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For me, the time we are living through right now is a decolonizing moment. I realize that I need to do more to decolonize my mind from the grip of the global adoption industry. I think we all could use some decolonizing. Our minds have been colonized. In saying this, I mean that the way we think about adoption–even the way we picture kids and childhood–has been shaped and molded. Basically, so that somebody can make money. Transracial adoption will never get better until we decolonize it. This is what I believe: We have to decolonize our minds before we can empower ourselves as transracial adoptees.

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Charlie (Lisa) posted some info in my comments.  I’m moving it here, plus adding a little from their website.

Thank you for your words!

I am the Vice President of Korean Adoptees of Hawai’i (KAHI).

I am working on a Research Project on transnational adoptees and their American parents. Please visit our website to find out more about this study, access the surveys, or send requests to be interviewed:

http://transnation…al-adoptee-paren…t-study.webs.com/

Or follow us on Facebook:
to http://www.facebook.com/Stories.Adoptee.Parent

Of access our on-line (anonymous) survey for adult transnational adoptee (age 18+) by clicking on:
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Stories_Adult_Adoptee.

From their website:

We are a mother-daughter team of researchers. Lisa (daughter) is full Korean by birth; she holds both a BA (American University of Paris) and an MA (University of Washington) in International Studies, with focus on Korean Studies, and currently lives in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Karen (mother) holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Northwestern University and lives with her second husband (Navajo by birth) in a rural community in the northeast corner of Arizona, on the Navajo Nation.

Our mother-daughter adoptive relationship has been complex. Although we have worked through many of the challenges that have faced us, we’ve done so “by the seat of our pants,” experimenting along the way and often feeling quite lonely and confused in the process. Together, we have become interested in other transnational adoptive family relationships, in part because ours has at times been strained. Like many transnational adoptees, Lisa has needed to explore issues related to her identity as an adoptee, as an Asian, and as a Korean American. Like many white adoptive parents, Karen’s “color-blind” point of view tended to minimize the significance of race and racism in American society; she thought that “love would be enough.” Our differences in perspective have sometimes felt like a major chasm. Until recently, we assumed our experiences were unique, shaped by circumstances particular to us. The research literature suggests, however, that many of the issues that we faced are quite common among families that include children who were adopted transracially and transnationally (e.g., Freundlich and Lieberthal 2000; Pertman 2009). Barb Lee’s poignant film, Adopted (2007), captures the sense of deep loss that both adult transnational adoptees and their adoptive parents feel when this chasm has not been bridged.

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Shiftshaping

The doors slid open to another frost covered morning as I left work.  I took a deep breath and shivered as the crisp air invaded my lungs.  In contrast, the sky defied the dead cold with its deep red and orange streaks.   Mesmerized by the flaming sky, I stood in the doorway for a moment taking time to absorb the world outside.

The morning breeze carried a mixture of odors, the most distinguishable being  of car exhaust and frying chicken.  The adjacent streets echoed with the hum, squeak and whine of the early rush to get somewhere.  I was in no hurry but was content to let life flow around me like flood waters around a tree.

As the sun rose higher, the warm hues reflected off of the still frozen dew enveloping everything in the color of warmth.  It had been a long time since I’d stopped to enjoy a sunrise.

“What are you doing?”  a co-worker approached, “Go home.”

“I will,” I smiled, “Just taking time to remember that life can still be beautiful.”

“Okaaaaay, spit it out,” he joked, “What did you take?”

“Look you,” I turned my head to glare at him, “can you not drag me out of my happy place today?”

He laughed, “Let me guess.  It’s a Zen thing, right? You got some feng shui thing going on?”

I raised a fist and shifted my weight,  “Wanna die, white boy?”

“Oh gawd,” he exclaimed in mock terror covering his head with his arms, “She’s whipping out the kung fu!  Don’t hurt me, ninja girl!”

“I will stab you in the face, you pale piece of shit, ” I replied through my teeth in a low, threatening tone.

We paused to exchange the most menacing looks we could muster before he cracked a smile and assaulted me with a bear hug.

