Raible’s “Letter to a Lucky Adoptee”

There are many blogs that I frequent, some done by adoptees and others by adoptive parents. One of my favorites is John Raible Online. Many of my thoughts have been challenged by this blog, and I’ve learned so much from him over the years. His latest post is one of the best. It’s titled “Letter to a Lucky Adoptee” and is addressed to the Transracial Adoptee of the 21st Century.

While I highly recommend you read the post for yourself, I want to summarize it here. The letter begins talking about how hard Raible and other transracial adoptees of his generation had it. How they were mostly raised in all-white communities, rarely knew other transracial adoptees or people of color, and struggled to find where they fit as they grew into adulthood. It goes on to say how much better adoptees of this generation have it since their parents are taught about race, culture, diversity, and identity development, and embrace those messages. Basically how since today’s adoptive parents are being so proactive in parenting their transracial adoptees that some of the sting is taken out of adoption.

I don’t know if Raible intended for this post to be dripping with sarcasm but that’s how I read it based on my own experience. As I sit here, I’m wondering if there is any way to get a good-size group of adoptive Korean families in my area involved in some cultural opportunities that have presented themselves to us. There is a good-size number of families, but only a handful are interested in culture.

Honestly for the last four-plus years, I’ve thought that most adoptive families would do culture if it were made easy for them. I happen to love research and I have a naturally curious nature. I enjoy learning new things and challenging myself. But I realize that not everyone is like that.

Still I thought that even if most adoptive parents aren’t like me, that they at least understood the importance of diversity, understanding birth culture, learning the language, and interacting with the local ethnic community that their child is a part of. I thought they would give weight to what adult adoptees are saying; to what therapist who work in the adoptive community are saying; and that they would provide those things even if it’s not easy. I think I was wrong.

Of course, there are probably more adoptive families than ever embracing the messages they are hearing. And that’s so wonderful! I run across families online all the time who are being proactive in their adoption parenting. But from my overall experience, it doesn’t seem the message has hit its mark across the board. When I hear APs completely discount the “experts” in the adoption field (adoptees, social workers, therapists) because “who knows, in another 20 years they could be telling parents their children should just assimilate again,” I feel that the understanding of these messages just isn’t getting through to enough parents to really make a difference for this generation of adoptees.

Yes, it’s true that “expert” recommendations come and go. Eggs are bad for you; no, eggs are really good for you. I get that. But I don’t believe the message that adoption experts are sending to today’s adoptive parents are going to slide backward. I think it’s more like child safety laws. Can anyone picture us returning to the mindset that safety seats aren’t needed in cars and that kids shouldn’t wear protective gear when riding bikes? Of course not, because instead of loosening these guidelines, they are becoming more stringent with time. Now kids shouldn’t just be in car seats but they should be in them longer and even rear facing longer if possible. That’s because the more we learn about the impact these safety devices have on our kids, the more important they become.

In just my five years in the adoption community, I’ve seen the same thing happening with the messages from the experts. Instead of loosening back up and leaning toward assimilation and “love is enough” again, they are becoming more focused on diversity and the importance of it. When we started our journey, we were encouraged to embrace our son’s birth culture and to understand what it would be like to be the only Korean in the family.

Now when I read books, blogs, and magazine articles written by these experts, APs are being encouraged to move to more diverse communities, to attend churches and schools in which their children are reflected, and to become a part of the ethnic community their children are a part of. The message isn’t becoming more lenient.

And, yes, I do understand that proactive adoption parenting is hard work. It’s work for me too. There are days I wish I could ignore the messages I’m receiving and not deal with culture, race, adoption issues, and diversity. It would be so much easier to not worry about my son being the only child of color in any given situation and to tell myself that it won’t be an issue for him. But I can’t do that because I believe it does matter.

This type of parenting doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen. You, the parent, have to make culture, language, diversity, and dealing with adoption issues head-on a priority for your family. It the midst of school, sports, other extracurricular activities, and everything else you have going on, you have to put culture, language, diversity, etc., at the top of your priority list.

My hope, my prayer, for adoptive families is that more parents begin to understand and embrace the messages they are receiving. That the next generation of adoptees can have it better than past generations because their parents were willing to do the work. After all, it was the parents who knowingly signed up for the adoptive parenting journey, not the child.

1 Response to “Raible’s “Letter to a Lucky Adoptee””

  1. 1 Kim
    February 23, 2011 at 11:25 am

    So true – we AP’s have to do the work. Our kids shouldn’t have to initiate it… If they’re old enough to know they need it, we’ve waited too long. If we love our kids, we can learn to love their culture, too. And though it will seem like “extra work,” we can come to enjoy it.

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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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