Short on time with a crazy week but I saw this book recommended in an all things adoption group thread and so I went looking. LINK> Aces Too High is a website related to Adverse Childhood Experiences often abbreviated simply to ACE. There is a review there which I am using to quickly dash out today’s blog.
This book explains how the problems that you’ve been grappling with in your adult life have their roots in childhood events that you probably didn’t even consider had any bearing on what you’re dealing with now. Childhood trauma is very common — two-thirds of us have experienced at least one type — and how that can lead to adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. It also showed that the more types of trauma you experience, the greater the risk of alcoholism, heart disease, cancer, suicide, etc.
Donna Jackson Nakazawa is a science journalist specializing in the intersection of neurobiology, immunology and the inner workings of the human heart. She says, “If you put enough stress on the immune system, there can be that last drop of water that it can’t hold, causing the barrel to spill over, and havoc ensues. What causes the immune system to be overwhelmed is different for every person – including infections, stress, toxins, a poor diet.”
She goes on to note – People who have experienced childhood adversity undergo an epigenetic shift in childhood, meaning that their stress-response genes are altered by those experiences, and that results in a high stress level for life. Stress promotes inflammation. These experiences are tied to depression, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and cancer during adulthood. She says, “. . . no other area of medicine would we ignore such a strong genetic link to disease.”
She has much more to say and I do encourage you to read her interview at the link. My apologies for not having more time today.
I often believe that adoption is more common than many people believe. Coming across a brief profile of Mattie Parker in Time magazine, who is now mayor of Fort Worth TX, intrigued me. I did not learn a whole lot about her adopted daughter, who is now 19, and from what I know about former foster care youth turned adoptees, it gives me pause to see so many photos of her sons but never one with the daughter. I did however discover a rather surprising Republican woman.
According to the LINK> Fort Worth Report Mattie and her husband, David, fostered, then adopted their daughter, Shainey. She was already 10 years old at the time (which is generally commendable). They have since focused their philanthropic efforts on children in the foster care system, promoting adoption and providing all children with a forever home. They also have two boys, Greyson, 10, and Laney, 4.
More recently in a profile in LINK> The Texas Tribune, I discovered that she is a Republican who has criticized the current state of the GOP and its intraparty battles. She believes that politics is not about party affiliation but should be grounded in public service and making our communities the best places to live and raise our families. Parker is known for making regular appeals for bipartisanship and in Texas municipal races are not partisan. That is the same in my own local county in Missouri.
Parker is one of the youngest mayors in the country at 38 years old. She has been known to buck her party and particularly as an outlier when it comes to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — which Texas Republicans have staunchly resisted.
Parker came to the defense of transgender children and their families amid the state’s push to label some parents of transgender youth as child abusers. Gov Greg Abbott, who endorsed Parker when she ran for mayor in 2021, recently directed the state’s child welfare agency to investigate parents who let their trans children access gender-affirming care.
Parker said policymakers should instead focus on providing mental health resources for teenagers and improving conditions for children in the state foster care system. She also cited figures showing transgender teens are more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers. “I’m worried right now that you’re targeting families that are already incredibly vulnerable and in a really difficult circumstance, when there are so many other hundreds of thousands of kids and families that are in dangerous positions with no regard for the subject of transgender,” Parker said.
The same can be said for your donor conceived child. Way back when, the suggestion was to begin to tell “the story” very early in the child’s life. That it would be good practice and that the truth would never feel as though it had been concealed. With the advent of inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites, I’m glad we followed that advice with our two sons. My mom’s group from over 18 years ago, once divided into two camps – telling and not telling. I am compassionately understanding of those who chose not to tell. Once I was talking to a friend who was stressing about telling her children they were donor egg conceived. While we were on the phone, her husband was in the backyard committing suicide. Understandably, the disruption of that tragic event has now robbed her of any good time to come out with the truth.
I do know of some late discovery adoptees (this is someone who finds out after maturity that they were adopted). One shares her point of view today – An adopted person should know they are adopted before they ever understand what it means. When is the right time to tell someone they’re adopted? Yesterday. The day before. The day before that. If you’re asking this question, you’ve already done it wrong.
If there is an adopted person in your life and you cannot say with 100% certainty that they know they’re adopted, you and the people around that adoptee have failed them. Withholding this information from an adopted person isn’t about the comfort of or what’s best for the adoptee, it’s about the unwillingness of the people around the adoptee to be uncomfortable.
