This article was originally written for the YOMYOMF blog which was closed approximately two years ago and is being re-posted here for archival purposes.
I get it.
You’re a movie star, a producer, a Hollywood elite.
You won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
You’re coming out with a new film Ocean’s 8–which btw does have some great people in it and I feel is at least more diverse than other movies (albeit I’ll hold final judgment until I see it, and I’m still wondering why you couldn’t get Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Queen Latifah, or Sanaa Lathan on board–but to be fair maybe you asked and they turned you down).
By all definitions of the word “success” you’ve made it in your chosen profession and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that you get what you want.
In fact, I think you’re probably used to getting what you want–and kudos to you for that because I’m not saying you didn’t work for it or you didn’t have your own struggles as a woman in a male dominated industry (however let’s also be real and say that the struggles of White Women aren’t always the same as Women Of Color and Immigrant Women and that White Women have at times, left out Women of Color and Immigrant Women, in the fight for women’s rights).
But even with all of that success, you’re still a White Woman who adopted two children of color, and whether you want to believe it or not, you come with a lot of baggage in that relationship because of White Privilege and colonialism.
The amount of money you make, the places that your kids have access to because of your status, class, and your Whiteness–they don’t allow you to recuse yourself from having to think critically, and fully immerse yourself in the questions of what you need to change about yourself as an Adoptive Parent.
You may not like that term, Adoptive Parent, that qualification, but that is what you are, in addition to being a Parent, and in addition to being an Adoptive Parent of Transracially Adopted Children.
It’s not even close to being binary.
So your calls to abolish the term “Adopted Child” in many ways doesn’t come as a surprise because it’s in line with entitled thinking.
GC: You’re active in promoting adoption, especially for kids in foster care. There are hundreds of thousands of foster kids who need homes at the moment. Is the situation getting better?
SB: Not quickly enough. Look: I’m all for Republican, Democrat, whatever, but don’t talk to me about what I can or can’t do with my body until you’ve taken care of every child who doesn’t have a home or is neglected or abused. It makes me teary-eyed [wells up]. Let’s all just refer to these kids as “our kids.” Don’t say “my adopted child.” No one calls their kid their “IVF child” or their “oh, shit, I went to a bar and got knocked-up child.” Let just say, “our children.”
I’m not saying your intent was bad, don’t get me wrong, but intent, like being colorblind, doesn’t really get you that far on the progression scale–and you can’t lump all of those situations together because they’re not the same.
Adoption is not the same thing as being in foster care. Being adopted, is not the same as having two parents who made you, using IVF or otherwise, and didn’t give you up for adoption. Transracial adoption is not the same as adoptions between members of the same race, and international transracial adoptions aren’t the same as domestic transracial adoptions.
When you say that people should call Adopted Children just children, you’re erasing their history, because their life didn’t start with you. They have birth mothers and birth fathers and a history they want to know about for a variety of reasons.
When you say that people should call Adopted Children just children, you’re saying to Korean Americans who were adopted that they should forget about the fact that South Korea for a time was essentially the largest assembly line for the packaging and distribution of their own children in partnership with the U.S., making a profit.
When you say that people should call Adopted Children just children, you’re telling the Native American and Indigenous community to forget about the forced adoptions in order to assimilate them into White Culture so they could have “happier” lives.
When you say that people should call Adopted Children just children, you’re telling Vietnamese War Orphans, like myself, that we have no agency in our own history, in a country who simultaneously looked down on us as the enemy and as a people who didn’t belong, but who also thought we looked cute in those Adoption Propaganda pictures.
When you say that people should call Adopted Children just children–it’s just offensive.
This isn’t The Blind Side.
Someone doesn’t say “Wrap!” and you’re done.
This is for life (unless you’re talking about rehoming, abandonment, or abuse in the adoption system).
Taking the word “adopted” out of the lexicon of Adoption won’t make your kids any less adopted than they already are, just like it won’t take any of the insecurity you feel as an Adoptive Parent away, just like it won’t erase the fact that you’re White and they’re Black and this will have effects for everyone.
Call your kids whatever you want to, because they’re your kids.
But also remember that they aren’t just yours, and that this is the reality and complexity of adoption.
Sincerely (kind of),
Just in case you were wondering, I’ve been active in the TRA community for about 15 years serving on multiple boards and committees, learning from those that came before me and who continue to do amazing work, engaging in dialogue and discussion, and helping to push the voices and resources of adopted adults–international, transracial, and domestic. In that vein, I hope you decide to listen and at least think about some of the things I’ve said–because I don’t think you’ve gone completely bad–you’re just past your expiration date on this one.
Btw, when I addressed as you as “B.S.” I’m just giving you a little Viet style putting your surname first. I didn’t feel comfortable using your name though so I abbreviated it…can’t really help it turned out like that…sorry?