One of the latest viral videos is titled “I Like Adoption” (not your typical viral video). I first saw this yesterday at 5:57 am and was unable to go back to sleep. Not because of the warm, cuddly, “faith in human restored” feelings that seem to be sweeping everyone off their feet, but by anger. In fact, I was far angrier than I’ve been in a long time and actually longed to hit something. Instead, I shoved down my feelings and tried to forget about it. However, the anger remained. This anger clouded the my day and successfully made me grumpy for a good part of the day. (I suspect that this isn’t the typical reaction to the video.)
When I awoke this morning, I noticed that many of my friends were sharing the video and commenting on how “beautiful” and “loving” it was. One of my really good friends shared it with the caption of “a-freaking-mazing.”
I threw up in my mouth a little.
My anger returned with a vengeance.
To be fair, the video is actually really beautiful. It’s a story of a family who has adopted kids from all over the world, many of which have abnormalities (like no arms or legs). Obviously, what they do is laudable. You can practically feel the love that the family shares. I have mad respect for them and wish that more people were as loving and passionate as they are.
So what is it that makes my heart race and muscles tense in anger? The father’s narration, particularly these two lines:
“When you’re adopted your parents looked down on the whole world and picked you. You think that they don’t really know the gravity of them being rescued or saved…”
Although these (bold) statements may be true for their family, they’re not true for the majority of adopted children. In fact, these generalizations are complete and utter bullshit. (Actually, it’s how to be an asshole parent.) It’s this kind of speech that perpetuates the misinformed and ignorant ways that many speak about adoption. (Oh hey, thanks Christian propaganda.)
Biological children are never presented with a narrative where they should be thankful for being born, however adopted kids are constantly told this– constantly told that we should be “thankful” for being adopted. Not only can this alienate adoptees, but it can also make them feel like “less” of a child, family member and person, and more like a commodity– a mere object purchased for the pleasure of others. It’s like we’re in debt to our adopted parents, a debt that can never be repaid, consequently leading to feelings of guilt, shame and inadequateness.
Part of me wants to point fingers and blame someone for the pervasiveness of this kind of speech, but then I’m reminded that the majority of people will never understand this because they’ll never know what it’s like.
They’ll never have to wonder what it’s like to have an original birth certificate, one that’s forever sealed from them. Nor will they ever know what it feels like to have a whole history completely hidden and forbidden from them. They’ll never have to wonder who their parents are or if they have siblings. Nor will they ever have the heartbreaking experience of walking down the street and wondering “are any of these people related to me?” They’ll never have to wonder if anyone else knows about their existence.
This ignorance is completely understandable because most people will never think about these types of things since it’s so unnatural to them (that’s a good exercise in empathy), however it is not acceptable to continue to allow individuals (like the father in the video) to perpetuate the way individuals talk about adoption. It discounts the experience of many adoptees and affirms their deep seeded feelings of unworthiness.
The adoption community needs to come together to allow people to see the complexity involved in even the most idealistic adoptions.