Telling a person they’re adopted should never be done in a public setting. To do so is meant only to protect yourself from reaction and backlash. It’s cruel. There needs to be space and grace allowed for all the feelings that come with having your world turned upside down. This needs to be done with the understanding that your relationship with that person may never ever be the same moving forward. This needs to be done with the understanding that there might be no more relationship after this. And you need to understand *this*isn’t*about*you*. It’s about doing what’s right to make an adopted person whole. Because while it may seem that they don’t consciously know, their body does. The trauma of their separation from their natural mother has been stored within their bodily cells. To withhold this information from someone is emotionally abusive.
Within a large adoption community discussion space, one often sees the push back from some that their adoption experience was not so bad. When I first went into that community, I was definitely in “the fog” of believing adoption was a good thing, or at least natural. Both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption – no wonder – but I have learned so much in the 4-1/2 years since I began to learn about my original grandparents that my perspectives, I believe, are not only more realistic but better informed. I owe a lot of credit to that adoption community that I continue to be a part of.
This morning I did several google searches looking for content to add to the text graphic above. Hard to find anything under “not all,” oppression vs protection, etc. But finally I did find one that seems to bridge both points of view – I Am Grateful To Be Adopted—and Yet, Adoption Is Still Traumatic by Theodora Blanchfield at Very Well Mind, <LINK>. I was also surprised to see a blog from Missing Mom from last year show up in a search.
I think this article also reflects something my adoptee mom said to me at the end of her life – she never could really totally sort out her mixed feelings about having been “inappropriately” adopted (as she termed it) as well as being denied her own adoption file by the state of Tennessee or any possibility of a reunion with her original natural mother (who it turns out was married but separated from my mom’s father and therefore, exploited by Georgia Tann). She said something like, “you know, because I was adopted” (related to trying to create a family tree at Ancestry and how it “just didn’t feel real to her”) and quickly adding “glad I was.” Yet, it didn’t feel genuine.
Like Theodora, my mom grew up in privilege (my mom’s adoptive father was a banker and her mother a socialite). Yet, Theodora writes –
“I have dealt with severe depression, and my psychiatrist monitors me for signs of bipolar because of genetic susceptibility combined with that attachment trauma. I’ve been in inpatient treatment for six weeks, I’ve attempted suicide twice (adoptees are four times as likely to attempt suicide as non-adoptees and deal with mental health issues at a higher rate than non-adoptees). I receive monthly ketamine infusions for my treatment-resistant depression.”
I am aware my mom, admitted to me, she had at least once contemplated suicide. I know that she was frequently under the care of a psychiatrist and was sometimes prescribed Lithium (a mood stabilizer that is approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression and/or mania).
Theodora notes – Adoption narratives, like many other things on social media, paint things much more black and white than they actually are for many people. Anti-adoption advocates paint adoption as akin to human trafficking; adoptive parents and adoptee advocates paint adoption like it’s a fairy tale with a happy-ever-after ending. But what if it’s somewhere in between?
She goes on to describe many other unpleasant effects that she believes ARE related to the trauma of having been adopted. She adds “Privilege doesn’t negate not knowing where you came from or erase that always-wondering what’s nurture and what’s nature—something you’ve probably never thought about if you’re not adopted.”
She adds, “Telling an adoptee that you ‘don’t think of them as adopted’ is a knife that cuts both ways. It’s meant to be an olive branch, but it also discounts that it is my reality, that I was separated at birth from the woman with whom I share DNA who carried me for nine months. It invalidates the reality of the complexity of all those feelings bubbling up just below the surface, pushing them down until that soda bottle bursts, spilling out years of repressed emotions.”
An adoption agency connects hopeful adoptive parents with expectant mothers in crisis who may wish to relinquish their child for adoption. In the process of negotiating, the adoption agency receives money from the hopeful adoptive parents (in most cases), and sometimes (rarely) from expectant mothers. The money is used to pay for the associated legal fees, the matching service, and sometimes for care for the expectant mother. This money also pays the salaries of the agency employees. This is true even if the agency is listed as a “not for profit” agency. The employees, social workers, and directors are not working for free.
Hopeful adoptive parents reach out to agencies for help in finding an available child (usually an infant) to adopt. There are 40 hopeful adoptive parents (couples/families) for every infant available for adoption. That is an estimate, some say it may be as high as 1,000 hopeful adoptive parents for every infant who becomes available for adoption.
