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Race & Adoption Part 1: Intersections


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Intersections: Race & Adoption will explore how racism may be experienced by adoptees. Most of these experiences happen without words.
This webinar will help adoptees begin to navigate the conversations around race and how this may intersect with adoption

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Race & Adoption Part 1: Intersections

  1. 1. Intersections: Race & Adoption Melanie Chung-sherman, LCSw, LCPAA, PLLC.
  2. 2. Intersection of Race “not to mention race or the impacts of racism. . Or expose me to anyone who is of my bones is to do violence against the very essence of who I am.” --transracial adoptee
  3. 3. Racism  Collective prejudice backed by legal, legislative, institutional and financial power within the broader society.  It is a system, not merely an individual act.  Once rationalization to uphold institutions are internalized, it does not take much to stay within these systems.  It exists without words.
  4. 4. Growing Up
  5. 5. My High School Yearbook
  6. 6. Who are marginalized groups in adoption?  Adoptees  First Families  People of Color  Religious minorities  Special Needs  Socio-economic  What other intersections can you think of?
  7. 7. Reflection  “I don’t see color.”  “They are being too sensitive.”  “You have to be the bigger person.”  “[That] is not what so-and-so meant.”  “Does it always have to be about race?”  “There are two sides to every story.”  “Let’s give the benefit of the doubt.”  “All lives matter.”
  8. 8. What is Intersectionality? What intersections are relevant in your life? What are other intersections to consider? Cross-sections of our identity
  9. 9. Intersectionality
  10. 10. Race: What do TRAs internalize? “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” --Nelson Mandela
  11. 11. Consider marginalized groups  What comes to mind?  How would race intersect within those experiences?  What does it mean to ally?
  12. 12. The Dolezal Effect
  13. 13. Black Lives Matter
  14. 14. Your Friend?
  15. 15. Your loved one?
  16. 16. Your Neighbor?
  17. 17. Your Son?
  18. 18. Your Daughter?
  19. 19. What Kind of Asian Are You?
  20. 20. The Psychological Cost of Silence (Tatum, 2003)  When we feel heard, we feel soothed and comforted.  To remain silent can also translate into self-blame & self-doubt.  When we persist in sharing our stories, but are silenced, it will take a psychological toll.  In order to prevent discomfort, white & kids of color (KOC) are socialized not to address race at all.  Privilege goes unnoticed and only in extreme cases are blatant acts of racism noticed.  When denied an experience, it is traumatizing.
  21. 21. Impacts of Internalized Racism
  22. 22. Perspective
  23. 23. Address Why Racism is So hard to Discuss  Taught not to generalize  Post-racial idealism  We assume our experiences are similar to others  Cannot address what we cannot / refuse to see  Acts of racism are singular and not systemic  It is impolite, rude, and socially unacceptable.
  24. 24. Reverse Racism  Racism systematically upholds white superiority and cultural norms  POCs can hold prejudice and discrimination, but do not have the power to enact laws and legislation  POCs may react based on systemic oppression and marginalization, but must still exist within dominant system
  25. 25. Racism is a trigger for racial exploration  Experiences live without words for early developmental years  Encounters experienced at a younger age will have longitudinal impacts  Not talking about racism does not mean it does not exist for a child of color  Discriminatory experiences will lead a person of color to finally accept that racism cannot be denied.  These are opportunities that most tend to shut down.
  26. 26. Pyramid of Hate
  27. 27. TRAs  Silences self and others (in effort to uphold status quo)  Halts ability to empathize with other marginalized groups  Stunts development as POC & racial awareness at behest of white dominance (unconsciously)  Idealizes portions of adoption narrative that frames white saviorism as only good  Limits actively engaging communities of color and identity work
  28. 28. Microaggressions “Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” - “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life”
  29. 29. Microaggressions: What do your children experience?
  30. 30. Transracial Adoptees Speak. Listen.
  31. 31. Trauma and Racism Researchers continue to validate the links between frightening, unpredictable events in childhood—before their brains are fully developed. Before words to express. Before life experience. . .
  32. 32. Reculturation: Reclaiming Birth Culture and Ethnicity
