Sunday, January 13, 2019

I Don't Believe in Adoption Anymore: 10 Years Post Reunion*

Visiting the Korean War Memorial

A decade has passed. Ten years.

January 7th used to be just another day.

Now January 7th marks the day I got THE phone call.

The phone call that taught me the impossible can in fact become possible. The phone call that opened the portal to the world I thought I would never find again.

The phone call that has also taught me that grief can last a lifetime. And that finding does not always mean knowing. 

In the past decade, I have learned that resolution for those who were lost from one another is elusive. I have learned that pain does not always diminish, but rather it adapts. It metamorphoses. 

There is not a day that slips through my fingertips that I do not carry with me an endless sorrow, because within me there is also a ceaseless love. 

But this endless sorrow and ceaseless love have done anything but diminish from my life. Rather their eternal lingering has enriched my life beyond measure.

With this kind of pain has also come a depth of living that makes every moment feel precious, every relationship golden.

Meal with my Appa in Seoul
A meal with my daughter is everything but mundane. A conversation with my son is everything but ordinary.

Spending fifteen committed years with my partner is everything but unremarkable. 
Because as someone who lost everything before I knew what everything was, I cannot take for granted how fragile, how temporal these moments can be if we do not choose to protect and cherish them. 

Ten years ago, I got the phone call that my Korean mother and Korean father were not only still alive, but that they wanted to meet me--after being separated for over three decades. 

That moment changed my life forever. It is still changing my life forever. It will never stop changing my life forever. 

And it also changed my mind forever.

I used to believe that adoption was beautiful and that it was the best thing for a person like me.

Lanterns at a Korean Buddhist Temple

I don’t believe that anymore.**

Now I believe that families should never be separated. And they should certainly never ever be separated because of poverty or duress or religion or lack of education. 

I used to believe that my Omma gave me away because she loved me. 

Now I believe that my Omma gave me away because she was brainwashed with guilt into believing that she was giving me a better life by giving me away. Now I know that my Omma gave me away because America and her own people taught her that White people are more worthy of her children, because being poor, uneducated, brown, and unconverted somehow rendered her love less worthy than a love that was rich, educated, Christian, and white.

A decade later, January 7th represents to me the beginning of my Awakening. The advent of my Emergence. 

It is the moment I began to understand transracial and transnational adoption in its larger sociopolitical context--as an extension of White American imperialism and colonialism sharing roots entangled with a long history of white supremacy that has relentlessly engaged in the erasure of black and brown people through colonization and brutality, invasion and war, slavery and apartheid, imprisonment and oppression, and yes, family separation and adoption. 

To say that these epiphanies have been a universe-altering paradigm shift is putting it lightly.

And yet, ten years deep into this journey of reclamation and proclamation of who I am and ultimately, of who I now know I have always been--all I can say is brace yourselves, because I am only just getting started.


*This is the first essay in a series titled, "Reflections from the Other Side of 10 Years Post-Reunion" that I am publishing as I examine the past 10 years since reuniting with my Korean family. Click here for additional essays in the series.

**Also, for those who are upset or disturbed by my statements that I do not believe in adoption anymore or that I believe families should never be separated. I encourage you to spend some time reflecting upon why it upsets or disturbs you for me to express these ideas, and to explore the complexities at the root of my statements. What do you think I mean when I state I do not believe in adoption anymore? What do I mean when I say I do not believe families should ever be separated due to poverty or duress? What alternative or additional options might there be to family separation? Can you ponder perhaps the practice of family preservation? What would a commitment to family preservation look like? Is permanent separation and severance from one's family and origins truly necessary? What could replace orphanages? What could replace adoption agencies? Have you ever thought about family centers that could provide support and resources to empower at-risk families facing duress or poverty? To further educate yourself, click here, here, and here. Also, consider reading the book, The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce.