Discrimination and Racism in Adoptions

Discrimination and racism is something experienced by many immigrants and non-immigrants alike.  By nature, people seem to be uncomfortable with change and differences and tend to express their discomfort or curiosity in ways that are offensive.  Many may argue that is not true anymore, and I agree.  Fortunately, modern society is much more international and aware of different cultures and races.  However, not too long ago, things were very different.

My grandmother loves to tell me about the time when I came home from kindergarten, crying, because I wanted to have “yellow” hair, not black.  In elementary school, my classmates sometimes teased me, pulling at their eyes, singing, “Chinese, Japanese….”   As an adult, I was pulled over a few times by bystanders to act as an interpreter to a non-English-speaking Asian, assuming that all Asians could communicate with one another.  I was often praised for speaking “good English.”

However, these experiences did not disturb me too much, because I was not alone.  The rest of my family experienced similar things, and at the end of each day, we shared these stories. We laughed about some things. We got angry about other things.  But in the end, it didn’t matter so much, because we were in it together.  We could relate to each other and learn to overcome the things that bothered us the most.

Unfortunately, many international adoptees did not and do not have this luxury.  Many adoptees described feeling confused and angry about being different from the rest of the family and the community.  They felt lonely because they could not share their frustrations with anyone else. Their parents could not relate to being a minority, or being teased at school because of their race. Or worse, they tried to brush it aside and told the adoptees not to worry about it.

Aside from international adoptees, even domestic adoptees from multicultural families struggle with these issues.  These children are often ill-equipped with the coping skills and the support they need because their families simply are unable to relate to their experiences.

Many adoption agencies urge families not to consider race in their adoption plans, but it is difficult, as a family, to consider these issues lightly.  They want to provide the child with the best support and love a family can give, but can any amount of home study or other training courses prepare them for identity concerns and problems with discrimination and racism?  Adopting a child is, by itself, a very difficult and delicate, on-going process.  Adding another dimension to it, such as adopting a child of a different ethnicity, may seem overwhelming to some families.  Adoption agencies and government agencies should recognize and respect these apprehensions, instead of casting these families in a bad light for “picking and choosing” children based on a racial preference.

Esther Kim

About Esther Kim

Esther Kim is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. She graduate from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a B.A. in Liberal Arts with a focus in Chinese Language and Literature. As an undergraduate, she worked one summer at the Citizens' Committee for Children, New York, a child advocacy organization, where she developed an interest in children's rights, community after-school resources, and immigration. Esther has recently been selected to be an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Texas Access to Justice Foundation, at Lone Star Legal Aid, where she will be working closely with Asian victims of domestic violence in Harris and Fort Bend Counties.

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