I had a revelation recently, in part due to a post I published on race, and the discussions that ensued in the comments.
I finally realize why it is so important to me that my race be recognized. Why it’s so important to me that people do not view me through a lens of “color-blindness.”
My color, my race–it’s all that I have left.
It is the only tangible evidence that remains that I was born a Korean, that I am my Omma’s and Appa’s daughter.
Finding the essence of what it means to be an adoptee, a transnational adoptee and getting at the heart of adoption.
Adoption breaks our hearts. We all lose our mothers in an act of violence, cruelty and inhumanity. No matter how it is achieved, the discarding or taking of a baby from her/his mother is life threatening, life changing and the effects indelible. Primal loss is real, it touches us deeply, painfully and if we don’t feel that, maybe we will one day. For some of us adoption may have been preventable, different in better circumstances, retrievable or impossible if we had lived in other places or in countries with different attitudes, mores, practises and beliefs. However it came to be, it involves tragedy, trauma and heartbreaking loss for adoptees.
I have been involved recently in an exchange with someone who believes infants have no cognitive abilities and that primal loss isn’t a reality. He is insistent that those who believe in the trauma of adoption are angry, unresolved and seems to suggest we or at any rate I, have an axe to grind.
Categorical thinking is the red flag in any context. I understand the feeling among adoptees. I testified many times before the NJ Senate on bills to unseal adoption records and I debated with the Catholic Church, National Council for Adoption, Bar association and ACLU, all of who opposed unsealing birth certificates. Categorical thinking indicates anger and the desire for vengeance. Being in touch what we really want isnt easy Perhaps he is suggesting that categorical thinking is preventing the opening of records in NJ and that some of those mentioned are angry and desire vengeance on adoptees for wanting open records, access and their rights. I do not know I’m not in New Jersey or in America or in a country were records are sealed. I do know that being in touch with what we want is easy but that sometimes achieving it is hard. All we have is our self. We may be assigned many things including identity and nationality in a way which may be confusing, contradictory or emphasis our losses and trauma. In some senses we make it up as we go along, create ourselves, become who we want to be. If we are lucky we have wise mentors, loving friends, good aparents to guide and help us. If we do not we still create ourselves but do so with more hardship, pain and difficulty. We are so often working in the dark, stumbling about looking for clues, directions and purpose. A few years ago I read Finn’s Quest a trilogy written by Eirlys Hunter,(http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Kids/ChildrensAuthors/EirlysHunter.asp) once a dear friend, but that’s another tale! It is beautifully written and struck deep with it’s symbolism. It should stand with The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery which was once recommended to me by my Therapist at the time, a wise and empathetic man who helped me on my way. I still have the copy on my shelves, now rather worn but certainly well-travelled. It has accompanied me on my life journey but also moved with me many times and crossed the world to finally come to rest near where it all began. I am lucky to know who I am and to be where I want to be. Perhaps luck has nothing to do with it. I always had a goal to come home, to die where I was born and I was able to bring all knowledge that sustained me, nourished who I am back full circle and to add to it with increased information and certainty. I did that. With the help of mentors, hard lessons and determination, riding the storms and eventually coming to safe harbour. We never stop learning who we are because who we are is fluid, flexible and ever changing. That piece of information was a revelation to me when told me by a dear family member. It has not occurred to this adoptee that it was safe to become someone different, change, although I firmly believed in growth and change, constant learning, it somehow finally came together and the last piece of the puzzle clicked into place.
I had a conversation this last week with someone I have known since I was about eight years old, sat behind at school and who has lived in London all his adult life. He confessed that he doesn’t know who he is or rather what he is, neither fish nor fowl, neither Australian nor British. He has allegiances, connections, history in two places, both of them dear to him in their own way. That dilemma, felt by so many adoptees with the additional aspects of adoption to deal with, is rarely resolveable in the early years but may be eventually. In my experience it requires compromise, concessions and changes. So many adoptees have no choice but to get on with it, to adapt, adjust and make of it what they can.
Just in case you missed it, a link http://youtu.be/Y3pX4C-mtiI
And finally some links on categorical thinking for your entertainment! –
“In addition to temporary processing objectives, a perceiver’s chronic beliefs about
others also appear to moderate the activation of categorical thinking (Lepore&Brown
1997, Locke et al 1994, Wittenbrink et al 1997). It is interesting, however, that this
observation is at odds with conventional thinking on the dynamics of the categorization
process. Based on Devine’s (1989) seminal article, it has been widely accepted
that both prejudiced and egalitarian individuals activate categories (and their associated
stereotypes) to the same degree when they encounter members of stigmatized
social groups. Through common socialization experiences, all individuals are
assumed to have the same cultural stereotypes stored in memory, stereotypes that are
accessed as soon as a group member (or symbolic equivalent) is encountered (Allport
1954, Devine 1989, Dovidio et al 1986). The cognitive difference between humanitarians
and bigots is that whereas the former group overrides the automatic effects
of category activation by replacing stereotypic thoughts with their own nonprejudiced
personal beliefs (i.e. controlled inhibition), the latter group does not engage in such
an activity. Thus, differences between the groups emerge only at the level of controlled
cognitive processing. Where automatic operations are concerned (i.e. category
activation), bigots and humanitarians are believed to be psychologically indistinguishable
(see Devine 1989).”