a comment worth repeating

Someone left a comment today that I think is worthy of its own post. The writer is of Haitian descent. I appreciate this perspective so much and I think it is an important one to consider for anyone in the adoption process:

The debate over Haitian adoption is not new. There are differing points of view and many considerations. The children have an immediate need for food, shelter, and security. But what happens when someone adopts a child of another culture to "rescue" that child because s/he believes that the "American way" is the only way?

Childhood is short relative to adulthood. What we learn as children shapes who we become as adults. Please consider your beliefs and biases. If you're adopting a Haitian child, but look down on Haiti and the Haitian people, you will do harm in the long run. Can a Haitian child who hears only "Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere" or "Haiti is cursed" or "Haiti made a pact with devil" grow into an emotionally healthy adult?

Imagine moving to a place where your American culture and heritage are constantly maligned and marginalized. Imagine being the ONLY American in that place. How do you maintain a healthy sense of self in this environment? We've heard plenty about people with low self-esteem. People who feel they are not "good enough" generally do not make good decisions. In the US, the standard for deciding who is "deserving" is very high. Brown people, unless they are wealthy, are typically at the bottom. The brown people who succeed are usually the ones who have people they trust who tell them that they are deserving and are "good enough." The people who oppose cross-cultural or transracial adoption fear that the adoptees will not receive the support they need to succeed in this world. As a brown woman, I can tell you that it is nice growing up with role models and others to encourage me. There is nothing sinister about that. I do not oppose cross-cultural or transracial adoptions. Please be aware that those in opposition are not the enemy and that they have valid reasons. If you adoption across culture or race, you have an obligation to be your child's cheerleader and to validate who they ARE. Validating a Haitian child includes finding positive things to say about Haiti and Haitian culture. "Yes Pierre, [insert negative] is true, but did you know [insert positive]?" (emphasis mine)

There is a solution and we must constructively pressure the people in power to find one that is in the best interest of the children. Children already identified as orphans and released by their parents for adoption must be permitted to find a new family. Unfortunately, attacks on Haiti, Haitian culture, or the Haitian government will certainly hinder the process. Maligning the government will only cause it to further dig in its heals. This is not in the children's best interest.



8 comments:

  1. Kristin3:53 PM

    Thanks for sharing. This is awesome to hear this perspective from someone first hand. We have a heart for adoption and are looking into it (although likely from the US foster system) and I always take for granted that we are culturally open and embrace other cultures (maybe since we're from CA?) even though we are Caucasion. I too often assume that in a country where we've elected an African American president, everyone is accepting of other races and cultures in such a melting pot country as America. But this is a good reminder that many people are not and even my husband and I, who are culturally open, need to realize that any negative comments about a culture of origin could be so hurtful to an adopted child's self esteem.

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  2. I think this is such a good, valid point of view. What I don't understand is why anyone would be so negative about another person's culture. I just don't get why if you were going to adopt a child, no matter their culture, then why would you not do the research to positively effect both that child and their future. Haiti needs it's children to grow up into proud adults that love and want to support and help the country of their birth. Thanks to all you who are doing that already!

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  3. Anonymous4:02 PM

    I find it hard to believe that a family would go through all the trouble to adopt a child (much less from another country) and then put down that child's heritage. I've very disappointed that UNICEF or the Haitan government would believe this. When I look at these children I only see a beautiful child... not the color of their skin. What is wrong with Americas values and customs? I find the comment above very sad... very sad... when all these families what to do his open their home and hearts to an orphan. SAD! Shame on them!

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  4. I believe that a person who adopts a child of a different race is not racist and is well-intentioned. However, how much does the average person really know about Haiti other than what s/he sees on television? You can probably tell me that Haiti is "the poorest country in the western hemisphere." Good start, but what else can you tell me? What will you tell your child about Haiti? If you're one of the people who truly believes that Haiti is cursed or that Haiti made some deal with the devil, are you really going to spend time learning about Haiti? An adoptive parent might not say something specifically negative about Haiti, but never saying anything positive has the same affect. What will you tell your child about the process of adopting him or her? Telling a child that s/he was "rescued" is not entirely positive. These are things to think about.