“See you tonight,” he said as he walked away.

“See you,” I replied.

“Get some sleep today!” he yelled over his shoulder, “You busted your ass last night.”

“Yeah, yeah,”  I said and began to make my way to the car.

Sitting down in my car made me realize how tired I really was and suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get back to the apartment.  People from the day shift were still sifting in, and a few waved as I drove away.  Some of them looked exhausted even though they’d were just beginning their day. Maybe it was the look of working too long in a job one didn’t really enjoy.  Would I look like that in a few years?  Would I even be there in a few years?

I was still a baby in the eyes of the old timers.  Only just recently completing my first year, I had seen so many come and go.  It was hard to believe a few had stayed for as long as they had.  Some I knew had been there for a decade or more.  I could no longer imagine living in one state for that long, much less working in the same job – especially one that required so much physical exertion.

I wondered how long my body would put up with the way I abused it.  Sometimes, it was like going to the gym and working out for eight hours. The plus side was that I’d whipped myself  into shape in less than six months.  It was like getting paid to lose weight and tone up.

The pace at night could be grueling and hectic or just plain blah.  It was a joke among some of us that the night would either bore us to sleep or drive us to the point of collapse.  Either way, we ended up unconscious and drooling.   Some of us seemed to thrive on the chaos, the pressure and the push to exceed our limits.

We all bitched and moaned, but for some, the complaining was a perk.  After spending two decades as a stay-at-home wife and mother (the last three of those trying unsuccessfully to maneuver myself into a job), being able to talk and complain about work felt good.  I drew a weird kind of satisfaction out it.

Quite a few of my coworkers were at least half my age.  They were younger and had more energy reserves which forced me to drive myself even harder just to keep up.  It was easy to get discouraged, but I was determined to keep pace and excel if possible.

The social dynamic posed its own kind of challenges.  Not only was I the old geezer in the bunch, but I was the only Asian woman.  I was more than familiar with the scenario, but wondered how I’d adapt to it being in a work situation.  The group I worked with came from varied backgrounds, a few of them being a bit rough around the edges.  Most were good people that I genuinely liked , but there just wasn’t room for the suburban, stay-at-home-mom I’d become.

It was also a joke among some of us that the last thing you wanted to do was show weakness or let each other know the one thing that really makes you mad.  It would be the one thing we’d all pick on with very few exceptions.  We tested each other and quickly learned individual limits.  We pretty much knew who we could and couldn’t badger.  It was done in good humor, but there were times it could go too far. I’d been yelled at and done my own share of yelling over jokes being taken past the limits of tolerance.

The previous exchange is a prime example of where they focused their attention when it came to me.  The first time it happened, I was furious.  A co-worker made a crack about Asian drivers which sent me into a rant about Asian stereotypes.  I might as well have lit up a huge, red, neon sign that said, “PUSH THIS BUTTON!”  Luckily, one of the guys I’d befriended suggested I fight back.

“Don’t get mad,” he advised, “Give it back to them.  They can take it.  It’s the way it works here.”

One might wonder why I didn’t just go straight to management and complain.  I could have, but what would that have gotten me other than further alienating myself from the group?  Besides, I wanted to handle things on my own terms which I’m glad I did for two reasons.  The first being that it took a while, but I had to learn to distinguish between an intentional jibe and a statement made out of genuine ignorance/prejudice.  They are the same to me.  The second being that I also had to learn their teasing was their way of showing their acceptance.

That’s not to say there wasn’t racism at work.  Where ever there is diversity, there is at least some measure of racism and prejudice.  It seems to be a human thing from everything I’ve experienced.  My goal at the time was not to let any of it hold me back from doing what I needed to do at work, but it was in the back of my mind.  I did everything possible not to be seen as the old, fragile Asian lady.

I learned to be near ruthless in verbal volleys and as a last resort, use physical force as part of my arsenal.   One morning as I was leaving work, I surprised myself when one of the guys referred to me as the “kung fu chic” as he was walking away.  Not willing to let it go, I walked up behind him intending to act as if I were going to kick him in the face.

