The Missing, Ctd

A reader writes:

What unadulterated crap this is.  I know plenty of Koreans (and Chinese, Vietnamese, etc.) who were born right here in the US of A.  They grew up as I did, played the same video games, ate mostly the same food, celebrated (mostly) the same holidays and attended the same schools.  Many don't know enough of their "native" language to order fluently in an "ethnic" restaurant.  The idea that one's "race" must be accompanied by some stereotypical cultural heritage is absurd.  And, finally, if someone isn't up to introducing a youngster to kimchee and how to use chopsticks, parenting in general is probably waaaaay beyond their abilities.

Another makes the same basic point but draws from personal experience:

This idea of race being the important factor in one's cultural heritage is pretty sad. I understand the need for parents to defend the choice of adopting a child that resembles them, but the way your reader has done so is simply wrong-headed.

Perhaps he doesn't completely understand the concept of cultural heritage, but it has much less to do with the color of one's skin than their upbringing.  Many Asian-Americans in the US have few cultural ties to their ancestors' culture.  Are they failing their children by not teaching them about a culture they may no longer have much attachment to?  At the same time, immigrants for many years in the US chose to disregard their cultural heritage in an attempt to assimilate (my Swedish great-great-grandparents were actually scolded and punished for speaking Swedish outside the home).

Being part Brazilian, if I had ever been put up for adoption, that couple would probably still have adopted me, as I am entirely white.  But wouldn't they be depriving me of my cultural heritage?  On the other hand, are they saying that black children have a cultural heritage that is simply too foreign, regardless of the fact that these children are just as American as white ones?  The implications of what they are saying are pretty astonishing.

I guess the main reason this bothers me is that my fiancee has two adopted sisters originally from China and a brother from South Korea.  They grew up in a somewhat rural, almost entirely white part of the country.  They're as American as her sister or any of their college friends, and any kimchee-related incidents can probably be explained by their friends' own cultural insecurities.  They've had issues in the past about their adoption, just like almost any adopted child has, including my white friend adopted from Chile.

Their parents didn't deprive them of anything, except for a tough life in orphanages.


My wife and I adopted a 6-year-old girl from Russia.  With regards to the couple's quote about parents who "haven't done due diligence as a parent to expose and help integrate your child with their cultural heritage", I must disagree.  They beat her to obey.  Starved her to make her comply.  Locked her in a dark basement to fend off rats whenever she acted up.  It took us years to find this out.  Some stories would come it when she would say "That oil smells like the dark place" or "I don't like people's hands near my face."  If she had the chance now, she would line them up and shoot them all in the head.

They almost didn't let us adopt her, trying to foist off "more bidable" children that we knew nothing about.  She was ours, not theirs.   We are so very proud of her, and love her as our own.  She is Alaskan, not Russian.  She wants nothing to do with them.  I think any parents who simply raise their children with love and support can overcome any racial or cultural hurdles without having to bend over backwards to 'make' them into something else.  These are kids, they need a family, enough said.

And from the other side:

Just over 35 years ago, my twin sister and I were born and orphaned as infants in Cambodia, just months before the Khmer Rouge took control of the country and massacred 2 million people. My white Canadian family, who already had four biological children, decided to adopt internationally after hearing about the many orphans in Southeast Asia. They rescued us from certain death and gave my sister and me a loving family and opportunity for a future. Despite our different skin tones and ethnic features, my parents are my parents, and our familial ties are as strong as any other family.

My blended family has not been a challenge or a barrier to our personal growth, we don't suffer psychologically from not being around other Cambodians and we certainly do not think our white parents made a mistake by adopting "trans-racially". Our identity is not based on our "race" or what we look like physically but by the people who loved us and raised us. We grew up to be well-rounded, healthy, well-adjusted adults and we will always be grateful to my parents for what they did for us.

As for connecting us with our Cambodian heritage, I think my parents struck the right note - they gently exposed us to Cambodia's sad history but they left it up to us to explore our roots when we were ready (which for me was when I turned 25 and culminated in a trip back to Cambodia in 2007). It has been a rewarding and fulfilling journey!

When it comes to trans-racial adoption, I'm sure the personal stories of the adoptees will vary; some will have thrived, others may struggle. We took exception to your reader's many assertions about what is right for adopted children from different cultures; it is not as cut and dry as your reader suggests. From my own personal experience, I will certainly be looking at international adoption just as my parents did for us, and I hope that others will be encouraged to explore this for their own families.