Archive for the 'racial resources' Category


A Couple of Blogs on Race and Adoption

I haven’t been around much lately. I still have lots I’d like to share but life has become busy, hectic, crazy, and I have no idea when it’s going to settle down.

But I did come across a couple of blogs today that I wanted to share. This one is written by transracial adoptees who delve into the what life as a transracial adoptee is. This deals specifically with racism.  And I feel the post I’m about to share a link to is a must-read for white adoptive parents.

While white adoptive parents who as the majority in our country will likely never experience what people of color do daily here, we must educate ourselves so we understand what our kids may/do experience in their own lives. We set the tone for our kids; we make it OK to talk about. They have to know we’ve got their backs, which to me means really understanding and being proactive in helping.


Whitewashing in Religion and Books

It seems like everywhere I turn these days I find evidence that so many people still don’t understand race and subtle racism.

I teach a Sunday school class for little guys (preschool and elementary ages), and have recently been looking at different curriculum for the upcoming months. Most weeks in my class I don’t have even one caucasian student. I have Latino, biracial, African American, and Korean American. And do you know how hard it is to find a curriculum in which the ethnicities of these children are accurately represented? It’s practically impossible.

So often when I find “multicultural” teaching aids, they portray Asian children as wearing traditional Chinese and Japanese clothing and black children as wearing the outfits of native Africa. I realize that the companies are trying. But don’t they see that Asian children and black in America aren’t going to be dressing that way, at least not on an everyday basis? In fact, often natives of these countries no longer regularly dress in the traditional garb in which they are portrayed. People in Korea no longer wear hanbok every day, so portraying them in such a way shows a basic misunderstanding of other cultures.

Not to mention, if you’re religious, have you ever noticed how the people of the Bible are “whitewashed”? Of course, almost all societies tend to depict Jesus and other Bible characters as being of that ethnicity, so they are mostly portrayed as white in our country. But why can’t we just portray these historical figures as they probably looked? After all most of these men and women, including Jesus, were of Jewish lineage, and therefore probably resembled those from the Middle East.

Books are another area in which I’m struggling with race. I  have always loved to read. Now my son shares that love. Finding diverse picture books hasn’t been too big a  problem. Some, of course, are better illustrated than others with more realistic and respectful portrayals of  people of color.

But as we look for chapter books to begin to read to him, I realize how many are about caucasian characters. Almost all of the books considered classics portray the lives of white characters. If people of color are included, often they are portrayed in a derogatory way. Of course, many of these classics he’ll still read and we’ll discuss how people of color are thought of and portrayed. But I feel it’s a fine line to walk–exposing him to those truths without giving him reason to feel he or his ethnicity is inferior.

That’s why I feel it’s important to balance those classics with books featuring positive and realistic storylines about people of color. Yet, that’s easier said than done. In time he’ll read all of Linda Sue Park’s books, which all have a tie to Korea through Korean/Korean American characters and/or history. But that’s only a handful of books.

Then recently I discovered Laurence Yep. He’s written numerous books featuring characters of mostly Chinese heritage. So I’m excited to begin to explore Yep’s books and hopefully share them with our son someday. But as I was trying to learn more about Yep, I found this statement on Wikipedia:

Regardless of the ethnicity of his characters, Yep’s writing is for everyone.

That statement just really struck me. It almost seemed to discount Yep’s work in someway because his characters are primarily Asian. As if people of other ethnicities wouldn’t even consider reading a book about Asian children. And all I could think is how many children of color are required to read books primarily about whites and in some case featuring negative portrayals of their own ethnicities.

I realize that for me this is a recent understanding. I grew up going to church seeing “white Jesus” and never once questioned the image. And almost all of the books I loved as a kid had very little racial diversity in them. But still I wonder about why our country isn’t further along in this understanding? Why didn’t I, who was raised in a diverse area, question these things earlier? And why aren’t Christians further along in racial understanding, given that we’re commanded to love as God loves us? I don’t have the answers. But I’m hoping to be part of the change.


Self-esteem, Identity, and Pop Culture

My husband and I just got back from the movies and, of course, we saw trailers for several summer blockbusters. Being teens of the ’80s, we’ve been excited about the upcoming Karate Kid remake. But seeing the trailer got me to thinking about something–most, if not all, of the Asian boys in this movie are going to be “mean.” Another trailer portrayed Asians in New York’s Chinatown as gang members.

In American cinema and TV, it seems that largely Asian men are portrayed as either geeks or gangbangers. And I know the problem isn’t specific to Asians; most people of color are portrayed as stereotypes by Hollywood. (Interesting that now, while people of color are increasingly included on the big and small screens, “diversity” in movies and television serves mostly to perpetuate negative ideas about them.)

So my question is where can my son look to find men like him portrayed in a positive light? I know it’s best if a kid’s role model is someone in their real lives, and I understand I’m charged with creating an environment in which our son has such role models. But there’s little doubt that most of us look to Hollywood or sports venues for people to admire as well. I wonder what my son will begin to think about Asian men, including himself, if he looks to American television and movies for any part of his identity.