“I’ll show you kung fu,” I said as I came up from behind and slightly to the side of him.  I swung my leg into the air and was surprised when I felt my foot come into contact with his face.

“What the hell!” he exclaimed, putting up a hand to cover his eye, “Did you just kick me in my face from behind my back?”

“Ooops,” I laughed, “I think I overshot that a little.”

Honestly, I hadn’t meant to really hit him, but it didn’t seem to matter.  By the next day, people were asking me about it.

“You do know you’re just perpetuating the stereotype, right?” said one of my friends.

“Probably,” I laughed, “but it shut him up, didn’t it?”

It did for a while, but never for long.  From that moment on, we all had something else to joke.  The poor guy wasn’t the last to get an up close and personal introduction to my foot.

Adaptation 101 – Sometimes, you just have to own it.

I know there are problems with playing with the stereotypes, but this particular group of coworkers are people I’ve befriended.  I’ve grown close to a few of them, and we have an unspoken understanding.  When it comes down to it, we know we can count on each other for support.  But who knows?  Maybe I’ll look back later and think, “Ugh, I was awful.”  It wouldn’t be the first time.

The whole experience makes me wonder if I’d had the same tools and the nerve to confront and deflect racism and prejudice as a child, might I have fared better? I can never really know, but some part of me thinks so.  Back then, everything pointed to something being wrong with me, and I felt helpless to “fix” myself.

Not white enough.  Not Asian enough.  Not pretty enough.  Not tough enough.  Not smart enough.  Not tall enough.  Not nice enough.  Not happy enough.  Not American enough.  Not *insert family last name* enough.  Bye, bye self-esteem, and it was all downhill from there.  I saw everything through that perspective.

It took my descent straight to the the bottom of self-hate hell in order for me to realize that sometimes something was wrong with other people.  I wish I’d understood that the first half of my life.  If I had, maybe the loss I’d experienced as a result of my adoption would have stopped at my birth parents and my culture.  Instead, it flowed into my adult life and into those of my children in ways I’d never even considered.

But I suppose that’s a subject for another day…

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Partitions by sume

I came across an article on the Pact website written by Elizabeth Bartholet. In it she says:

The research does indicate some interesting differences in transracially-adopted people’s attitudes about race and race relations, which critics of transracial adoption cite as evidence that supports their position. But this evidence is positively heart-warming for those who believe that Blacks and Whites should learn to live compatibly in one world, with respect and concern for each other and with appreciation of their racial and cultural differences as well as their common humanity. The studies reveal that Blacks adopted by Whites appear more positive than Blacks raised by Blacks about relationships with Whites, more comfortable in those relationships, and more interested in a racially integrated lifestyle. They think race is not the most important factor in defining who they are or who their friends should be.

The Editor’s Commentary makes some good points concerning Bartholet’s ignorance of the realities of transracial adoptees and people of color. Part of me laughs at her myopic interpretation of the study she mentions while another, less eloquent part screams, “Duh!”  Of course “Blacks adopted by Whites appear more positive than Blacks raised by Blacks about relationships with Whites, more comfortable in those relationships, and more interested in a racially integrated lifestyle.” It’s not like they have much of a choice. Being raised by white people forces the adoptee of color to be open and tolerant towards white people because “White” becomes the dominant race in their lives.

Whether transracial adoption promotes “respect and concern for each other and with appreciation of their racial and cultural differences as well as their common humanity” is questionable. It might force an adoptee to be tolerant, but it doesn’t necessarily carry over into the larger community. In fact, quite the opposite can happen, or even worse, cause an adoptee to be alienated or rejected from that community. Did Bartholet ever stop to wonder how comfortable those adopted “Blacks” would feel in relationships with other “Blacks”?

Are TRAs suppose to act as Trojan horses sent out to win over the rest of the community?  Are we suppose to scream out, “Look! My white adoptive parents saved me (from you), and I turned out great!  White people rock!” It seems in her zeal to create this racially tolerant world of hers, Bartholet forgets something. Most transracial adoptees don’t grow up with an appreciation for their birth ethnicities, they grow up with an appreciation for that of their adoptive parents.

