When talking about immigration and immigrants people rarely think of the Adoptee as the very definition of who and what it classifies. Therefore it may also to some sound a bit confusing that I have named the title of this post “the adopted immigrant”. I would however like to elaborate this a little further. At first I was like people most and did not consider being adopted to be equivalent to that of a person with immigration status, but the more arguments I heard from the adoption Diasporas the more convinced I became that Adoptees also is part of an immigrating community.
The Key to the term here is someone who has migrated from one country to another and settled down in the receiving country. This is very much what happens to those people who are adopted transnationally when they crosses the border. Transnational means to transcend national boundaries.
Yet, we are not fully understood as immigrants by the public opinion. The reason for this is a delicate matter, but also because it bears some specific connotation to what an immigrant is and that it isn’t being judged by the legal definition of the term. Nevertheless two persons, Maja Lee langvad an author and Adoptee from South Korea and Basim a singer whose parents are from Morocco both respectively have expressed how they identify themselves. For instance the latter would say, “I am not an immigrant. I have not immigrated to any country.” and the former, “I experience transnational adoption as a way of migrating”. This would have everything in reverse about whom to many is perceived as an immigrant.
So why is this not automatically being accepted when it is a logical explanation for someone who is an immigrant? The answer is twofold. 1.) When Adoptees arrive in their new country they are not treated as someone who carries a culture with them and more often than not they are treated as a blank slate the very minute they are adopted. 2.) An immigrant has become a symbolism for a person who not only is non-white, but also still has ties to his or her family of color in their now present country. By that definition the immigrant is being othered – someone outside of us. This is also the reason why some AP’s and to some extent Adoptees themselves have difficulties reconciling with the term immigrant. But why should we compared to other people of color be boxed as model minorities due to our adoption status? This itself is an act of racism and our white passing is only because we have slept under the same roof as white people. A very good example is a conversation Mari Steed, an Adoptee from Ireland into an American family, has with her adoptive mother.
“What followed her initial comment of displeasure at our appearance in this photo startled even me. She said, “You look like immigrants.” Now, in fairness I concede that:
1. My daughter was wearing a red bandana to hold her hair back, but that’s a common enough teen fashion.
2. I really am an immigrant.
So I can understand and own her statement well enough. In fact, I answered with, “Well, I am an immigrant.”
She sputtered and stammered for a few seconds and then shot back a statement that left me speechless for at least a minute:
“Oh, but you’re not really an immigrant, not really. That’s not what I meant.”
So what the hell did she mean?”
To read the rest follow the link at the end of the post.
My conclusive thoughts is that we must start acknowledge immigration status for what it is – a migration process and stop labeling people of color as 2nd, 3rd and so fourth generation immigrants simply because their parents, grandparents or great grandparents once migrated here. It makes no sense and as such it is something we never would imagine in our wildest fantasy to ascribe to anyone from a western European country.
*Note: this post is exclusively about those who are transnationally adopted.