The Cost of Culture-Keeping

From an article in the Boston Globe:

Parents do these things to help instill in their children pride in who they are, and where they came from, but also to prepare them in case they want to return to their homeland and search for their birth family. What perplexes me is when parents say things like they are sorry for removing their children from “their culture.”

And yet the demand is still so high.

But focusing on a museum view of culture can ignore – or become a way to ignore – the reality of life as a racial minority in America.

Being Asian American is not about celebrating the lunar new year, wearing a hanbok, painting a mask, or banging a drum. Yeah, we do those sometimes, but there’s more to it than that. For example, today someone asked me if I was from the US. It was much nicer than asking “So what country are you from?” but the implication is there: I don’t look American. That is something you don’t get from the “museum view of culture” that Hopgood writes of.

This is a danger, I think, in presenting the birth country and family in an overly romantic way, and in raising a child’s expectations that they will and should fit in. Adoptees can end up feeling bad not only because they don’t fit in, but because they disappoint their parents.

There is also a danger, I think, in presenting the birth country and family in an overly romantic and unmodernized, backwards way; that the birth parents are poor farmers from rural areas and unable to raise a child. Unfortunately, I can name more than a few children’s books that do that. Likewise, I can name more than a few children’s books that romanticize adoption itself; the rescue, the colorblind love, the trivial misunderstandings from society that adoptees should brush off. Right.

I realize that adoptees will all come to their own view of culture and adoption, but I imagine many international adoptees and children in multiracial families share this wider, more global view of themselves. Our blended family backgrounds, beliefs, and practices – as diverse, complicated, and dissonant as they might seem – are as authentic as any. We are another version of the immigrant story, with a culture is just as rich as the one we might have had.

Read the rest of it here. Thanks to Ji-Yeon Yuh for the link.

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