This thought started forming the other night after my husband and I sat down to watch Disney’s Summer Magic (a 1963 movie starting Hayley Mills and Burl Ives). For years, I’ve longed to share the live-action Disney movies I grew up watching with our children. Yet, now I’m hesitant because there are rarely people of color in these movies.

I know there’s nothing wrong with sharing these movies with my son. Yet, I realize that these movies cannot be our family’s sole source of entertainment, like they were when I was growing up. As parents of child of color, we must find films and television where our son can see men who look like he does portrayed in a positive light as well.

After watching many Korean dramas, we know that we can share some of them with our son when he’s a little older. And I’m thankful to have that option. But it’s sad to me that there aren’t many American offerings that will help our son build a positive racial identity.

For those of you who are further along in the transracial parenting journey, what do you do about movies and television? I would love to hear opinions and ideas.


It’s a Hard Knock Life

I love musicals. I don’t remember when I saw my first musical on stage, but I’m sure that long before that I loved movie musicals. My husband joined in to musical obsession after seeing Wicked on Broadway a few years ago. And now we have a son who loves music and dancing, and as we learned earlier this year, musicals. We took him to see High School Musical 3 and he loved it so much that we had to see it five times in the theater before it came out on video.

So, of course, I want to indulge this love of musicals. But I’m struggling with how to do that. Themes that never bothered me before now make me cringe.

I think he’d most like musicals about kids. But just about every kid musical has an orphan theme, some better done than others. Oliver was never a favorite of mine, but I loved Annie. Now I’m wondering, it is appropriate for my son to see? Sure, right now he probably won’t “get” lots of the message. But someday he will; what will it mean to him then?

And then there’s the racial themes and stereotypes. First, there aren’t many musicals that have minorities in them. Second, when minorities are represented it’s often only to fulfill a stereotype.

I have two friends who have highly recommend Miss Saigon; both said it was one of their favorite musicals. I haven’t seen it so one friend let me borrow her soundtrack. It was in the first song on the soundtrack that I became uncomfortable, and as the soundtrack played on that feeling only grew. Asian women existing only for pleasing men; Asian men cunningly only helping other if it advanced their cause.

So I did what I always do and began doing some research on the Internet. I came across a review of the Broadway version written when the musical was still playing on the Great White Way (it was posted in 2008). It points out all the stereotypes that are perputuated in the story line of Miss Saigon. And as so often happens, the first comment was from a dissenter who wondered if it would be a misrepresentation to portray the story with “political correctness” since it was set in the 1970s, which we all know wasn’t politically correct. The response was that it would have been misrepresentation only if you believe that there were no Asians in the 1970s who had any redeeming qualities and that there were no whites who could see past the bigotry.

And that’s my dilemma. So much of what’s out there in entertainment, especially in years past but to some extent still today, shows a skewed view of the world when it comes to race and adoption. It’s true that America’s past is traditionally very “white” but since the beginning we’ve had people of color here. People who have contributed much to our country, and people we largely never hear about. Yes, stereotypes exist, whether it be about race or adoptees or genders. Yes, some people believe those stereotypes are true and use them to form opinions. And yes, someday my son will need to know all of these things. And maybe, when he’s old enough to understand, movies and musicals will be great jumping-off points to start conversations about these themes.

But in the meantime, at the tender age of 3, would seeing these messages be detrimental? Would it affect his developing sense of self in a negative way? These are the questions I ask myself before viewing any movie or show. They are questions that many of my white friends with biological kids never ask about these “family-friendly” movies. These films have no bad language, no sex, and no violence–nothing in there that could harm a youngster, right?

For me it’s not that simple. I must look deeper and with a more critical eye than I did before. Not to completely shelter my son from reality, but to make sure the messages he’s getting are helping build him up as a minority in this country during these formative years.


Does race matter?

Today we watched the inauguration of our country’s first non-EuroAmerican president. It was a truly historic day and, I think, a day to be proud, regardless of your political views. (Although my 3-year-old was way more excited about the performance by Yo-Yo Ma; not because it was another Asian but because he played a musical instrument—one of our son’s current obsesssions.)

It’s exciting to know that my son will grow up in an era where a non-white president isn’t something he only sees in the movies. My hope is that with the realization of this dream, no group in this country will feel like second-class citizens because of its skin color. My hope is that we’ll grow to see people as people, not as colors.

It’s been 45 years since Martin Luther King Jr. talked about the dream he had for America. Today’s events were a huge step forward for that dream, but I don’t think it’s a dream that’s yet been fully achieved. You know, 15 years ago I would have said we had achieved the dream. As a college student I didn’t understand why the black students needed to have their own groups. Why couldn’t we be one?

The truth began to dawn on me as I helped a group of black citizens fight city hall for things that would never have been issues in a white neighborhood (proper fire protection, for example). Still I didn’t fully realize the part race played.

