Outsiders Within – (A KAD NEXUS BIG THUMBS UP)

I went to a book talk a few days ago for the book “Outsiders Within.” It’s probably the most comprehensive anthology on transracial adoption that I have read. It really discusses the issues that unite the transracial adoptee communities. Most TRA books I’ve read deal mostly with KADs, and never with any other TRAs.

I especially like Kim Park Nelson’s essay on the institution of the family. Her essay explores the post World War II “pronatalism” movement that institutionalized a definition of the family that hinges primarily on child rearing (biologically, or otherwise). I think it’s incredibly interesting how this definition evolved and how the mass media has coaxed this institutional addendum to the family unit into the cornerstone of family building. This “pronatalism” of the 50s and 60s and its rebirth in the 1980s and 90s has shaped the nature of adoption over the past 50 years.

Starting in the 50s with this institutional need to parent international adoptions started. In relation to media campaigns in the movies and through advertisements stressing the importance of children in family building more and more, individuals looked toward adoption as a viable method to begin their familial existence. While international adoptions began primarily through Asia fueled by the so-called “success” rates, and assimilability of transnational children it encouraged transracial adoption for many white families. In fact analysts suspect that it was this first wave of international adoptions and success rates that led to the adoption of Native Indian children in the U.S. Author Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark and Kekek Jason Todd Stark describe this racialization rationalization and the idea that Native Indian children represented something not necessarily exotic as opposed to their “Asiatic” counter-parts, but as individuals symbolically American. Many parents looked to Native Indian children with lighter complexions as a way to bridge the supposed ethnic gap in transracial families which can also be viewed as a racial-political manifesto to continue the success of the Native Indian boarding schools to not only further “civilize” but to completely genetically culturally alter Native Indians to become an extension of whiteness. This notion would come back strongly after the NABSW would criticize the TRA system as “cultural genocide” for black children into white families, and Native Indian activists would follow suit.

Thus we usher in the next racial political climate of TRA history. Black children in America. Buffered by the supposed “War on Drugs” in the late 80s and 90s, and sustained by a governmental neglect toward financially assisting Black families and their children, the adoption market which had taken flight finally found its perfect political equation. By keeping low income Black families poor, it openly created a way to not only stigmatize the institutional idea of the Black family as inferior, but allowed for white families to be seen as the angelic rescuers. Those few parents who did adopt could use their racial family make up to invade the off-limits and sometimes “reverse-discriminative” privileges of a multiracial family. As the War on Drugs continued to ravage black families, pervading “Crack Baby” images served to literally allow doctors to remove new-born infants from their parents into the care of the social ward. This racial climate became an addendum to the eugenics movements of forced sterilization of Blacks such as the Tuskegee Syphillis Study by reasserting a racial, biological and culturally inferior upbringing that insisted on removal of black children from their natural parents as a necessity to end the cycle of poverty.

Concurrently the 80s and 90s brought about yet another wave of transnational transracial adoption of Asian babies-mostly from Eastern Asia such as Korea and China. This new transracial integer in the racial equation of adoption paired with Newsweek’s growing “Model Minority” image of Asian Americans drove a deep racial and hierarchical wedge between Asians and other racial minorities (primarily Blacks and Latinos). A humanitarian and philanthropically perversed neo-liberalism birthed a massive exportation of Asian babies from the so-called “arms of conflict and poverty” to the warm embrace of safety and American Dream idealism.

Today this initially humanitarian concept has burgeoned over into a multi-billion dollar international marketplace for prospective families in the U.S. and Europe. It’s hard for me to take sides on this highly controversial topic because I view adoption as a viable means to give children a better life, yet there are so many corrupt and idealistically romanticized racial overtones that need to be confronted. But I do agree with author Kim Park Nelson who said “I neither support or condemn the practice of transracial and transnational adoption but believe strongly that power differentials between parents and children, institutions and individuals, white people and people of color, and rich and poor nations are great enough that the potential for abuse is enormous (Nelson ‘Shopping for Children’ p. 90 Outsiders Within 2006).”


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