Colorlines Magazine’s Race Wire Blog Submission

(This article was taken from Colorlines Magazine’s Racewire Blog)

Lately, I’ve been mesmerized by the newest Angelina Jolie adoption. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending a lot of time in airports, in need of brain candy to get me through another flight. This latest adoption also hits close to home, since it involves a 3-year-old Vietnamese boy taken from an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, where I lived briefly as a child.

Of course, I don’t much care what Angelina and Brad do with their jet-setting lives. As long as they do no harm, it’s just a diversion to fixate on the pros and cons of how they choose to go about forming their family or trying to solve the world’s problems through charity. But, as one of those things that make you go “hmmm,” these tabloid tales made me think about the sticky questions of choice and responsibility that transracial and transnational adoption pose.

There was a time when I seriously contemplated adoption. As I approached 30 without marriage or childbirth on the horizon, the idea of creating a different family unit appealed to me even more. And, having edited numerous stories in ColorLines about the child welfare system and the political and personal aspects of transracial adoption, I felt fairly familiar with the issues. In my mind’s eye, I pictured adopting a black or mixed-race child, preferably a girl, from the public system where I live. Black or mixed-race because I knew they were “hard to place,” the least wanted in the hierarchy of kids. Local so that I could hopefully research the child’s background and keep her connected to any community roots. With good intentions and hard work, I was confident I would be able to tackle the challenges, get help where I needed it, and in the end provide a better life for a child while building a family I wanted.

Nowadays, though, I doubt I will ever adopt.

More and more, I’ve been dwelling on the aspect of adoption that is about exerting personal privilege at the end of a long chain of structural forces that result in more children from impoverished Black American, Native American, and Global South families ending up in foster care and orphanages. I could deploy my privilege with purpose, with the best of intentions and conscientious effort within the system, but it doesn’t sit right with me anymore as something I want to do. I say this with difficulty, because I have close friends and colleagues who have adopted transracially, and have learned from and supported and participated with respect in their decisions.

Adoption, and the balance of race and social justice within it, bears no easy answers or judgments.

Somewhere along the way, I started to focus less on who the “neediest” children were, and more on who I am and what I can realistically bring to the best interest of a child. Am I necessarily the right person to raise a black or mixed-race girl within the realities of this society? Am I any more attuned, by race or culture or societal expectations, to a child brought from Vietnam, China or Korea?

I suppose the biggest factor in my change of heart is that I began to suspect it would never be so idealistically simple to tailor a family to my own wants and choices, much as I do my career or dating life. Maybe I have yet to reach the next stage, of still having the love and humility to start a family anyway.

In the meantime, I’ll refrain from judging even if Angelina did re-name her new son Pax. What hubris! What privilege! What cultural and racial superiority! But then, I realized, at least that means they won’t be butchering his Vietnamese name.


4 Comments on “Colorlines Magazine’s Race Wire Blog Submission

  1. By all means. A friend of mine sent me an email about it-Sometime at the end of last year Colorlines did a whole feature on transracial adoption where they compiled a few personal narratives together. It was pretty good

  2. Please get real. There are a lot of American children who WANT to be adopted. There is nothing wrong with transracial adoption as long as the adoptive parent is educated about the issues that may face her child and is willing to make the decisions and sacrifices to help that child.

    In long run, do you think children would rather spend their childhood in an orphanage or foster care versus a loving home? Why not visit an orphanage and talk to children? Why not talk to adopted children who have been placed in progressive families?

  3. Hi Brad,

    Thanks for the comment. Just want to clarify a few things. First, I did not write the article above. I bounced it over from Race Wire. The article does not necessarily reflect my own views on adoption domestically vs internationally. I think there were a few issues I even had with the article myself. So for your concerns I thank you.

    I agree, there are many children who do want to be adopted. There is no way to essentialize the situation. There are just children out there who NEED families.

    I’m not sure whether you are responding as if I was the author of the article or not. But in any event let me tell you my take on adoption.

    As my ‘about’ section tells I neither completely support nor completely reject transracial adoption. My personal stance is purely that there is too much money involved in the adoption process for there to not be corruption. On the level of parenting, I am not denying that progressive families can’t raise children conscious of race and the intersectionality. I think it is possible. Yet I do also believe that there is not enough education for prospective transracial families.

    I am a transracial adoptee if you had not realized that prior to writing your comment. I myself WAS in an orphanage, and in FOSTER care. And I have also spent time in orphanages as well, so I know how children are very in need of loving homes. And yes I have also spoke to children who have been placed in progressive families. But more often than not, many transracial adoptees are placed in families that are unable to completely address the cultural and racial nature of their identities. Which is why I completely advocate for increased awareness and education for prospective adoptive families.

    I’m not quite sure whether or not you are an adoptee, but if you are I respect your opinion. And for the most part I agree. But I don’t think that upon face value parents can completely understand and provide the necessary resources for their adopted children to come to terms with race relations in this country. If the effort is there, that is a first step. A-parents DO need to be willing to make sacrifices to be able to provide the best environment for their children, as well as supplying them with the right tools to understand how intricate and complex race relations are in this country. I think that more parents are beginning to realize this (although some are more willing than others to make the necessary sacrifices), my point in posting this article was to show how the most prevalent images of transracial adoption in the media are Angelina Jolie and Madonna.

    I appreciate your comment, but your comment seemed to be a bit vicious with its “get real.” I post and allow comments as a way to open up civil discourse on the positive as well as negative issues behind transracial adoption. I encourage you to continue posting on my blog and continue speaking with other transracial adoptees who also frequent my blog. This blog is a safespace for transracial adoptees to SAFELY and honestly discuss their opinions on transracial adoption. You are free to come to your own conclusions, but please do not judge. We are all entitled to our own opinions. So thanks for your comment, and I hope that this will also encourage other adoptees to discuss these issues, since as you have alluded to they are very real and very important.

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