Friday, May 21, 2010

Responding to John Seabrook

At the Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus, there's a great conversation going on in the comments in reaction to John Seabrook's NPR interview about international adoption and his New Yorker piece about the same.  In response to the critique of his interview/article, Seabrook responds in the comments.  There are a series of really terrific replies to him by adult transracial adoptees.

8 comments:

Mei Ling said...

Been absolutely engrossed by the exchanges through the comments.

I'm so grateful for my fellow TRAs.

Jessica Pegis said...

He's having a hard time but he is surprisingly dense. I know it's a learning curve, though.

Diane said...

Stellar comments- just wow. Amazing thought and some serious writing skills at work!

As Jess wrote- it is a learning curve and I am so glad that you chimed in about your personal journey Malinda.

Jessica Pegis said...

His last three attempts which I just read this morning show a lot more resistance than I suspected initially. He dismissed E. J. Graff. He dismissed the idea that adult adoptees are usually not invited on media as the "experts" but a-parents ironically are, and explained that adult adoptees just don't know how to pitch a compelling story. He seems to think that because his DD has an African-American nanny and some AA friends that racism won't be an issue for her. Anyway, I think he signed off. Whatev.

Mikenjane said...

Fascinating discussion. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Very articulate adult adoptees. I never, ever fail to learn from adult Korean adoptees.

Yet -- are there not some ways in which Chinese adoption seems a bit different than Korean adoption? Am I just being blind again? Korea is now a wealthy country, but rural China is not. Also, the extreme gender prejudices and the corruption surrounding domestic adoption within China? Overseas Chinese regularly participate in Chinese IA, for example, which I have not heard discussed by Korean adult adoptees, partially because they are distrustful of the gov't's ability to guarantee ethical domestic adoptions.

Also the very bad conditions within some institutions? (We are still struggling with my older DD's sensory issues from her poor care as an infant.)

I'm not sure that all IA and all TRA is the same and can be discussed in the same fashion.

Every time I read an extremely articulate argument made by an adult Korean adoptee, I think "If you had grown up with lead poisoning and institutional autism and SID, you would not be able to make such a sophisticated argument. It is precisely the excellent nurturing that IA provided you with that now allows you to criticize it. You say that you would prefer privation in your native culture, but that is in hindsight. Would you really prefer to be less intelligent, or crippled, or autistic, or less able in some important way?" Because realistically that is exactly what happens to institutionalized children or children left to fend for themselves in the streets. I live it out every day.

Adoption allows these adult adoptees to move up the hierarchy of needs to address cultural and emotional needs rather than physical needs. Their point is that these needs are just as real, which I readily admit. But my point is that the physical needs are real as well and provide a basis on which to build.

I have tried to point this out to adult Korean adoptees and they really don't want to hear what I am saying. (One even says in the Seabrook conversation that death in Korea is preferable to life in IA; does she really believe that?)

But I still wonder b/c I work with my DD's needs every single day.

Also, would an adult Korean adoptee take the time to read my post? I just spent 15 minutes reading the John Seabrook exchange carefully, for example. I wonder.

Mei Ling said...

Mikenjane: "Would you really prefer to be less intelligent, or crippled, or autistic, or less able in some important way?"

I think you know what the obvious answer to this would be. Therefore, this is not really a question that allows for discussion. It's back-ended question that, despite being the reality of children who actually face such things, is really intended to silent adult adoptees.

"One even says in the Seabrook conversation that death in Korea is preferable to life in IA; does she really believe that?"

That's a bit extreme.

"Adoption allows these adult adoptees to move up the hierarchy of needs to address cultural and emotional needs rather than physical needs."

Yes, but there's so much more to adoption than that. Adoptees *deserve* more than that. It's not a privilege that they must earn upon which their adoption is supposedly based.

What about the adoptees' bio siblings? What about their parents? or extended relatives? Do they not count, or is it just targeted at the children who are supposedly so pitied their own parents could not afford to provide adequate care?

People often say I'm lucky to have been adopted. I disagree in a sense; I wasn't lucky that my adoption occurred from a tragedy. I wasn't lucky that my parents couldn't afford to pay for my health expenses and that the general impression of this is: "Too bad, so sad."

I wasn't lucky that in exchange for one life, I was transferred to another and be subsequently told that I should be grateful for having my very basic fundamental needs met since, you know, my own parents couldn't take care of me.

There are things which have happened in my life that are lucky. A good family? Yes. A good home? Yes. Education? Yes.

Adoption, founded on the basis of tragedy, economic, and social privilege is not one of them. Adoption came at a heavy economic and emotional price.

You ask me if I would have preferred to have grown up in an orphanage. I ask you in return to consider that that is like asking someone if they would have preferred the horrible circumstance to begin with - which caused them to end up in the orphanage, which nobody prevented to begin with.

It's also like asking someone who is being abused: Would you prefer to have grown up in a group home, or end up being tossed out into the streets after abuse?

I think the answer is obvious: They would have preferred not to have been abused. Duh.

Mei Ling said...

Adoption however is regarded as being different in this analogy because of the loving family and home. This fails to take into consideration that the biological family and home might have been just as loving and adequate.

Unfortunately, this leads to the notion: "Well if they had been loving and adequate enough, they wouldn't BE in the orphanage."

This is where privilege comes from. This is where economic inequality is based off of, which leads to the possibility of adoptions.

I have often seen the implication: "If adoptive parent love is strong enough, it shouldn't matter what happened in the past. Love should be enough. If they just. love. hard. enough, everything will all work out."

So why does that same argument not apply to biological families?

Because it can't. Because we have orphanages, and any person with common sense will say: If they loved their child enough, that child would not have been IN the orphanage. Period.

And we are caught in the same Catch-22 argument once again: Would you have preferred to grow up in the orphanage?

Well, would anyone have preferred to grow up in an orphanage? Of course not.

So you see, that question does not allow for proper discussion, which is precisely why we adult adoptees are very fed up with having to answer to it.

Learning Parent said...

This is a great discussion and essential for adoptive parents. Thanks for pointing it out.