announcement: article feature on resonate mag

My auspicious connect with blogger and social commentator, Eliza Romera aka Aesthetic Distance, has led to so many incredible opportunities. She helped me get my infamous Think Adopting Children of Color Makes You Woke? It Doesn’t. article launched. Now, she and her editor friend over at We Are Resonate supported me enough to feature a second transracial adoption piece!

Below’s an excerpt and a link to the full post. THANK YOU!

FEATURE: WHAT THIS KID’S AMAZING AMERICA’S GOT TALENT AUDITION TAUGHT ME ABOUT RACIAL MIRRORING, ADOPTION, AND PARENTING

Humanizing Asians in popular culture will provide racial mirrors for those of us unlucky enough to lack them.

I’m not a singer, I’m not a consumer of pop culture, and I’m definitely not that into music. But when I watched this kid’s amazing rendition of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” I was taken not just by 13-year-old Jeffrey Li’s unquestionable talent but by something else completely.

Through my work as a transracial Korean adoptee, I write a lot about racial mirroring and its importance for children of color. Without families or communities resembling them, many Asian adoptees grow up insecure about, ambivalent toward, or hating everything that makes them Asian, all characteristics–like their adoptions–completely out of their control. Unsurprisingly and without remediation, such attitudes become deeply ingrained in children who grow into adults with complex racial identities.

Read the rest here at Resonate!

Advertisements

now you see me, but they don’t: invisible faces and races

Like many angsty teens, I wanted a chasm to open up and suck me in so I’d never have to face this cruel, cruel world anymore, but again, like many angsty teens, what I really wanted was as much attention as possible. I wanted someone to look at me and say “Yes, you are different and yes, you’re Asian. That’s cool. Now where’s that five dollars you owe me?”

What I received was the complete opposite. I heard “I see your face and it’s offensive and so freaking weird that it exists within your White family. Now let me ask you about it!” (These are called intrusive interactions and they’re as awkward as they sound.)

But something slightly disturbing happened whenever I’d complain about these unwanted behaviors; I’d be accused of imagining things, of being overly sensitive, of not humoring other people’s curiosity. Worse yet, I’d be told that it was something else about me, some indescribable flaw that made me a target. Evidently, “I’m going to kick your eyes straight!” and “Go back to your own country” have nothing to do with my appearance.

Eventually, my mother would tell me I dreamt these things up and that if they really were happening, I should just stop drawing so much attention to myself (leading me to pen a piece called Shut Up and Smile, in response to misplaced blame).

Her reaction – and society’s as a whole – to subtle forms of racism (aka racial microaggressions) is a quietly dangerous one, serving only to perpetuate the cycle of victim-blaming. The below video is an entertainingly informative few minutes of Derald Wing Sue’s definition of racial microaggressions, but the YouTube comments are perhaps the most telling status of America’s view of race.

I’ll save you the pain of reading through the comments; like everything on the internet, they’re filled with hate and racism and spew forth rage, accusing the professor of imagining things that aren’t really there, telling minorities to grow a thicker skin.

For the transracial adoptee, we need to be particularly sensitive to how racism is handled by both ourselves and our families.  While finding racism where it doesn’t exist isn’t helpful for anyone, transracial families should accept that overt acts of hate, like shouting slurs or getting beat up, exist alongside more slippery ones that evade quantification.

But there’s a solution. All forms of racism, such as colorblindness and hopeless commentary like this:

need to be considered, addressed, and handled. Directly. Be the awesome White parent who acknowledges your child’s race without the dreaded whitewash.

Vagaries like “hate for hate’s sake is bad” can be more effective if discussions include  specific topics like White privilege and the history of the child’s ethnic group in this country.  Admit to the color gap between you and your child; this isn’t an act of mercy or sacrifice or guilt-tripping, but one of empowerment for the future adult you are raising. Doing so will firmly cement your child in a position of security, because her status as a person of color will not be denied.

Celebrating color is not enough – we must concede that White parents and their transracial children will live vastly different lives based solely on race; we must embrace this truth as a starting point for weaving our developing values together. By starting this journey at home, parents have tremendous potential to positively influence their child’s racial identity.

Like this? Want more? So do I! Find out about my upcoming ventures on my Patreon page!

i’m not your model

I read an article from the 1990s that confirmed my long-standing suspicions: People in the eighties didn’t believe racism against Asians existed, thanks to the (now dissipating) model minority myth.

…[T]he erroneous belief that Asian Americans do not face discrimination cloud and mask the oppression of Asian Americans. We must tell our stories and our history again in order to shatter the myth and other mistaken beliefs about Asian America. – Robert S. Chang

Robert  S. Chang, law professor, wrote an awesomely-angry-ish paper examining the role Asian Americans played in the legal system. Unsurprisingly, Asians were not major characters. Chang explains the hidden-in-plain-sight prejudices launched against Asians, starting from the laws written by our very own United States government.

For example, he raised my eyebrows more than once when he shared tidbits like, oh, the fact that the official quota on Chinese immigrants was lifted less than 25 years before my birth. And those same early immigrants faced harsh discriminatory laws that “[l]ater arrivals, trying to avoid this discrimination, distanced themselves from earlier arrivals….In essence, the discriminatory laws…not only hurt the Chinese…but, by encouraging each group to be more ‘western’ than the next, also prevented the building of coalitions among different Asian American groups.”

 

vance-osterhout-129608
Photo by Vance Osterhout on Unsplash

Following the natural progression of institutionalized racism, White government officials excluded Asians from minority representation almost entirely, believing Asians chose to only socialize with other Asians – despite laws forcing separation.

Chang drops another bomb: It wasn’t until 1992 that language diversity – a feature of many Asian American cultures – was introduced to voting ballots, effectively banning some Asians from political participation.

In my book, I argue that racial attitudes during and before my adoption explained my negative reception. Insular town notwithstanding, I suspected what Chang confirmed: Asians were harbingers of foreignness and the insults (“Go back to your own country!”) reflected the belief that Asians didn’t belong; not in the town and definitely not the United States.

Chang argues that it’s the “portrayal of Asian Americans as successful [that] permits the general public, government officials, and the judiciary to ignore or marginalize the contemporary needs of Asian Americans.” Then, “when we try to make our problems known, our complaints of discrimination…are seen as unwarranted and inappropriate.”

So that’s why no one cared when someone threatened to kick my eyes straight.

And that’s why action wasn’t taken when “chink” mysteriously appeared on my school poster.

And, most upsettingly, that’s why the so-called affirmative action officer in my middle school told me that the kid who tried to light my jacket on fire while I was wearing it “needed a friend,” and never addressed the racism.

So, what does this have to do with adoption? I share this (thank you Mr. Chang, if you ever read this, which you probably won’t) because a large section of my book argues that the rapid rate of Korean adoptions were proportionate to the growing anti-Asian sentiment in the US, and steps could have been taken to prevent the inevitable racism I – and many others – experienced. Knowing this would have also maybe helped prepare my parents and possibly led others to self-select out of the adoption process.

Surviving in a multiracial world is challenging, but parents who are unable or unwilling to help their transracial child navigate it are dangerous.  It shouldn’t take this much work to prove racism is real.

Like this? Want more? So do I! Find out about my upcoming ventures on my Patreon page!