  33. 33. Phase 1: Enculturation Begins  Enculturation, or developing awareness of birth culture, occurs from birth and in-utero.  Complex enculturation takes place for adoptees who are placed out of home—and then enculturate with foster care, orphanages, and/or kinship care culture.  Continues until adoptees are adopted and arrive in their family. (Baden, et al., 2012)
  34. 34. Phase 2: Relinquishment and Temporary Care  Continuation takes place for adoptees who are placed out of home—and then enculturate with foster care, orphanages, and/or kinship care culture. (Baden, et al., 2012)
  35. 35. Phase 3: Adoption, Assimilation Starts  Assimilation into adoptive family/culture begins, enculturation stops  Survival is connected to communication  Language, food, family life changes abruptly  Lack, or very limited exposure of birth culture (Baden, et al., 2012)
  36. 36. Phase 4: Reculturation Process  Adult process  Outside experience from the adoptive family—  Prompted when adoptee recognizes he/she is seen as person of color independent of adoptive family  Education  Experience  Immersion (Baden, et al., 2012)
  37. 37. Methods of Reculturation for TRAs  Changing/integrating birth name into legal name  Re-identifying and associating with adoptee culture/community  Living, studying, or visiting birth country  Engaging and creating new friendships and social circles  Educating oneself about race and racism  “Pulling away” from adoptive family in search for integrated identity
  38. 38. Experiences of TRA’s  Stepping out the door is a different experience:  Mentally and emotionally preparing to be out in public with a family who does not look like them.  Anxiety may also be tied to racial awareness—triggering body memory related to past trauma  It is one thing to be the parent of a child of color—it is another to be the child of color in a White world.  Systematic microaggressions are not always appropriated by complete strangers, but by family members and friends.  “A million tiny cuts.. .”  Racialized experiences can be traumatic--unpredictable
  39. 39. What is inclusive diversity?  What does “diversity” mean to you? Your child(ren)?  Educators/Administrators  Therapists  Doctors/Dentists  Places of Worship  Extended family  Integration of trauma-informed care and transracial issues are critical.  Remember that diversity is not perceived the same way as people of color experience it.
  40. 40. Framing the Conversation  Recognize how forms of othering and silencing can become more visible within your family.  Acknowledge and then become aware of privilege status in relation to POCs.  Adopting across racial lines does not co-opt race.  Analyze your circle—how integrated are you within your community of color? Beyond adoption status?  How often do you explain that you live in a diverse community versus living within diversity?  This still leaves the responsibility on your child(ren) to seek diversity.
  41. 41. Cont’d  How often do you engage in conversation regarding race?  How might that be perceived by your child as an adult?  Race typically precedes conversations regarding adoption for most TRAs.  Silence says it’s OK—and is internalized by your child as shame.  Actively engage and listen to the dialogues presented by people of color.
  42. 42. Creating Intentional Safe Spaces  The Lost Daughters  Transracial Adoption Perspectives/TRA 101  Also-Known-As, Inc.  I AM Adoptee  Connect-a-Kid  Adoptee community, particularly transracial adoptees, are empowered to create spaces and use their voice
  43. 43. TRA blogs and resources  The Lost Daughters  Land of Gazillion Adoptees (LGA)  AdoptionEchoes  I Am Adoptee (FB) Adoptee/1477444802529905  A Birth Project
  44. 44. What to do?  Get in touch with your own biases.  Recognize that race will amplify feelings and experiences for children of color.  Listen for context.  Experiences will not reflect white experiences.  Educate yourself on racist symbols, epithets, and slurs  Seek POCs/white allies who have been doing this for a while
  45. 45. Working towards Anti-racist Views  Backlash and pushback as common among other White family, peers, and colleagues when intentional anti-racist work begins.  This will leave white family and friends in discomfort.  Suspicions and distrust by POCs when whites engage in antiracist work, but stay the course.  Examine your circle of friends and loved ones.  Move toward intentional understanding of your biases. (We all have them!)  Understand our collective history.  Scrutinize carefully research and information lacking in intersectional data.  Read, listen, and support academics, artists, and authors of color.
  46. 46. References  Baden, A. L., Treweeke, L. M. & Ahluwalia, M. K. (2012). Reclaiming culture: Reculturation of transracial and international adoptees. Journal of Counseling & Development, 90, 387- 399.