Bartholet appears to be pushing that unrealistic “bridge” ideal which dehumanizes and forces the adoptee into the role of go-between. TRAs do not exist to serve her or anyone’s goal of creating a colorblind society and shouldn’t be used as pawns toward that end. How is it that she tells her adopted sons that their racial differences “makes no difference” to her and yet on the same page speak favorably about society’s “appreciation of their racial and cultural differences”? She puts the onus on “Black” adoptees by concentrating on their “relationships with Whites”.  All together now, boys and girls!  PRIVILEGE. Did she stop to think about how “Black” adoptees might be perceived and treated by “Whites” in our racialized society?

I didn’t think that race was important either until I took a closer look at my dating history. Throughout my teen years, my boyfriends had always been white. While environment is the obvious thing to examine, I wanted to try and paint a more complete picture of how my surroundings contributed to my developing psyche. The mental wall that existed between myself and other people of color was as incorporeal as air. It was that intangibility that gave it strength. The only way to bring it down was to reverse engineer it and then deconstruct it brick by brick.

For the most part, I’d been isolated from other Asians, but that didn’t explain my homogeneous dating history. There were plenty of African American and Latino guys from which to choose. Why had I only seriously considered white guys as possible dating partners? Was that a reflection of my attitudes towards men of color? Had I simply internalized the whiteness of my family as the default or was there something more to it?

My small town while legally integrated remained socially segregated. Everyone went to the same school but whites and people of color lived almost completely separate lives outside of activities that forced them together. The town itself was mostly divided by a set of railroad tracks between white and the “others”. There was a significant number of people from the white population who lived on the mostly non-white side of town, but almost all of the African American population was confined to a small area on the outskirts. From what I remember, Latin Americans, consisting of mostly Mexican Americans, divided themselves between rural areas and “the other side of the tracks.”

Human memory, however, is flawed, so perhaps it only seemed that way in my small world. My young life revolved around my family which consisted of and centered on a predominantly white sphere. My family, the congregation at the church we attended, the birthday and slumber parties I went to and my circle of friends all consisted of white Americans. Interaction with my town’s non-white population was restricted to school and sporting events. Even then, it was very limited.

My mother never specifically told me I could only have romantic relationships with white males. She didn’t have to, because the racial boundaries were already set into place. Unlike my adoptive father’s side of the family, few members on my mother’s side of the family were overtly racist. As a matter of fact, blatant racism was frowned upon. However, my existence in an all-white family and the rules of acceptable social interaction enforced a definite dividing line that placed me on the opposite side of other people of color. Attempts to cross over would have been met with strong disapproval from family members and friends and might have forced me to choose between the two sides.

Still, my parents have never been shy to remind me of my stubborn, rebellious nature and how it manifested itself during my early childhood and adolescence. Even though I would like to think of myself as being a goody-good (and in many ways, I actually was), I notice a history of defiance. Whether that was just normal teenage rebellion or something more is beside the point. It doesn’t make sense that acceptable social norms alone would have been enough to keep me where I supposedly belonged. Even though I rebelled, I didn’t go beyond the limits of acceptable social interaction between races.

In addition to the social aspects, I wonder how much racial imprinting contributed to my preferences. My family was all I knew for the first few years of my life.  They were the familiar and trusted while people of color were the strangers – the Other. My perception of them would have been mostly filtered and shaped by my family, friends and the media. I think that would also prove true when it came to standards of beauty.

I can remember wishing as a child that I had blond hair and blue eyes or eyes that at least weren’t “slanted”. It makes sense that if I internalized Caucasian standards of beauty when it came to myself, that it would carry over to apply to the opposite sex. Combined with everything else, men of color were almost completely relegated to a forbidden and/or undesired status. However, none of that stopped me from trying to peek over the wall especially when it came to anything that even remotely resembled “Asian”.