If you look on websites and in social media, an expectant mother who indicates anywhere that she is considering adoption, will receive hundreds, often thousands, of responses from people who would like to adopt her baby. The demand far exceeds the supply of infants available for adoption. In the leaked Supreme Court draft written by Alito he makes a note of that lack of supply.
So, let’s apply the law of supply and demand –
In order for an agency (which, whether for profit or not for profit, stands to make money from the transaction) to keep itself in business, the agency must provide a certain percentage of infants for the demand. When supply is low and demand is high, coercion enters into these transactions. Agencies must obtain children for their market and are willing to do whatever it takes to supply that market. Social workers and agency contacts do whatever it takes to convince an expectant mother that one of their adoptive couples is better for her child, than she could ever be.
If she receives any money from the agency to cover her expenses but then decides she wants to parent, they will call her a “scammer” or a “fraud.” In many states there is no revocation period during which a woman who has given birth but indicated she is willing to give up her baby can change her mind. Those are considered “adoption-friendly” states Some have short revocation periods. In many cases, social workers pressure expectant mothers to hand their babies over and sign their termination of parental rights, while the new mother is still within the first 48 hours after birth.
Coercive tactics are part and parcel of domestic infant adoption. International infant adoption is even more coercive and heinous because some parents are not even told that their legal rights to their child are being severed.
So, what about the children in foster care ? They’ve already had their parental rights severed. Some hopeful adoptive parents believe they are only motivated to help these unfortunate children. But there’s an economy at work there too. You can be forgiven for not knowing that, thanks to the many promotions of this method of adoption by various states. A federal stipend is paid to foster parents for children of all ages, from under a year old until they age out of the foster care system at 18.
In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) went into effect. Its purpose was to achieve permanency for children who had been in foster care for a long period of time by having them adopted. The intent of the law was good: permanent placements for children who had been abused, neglected, or abandoned. Its implementation, however, has proven faulty. It has amplified the corruption that has always been endemic within the Child Protective Services system.
The ASFA provides federal stipends to state agencies for each adoption they process out of foster care. Because the states receive money for having children adopted out of foster care, they now have a financial incentive to take children from actually SAFE families and place them into foster homes, so that they can be adopted. The more recent Family First Prevention Services Act includes federal funds to pay for services aimed at preventing the use of foster care by providing better support to parents at risk of losing custody of their children.
Regarding the current concept of “Foster to Adopt” –
Foster parents already receive a generous stipend from the state for caring for the state’s ward. Often, a foster parent will even receive an infant fresh from the hospital due to “risk of future harm” from their parents. These infants are placed with foster parents whose aim is to adopt. Both the foster parents (who wanted to adopt an infant) and the state child protection agency (which receives federal monies for every adoption from foster care) stand to gain from the adoption of this infant “out of foster care.”
The economic implications of adoption are the most straightforward and fact-based way to address whether ethical adoption is even possible. To whatever degree this all matters to you personally – consider the social impact of adoption and the reasons why adoption is considered unethical based upon social reasons.
Include in your considerations why children are removed by protective agencies simply due to perceived neglect caused only by poverty. Consider how it is possible that stipend money paid to them somehow makes foster caregivers more fit to parent than the biological parents. Look into the statistics for suicide and mental health issues among adoptees. Contemplate why laws promote adoption rather than legal guardianship.
Adoption is a contract made between two people – in which a third person is subjected to its ramifications – without their consent. Thank you for contemplating the ethical ramifications of adoption and the use by the state of foster care to increase adoptions.
In the blog below are excerpts from article by Sara Easterly in Severance Magazine on understanding how the effects of adoption trauma can look so good they get missed.
When I told her that I had promoted her piece, Sara wrote back – “may I ask you to more clearly distinguish my writing from yours? I’m not comfortable with the way our writing has been merged together without my words and thoughts in quotations.” I found it an awkward and complicated practice to pick out and put in quotes those words. Even so, I have done my best to honor her request, which means that to the best of my ability to identify them, her words are now in quotes. What her words made me think of in my own experiences with two adoptee parents are not.
If you find this now just too difficult to read, you can instead simply read her original piece – linked above in the words “Severance Magazine”. There is much more there than I chose to highlight in my own blog here. I regret that somehow something she considered very important appears to have been lost in my own effort to see my family’s lived experience within what she was describing.
