I just attended a speech on transracial adoption that was excellent. The speaker made an incredibly valuable and important case for acknowledgement of the multi-faceted challenges that someone adopted from one racial group into another will face. I had been a bit anxious about the talk, because all my kids are different races from me and it’s been something I’ve been well aware of as a responsibility to handle it “right” or as correctly as I’m able. I was worried I would get int there and realize that I’ve been doing everything wrong and feel like I’ve been messing up my kids. I was pleasantly surprised that most of what she said we were already aware of – like 1) don’t pretend like race isn’t important 2) acknowledge the kids’ own experiences 3) be an ally in actively opposing racism. There was of course a lot more of great information, but I did not leave the session feeling like I’ve been clueless.
But I did leave the session almost in tears. Disclaimer – It’s been a heavy couple of years, including my mom dying just a few months ago. We’ve had insane amounts of stress and sadness and overall, I’m doing ok. But I am a pretty emotional person anyway and some days I just don’t feel as strong as others. Today is one of those days.
But the reason I felt like crying is because I had been on this speaker’s FB blog page the night before and read some pretty horrific comments directed at me by others on the blog (not the speaker herself). Though she was also pretty unhappy with the article I’d written about social workers. I had fully anticipated social workers would be angry, but had stupidly not considered that adoptees would read it! I don’t know why that never occurred to me and I’ll own that I should have been more aware of that. But I was writing for social workers as my audience and trying to be as careful as I could about not saying too much about my kids, but being honest about my experience.
And the speaker today was discussing how important it is to believe people about their own experience, not discount their concerns, to allow them to speak their truth and be their ally, to approach people not from a standpoint of shame, but of kindness. I have to say that I felt none of those things were extended to me when I read those comments last night. I read that my article was bullshit, self-righteous, shaming of my children and that I was a blowhard who wasn’t capable or willing to find resources to help my kids myself. I’ve received amazingly positive feedback from other adoptive parents and even some social workers. So, I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that in some quarters my article would offend. And any time someone throws something out into the world that can be controversial, they’re naive if they don’t expect some controversy!
But what has happened to me and my family is not bullshit. It’s real and it ruined lives and will have lifelong consequences. And lots of other families are in the same boat, so their pain was dismissed right along with mine. The ultimate irony is that my article was written to help make people aware of a serious, hidden and untalked about crisis that’s raging in the adoptive community and that putting our heads in the sand about it won’t make it better. To some extent, that was the aim of her talk on transracial adoption. She urged people to take an intersectional approach to thinking about the pain of transracial adoptees. What about an intersectional approach to understanding what the families of children with severe emotional/behavioral disorders and RAD experience?
Who’s pain matters? For me, the answer is everyone’s. No one’s pain or experience should be dismissed. Until we can look past our own personal filters that limit our understanding and compassion toward others, I am not sure that we can make progress on the important social and justice issues that need our attention. Perhaps I’m a bit radical in this regard, because I extend this thinking to pretty much everyone. I have profound anger and resentment toward the social workers who did what they did to us (it gets a whole lot worse than what I wrote in that article), but even so I don’t want to shame them or make them feel bad. I wanted to understand how they saw things and how they could do what they did. I wanted things to get better for families like mine, not tell them that they’re horrible and “bullshit”.
Ok, vent over… Now back to the conference.