My general impression - and I'm quite open to be illuminated on this - is that with the recent generation of Chinese adoptions (vs. the older generation of Korean adoptions) by non-Asians, the adopting parents are at least aware enough to recognize that racial difference might play some kind of role. However, I don't think there's a uniform response as to how to resolve that tension (though ignoring it is probably not the best option) and personally, I think it will be very interesting to see what happens as this generation of Chinese adoptees come of age over the next 10 years. Personally, I predict a wave of self-made films and documentaries exploring the topic (as there already has been amongst Korean adoptees).
I mentioned this several years ago, but I was also struck at how normalized the practice as become within American popular culture. There was a wave of TV commercials a few years back that all were based around Chinese adoption by white parents and let's not forget the Sex And The City subplot with Charlotte and her second husband adopting a baby from China as well. Personally, I found the fact that it became so normative, so quickly, to be rather facile - any time Madison Ave. and Hollywood can absorb a potentially contentious social phenomenon faster than the rest of America, one should take notice and be wary.
The thing is, the common explanation (read: defense) of the practice is a hard one to argue with, at least on the surface: "we're giving these children better lives." I mean, sure, I'd rather grow up in Park Slope or Noe Valley than a Zhuzhou orphanage (especially if I were a woman) but the defense is deployed in such a way to shut down any concerns about how transracial adoption creates its own set of challenges for the children involved.
I'm not implying that the adopting parents aren't aware of this on some level, but their "solutions" can sometimes be painful. I don't think folks in our community want to turn a deaf ear to attempts by non-Asian parents to span the culture gap but it doesn't mean we can't roll our eyes once in a while when we read things like this:
- (this comes from a friend who helps run a Chinese American organization in the Bay Area. He frequently gets emails like this from non-Asians adopting Chinese babies.) link
"My husband and I are in the process of adopting our first child from China. We will be visiting San Francisco next week and would like to see Chinatown, or at least the non-touristy, more authentic parts, as part of our education. Do you have any suggestions for a tour we might take and/or a good local restaurant for lunch and a few shops where we could purchase a cheongsam for our daughter or other traditional dress? We want to be authentic as possible."
To quote from the NYT piece (this being from someone who specializes in transracial adoption workshops):
- "It is one thing to dress children up in cute Chinese dresses, but the children need real contact with Asian-Americans, not just waiters in restaurants on Chinese New Year. And they need real validation about the racial issues they experience."