“A common mistake adoptive parents make when hearing adult adoptees speak about adoption trauma is discounting their experiences because ‘times have changed’ or their adoptee hasn’t voiced similar feelings. Some parents will straight-up ask their adopted children if they feel the same way and then rest easy when their children deny having similar feelings. Differing details of adoption stories can be used as evidence of irrelevance. Adoptee voices that land as ‘angry’ are often quickly written off as ‘examples of a bad adoption’.”
The truth is that “real and proven trauma” is “inherent in adoption.” “Adoptees are unintentionally groomed to be people-pleasers.” I’ve seen it and I’ve experienced that quality being passed down to the children in my own double the adoptee parents family.
An adoptee will “strive to measure up, doing and saying whatever is needed, to keep” their “adoptive mothers” lovingly “close” to them. I know that my own mother never felt like she lived up to her adoptive mother’s expectations. The people pleasing is “simply a matter of survival.”
Who knew ? My own “perfectionism” probably comes out of my parents’ own adoption trauma. It may seem like a positive trait that adoptees are often “natural leaders”. Yet it arises out of a sense that “nobody is” actually “looking out” for them due to that separation from their natural mother. I was once diagnosed as compartmentalizing, however, that too may have been passed down. Adoptees spend “a lifetime diminishing” their “feelings and disregarding” their own “deep pain”.
“Adoption trauma” “hides itself from the adoptees themselves.” I saw that in my own parents. No wonder I grew up thinking adoption was the most natural thing in the world. Infant adoptees experience of their greatest loss (both of my parents were adopted before the age of 1) is “preverbal, before” they “learned words for loneliness, isolation, abandonment, and hopelessness.”
Since “developmentally, most children won’t” “have the capacity to reflect upon” their own “adoption loss until much later in life”, the term in the adoption community is “living in the fog.” This mental perspective also passes down to the children, as I have personally experienced. It is “a state of denial or numbness” because adoptees are unable “to closely examine the effects of” their own “adoption”(s). Waking up often comes in sharing experiences with other adoptees. For myself as the child of two adoptee parents, I came out of the fog by being exposed to the experiences of adoptees. My mom had to hide her own feelings about adoption from my adoptee dad because he preferred not to look too closely at his own.
It is true that “some” woke adult adoptees are “angry”. “Society hasn’t made room for” their “voices” in the story of adoption, even though they are its “central players”. “Some” adoptees “have been let down by the people closest to” them. “Some” “haven’t felt seen or known”. “Some” “have been mistreated”. Some have attempted or succeeded at suicide only wanting “to stop the pain”. It is long past time “to shed light on adoption’s darkest manifestations”.
Every “adoptee” is “different”. “Each story is unique”. From my own experience, “listening to adoptee voices”, especially a diverse “array of them”, “is of the utmost importance” to developing a more accurate perspective on the practice of adoption.
The closed, sealed adoption records of yesterday are much easier to pierce with today’s inexpensive DNA testing. Today’s story from Severance Magazine.
It begins this way – in 1967, I’d given birth to my first-born child in an unwed mothers maternity home in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had been a typical 17-year-old high school senior with plans for the future that evaporated overnight. In the sixties, it was considered close to criminal for a girl to become pregnant with no ring on her finger. The father of my child had joined the Army, preferring Vietnam to fatherhood. After my parents discovered my shameful secret, I was covertly hurried away and placed in an institution for five months. There, I was expected to relinquish my baby immediately after giving birth to closed adoption and I was repeatedly assured my child would have a better life without me. After his birth, I was allowed to hold my son three times. My heart was permanently damaged when I handed him over the final time. The home allowed one concession—I could give my baby a crib name. I named him Jamie.
In the Spring of 2016, this woman and her husband submitted DNA tests to Ancestry.com. By October 2016, a ‘Parent/Child Match’ message popped up on her iPhone, causing me to stop me in my tracks, as my knees gave out from under me. After 49 long years, Jamie had found her. Who was he? Where was he? Would he hate me? How would this affect my life? My family? His family? She had always dreamed of finding Jamie but never thought past that point.
She relates – that night I heard my son’s voice for the first time. The wonder I felt when he said, “I know your voice” transformed me. In minutes, the secret of my son changed from fear of anyone knowing about him to wanting to shout out to the world, “My son has found me!” She also learned she had three new grandchildren. Within four days, her son flew from Louisiana to California to meet her. She describes that first meeting as magical. She says, “My son was back in my life, and suddenly I was whole.”
