06
Aug
08

Interracial Adoption Changes You

Or least it should. Three years ago we knew very little about Korea. A great-uncle had served, and died, there during the Korean War. But honestly that was probably the extent of my knowledge. As I’ve said in the About section of this blog, our Parents In Process class about intercountry adoption opened our eyes to the journey we were beginning. We took to heart the opinions we were hearing from adult interracial adoptees and the lessons we were learning through the activities we did in class.

When the parenting class was over, we called around to find a Korean language course in our town and I posted on a bulletin board looking for ways to incorporate Korean culture into our home. We were successful in finding a language program, which we attended the summer we waited for our son to come home.

But the responses to the post on the bulletin board should have been my first indication that our views on birth culture weren’t shared by everyone in the adoption community. I didn’t get many responses. And of the ones I did get, most of them said they didn’t do much culturally. Some had Korean items in their homes, but others said, “Nothing. Our kids are American.”

I couldn’t believe it. Everything we had just learned in our parenting class said just the opposite from what these adoptive parents were saying. The class had emphasized how knowing about birth culture and exposure to people who looked like them is extremely important to a child’s developing identity. Yet many of these bulletin board families lived in nondiverse communities and felt birth culture wasn’t important, even though lots of them had to go through the same class we had.

Subsequent posts on the board just affirmed that position. My zeal, they said, was because I was a new adoptive parent and it would wear off. Or my son will lose interest or reject his birth culture then it won’t be important to me either, they said.

I know I’m only two years into this journey but I think they’re wrong. Adopting our son has changed who I am. That was painfully obvious during a recent visit with a family who for the past 10 years have been very close friends of ours. They’re white, and honestly, their whole world is white—friends, groups like Scouts, church, neighborhood, etc. Six years ago I probably wouldn’t have noticed it. But now being in such a white environment made me uncomfortable. Their kids didn’t really understand why our son looked different, because white families really don’t have to deal with race if they don’t choose to. (I had just finished reading the two race books I recommended in a previous post. Both state this to be true, but it was still so strange to see that principle in action.)

Our friends’ lives, which until a couple of years closely paralleled ours in many ways, now no longer seemed to have anything in common with our lives. Things that are important to us and we spend time thinking about, talking about, and planning for, don’t impact them at all if they don’t want it to. It made me sad on so many levels.

That visit then got me to thinking about my son’s friends, and I discovered that whites are in the minority in his friend circle. He has several Latino and Korean friends who are also adopted and black friends who we attend church with, but only a few white friends. That wasn’t a conscious thing on our part, but I’m glad it’s that way.

And I’m glad that this parenting journey has changed me, even if it means the death of some friendships. I’m glad that I have a better understanding of race in America and it’s impact; about white privilege and what’s done for me as a Caucasian American; about how identity develops and what I can do to help my son be proud of all he is.

No, I’m not Korean and I’ll never experience the racism that Asians are faced with in America. But I do feel that our family is striving to be a Korean-American family. I know that some have issues with white adoptive parents calling their families Korean American when the parents are clearly not Asian so let me explain what that means to us. It means that we’re striving to have our home and our lifestyle represent all of the members of our household. We’re striving to have our son understand not only about Korea and it’s unique culture and customs, but also about what it means to be a Korean-American. And it means that my husband and I are embracing our son’s birth culture and plan to do and learn all of the things we have him do and learn.

Adopting and becoming an multiracial family has changed us, for good.


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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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Be Strong, Geum-Soon
Please Teach Me English
Spy Girl
Tae Gu Ki
Chunhyang
2009 Lost Memories

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