I needed to see that there were others out there like me whether it was in the theater, on television, in books, department stores or the Chinese restaurant in the next town. I can remember going to the local furniture store and making a bee-line to the “Japanese” section to stare at the large silk screen on display. I envied the fake, silk kimono my best friend’s mother owned. My intense craving for all the Western, pre-packaged Orientalism I could find points to feelings of deprivation. I was like a starving person digging through the garbage for something to eat.

There’s also my reaction to Vien to consider. He’d been adopted by another family in my hometown and arrived from Vietnam when I was around 10 years old. I’d sustained a crush on him until the age of 12 or 13. I’ve yet to figure that one out. Years later, we tried to talk about it, but couldn’t come to an agreement. I told him I’d had a crush on him, and we mused over why we never ended up dating. I can count on one hand the times we had any personal interaction.  

Around 14 or 15, I moved to Bellevue, Nebraska which was much more diverse, but that did nothing to alter my choice of dating partners. I had even met and befriended Asian boys my age, but it had never occurred to me to date them. I’m sure stereotypical media portrayals of Asian men didn’t help. They did anything but make Asian males desirable. Even though I did find them attractive, I still question what the exact source of that attraction was.

Maybe the point is moot anyway, because desire alone didn’t translate into a realistic expectation. Me dating real Asian males with real Asian families? How was I suppose to pull that one off? I didn’t know the first thing about being Asian. Either way, I felt like a big fake. Moving to a more diverse environment only emphasized the fact that I felt more comfortable being around white people than I did around other Asians.

I suppose even that is of little importance because by that time I was living with my adoptive father. He made it clear that white was not only “right”, but the only option.

Despite all of that, I still believe that race shouldn’t be a factor in who one loves nor do I believe my case is the norm. However, the potential is there. The sad reality is that sometimes race does matter especially when it involves the sin of omission. When my parents omitted my ethnicity in favor of their own, they drew the first dividing lines between me and other people of color. To remain trapped behind those boundaries, all I had to do was remain oblivious to my own blindness.

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Ethnically Perplexed by Sume

Years ago my father sent me a folder containing a family tree that stretched back to 1776, an old newspaper article about one of his ancestors and a picture of the family crest.  He is a proud Southerner, and his pride naturally extends to his European ancestry that he’d traced all the way back to Wales.  Throughout my childhood, he’d never failed to impress upon me the importance of heritage.

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Kim is a Vietnamese adoptee who grew up in Australia. He was kind enough to give me permission to post an article his article which was previously published in an Australian magazine.

Growing Pain – Growing Up As A Vietnamese Adoptee In Contemporary Australian Society:

The Vietnam War, through it’s inception to it’s conclusion has been well documented and represented through media such as radio, television, tabloids, film and literature. The tragic legacy the war left was the countless orphans who were “shipped” out to new lives and families worldwide. Of course, we must never forget those who did not survive.

I was one of those children, a “Product of the war”, and my good friend and “brother”, Dominic Golding has asked me to submit a piece of work to try and explain my individual plight and every adoptees fears and hopes that haunt us as we grow into adulthood.

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Dominic (left), Kim (right)

Mount Gambier, in the South East of South Australia was where Dominic Golding, Tran VanHeeswyk, Son Thompson, Nguyen Mathias, and myself found a new life away from the pain and suffering of the war. My origins are unknown to me as my “extraction” from my birth certificate has both mother and father listed as “unknown”. My earlier life was somewhat sheltered and I had a fairly normal upbringing. Primary School went by with the blowing of the wind and until I reached High School, I never thought of myself as being anything other than an “Aussie”.

Of course, everything changed once the first day at Mount Gambier High School arrived and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I was with my friends and playing a game in the quadrangle when I got tripped by a year 10 boy named Jason Booth, because I looked different and he obviously had some problem with the fact that I was “Asian”, or at least “Asian” looking! That was the first day of High School back in 1987 when I was only 12 years old, 16 years ago! That was my first taste of racism, and I will never forget it, as it tasted like concrete!