Due to severe depression brought on by the COVID pandemic as a messy divorce, the loss of his job, and unhealthy isolation began to destroy him, she worried from a distance. In February 2021, they had what would be their last conversation. Before hanging up, her son said, “I love you, Mom. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” Two days later, the son she had mourned for 50 years, the son who had found her, left her again. He took his own life. Now she had lost him twice and this time was forever. Even so, she cherishes that phone call.
She ends her story with this – “I wish I could speak to all the birth mothers out there, who continue to carry the shame and guilt that society placed on us. For those who refuse to allow their relinquished child back into their lives. I want to say I know your fear. I know your uncertainty. I lived it and still live it. It is deep-seated in us, regardless of the circumstances that resulted in us leaving our children. Please know if you are brave enough to welcome that lost child into your life again, you may create a peace and a bond worth all the fear and guilt. There is nothing quite like reuniting a mother and her child, and you may be giving a gift of connection to that child and yourself, as it should have been all along.”
So an older adoptee wrote this – I can personally attest that “coming out of the fog” is a true concept. (In fact, as the child of two adoptees, I can now admit I was in the fog too !!)
The thing is, as an adoptee, you really don’t know what you’re missing compared to people who have not experienced the kind of life-threatening trauma that being adopted is. Though not all adoptees have similar reactions to life’s rejections and notice that feeling of something that is not there, that something “missing,” whether acknowledged or not, is real.
Many adoptees have attachment issues. Some are not able to form an attachment with the adoptive parents or may attach (cling to) too much and are not able to let go of the caregiver when it is appropriate to do so.
When an adult adoptee experiences the breaking up from a romantic relationship, if they are someone who has difficulty letting go, the situation can be devastating. It may take the person a very long time – if ever – to recover.
These experiences have the ability to take an adoptee right back emotionally to the first time they were deserted, abandoned in their perception, by the original mother and this event happened to them before they even had the words to describe what they were feeling. So, even later in life, within the context of adult relationships, these situations can leave the adoptee feeling that same kind of unexpressed feeling. The pain is often excruciating.
Whereas an adoptee’s close friend experiences the breaking up of a romantic relationship, it may be that only a month or so later, that friend is out dating again. It is relatively easy for them to move on with their life. Yet, if this happens to an adoptee, they are often stuck and don’t really understand why they cannot let go.
This rejection/abandonment wound may account for the higher incidence of suicides that happen among adoptees as young adults and even more mature adults. This is certainly common for those who were infant adoptions. Even for adoptees who were adopted at an older age, though they have a similar experience of separation and abandonment/rejection trauma, at least they have some language with which to express their feelings and a therapist may be able to help them more easily express and understand their feelings.
True, actually “coming out of the fog” (the belief that adoption is unicorns and rainbows, flowers and sunshine) may or may not ever happen for any single adoptee. It takes a lot of work and understanding for the adoptee to realize they have these feelings and the process of getting to that point can be so painful, the adoptee may become paralyzed and not able to move further forward, at some point in that process.
And here is a note from the adoptee who started these thoughts that are my blog today – If you are an adoptive parent, no matter how you try, you can not normalize the experience of having been separated from the person’s original mother for them.
Today, I was first attracted to a blog by this woman, Michele Dawson Haber, in which she shares imaging her father talking to her while making coffee. “What’s this? Why so many steps? Do you know the coffee we drank in the old days was just botz (mud) at the bottom of our cups? A life like yours, with such complicated coffee—Michal*, it makes me happy that you’re not struggling as I did.” *Michal (מיכל) is her Hebrew name.
I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. The pot was always prepared for the timer to begin the brewing before any inhabitants of the house woke and wanted a cup. After my mom died, I spent several quiet treasured morning drinking coffee with my dad out on their deck as we watched the dawn turn into sunrise. When I returned to my parents’ house following my dad’s death, as I walked through their kitchen, I heard him clearly say in my mind, “You miss your old dad, don’t you ?” Exactly as he would have said it in life. I admitted that I did miss him already. With my mom’s passing, . . . oh, I heard her a lot say “You’re doing really well.” many times while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom where she died in her jacuzzi tub. So much that I finally had to let her know – “enough, I don’t need to hear this any more” – and it stopped.