    Prior to the earthquake there were a number of families in the process of adopting Haitian orphans. That number grew exponentially after the earthquake. It is the images of desperation and squalor that has prompted this response. Americans have really big hearts, but sometimes that is not enough. It takes a lot more effort and commitment to adopt someone outside of your race and/or culture. I applaud all of those who have done it or are the process adoption.

    We as Americans believe in the idea that we're all equal. But is this truly the reality? Should we stop trying to improve the lives of the brown people because there is a brown family in the White House? Our president did not receive 100% of the vote. I am appalled by what some people are saying when they think no black person is within earshot. There are people who voted for our president's "white" side (his mother was a white woman from the midwest) and others voted against McCain. Yes, we have come a long way, but we haven't made it to the finish line.

    If you're adopting a child who is from a country or racial group that is not valued, just do your homework and own up to your biases. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you have biases. It is what you do about them that matters. We are all biased in some way or another. There is so much more to say, but I don't want to hijack Kristen's blog.

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  5. SAHM, Esq. - These are great thoughts, thank you so much for sharing them. I've read a lot of people discussing how dangerous the urge to adopt "disaster orphans" is, and a lot of it is focused on the potential that the children have family looking for them. I think this is an equally serious concern - these are generally not parents who had any interest in Haiti or adopting from Haiti (or adopting at all) before the earthquake, and their relationship with the culture of the adopted child is highly suspect and very possibly negative.

    And Kristen, I really appreciate that you're using your blog to share the different perspectives on this complicated issue. Just because an organization is large does not mean it should go unquestioned - and in fact, the more power an organization has is all the more reason it should be scrutinized.

    Everyone wants what's best for the people of Haiti, and especially the most vulnerable people - the children. And the best way to figure out how best to help is to listen to all different perspectives, not just steamroll forwards one agenda.

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  6. Anonymous11:58 AM

    As an adoptive mother of 4, I so agree with the comment that we need to be our children's cheerleader. We need to be a cheerleader not only of their culture but of their birthfamilies. Children who are adopted domestically may also have difficult family histories for them to understand: issues such as addiction, homelessness and abuse. We need to examine our own stereotypes (conscious or unconscious) and admit our own frailties. Our children need us to present these issues in a manner that is sensitive. In order for them to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, they need to have a sense of love, compassion and acceptance of their birthfamilies. I am quite uncomfortable when well-meaning persons extol my virtues for having "taken on these children". My children, as children born into their families, do not have to be "grateful" that I am their parent. They do not choose how they have come to be a member of their family just as someone born into their family does not.

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  7. Kristen,

    Thanks for posting this comment as a blog of it's own or I would have missed it. I very much appreciated everything SAHM said.

    The danger of this type of conversation is it tends to be black and white or illustrated in the extremes. I wholeheartedly think that people who adopt (domestically or internationally) mostly have good motives. Most parents would know not to talk about a birth mother as a crack head, for example, or as Haiti as making a pact with the devil.

    But I really don't think having a good heart and love is enough to help a child adapt to a new family. The messages given are much more unconscious. They are listed right here in some of these comments, by really good people. Messages such as America being a melting pot, about the color of skin not mattering, about racism not being as prevalant because we have a black president, etc. The only people who say things like this are WHITE people. Ask a person of color if color matters and most say YES. Ask if they want to just blend and most say NO. The goal of who we are as a nation should never be assimilation, because that just means blending into white culture and power structures. Wishing for a colored blind society is actually a form of racism. The goal should always be that we can be multi-cultural. And we can't do that unless we are willing to back up from the table and make a space for others that look different, think different, act different, have different histories, perhaps even value differently.

    I've talked about what I just said before on my blog and on your blog comments. But it just seems worth repeating or I am afraid that we read your words and think, "I'm glad I'm not one of those." And the reality is, we are ALL one of those to some degree. We all have biases. It takes bravery to admit that but without it, I think these biases get played out without awareness.

    I am proud of you for shedding light on such complicated topics.

    Diane
    www.msdianedavis.blogspot.com

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