That same year, a few year 12 students picked on me for the same reason, making racist remarks and actions. One in particular I remember is Brett Carson, the reason will become evident later. The hypocritical part of it was that one of the guys was also “Asian”, or of “Asian” background, David Medhurst, if I remember correctly, who really should have known better.

At first I had no comprehension as to why those people were being like that, but I soon learnt the hard way and when I did, it made me mad and confused. Mad because there were doing this to me, but confused as to what their motives or reasons were. This is the small town mentality that remains with me, as part of me as an adult, and it is what has infuriated me constantly over the years. Back then I was only 12 years old and obviously couldn’t take on a group of year 12 guys, but that didn’t stop me from throwing stones at them and taunting them back!

Shit!, they had me in a murderous frame of mind and I don’t think to this day that they will ever know what an impact they had upon me. It made me feel EXTREME PREJUDICE and HATE within my very soul towards them and others like them.

Then I got a job at Fiddler and Webb as a night filler and had the “pleasure” of meeting and working with the one and only Brett Carson! Of course, everything he said usually ended with a “DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYING?”, as if I were just a simple Fucking “Asian” that couldn’t understand the English language, or “SO WHAT’S THE STORY?”, as if asking for confirmation that this simpleton actually grasped the concepts of what he was saying! This really pissed me off something fierce, and to be honest, if someone had put a gun in my hand, then he would be DEAD. I would have had the Mens Rea and the Actus Reus. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M SAYING BRETT????!!!!!”

In 1989 I thought that I would get a new start by going across the border to Victoria and study at Hamilton College, leaving the small town mentality behind me. Most of the students who boarded there were from far reaching places, some even as far as Tahiti and Hong Kong. I was very much mistaken and realised it when I was about to leave the boarding house to walk to school and there on the notice board, for everyone to see was a proclamation……..”ALL ASIANS EAT DOGS!” Well, this time Matthew Scarlett from Melbourne had really outdone himself! What a Fucking Cock Forrid. Both he and his friend, James Kerr haunted me during my tenure at the College, which lasted only one semester as my father became ill and eventually died of cancer in July of the year.

As if I wasn’t screwed up both physically and emotionally as a young teenager going through a rebellious stage already. That topped it off and really fucked me up. I even felt jealous of the fact that he was able to come home for my 15th birthday for a few hours and all the visitors seemed to be his friends, not mine! It just didn’t occur to me that for some of his friends it would be the last time that they would get to see him alive and that it would be the last time he would venture out of the hospital before his life expired, or that he was there so I could spend some time with him, as a loving father! What a fucking idiot I was! I regret feeling that way in retrospect, remembering that this is the only father I have known and provided me with food, shelter, education, love, compassion, and so on and so forth. I really wish I could turn back time, so that I could say “Thanks dad for coming out of hospital to see me on my 15th birthday, thanks for being a loving father” I think most of all, I would have liked to tell him that I loved him and that he would be my father for as long as I will live, no matter what, before it’s too late.

Anyway, soon after returning from Hamilton, I found that everything had changed and that I had a new arch nemesis in the making named Jamie Pitson, or “Norm”. On the night of Michael (Mick) Lucente’s birthday he tried to start a fight with me, racism based, in the Pizza Hut car park. Since then, he had been dogging me both at home and school, ringing me up at home, taunting me at school, and trying to emulate his big brother, Ricky “Skinder” Pitson, as he was a well known fighter and Norm just wanted to be a good fighter too. I just happened to look different, and I wonder what would’ve happened if I had been an Anglo Saxon Aussie?

I decided to join the Air Training Corps (AIRTC) and that is where I made some other discoveries. Firstly, that is where myself and Dom were “reintroduced”. I saw him, remembered that once when we were children, he had hit me over the head with a rubber mallet, so I walked up to him and hit him in the head! Hence forth, both he and I forged a bond that still lives. A lot of my anger and frustrations just seemed to melt away as the AIRTC taught me invaluable skills to help me through not only my AIRTC career, but through life in general, and I really put my whole life into my training and my betterment as a person.

