No, that racism isn’t in your head
And other things transracially adopted people of color deal with
#BeingRaisedByWhitePeople should be a hashtag any non-White who was, well, raised by white people, should use because #BeingRaisedByWhite people doesn’t so much suck as it leads to terribly awkward and painful lifelong confusion if done completely wrong.
My parents thought the word “racism” was a term used by minorities to exact revenge against perceived inequalities, a weapon drawn so people of color can instantly get a pass for nearly anything.
If I complained when peers:
- Threatened to “kick my eyes straight”
- Called me “gook”
- Tossed the classic “go back to your own country” at me
- Or “Chinese people can’t be punks”
It wasn’t racism. It was likely due to something I did to personally offend those fellow human beings, not anything taught by them at home or greater society.
I had immediate family members regularly using racial slurs, bringing home racist propoganda, and making racial jokes. One such joke was told at a ski resort on a day when a large Asian group hit the icy mountain. This person looked at his blonde wife and said, “There’s a lot of slopes on these slopes!”
Having never heard the slur slopes before I had to ask my white family members for clarification.
Oh. Wait a second…
Of course, the affirmative action officer (white lady) who, after meeting with her to discuss the white kid who tried to set my jacket on fire while I was wearing it, asked me: “Don’t you think Dan just needs a friend?” wasn’t racist.
She was just trying to help.
Just trying to help, just curious, just asking questions.
My family’s response after every incident like I’ve described was that people are just something and that I just needed to get over my hangups.
Folks, stop this.
Stop it right now.
Especially parents of transracial adoptees, please don’t try to get your child to empathize with curious, racist white people because all you’re doing is invalidating your child’s feelings and setting them up for self-hate.
And if your child complains of racism at school or at the playground, take it very seriously. Do not brush it off as just kids being kids. Bullying sucks but racist bullying, without the safety net of a home with people who’ve lived through it is excruciatingly damaging. If colorism exists in families not built by transracial adoption, imagine living that life alone, with people who can only tangentially acknowledge your struggle.
Not every white parent is this clueless. I get it. If you’re not, you’re already a thousand steps ahead of each one that isn’t. But the far-reaching, soul-crushing danger of the few that pretend racism isn’t a force threatening to consume your child’s delicate identity is real. So if your child grows into an angry, confused adult, don’t blame your child.
Read articles and tweets by transracial adoptees. Hear their stories. Believe the problems people of color publicize. I don’t know, move to more diversified area if you are considering transracially adopting. Radical? So is adoption. But most importantly, acknowledge your white privilege and don’t hate your child if they tell you about it or want to exist in a community separately from yours.
I’ve heard white parents say they want to do these things, but adoptees know it’s still not happening. And even if it does, transracial adoptees still grow up reporting feelings of disconnect and longing.
You’re allowed to get mad at me for writing this, that’s fine. But the goal is to help you and your family navigate transracial adoption openly and honestly. Adult transracial adoptees, and adoptees in general, want to have these conversations with you. Respectfully.
Because of the confusing messages I heard, I grew up hating my Asianness, treating is as a diseased condition instead of accepting it as fact. I’m getting better, thanks to some amazing people. I am happy and finding comfort knowing I can help others. But please take from this hastily written piece that racism is real and if your child is being bullied it’s likely due to this:
They have pimples/are overweight/are annoying/are a stupidhead AND they’re Asian/black/brown.
For whites, it’s
They have pimples/are overweight/are annoying/are a stupidhead.