Adoptive white parents’ reluctance to talk about race is like a tumor that, if not removed, grows and becomes malignant, spreading throughout and ravaging a person’s body. The mismatch between the worldview of adoptive parents and an adoptee's realities can grow so large that it can kill family relationships like a tumor kills the host organismPlease read the whole thing, and then look again at the photos of Halloween costumes that exploit cultural and racial stereotypes. Would you still say to your minority child that it's all just good fun? If the answer is yes, then prepare for tumor removal later in life, and hope the relationship survives the surgery.
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Becoming a cultural citizen for your children means that as a white parent, your racial and cultural identity is different from your Korean child’s. To make up for this deficit requires some changes in behavior. For example, when your child brings up race, you need to talk about it and be honest. It also means that if your child does not bring up issues of race, you must be brave and break the ice. Parents of all minority kids need to talk about the racism that exists all around us and the fact that Asian Americans are not immune from it; it is not simply something black people endure
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If you do not discuss race, power, and privilege on a consistent basis, do not believe that the “tumor” (that I discussed above) will go away by itself. Adopted Korean children will endure stereotypes and racialized identities such as “model minority,” “yellow peril,” “perpetual foreigner,” or ___ (fill in the blank). As a parent and guardian, it is your responsibility to discuss with your children that all of these pejoratives, and even the “positive stereotypes” such as model minority have two common themes: Racism and white privilege
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My plea to adoptive parents and/or people who are considering adoption is to take the process seriously and to realize that you are becoming more than adoptive parents or surrogate parents. You are, or should be, becoming cultural citizens for your children. You will not be able to understand fully what your adopted children face or experience, but this is okay. The best way to persevere is to be honest with yourself and your family.
Talk about race, and talk about feelings. Speak with your adopted child frequently and reassure him/her that although you are white, you are willing to jointly learn about the Korean culture with them. Acknowledge your fallibility and avoid romanticizing the adoption process. Lastly, encourage your child to conduct a birth search if s/he feels compelled to do so. Make your child feel safe if s/he does in fact decide to search, and be willing to support him/her during the process.
A Korean Adoptee's Plea to Parents
This article, Cultural Citizenship, Not Colorblindness,printed in the Korean Quarterly and shared at the Korean Focus website, is especially timely in light of some of the recent tone-deaf comments about race and racism in response to this post about racist Halloween costumes: