Around the same time last year, Ji in at Twice the Rice wrote an incredible post entitled “As good as the real thing” in which she mentions the image below.
In her post, Ji in takes a critical look at the image while placing it into the wider context of adoption attitudes and language. She touches on the idea of paper pregnancies and what it suggests about underlying attitudes APs may have towards adoption and the birth countries of adoptees. Yes, my jaw fell open as well.
As Kevin points out in his post Corny & Crass, “As you can see by the messages on the t-shirts, there’s an attempt to have it both ways: Recognize the child’s essential racial and ethnic differences, but flatten those differences as much as possible to give the impression that “love conquers all” and the adopting family has always been one cohesive unit.”
It strikes me as odd that while many APs claim to see no difference between genetically related children and adopted ones, some continually attempt to equate the two. The problem is there is a difference and in trying to make adoption more like birth, it’s like saying, “I’m going to pretend you were born from me, because that is better.”
In the case of TRAs/TNAs, what may be intended to signify appreciation for a child’s race and birth culture may unintentionally demean or misappropriate them them instead. The red thread quote that’s so popular among APs of Chinese adoptees is good example of cultural misappropriation.
Ji in concludes her post with a caution, “Intent does not always speak the same language as impact. Please be mindful that something intended as harmless and humorous might really be making adoption out as the punchline. “
In a post featured at Racialicious, iBastard with his usual flare drives home this point as he illustrates how the impact of some of these shirts can undermine their original intent. Many of us have spoken out against the ever growing popularity of adoption related fashion trends and their objectification of adoptees and their birth countries. It’s been a year since Ji In’s post, but it seems we still have a long way to go. Recently, this was brought to my attention.
Am I crazy or is this the same exact ultrasound photo except that China has now been replaced with a badly ‘shopped image of Vietnam? As a photoshopper, the sloppy editing and lack of originality only adds insult to injury. If you’re going to do something like this, at least have some pride in your work instead of throwing together some cheap looking imitation. The connotations that could be gathered from a comparison of the two alone would fill up pages.
It’s bad enough that this image, like the China one, reduces an entire country to a source from which to acquire babies. The children that are adopted from Vietnam came from Vietnamese mothers who are human beings not cows on a breeding farm existing only to satisfy PAPs demand for babies.
It’s especially disturbing to see this kind of mimicry among American APs of Vietnamese adoptees. The China version just shocked and pissed me off, but seeing a Vietnam copy fills me with something close to rage. Vietnam is not like China and the two are not interchangeable.
As Vietnamese adoptees, our histories have their own unique set of circumstances. We come from a country that is still feeling the affects of a war that happened over three decades ago. The image doesn’t take into account that many of us ended up as adoptees because war tore our birth country apart, a war involving American soldiers.
When I look at that image and think back to the thousands of Amerasian children abandoned by their American fathers, I want to scream. Something about the image begins to feel like a slap in the face, even more so when I consider the Vietnamese mothers who lost their children because of war, poverty, social pressure and/or corruption.
It isn’t that I’m unsympathetic towards APs who want to celebrate a referral. I can understand the anticipation and joy, but surely it can be done without disregarding the loss others had to suffer in order for them to have that moment. If APs cannot be sensitive to this, then how can we expect them to provide the support and understanding for their adopted children who may be struggling to make sense of it all?