Thursday, February 02, 2012

Transnational/Transracial Adoption and Fetishization

On the "Yo, Is This Racist?" tumblr, someone was seeking advice about how to deal with a friend who was fetishizing the Korean child that she was getting from a transnational adoption. On Facebook, someone responded that, when the agency saw how she was acting like she was getting a new toy, they wouldn't allow her to adopt. I had to laugh at that.

These international adoption agencies wouldn't stop her from adopting. That's what they are there for: To make it possible for privileged people to buy a walking, talking toy.

I can't have any more children--I have one--so my hubby and I wanted to adopt. Our state wouldn't allow us to adopt from those in the foster system, because I have cancer, so we started looking for an international agency in order to expand our family.

The agencies that I contacted sent me packets with the estimated cost to adopt babies from different areas. Anyone who says these folks aren't selling children is either ignorant or a heartless liar. Some of them even offer a reduced cost (i.e. discounts) for adopting older kids. In the world of international adoption, any child over 4 years old is past the baby stage and, therefore, are less desirable to most potential adopters.

Once you tell them which country you want to adopt from, they send you pictures of the available children. You let them know which one you're interested in and then you start paying all the fees it will take to get you through the process.

In a few months' time, you can be the proud owner of a new and exotic toy. You can treat your new toy like a teacup poodle. Rename it. Dress it up in cute clothes. Bring it with you in stores and parks so that everyone can see how cute it is. Compare it with the ones your friends bought. If you get bored with that one, you can buy another one from the same agency at a discounted price. You can get one from the same place so that you have a matching pair or you can get one from another country to add some diversity to your collection.

I did badly want another child. I still do. However, I couldn't deny that the whole process of picking and paying for a child repulsed me. I tried to tell myself that I could minimize the harm that transnational adoptions cause. The vast majority of transnational adopters are white. Unlike the vast majority of adopters, I specifically wanted an African child (Ethiopia is where most transnational agencies get children for those who wanted one from an African country), above the baby stage. The child wouldn't be the only person of color in our family. Instead of languishing in an orphanage, I could give some child the kind of privileged life that most children around the world don't experience. I could make sure that they got to retain their religion and heritage and language, because I was just that open-minded and flexible. Wasn't that enough to justify enduring the ugly aspects of this process?

Then, I read the blogs of some transnational adoptees. Several expressed the view that they consider themselves as being kidnapped or abducted. It wasn't just a few people that could be written off as disgruntled adults. Well, some potential adopters do write them off in that way, but I just couldn't do it. Even though it wasn't what I wanted to hear, their perspectives convinced me that there was no such thing as an ethical transnational adoption.

I'd rather be satisfied with the child that I have, than to be the cause of another child's misery. I can sometimes behave selfishly, but that was beyond what I could justify doing to someone.

1 comment:

Rootietoot said...

I've wondered how a child- Asian, Indian, or African- would feel about growing up in an American family, even one the same color as she is (and yes, most of these children are girls). I have a friend who's adopted 2 girls, 1 Chinese and 1 Indian. I also have an Ethiopian friend who's constantly trying to get me to adopt an Ethiopian baby girl.
The ethics are sticky. Yes, it's baby selling and that is not a good thing. However, these are children who would otherwise grow up in an orphanage. You would provide them with a stable family, health care, education and the like, that they might not have otherwise.
So perhaps the method of aquiring a child might not be the greatest, but you can't look at other people's motives, only your own. You know you wouldn't be getting a cute little puppy, but a human being that you can provide a future for, that she likely would not have. Orphans are not looked at kindly in Ethiopia..according to Elelta (my Ethiopian friend)