January 2021 Newsletter
Featuring work from AnneMarie Simon, Robin Truitt, Téa Tamburo, & Claire Skowron
Being a transracial adoptee comes with such a unique experience. Many others who share a similar story to mine experience a traumatic loss at a very early age. I was left in an ally in Anhui Province and later found and brought to a nearby police station. I was then taken to an orphanage in Wuhu City. I was adopted when I was 8 months old.
Being a transracial adoptee is apart of my roots and no matter how much time passes, my roots will still be deeply imbedded in who I am. While it is not solely my entire identity, it plays a huge role in so many ways that can be difficult to comprehend throughout life. Many adoptees who share a similar story to mine were not given a guide book with the tools that can be of help for many adoptees to be able to navigate throughout life. Nobody prepared us on how to handle the early onset of emotional and social awareness in early childhood. Since I can remember I’ve been asked questions like: Who are your real parents? Where are they? Your real parents didn’t want you? Why don’t you look like your (adoptive) parents? Do you have Chinese siblings? And all the unspoken attention you get when you’re in the public. All the stares, pointing fingers, double takes, confusion on people’s faces when they see me with a large white family.
I have found that being in therapy since I was a kid has helped me immensely with my ongoing healing journey. Do any other adoptees remember the children’s W.I.S.E. Up workshops and powerbook?
W: Walk away or ignore what is said or heard
I: It’s private and I don’t have to answer it
S: Share something about my adoption story
E: Educate others about adoption in general
It wasn’t until recently that I began to really immerse myself in the adoptee community (facebook groups, instagram pages). It has been a great helping hand for my healing, self-love, self-identity journey.
During the summer of 2018, I returned to my hometown, Hefei, for the second time. However, this time was different because I went to visit my foster mother and her husband, the director of the orphanage, alone. I was invited into their home where I was treated to a traditional lunch. I was happy to see them again, but this time I was prepared with questions. Luckily, I had an interpreter to help me communicate with them. We talked about how the orphanage changed since when I was adopted and I asked them questions about the children who were still there. I noticed most of them had special needs and wondered if all orphanages in China were the same. The director of the orphanage told me most people did not want a child with a disability so they were placed at the orphanage. He mentioned that they had caretakers and a few older children who read to them, play games, and helped maintain a daily schedule.
When it was time for me to leave Hefei, my foster mother gave me a hug and a smile goodbye. However, my feelings changed when I said goodbye to the director of the orphanage, my foster father. He did not smile or hug me. He kept a serious face, waved his hand, saw me get into the car, and watched it drive away. At first, I was upset by his reaction but I reflected on my time there and I understood his affections were shown in other ways; welcoming me into their home, inviting me to lunch, and showing me around my hometown. We did not speak much because of the language barrier but through his actions, he showed me he cared.
The conversations I had with my foster family were not just stories, but I discovered how my identity as an Adopted Asian American Woman fits into Chinese society. I understood how adoption changed since 1998, that there was now a gender imbalance, and that women were spending more time studying or working instead of staying at home. I still keep in contact with the friends I made, the translator from Hefei, and my foster mother and father as well as their daughter and grandson. I felt out of place, but I left China with a better understanding of where I came from.
For true racial reform, peoples of color need a role in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Téa Tamburo; Founder & Manager at Girls Adoption Connect
“I can’t breathe, Officer,” George Floyd gasped, while police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, suffocating him, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This was all caught on camera and quickly spread throughout the media, sparking worldwide protest of the racial systems in the United States. There’s no doubt the nation was built upon suppression and injuticies, and that’s what these protests are calling attention to: the racist and oppressive political presidents towards the Black community. These protests have captured the world’s attention and support but provoke the question about people of color’s place in the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a Chinese American and person of color in this time of social justice protests, it often feels like the Asian population is left on the sidelines. We are neither white, nor black, yet there isn’t a defined place for us when the battles of Black racism are being fought around us.
A question that often crosses my mind is: do I have a role in the fight against racism targeted towards the Black community? I am neither Black nor am I white. I don’t have white privilege that I can use to call for reforms. However, I don’t possess the first-person experiences of someone Black. We are a race excluded from discussions of reforms and social justice surrounding the Black community, and cannot speak from the “I” perspective at all. Is it even appropriate for us to partake in discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement, or should we remain a silent ally?
The people of color need to be given a place in discussions about Black Lives Matter and systemic racism. While we are in limbo between the white and Black experiences, we are still a part of a marginalized group and should actively stand with the Black Lives Matter movement. That said, we need a defined role in conversation, so we can purposefully direct our activism.
I don’t feel right attending seminars about using white privilege for change, but I do want to be on the right side of history. For as many times as I have looked, I have yet to find a panel about the role Asian-Americans play in the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only is this discouraging and isolating, it also bars many marginalized peoples from advocating for Black rights.
Race is a spectrum, and everyone on that spectrum needs to be represented and given a role in the call for justice for true change. True change won’t be possible unless all people of color are given a role in the Black Lives Matter movement and fight for racial reform.
Boy in the Photo
Claire Skowron; Founder of Adoptees of China
my gēgē, brother
not by blood, but by heart
no need to know your name
the nine months we spent together
in that small nursery
the padded floors, popcorn walls
railed cribs, white outfits
can’t remember your laugh
your bright eyes, hopeful smile
memory does not reach these depths
lost in my mind
my best friend from home
i look at our photo
evidence of life that once was
you on the left, me on the right
glassy eyes, unknowing
reaching out for one another
staring at the camera
frozen in time
a memory that lives deep within me
always wondering where you are
though neither of us know each other now
my last roots in china
i planted in you
in our orphanage, my māmā
though branches may extend
roots stay grounded
gēgē, flowers have blossomed
life has been good to me
i pray your roots are still settled
but that our branches will entwine
either here or above the clouds