Dear Adoption, You’ve Met Your Match
I hope this letter finds you well. I see you’ve experienced growth and support in the years between our first meeting. For that, I offer genuine congratulations – it takes sincere effort to remain intact while generating significant controversy.
But now I’d like to tell you what happened in the intervening years since our acquaintance; it seems you forgot about me, but I haven’t forgotten you.
As a child of two mothers and you, the System, you’ve instilled in me a lineage lost and left me with remnants of a broken past. You offered me – and thousands of others like myself – to a maliciously curious public, while using me as a sacrificial symbol of intercountry goodwill and blindly hopeful love. In doing so, you either neglected or chose not to consider the face of the child you were sending away and whether that face would be welcome in what you would call her new home.
That would be an oversight with serious repercussions. In your charitable zeal – spurned by religious goodwill, a facet you slowly abandoned – you surrendered me to a land with a history of treating Asians as perpetual foreigners. Example: Only two years before you embraced me, two white men beat Vincent Chin for looking somewhat Japanese. Less than a decade after my arrival, a white policeman murdered a Chinese man. The policeman claimed his life was in danger since the victim was carrying a stick and presumed to be a martial arts expert.
Your intervention taught me “gook” and “chink” and “slope” and “flat face” and “watermelon eyes” and “go back to your own country.” But prejudice isn’t limited to transracial adoptees, so let me tell you something else: You shipped me out to a devastatingly racist family, ones who would show me, through word and deed, how despicable it was to be an Other. And yet, you failed to protect me from a lifetime of self-hate and doubt; by overlooking the demographics of an adoptee’s new home – a simple act of research brushed aside during the rush to serve hopeful new parents – you unwittingly deposited me into bigotry’s slavering jaws.
But I no longer begrudge you of these missteps. I acknowledge my anger and there’s a part of me that still smolders when hearing your name – but I have something you don’t: Knowledge. Knowledge of your history, your glaring mistakes, and the disenfranchised voices of the ones you failed. You may have destroyed some of us, but the rest of us endured your mistakes and can rectify your actions. We were victims of your own making, products of a societal experiment gone awry. But guess what? We grew up. And we’re spectacular!
I’d still be angry if I knew there was no chance in getting you to change your ways. But I am hopeful, I am positive, and I am strong because of you. So Adoption, thank you for making your mistakes; you have given me something to fix.
Stay in touch,
Sunny J. Reed is a New Jersey-based writer, currently working on an autoethnography detailing her life as a transracial adoptee. Her book focuses on the history of the American family, intercountry adoption, and race in the United States, weaving all three elements together to provide an explanation for the perplexing interfamilial racism experienced by transracial adoptees. She also contributes to Intercountry Adoptee Voices, an Australian-based organization focusing on adoption activism. She believes that honest discussions instigate change, so feel free to contact her with any thoughts or ideas. Twitter / Facebook