On Adam Crapser’s Deportation and Transnational Adoptees’ Belonging

Today we learned where we belong.

I read the news about Adam Crapser’s deportation with disbelief, with anger, with confusion. Adopted from Korea to the U.S., we Korean transnational adoptees were told we were home. We were the children of our (largely white) American adoptive parents. We were family, Americans, sold the lie that we are white and just like ‘everyone else,’ that our ethnicity doesn’t matter, our race does not exist. We transnational adoptees were marketed as ‘baggage free’ (not like those other orphan children), ‘clean slates’ (completely divorced from life, family, and country pre-adoption). The model minority child for adoption.

Yet we are deported.

To a home we do not know, a country that does not recognize us, family that we cannot locate, whose names we do not know, on paperwork we are not allowed to see.

Korean transnational transracial adoptees often feel this sense of in-betweenness – between countries, between cultures, between families. We often do not have any memories or ongoing connections to our birth country, yet we remain tethered to it, whether through our own longing and questioning or the expectations of others. And, it is often these expectations of others that keep us from feeling completely at home here. We are between Korean culture that we know little about but are assumed to know and American culture, which we are reminded isn’t really about us. We are haunted by a past that we are told doesn’t exist yet remains ever-present.

But we cannot be divorced from our past. It is on our bodies, etched into our collective memory.

Our past is that of the Korean War – a fight between world powers over the Korean peninsula. A battle that left our birth country ravaged. A battle that opened the door for Korean adoption and the international adoption industry we see today.

Our past is that of Korean children used as pawns in both U.S. and Korean political relations.

Our past is that of not being adoptable because we were not white and then becoming adoptable because we were not Black.

This is our past and it remains ever-present.

Adam’s case reminds me that we are never American. Never American enough. We can have American parents, American siblings, ‘American’ names, live in American homes, attend American schools, wear American clothes, eat American food, speak with American accents, but we will always be told to go back where we came from. And for the thousands of transnational adoptees whose parents never naturalized them, we are often sent back there.

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