On the way home Monday morning, (it was 5:40 a.m. at the Changyangnni train station) I had the surreal experience of watching the U.S. AFN(Armed Forces Network) t.v. while sitting with a bunch of other Koreans, all of them blankly staring ahead, registering and barely understanding. It wasn’t nearly as surreal as Jane’s hilarious post, Adoptee goes to work , but you know SO MANY DAYS are surreal like that, and we don’t always have our cameras and pen at hand. (and I can’t figure out how to send my camera phone photos to myself)
One, it’s just weird that U.S. military t.v. is showing in a huge public space, two that it’s totally in English so nobody viewing it can understand, and three that it’s really like a local t.v. channel from anywhere U.S.A. (except for the p.s.a.’s which tell you not to cook in your barracks because it causes fires) I mean, there were actual restaurants serving western food and advertising with western-style commercials and advertising IN ENGLISH! And things to do and places to go and again, barely any indication that it was in Asia at all. The entire thing was so totally American it was even cleansed of Koreans. I mean, they barely showed up at all…Clearly, the military personnel are having a totally different experience here than I am!
On it, I watched some show about how being white’s not always a great thing, and it focused on the plight of albino’s around the world, who everywhere experience ostracism and are targets of abuse. In Sierra Leone a lot have been killed or had their limbs whacked off.
One of my friends who wants to adopt insists that race doesn’t matter. OK. So all that crap I had to deal with growing up, I guess it was just a figment of my imagination. I mean, maybe he’s right in that biologically we are descended from the same race but when people looked at me growing up, they didn’t know about this science and besides, nobody’s going to send a sample of your hair in for DNA race testing prior to judging you. So if I give in to the argument that race doesn’t matter, I will still maintain that response to color matters.
Back in college I had a professor who spoke about his theory of prospect and refuge: it was all a very academically stretched out thesis about the primacy of architecture (hiding in the forest) as a construct to protect us from dangerous elements beyond. The brain’s process of categorization was a self-protective mechanism to differentiate between friend or foe. So those that look like us (those immediate and familiar) are safe while those who are different we’re supposed to be wary of…makes sense that this might be a natural tendency. Geographical borders and climate may have contributed to the formation of distinct cultures and races, but still that primal need to categorize remains. As civilized people who cross borders, we have to work to suppress our prejudices and find ways to test trustworthiness based upon character.
So here we have the rainbow-loving world wanting us adoptees to believe that color doesn’t matter, that everyone is above this primitive urge to categorize, or similarly educated as them (right) to deny these urges. But the people proposing this are the ones who get to continue enjoying everything immediate and familiar, while the adoptee is the one who is viewed by everyone as one of those, those others. They rationalize transracial adoption is great because rainbow families will help make the world color-blind, but again it is the children who are forced to bear the burden of this fantasy. In this way, we are part of a social engineering experiment.
Unlike eugenics, where the purity of race was actively maintained and pursued through discriminate breeding, the rainbow family will blur the distinctions between colors. But for the adopted child, this is actually really like eugenics in that in it’s denial that color (race) matters, it obsesses about color (race). It’s like deciding you want to improve yourself by going on a diet, so as soon as you do, all you can see is food everywhere but you’re trying to deny its fact. The more people protest that color (that non-item representation of race) doesn’t matter, the more it becomes clear that it most definitely matters, and especially to them!
Sometimes I wonder why people want to adopt children of other colors. I often wonder if it really has nothing to do with rainbows. I sometimes wonder if what they really want is a sun tan. It’s a sun tan wish fulfillment. It’s tan by association. Or in the case of international adoption maybe the desire for a tan is also added to the desire to stand out from the (white) crowd. It’s a wanting-to-be-special wish fulfillment. It’s exotic by association.
People will tell me, aghast, that it’s none of the above – that they merely want to help! But when you point out ways they can help preserve families, or help foreign countries become social service autonomous, or sponsor children in third world countries, etc., they suddenly aren’t interested in helping. If there’s no direct benefit for them, they cease being interested.
If I were a smarter girl, I’d find some nice tidy way to politically connect the AFN t.v., Korea, and tan-loving, Cost-Plus shopping, I-donate-to-Salvation-Army-at-Christmas-time white people , but I’m not. I only know how it feels to be a transracial international adoptee.