Then I adopted a child who is a minority ethnicity in this country. And I began to see that racism is alive and well in our country. Often it’s more subtle than it used to be, but it’s still there. It’s evident in the stereotypical comments people often make to us after observing our son for 30 seconds: “Oh, he’s so smart.” Can someone really tell the intelligence of a 3-year-old after 30-seconds of observation? Or is it because he’s Asian, and as we all know, Asians are smart?

As race issues began to take shape in our lives through our son, we began to educate ourselves on the role that race plays in identity development. I wanted to know how to help my child be proud of his ethnicity. And what I learned concretely is that America is not a color-blind country. That racism is alive and well in America has only been confirmed again and again since I’ve been educated about it—by my friends who have experienced it first hand, by happenings at my church, by comments I’ve overheard, and through discussions I’ve read all over the Internet.

Race does still matter here, which is why son needs to know what it means to be Asian. He needs to have mentors who can help him navigate the racial waters that I don’t fully understand, because I’ve never experienced the racial issues he’ll face.

So many whites that I know still live in the bubble that I used to live in—that racism is in the past; that if you talk about race you’re racist; and that we’re a color-blind society. I believe all white Americans need to step out of that bubble; take off the blinders; own up to the privileges that you’ve experienced by being a member of the majority race in this country.

However, I especially believe that adoptive parents need to step up and educate themselves. Acknowledging the truth is the only way we can help prepare our children for the race realities they’ll likely face in the future.

Maybe our country’s race issues will be resolved by the time that my son is old enough to understand them. That would be an answered prayer. But race issues don’t seem to be resolved quickly in our country. After all it’s been 143 year since the Emancipation Proclaimation was signed; it’s been 44 years since Congress signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing racial discrimination; and only today was a black American able to take the oath of the presidency for the first time.

There are two books I highly recommend to start you on your journey to racial awareness.
Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Talks about who racial identity develops and why it’s important to know about racial identity with sections on black, white, and multiracial identity (multiracial includes transracial adoptees).

Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
Through stories about the author’s children, who are multiracial (Japanese American-caucasian), and numerous interviews with transracial adoptees, multiracial children and experts in the field, this book explores how kids at different stages of life (starting with preschool) process race and gives you ideas and sample scripts to help talk to your children about race.


Favorite Diversity Books for Parents

These are for the parents, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. When we started our adoption process, we hadn’t really thought about race, white privilege, or how being a multiracial family would affect our son’s self-esteem. Boy, have we received an education in the last couple of years!

The first two books listed below deal with how people who are ethnic minorities in America develop their identity. While they don’t deal exclusively with transracial adoption, both are excellent resources and what I consider “must reads” for all multiracial families. And both books do touch on some specifics of transracial adoption.

The third book is about creating a multicultural home and environment that represents the family you’ve now become through adoption. It, too, touches on the importance of this and how it relates to your child’s identity development.

• Does Anybody Else Look Like Me? by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
Through stories about the author’s children, who are multiracial (Japanese American-caucasian), and numerous interviews with transracial adoptees, multiracial children and experts in the field, this book explores how kids at different stages of life (starting with preschool) process race and gives you ideas and sample scripts to help talk to your children about race.

• Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Talks about who racial identity develops and why it’s important to know about racial identity with sections on black, white, and multiracial identity (multiracial includes transracial adoptees).

• Dim Sum, Bagels, & Grits by Myra Alperson
An excellent book about the importance of becoming a multicultural family with ideas on how your home and life can be a reflection of your now multiracial family.


Favorite Diversity Books for Children

Multiracial families have unique needs. Our children need to see their ethnicities and their unique-looking families reflected in things they see in their everyday lives—books, magazines, videos, etc. The next few posts are going to include books for every member of the family that will cover diversity, adoption, Korea, and more. This list includes some of my favorites (current as of July 2008).

• Board books by Helen Oxenbury
Clap Hands, Tickle Tickle and Say Goodnight are simple large board books that feature children and parents of all ethnicities.

• The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
An adoptee and her mom walk through their neighborhood noticing how everyone is a unique color.

• Throw Your Tooth on the Roof by Selby B. Beeler
This book details tooth traditions from around the world, showing how children worldwide celebrate losing a tooth.

• People by Pete Spier
A book showing how there are many ways people are different—from what they eat, to where they live, to what they look like, to how they worship.

• How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina Friedman
A little girl tells the story of how her Japanese mother and American father learned how to eat in each others culture.

• Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas by Gail Piernas-Davenport
Shanté’s grandmother has forgotten to make the lucky New Year’s peas. As Shanté goes through the neighborhood looking for peas, she learns about many other New Year’s traditions.

• All Kinds of Children by Norma Simon
Tells how all children are similar—they eat, live in houses, etc.—while showing how the food or housing looks different.

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: It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

Favorite Korean Movies-TV Shows

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

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2worlds1familyblog at gmail dot com

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