Saturday, August 11, 2012

The politics of "colorblind" international adoption

At the Foreign Policy blog, a piece about adoption from Haiti, with reference to a new film about international adoption:
Following the questions of one Haitian-born, Canadian-raised woman, Adopted ID raises questions of identity, and the politics of international adoption.

To a lively soundtrack, which carries the film when the visuals blur, the documentary follows the emotional journey of Judith Craig Morency on her first trip back to Haiti after 27 years raised in a white Canadian family.

I saw the film at the Black Star Film Festival in Philadelphia last weekend and met the dynamic film maker, Sophia Godding Tobogo.

Judith doesn’t speak Kreyol, and knows only that she was found in a ditch and taken to a hospital when she was a few days old. Her adopted father is a Canadian minister, but she knows nothing of the birth family that she seeks.

Her story, rife with holes, is typical of international adoptees.

Most children adopted internationally do not live our stereotypical, imagined orphan tale: with deceased parents, children find their way to a dismal orphanage, to be saved by a kind hearted stranger.

It’s important to know: most children in Haitian orphanages DO have families.

* * *

A New Yorker article by John Seabrook in 2010 explored the heartbreak on the other side of the ocean: families waiting for their adopted children, losing contact after the earthquake.

But the article highlighted the complicated paternalism inherent in international adoption. Seabrook quoted Queen Latifah as saying on the “Today” show, “I want to just go and get some of them babies. If you got the hookup, please get me a couple of Haitian kids.”

Adopted ID shows some even more cringe-worthy attitudes. When Judith visits an orphanage during her own Haiti pilgrimage, a white family is cuddling with their newly adopted Haitian son. “We’re all the same color!” the teenage sister says, “I’m black on the inside”.

The film just touches on the human rights and business nuances of adoption in Haiti. But it stresses the depth of Judith’s confusion and identity crises, growing up black, Haitian but with siblings that blow off her questions, and parents that seem offended by her desire to reconnect with her roots.

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