There. I said it. So now that we’ve taken care of that, let me explain.
Two unshakable fears follow me from word to sentence to paragraph as I continue through this project. One includes being accused of parental ingratitude, unable to just accept my situation and grow up. The other involves being on the receiving end of the Internet’s wrath. I can handle that one.
But let’s sit with that first fear for a bit.
To an adoptee, “gratitude” implies being blissfully happy with your life circumstances, taking the good with the bad and accepting it over whatever the alternatives may have been. But it’s a loaded expectation. It silences a person’s ability to question their own upbringing. It’s also a powerful denial (and sometimes a way to blame the adoptee) of any unfortunate experiences.
So why the silence?
First, there exists in the literature an implication of the American savior complex. When I was adopted more than three decades ago, there was a persisting post-war mentality that our neighbors to the East were backward, third-world, and in need of American intervention. This attitude pervaded the original marketing materials for Korean adoption and helped satisfy America’s growing nationalism – after all, what God-fearing American citizen didn’t want to offer their home to a “Korean waif”?
Second, because of this climate, transracial adoption as a concept was publically viewed as the Ultimate Good Deed. Opening your home to a “needy” child certainly cannot be a punishable offense. But this glowing picture overshadowed the growing controversy surrounding the original Korean orphan advocate, Harry Holt, who was criticized for his unconventional adoption practices.
Nevertheless, the picture of the Asian as a “quiet, trouble-free, responsible and achieving people” persisted – and then I arrived. These jumbled assumptions provided for one loaded welcome, with high expectations and an underlying presumption of an eternally happy child.
But that’s just the problem – that child grows up.
And here’s where I am today – just an ordinary person with thoughts and reflections on her life, coupled with the desire to help validate others’ experiences. I happen to be adopted, but that’s not how I define myself. And neither should any adoptee, since that’s a label assigned to us that wasn’t of our choosing.
So now it’s my turn to tell my story, to stave off a history of puzzled expressions and intrusive questions and forced explanations of my personal history. It’s a validation for anyone who was ever confronted with an outright rejection of their tentative criticisms of their parents, family, or racial identity crises – you are not alone, you are not wrong, and to some degree, our struggles were predicted by concerned researchers over fifty years ago.
I will explore many of the concepts in each post in more depth in my book, but I hope you enjoy my ongoing thoughts and contribute your own so we can have an insightful conversation. I love hearing different viewpoints and your feedback will help me develop a better final product that’s really made for you.