KAAN Conference

Thanks to all who attended this year’s KAAN Conference in Cambridge, MA this year. It was great getting to know many of you, and thanks to those who attended my workshop with BKA.

There’s been a lot of progress, yet still much to be done. There were some great workshops, and I suppose I’m the most interested in the teen dialogue with adult adoptees. Although I’m afraid the dialogue may have become a conversation for the adult adoptees, I think that the younger generation showed that these sort of gatherings are helpful and healthy.

There is so much to say about the ways in which we as transracial adoptees have been raised. Many of us have grown up in predominantly white neighborhoods blinded by whiteness and with it gain a spectrum of socioeconomic privilege and standards of beauty. This much is clear, and for the adoptees in the room today, although you may have just been warming up as the workshop came to a close (if any of you are reading this) I think you may find yourself nodding your head. I completely identify with this upbringing and while it brought back a deluge of emotions, it angers me to see yet another generation of adoptees are growing up with many of the same feelings I had at the same age. It’s a constant reminder that as much as people like to think racism and racial prejudice are on the way out of society, they continue to exist for adoptees who in many ways are socially isolated from the tools to form healthy identities as Asians, Asian-Americans, Korean-Americans etc. etc. And this is not to say that any adoptee should completely fit neatly into these sort of categories, but many adoptees grow up with no sense that they exist as an extension of the Pan-Asian American Diaspora.

And while many parents claim they have provided these resources and their children are simply not interested, it’s no wonder when any adolescent only wants to fit in. So if a majority of students in a high school are white, it’s no wonder they are not willing to consider themselves anything else but who they see and interact with on a day-to-day basis. I don’t want to alienate a-parents in this, but I simply want to make clear that I think this is a consideration that should be heard. Had I grown up in a highly diverse area perhaps I would have wanted to learn more about Korean culture, or learn the language at an early age. If there is no diversity it’s hard for any person who is an outsider in any regard to voluntarily want to be unique for who they are. So many of us grow up in predominantly white communities isolated from other people of color and so many of us grow up with these very same internalized oppressions that we attempt to fit in by straying away from anything Asian/Asian American. Why should we want to go to Korean culture camp if fitting in means being an American with our mostly white friends? Why should we want to learn the Korean language if there is no one to practice with at school or at home? More importantly we should be asking ourselves ‘Why haven’t we been raised in communities where it’s ok to be unique?’  In deciding how to raise an adoptee I think these sort of sacrifices are more than peripheral, they are in many ways front and center.

And I don’t necessarily feel as though its entirely an a-parents fault. Adoption agencies do not provide enough literature and knowledge for parents going into transracial adoption from the beginning. What is the most striking is for the many adoptees who go to college and are literally hit over the head by being exposed to other Asian Americans and other people of color. It is only then that many of us have been able to understand the very complex and nuanced relationship that adoption and racial identity share. It’s at this adoption and racial nexus that many of us find (what one attendee commented on), that ‘we realize that we never knew we had issues.’

I had a great time meeting other adoptees, and interacting with those a-parents who were well-intentioned and respectful. We have so much dialogue left, and we as adoptees mean DIALOGUE, not “give us your advice.” I realize that since my sister’s article was first posted on my blog that a number of adoptive parents and agency blogs have linked my blog. I think it’s great, and there needs to be this sort of inter-group dialogue. Yet I know that we as adoptees need to continue to exist within safe-spaces where we may talk frankly with one-another.

Thanks to all who attended, and I wish I could go to the Gathering!

G.S.

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