Yet, what really touched my heart was Michele’s piece in May 2021 in Salon about her mother’s letters – “It’s my mom’s fault I stole her letters.” I found letters like that among my parents things as I cleared out their residence after their deaths only 4 months apart. I wish I had read Michele’s piece before getting rid of my parents’ love letters to each other that my mom treasured enough to keep for over 50 years. Just before I began that work, I had read a piece by a woman who’s mother had destroyed her love letters from her father. The mother had said these were private between your father and I – and for that reason only, I let the letters go after having coincidentally read only one but a very relevant one – as though my mom reached out from beyond the grave to make certain I at least saw that one.
Michele writes in her personal essay for Salon – “I felt guilt wash over me. The debates with my two sisters over whether it was ethical to steal her letters replayed in my mind. In the end, we decided that the information in those letters belonged not only to our mother, but also to me and my older sister.” But I had not and so chose a different course based upon someone else’s story. Michele goes on to say, “the question of privacy continued to gnaw at me. I knew that if I had asked my mother 20 or even 10 years ago for permission to read the letters she would have said, ‘Are you kidding? No way. What’s in those letters is none of your business.’ And so I did what I always do when faced with a conundrum: I researched. In her book The Secret Life of Families (subtitled How Secrets Shape Our Relationships and When and How to Tell the Truth), Dr. Evan Imber-Black distinguished secrecy from privacy. A secret, she wrote, is information withheld that “impacts another’s life choices, decision-making capacity and well-being.” Conversely, if a piece of information is truly private, then knowing it has no impact on another’s physical or emotional health.
Michele goes on to share, “In my fantasy argument with my mother, I would say that her secrecy about my biological father did impact my well-being, that depriving me of my genetic heritage handicapped my ability to shape a strong identity.” I agree with her reasoning on this one.
I had read one note (not even a letter) from my mom to a friend, stressing about how my father might react to learning she was pregnant. She had conceived me out of wedlock as a 16 yr old Junior in high school. My dad had just started at the U of NM at Las Cruces and it appears they wrote each other almost every day, though mostly these were the letters she received from my dad, except the note I read. I remember when I figured out that I had been conceived out of wedlock and how in my heart (though only for a few months) I turned against my mom because of that. I didn’t want her to touch me, such as take my hand. Hopefully, she thought only that I was asserting some independence because I was growing up. It was just all those “nice girls don’t do that” lectures she had given me. As a grown woman now, I know that she didn’t want me to make the same mistake. I hastened to get married with a month yet to graduating from high school even though I was not pregnant. My parents supported me and we had the fully formal church wedding and reception in my parents’ back yard. I suspect my parents were afraid I might turn up pregnant like my mom did and so did not discourage me from a marriage that lasted long enough to conceive a child 4 months after I married and then ended in divorce when she was only 3 years old.
Finding that letter further softened my feelings about my conception because I could clearly feel my mom’s emotions and concerns before my dad knew he would become a father. Anyway, this long story shorter. I didn’t keep the letters but sent them to the local landfill along with other items my mom had kept from their many journeys – souvenir booklets and the like. Reading Michele’s story makes me regret that all over again, and I have felt that regret before.
After my dad died, I learned from my cousin, who’s father was my mom’s adoptive brother, that it was possible to get the adoption file that the state of Tennessee had denied my mom in the early 1990s. It is a pity they didn’t let her have that because it would have brought her so much peace. My own journey to rediscover my original grandparents (both of my parents were adopted) only took me about year after my dad’s death; and then, I knew who ALL 4 of them were and something about my ancestors. What I didn’t expect was gaining cousins and an aunt. Even though I am very happy to now have family that I am biologically and genetically related to – I will also admit how difficult it is to create relationships with people who have decades of history lived that I was not any part of. Thankfully, they have all been kind in acknowledging me (and sometimes the DNA makes it difficult for them not to).
Do read the links above to Michele’s stories. I’ve made this blog long enough that I am not going to include any more excerpts beyond the coffee bit and some of her thoughts about personal letters.
I learned about Jenni White while reading White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad. White has caused a bit of a stir with her column – “The Worst Racism My Children Have Experienced Came from Black Peers.” So I went looking because I also read that she had adopted 2 daughters from Zambia.
Hamad wrote – White claimed to be raising her daughters in a house that does not see color and wrote, “Why would I raise them to identify with a specific race as if being members of the human race weren’t enough?” Hamad says, It is as if she believes that racism will disappear, if only Black people stop calling themselves Black ?
