Yesterday, on World Adoption Day, I had the opportunity to present preliminary findings from my dissertation research, which focuses on Korean adoptees’ identities, advocacy, and relationship to racial ideology. As I worked on and practiced my presentation over the past week, I couldn’t help but think about the conflicting messages about adoption, such as those promoted through National Adoption Month, Orphan Sunday, World Adoption Day, or National Adoption Day, and the very real experiences of adoptees. World Adoption Day, like the other nationally and internationally identified adoption events, celebrates families and raises awareness about adoption. But adoption campaigns do not translate into transformation in understanding about who constitutes family, what transracial adoption entails, or the citizenship rights of transnational adoptees.
In the midst of National Adoption Month, a Korean adoptee awaits deportation. We talk about forever families and yet here is an adoptee being separated from family forever. The country that welcomed him here has decided that it no longer wants him. The cute Korean baby has served its purpose.
On World Adoption Day, I continued to see the limits of family-making through adoption. Ideas of being just like one of the family should mean to be loved like one of the family, to be embraced like one of the family, to be defended like one of the family. But, too often, I see this to mean, in regards to transnational transracial adoptees, to be white like one of the family, and when you don’t uphold white attitudes and white views you are transgressing the conditions on which you were incorporated into the family.
As Korean adoptees share the hurt and pain they feel of being racial outsiders resurfacing with the election of a man who repeatedly demonizes people who look like them, we are continually told to ‘get over it’ or to simply cultivate our own inner peace, to mentally pull ourselves up by our bootstraps while ignoring the very real material and physical consequences unfolding around us. Apparently, ‘like it or not’ we will be treated differently because we aren’t white and we are supposed to sit here and take it, quietly, obediently.
But we can’t.