'Tis the season for adoption...In this capitalist society, our seasonal love language is gift giving. Each time I go to the grocery store during these winter months, the Salvation Army invites me to adopt a family. This actually means that I am invited to buy material possessions for poor families in the Twin Cities, made at the expense of impoverished and enslaved women and children of color living around the world. Though similar to my experience with adoption, where social service organizations and white folks with a home can feel good about themselves without ever taking on the grueling work of systems change that may reroute power and resources away from them--I am still irritated by operationalizing adoption in such simple terms.
I always knew I was adopted, even if I didn't know what adoption was. My pre-pubescent self thought adoption meant looking different and being smarter than everyone else. Though as I grew up, I learned that being adopted from Korea meant being misunderstood, misrepresented, and mistreated by loved ones and strangers alike. These days, I understand that being adopted also means being orphaned by my first parents, an experience that will always be with me. I recognize myself as a member of an international community of orphans, small consequences to the violence of patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism that has targeted our birth families and continues to trigger the elusive memories that live in our bodies all the days of our lives.
I'm calling bullshit the dominant narrative of international adoption that goes something like this: Your birth mother loved you very much, but God had a plan for you here.
My adoption story is this: I was abandoned at the police station by my mother, while my father was trying to have a son more valuable than me. The social workers at Holt labeled me cute and sent me to the United States, which is a terrible place for a cute Korean girl to grow up without her family. For eighteen years, I was stuck living with well-meaning white folks who were clueless about raising their angry, adopted teenage daughter who was targeted by racialized, sexual violence within the same family and community that was supposed to save her, all the while her body holding the trauma of being orphaned by her first family.
There was no plan for me. My families had plans for themselves. The system had a plan to divide and conquer in order to maintain power. I was expected to comply.
It has been one week since returning to the United States from Korea. Maybe for the first time in recent memory, I am finding the space to think clearly in the United States. I am angry with my first parents who abandon me without a name, separating me from my sister for all these years. After meeting them as an adult and being overwhelmed by thier love, this is even harder for me to accept. I am also angry with my racist white family who could have done better during their time with me, and can start doing better even without me in their day to day.
But more than anything, I am outraged with current child welfare policies and practices that continue to fail homeless children by failing their families who are targeted by systemic oppression. I still believe that I have a place in the field of social work, as a scholar, not only as K85-160. Though I am focused on studying Korean language for now, I am still eager to take down the heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. Who's with me?