The Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus and John Seabrook

Holy hot cakes, there’s never a dull day in the transracial adoption blogosphere. Here’s a summary of what’s going on at my good friend Bae Gang Shik’s blog:

  • Gang Shik wrote a thoughtful and critical blog entry about John Seabrook’s The New Yorker article and NPR podcast regarding his recent adoption of a Haitian (post-earthquake) girl named Rose.
  • John Seabrook responded to Gang Shik, calling him “unhappy.”
  • Other transracial adoptees and allies commented on the entry, asking Mr. Seabrook to consider his own white male privilege and stop dismissing criticisms coming from adopted persons who are, after all, experts on their own lives, as well as scholars of adoption.
  • John Seabrook responded again, accusing adoptees of not listening to him and twisting his words.
  • An adoptive mother threw down the final word (as of now):

I sincerely hope that John never has to read the unkind assumption about his daughter that I read on these pages about my son – that Rose must have had an unhappy adoption experience simply because she speaks her own truth.

I’m really glad whenever I read/hear the comments of adoptive parents who actually listen to and support their transracially adopted children (who, by the way, do grow up into adulthood). But I continue to be extremely frustrated by the active silencing and dismissing that occurs at the hands of other adoptive parents who cannot look beyond their privilege and entitlement. Transracially adopted persons have a right to tell their own stories and be critical of an imperfect industry without having to be defensive towards the very people who parent them. I’m not a transracial adoptee, but I’ve been researching this for a number of years. At the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (ASAC) conference 3 weeks ago, I observed first hand how often white adoptive parents dismissed issues of race, pathologized adoptees scholarship and thereby treated them as objects rather than subjects. For example, adoptive parents asked Dr. John Raible about his personal life in response to his academic presentation regarding gender, sexuality and transracial adoption; another white therapist asked Deann Borshay Liem if she felt “whole” after viewing her mind-blowing documentary, In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee. Clearly, these folks don’t see adoptees as scholars, as documentarians, as experts regarding their own lives. They see them as objects to be studied, examined, pathologized, and then silenced. This must change.

Whew, off my soapbox. Read the conversation at KAD Nexus:

*Structural Violence* and *HERE*

So much to update, so little time. For now, some awesome reads:

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 1 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 2 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 3 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Structural Violence, Social Death and International Adoption: Part 4 of 4 by Jane Jeong Trenka

Some quotes from Trenka’s article:

It has been estimated that there will be no more Koreans left in South Korea by the year 2305; there are not enough babies being born to replace the elderly who are dying.(1)

The Korea Times quoted the minister, whom it dubbed the “Minister of Ingenuity,” as saying, “It is obvious that my primary and ultimate goal as family minister is to lift the birthrate.” Yet this is the very same ministry responsible for sending up to 200,000 children overseas for international adoption (2), with 90 percent of the 1250 Korean babies sent for international adoption in 2008 being the children of unwed mothers.

It seems that the ministry is not interested in raising the birthrate by simply allowing the children who are already born in Korea to live there, or by extending the “choice” of raising one’s own child to everyone. Even while she talks about adopting the model of family-friendly policies used in France (where people no longer find it necessary to marry to have and raise children), the minister is interested in encouraging only married people to have children. Children who fall outside the “norm” of Korean society have been systematically shipped out ever since the end of the Korean War. (3)

Although there may be up to 1 million Korean family members directly affected by international adoption, these family members are rarely heard from(4); the adoption program that presumably “saved” children from miserable lives in Korea and that now “saves” unwed mothers from raising their own children has also rendered them socially dead in the process. These social deaths, accomplished by dis-embedding children from their families, exiling them from their country, and changing their names, birthdates, hometowns, and social histories, have been facilitated by the “justice” ministry and the ministry of health, welfare and “family,” as well as the adoption agencies’ web of orphanages, unwed mother’s homes, and the Korean healthcare providers who pressure women into relinquishing children and who have the power to cover up the adoptions. (5)

And FINALLY! It’s HERE: A Visual History of Adopted Koreans in Minnesota !! From the Yeong & Yeong website:

Why HERE? Our story: Minnesota has one of the highest number of adopted Koreans, per capita, in the world, and yet there is nothing in our state’s annals to document this. This book was conceived to recognize the 13,000–15,000 of us who have immigrated to Minnesota, and to celebrate our existence, experiences, and perspectives, which are as diverse as our faces. We are everyday people, yet unique. We are girls, boys, women, men, babies, teens, and adults; singles, partnered, married, gay, straight, and transgendered; sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. We are a living, breathing part of Minnesota history. This book has no agenda—it is neither for nor against international adoption. We merely present the spectrum of our adopted community and how we have altered the face of Minnesota since the 1950s. Most important, we felt the urgent need to create this book as a resource not only for the present population, but also for future adoptees. After all, many of us do not have access to our Korean families and ancestry, and this book may provide the only touchstone many of us will ever have.

Congratulations to Kim Dalros and Heewon Lee for making this book a reality!

“Parents: All Haitian ‘Orphans’ Had Relatives”

GOOD GRIEF. From the Associated Press:

Although a U.S. Baptist group said it was trying to rescue 33 “orphans” by taking them out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, all the children have close family still alive, The Associated Press has found.

A reporter’s visit Saturday to the rubble-strewn Citron slum, where 13 of the children lived, led to their parents, all of whom said they turned their youngsters over to the missionary group voluntarily in hopes of getting them to safety.

This completely breaks my heart. It takes something like this tragedy to expose the ongoing corruption that is much of transnational adoption. Most people think TRA is safe, regulated, and ethical, but the truth is, it leaves a LOT of room for child trafficking and corruption, and until we can fix the system, perhaps better to shut down certain systems.

Read the article: “Parents: All Haitian ‘Orphans’ Had Relatives”