What White defined as hideous racism included their Black pastor asking her whether she was educating the girls about their culture. While she claims to be a staunch believer in Martin Luther King, her perspective is that once her daughters were brought to America, “they became Americans. Not African-Americans, not black girls.” Hamad judges that assimilation and absorption into the default that is whiteness continues to be the frame from which many white women view women of other races.
So, now I will read Jenni White’s column and share with you what I think about it. She begins with the story of McKenzie Adams, a fourth grader from US Jones Elementary School in Demopolis, Alabama, who was despondent after relentless taunting by other black children for her relationship with a white child. McKenzie hanged herself in her family’s home. White acknowledges that suicides which are the result of school bullying have risen steadily over the years, it was McKenzie’s death that spoke to her on a very personal level.
She goes on to share how she ended up adopting her daughters. “In the summer of 2005, while visiting my grandparents in the northeast, my husband and I met up with my cousin, an international teacher, and his new wife, whom he’d met while teaching in Zambia, Africa. In recounting her history, Justina told us of the very recent death of her sister and how her 21-year-old nephew was struggling to feed and care for five siblings as young as 2.”
She admits that “We knew that adopting two little girls (4 and 9) from the other side of the world into a family of two boys (4 and 2) wouldn’t be easy in terms of bonding and re-assimilating the family birth order structure, but it was the stuff like what little McKenzie Adams experienced that we didn’t see coming, and it quickly blindsided me.”
So, the Black pastor incident occurred in a grocery store. The pastor is a Black woman. The pastor talked about how important it was for White to get the girls subscriptions to “black” magazines and to make sure and watch “black” movies and TV shows so they could see and relate to people of their color. She felt that, Jenni, as a white woman, couldn’t be expected to understand the “black experience” in America. That she needed to be sure and make appropriate and relevant material accessible so the girls could better assimilate with black culture.
White responded about raising all of her kids as Americans. The pastor believed White’s thought process was unfortunate. Her “whiteness” would be unable to process the facts that her girls’ fate would always balance at the pinnacle of someone else’s prejudicial small-mindedness. The pastor felt strongly that it was up to White to make the girls aware of the discrimination that was sure to come their way.
White brings her story up to date by writing – Today, my daughters are 21 and 16. She writes that it continually shocks her that any real racism her children have encountered has come from their black contemporaries. She also admits that the 21-year-old had enough of an emotional struggle that she returned to Africa to live with her brother and finish high school. Then, the girl did come back to Oklahoma after graduation, joined the National Guard, and began college with the intention of becoming a nurse.
She goes on to describe the other girl as innately conservative and that she struggled with the constant racial politics in her college English class. The girl had been assigned to write a paper regarding disproportionate brutality by police toward black Americans. White says that her daughter is frustrated that so many black contemporaries have razzed her because her last name is White and she was adopted by a white family. When Jenni asked her how she dealt with that kind of thing, she just shrugged her shoulders and said, “What are you going to do?”
She shares a story about when a Black boy called her older daughter the n word. She told him she was in no way an “n-word.” He answered, “Hey, we’re both from Africa.” Her response to that was “I’m from Africa. You’re from Oklahoma, and I’m no ‘n-word.’” Her daughter also said that this same kid has mocked her about hanging around white kids, including her white boyfriend, who is also on the football team, as well as acting and speaking like she is “white.”
Jenni White says that she follows the Blexit movement. I had never heard of it. They are clearly against CRT (Critical Race Theory) since they indicate that on their home page and I have included their link to that document. I am not going to read all 24 pages. The document seeks to explain CRT this way – Critical Race Theorists … believe that people of color experience racism daily … that the majority of American society, or more specifically white people, have no interest in stopping this so-called oppression because it benefits white Americans. The Blexit movement claims their intention is to uplift and empower minorities to realize the American Dream. In truth, it is only that so far – a dream unrealized for most.
I’m white. I do not raise any black children and I do have strong feelings about the adoption of children of color by white adoptive parents. I really can’t judge anyone else, including Jenni White, regarding how parents decide to raise their children. It is a complex world. I grew up with no racial bias, even though I am white, because both of my parents were adoptees with no knowledge of their genetic origins. We were raised only knowing we were Americans. I used to joke that I was an Albino African because back then, even I didn’t actually know for certain. My mom did discover she had a smidgeon of genes from Mali when she had a DNA analysis done. I can agree with Jenni White’s hope – that someday differences are celebrated within the context of the whole, and not parsed out as weapons of contention and conflict.