mind. It’s taking notes. It’s honoring the voices that are so often silenced.

Sometimes listening is more powerful than talking. Listening says, “I see you. I give you this space. I want to learn.”

In every conversation that weekend, I saw myself. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been born in Korea. I felt a sense of community among my fellow adoptees.

It’s a powerful feeling being surrounded by people who get you. Conversations are different. Sometimes you can skip the pleasantries and talk about the things that matter. There are some things that only transracial adoptees have experienced.

On Sunday afternoon, I boarded my flight to go back to South Florida. I was exhausted. But I also felt at peace. I had spent a weekend with a group of people, that regardless of where we were born, understood each other.

Another chirpy flight attendant came on the intercom. “If you were visiting Pittsburgh this weekend, I hope you enjoyed your stay.”

I looked out at the window, silently saying goodbye to the city, and smiled.


 Mariette Williams (@mariettewrites) is a transracial adoptee born in Jeremie, Haiti. She was adopted at the age of three and grew up near Vancouver, B.C., Canada. She founded Haitian Adoptees, a Facebook group that serves to connect and offer support to other Haitian adoptees. In July of 2015, she reunited with her birth mother and several members of her birth family. She lives in South Florida with her husband and two children. In addition to being a Journalism and literature teacher, she is a published author and supporter of international adoption reform.