Thought this might interest some of you out there. I'm still feeling lazy. I'll get my head out of my butt one of these days, just not today.
An adoptive father writes an essay for a seminar in the form of a letter to his Korean daughter, Caitlin. Here are a couple of snippets:
"It's been 20 years now, but I still remember the meetings with case workers from Catholic Social Services, and their questions about why your Mom and I wanted to adopt a baby from Korea. And I remember saying that we simply wanted to adopt a child, that we were not worried about creating an interracial family, and that I even wanted to believe that families like ours might help other people get over their hang-ups about racial differences.Today I realize that my answer overlooked someone important, Cait. It overlooked you. I wanted to adopt a child; I wasn't worried about our differences; I hoped other people could change.But what about you? What do you want, Caitlin? What do you need? Talk with me.
This week, Cait, I think I remembered something that time and my insecurities had obscured: There is a difference between empathy and shared experience.
As much as I love you, I can never share your experience of being Asian. And as much as you love me, you will never share my experience of being white.
Before this week, I realize, that reality scared me. It dissuaded me from talking with you about our differences, because I saw it as something that separates us — and I don't want anything to come between us.
At times this week, I thought the fact that I will never share the experience of being Black or Asian or Latino or Native stood like a great canyon between me and the people of color in my life. And I began to worry that maybe the canyon could exist one day between you and me, too. "
In turn she replies:
"In the past twenty years, you and I have been through a lot — all of the soccer games and tournaments, the shows I have been in that you came to see, looking at colleges and so much more. But through all of that time I have never really thought about how different you and I are, and for that matter, how different I am from almost everyone in my life. Reading your letter helped me to crystallize moments in my life where my difference played a role.
All of my life I have known that I am different from others because I am Asian and adopted, but I have never really thought much about it. There have been a few instances in which my race was brought to light during my adolescence, but my friends were there to help me deal with the racist actions or words, and they have helped me to forget about them. Though I am sure there have been more, there are only two instances that still, to this day, stick out in my mind."
I'm not sure if I want to scream at the guy, "NOW, you think about all this!" or hug him because he thought about it at all. The angry side of me pops up screaming, "Do you think it's easy for an adoptee to share that kind of pain with you after you've avoided it for so long?" Sometimes adoptees bury it so deep that even they don't realize it's there, at least that was the case with me. That's just one of the things I don't think I'd ever be able to share with my parents for reasons I've written about before.
Something in the tone of his letter brought a tear to my eye. By the time I'd gotten to the end, I was bawling like a baby. Maybe it was the almost beseeching tone of his letter or maybe the old romantic, sentimental softee side of me was clawing its way to the surface. Or..was it because it was an exchange I'd like to have with my own father but never could? Was I reading his words, my mind inserting my own father's voice?
Still, there was something that bothered me about his daughter's response. She seems to almost dismiss the racism she experienced and seems more intent on comforting and reassuring her father than anything else. Then again, maybe I'm being too judgemental and who am I anyway? The gentler side of my being tells me she's just being positive and what's wrong with that? We all handle things our own way and my response to my own adoptive father wouldn't be much different.
Sometimes, I hate my own duality. Okay, most of the time, I hate it. Seems I'm always at war with myself in one way or another. I live in between two worlds, existing as two different people. The lines are blurred, not exactly separate, not really unified. One of the few constants is the love I have for my parents. Even though I exist in a constant state of duality and inbetweeness, I still love with only one heart. Perhaps at the end of the day, that is where the war must end or at least come to some kind of truce.
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