Holt adoptive father Jason McBride discusses race and discrimination issues surrounding adoption and addresses the question: “Why not just adopt from the United States?”
I’m the father of three children who were born and adopted from China. Like other adoptive fathers, I can appreciate the unique experience of having a mixed-race family. Publicly, whether at restaurants, parks or shopping malls, our family rarely goes unnoticed.
I enjoy the attention, not for lack of modesty, but because I like promoting adoption. I call this experience the “double take,” and parents of mixed-race families know it well. It’s the initial look we get in public, followed by a second look, before an approving smile as if to say “you’re good people.” While I don’t view adoption as charity, I do believe this reaction comes from a place of decency.
Unfortunately however, when it comes to children of international adoption, these same positive reactions in public don’t always translate into equally positive thoughts in private or on social media. In fact, many Americans discriminate against internationally adopted children because of misconceptions about the process. Worse, they discriminate on the grounds of a child’s birth country.
Imagine a child you care about. Maybe it’s your son or daughter, a niece, nephew or grandchild. Picture their smiling face looking up at you with all their innocence and beauty on display. Think of the wonderful qualities in this child. Maybe it’s a talent or a physical feature, or the way they cuddle with you during a movie. Really do it. Close your eyes for a second and imagine this child.
Now, imagine a stranger looking down at this child and bluntly saying, “I wish you were someone else.” How would such a cruel rejection of a person you love affect you? Worse, how do you think it would affect the child? What emotions would a comment like that create, both in you and in them?
Like all forms of prejudice, whether racial, religious or otherwise, discrimination against one’s country-of-origin is far too common.
This past November was National Adoption Month, a time for advocates to spread awareness. In a recent Facebook posting, where families were asked to contribute their adoption stories, many photos and inspirational comments were shared. But looking deeper, I noticed an alarming trend: The volume of people discouraged by children being adopted from other countries.
In the face of countless expressions of love, one person chose to say this: “I can’t help but feel sadness for the many children right here in OUR OWN COUNTRY that need loving families. More adoptions need to take place within the US. Those children need homes too”. This theme was fairly common throughout the comments section.
There’s little doubt, in the minds of most adoption advocates, that every child, regardless of his or her domestic or international birth status, deserves a loving home. Having experienced all of my children’s adoptions through the China process, I’m always fascinated by fellow advocates who’ve adopted elsewhere or domestically.
Likewise, it’s fairly common for advocates of any cause to support local charity. When we donate to food banks, we often prefer a church or mission down the street as opposed to the larger, national food drive. But this comment went further than a basic preference for one adoption process or another. It was rooted in cruel intention. In particular, it suggested children born in America are more valuable than children born elsewhere.
Notice the big, bold letters: “OUR OWN COUNTRY.” Think about that for a second. While the rapid-fire of comments sections are rarely the pinnacle of thoughtful dialect, imagine a person saying this directly to a child. “You, Sophia, look to be a wonderful little girl. However, it’s unfortunate your family didn’t choose to adopt someone who was born here instead.” If we wouldn’t tolerate this comment in person, why is it acceptable in written form?
While it’s far more common today, international adoption remains a mysterious topic for many people. Those of us who are familiar to the process have all heard the questions: How much was she? Did you get to pick him out? Are they really brother and sister? Or, my favorite from just the other week: Did you get a tax write-off for your business?
In fairness, it’s common for topics of unfamiliarity to be met with a degree of ignorance from those in second-hand positions. It’s only natural. In my case, as a Caucasian, I’d imagine a discussion about racial inequality with an African American with personal accounts of discrimination to be one-sided. As a male, I can hardly understand the real humiliation of gender bias. Though I’m concerned, I can’t relate.
Internationally adoptive parents understand this reality and do their best to avoid a constant state of offense. However, when it comes to the dignity and feelings of our children and to the core question of why they’re family, we shouldn’t be silent. In raising awareness for this year’s National Adoption Month, we should take a closer look at these open examples of discrimination being directed at our children.
Saying it’s better for one child to be adopted over another, because of a child’s unchosen birth country, is discriminatory and wrong. It cuts at the heart of that child’s identity, stares them in the face and states they’re inferior to others. It misrepresents the welcoming spirit of America and misunderstands the reasons for multiple adoption processes. Above all, it’s incredibly hurtful to millions of children who deserve better.
Jason McBride | Haddonfield, New Jersey