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Kim (2nd from left, 2nd row)

I transferred schools half way in between year 12 as Norm was still picking on me, but by that stage, I had learnt to turn a blind eye to it, yet it was having a detrimental effect on my studies, so I decided to eliminate the bull shit and go to a school where I could put my mind to study, not having any other outside factors to distract me. When I transferred to Grant High, I had no problem adjusting, as my reputation had preceded me, due to the fact that I used to hang around the wrong crowd at Mount (Norms group, before Norm). Therefore, I had no problem with anyone picking on me or anything like that and was able to continue my secondary and AIRTC study in peace.

Whilst at Grant High, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful Contemporary World History teacher by the name of Chris Collins, who allowed me to look into the Vietnam War as my major assignment for the subject. This allowed me to also do some soul searching, because I was curious as to what type of background I was from. I must admit that it effected me in a way I never thought it would. I found myself putting a lot of time into the project and trying to learn as much as I possibly could about this wonderful country that was ravaged by war time and time again. This was the country of my birth…….this was Vietnam.

Now, with a little more maturity and the knowledge and training instilled within from the AIRTC, I was able to evaluate the situation from both a civilian and military viewpoint, but by combining both trains of thought, I found myself getting emotional about the whole situation. Until I began the subject, I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into my origins. In fact, I hadn’t had any inclination to even look, feeling that I was Australian, and that was all there was to it.

However, during my research, I found myself being drawn into a vortex of feelings and emotions as if they had been lying dormant waiting for the right time to surface. Maybe I had to reach a stage in self evolution to enable me to deal with the issues coming to the fore without becoming a gibbering, emotional wreck? Perhaps, perhaps not, whatever – that point is open to conjecture. I found myself beginning to question my whole life until that point. Questions formed in my mind as if they just materialised out of nowhere:-

WHERE AM I FROM?

WHAT IS MY PURPOSE FOR BEING?

WHO AM I?

Many times I found myself going over scenario by scenario as to my specific origins. I became acutely aware of the struggle that my “Vietnamese” ancestors had endured to repel “foreign” invasion over the passing of time since the day dot. The Chinese, Thais, Cambodians, French, Americans and a number of other invaders had all been repelled by my ancestors resisting overwhelming odds. I began to feel a pride within myself. Naturally, the past is the past and will forever remain part of history, yet one cannot deny the spirit of a people such as the Vietnamese who have retained their homeland through centuries of warfare and at great human cost to them. Although I have never stepped on Vietnamese soil, I began to envision myself as being descendant from a race of warriors who fought for what they believed in and felt very proud, yet very sad and angry for the lives lost for that cause. Of course, no adoptee from a similar situation could ever forget that for the very fact that they were orphaned as a result and adopted in the first instance.

As for the second question, I had to do a lot of soul searching to even try and grasp the concept of what my whole purpose of being was, and the AIRTC played a large part in my earlier perceptions of what I was put on this Earth, under this situation, for. Regularly, we would go on weekend camps, or bivouacs, and if we were proficient enough, we would get the chance to go on promotion courses. Most of the training was based around management principles, combined with a broad military education, learning basic field tactics and skills, weapons drill, which involved working theory and practical knowledge of the SLR L1A1 Rifle, which was the weapon used by the Australian soldiers in Vietnam. I felt at home, as if I was born for the military life, as if I was born to be a warrior, to fight, and, possibly die for something I believe in. Nothing could make me happier than using stealth to sneak up on someone in another Flights base camp, even if it took a few hours to get a couple of hundred meters, then proceed to engage that person in conversation, whilst removing their weapon and taking it back to our own base camp without them realising we were even from the enemy base camp, only to realise it in the morning with a swift kick up the arse from their Section Commander! I felt as one with the bush and a rifle, as if it were my destiny, as if I was here to fight for everything that is right against everything that is wrong in this world.

The third question is an ever elusive one and, not unlike a good book, I seem to have twists and turns, plots and subplots, adventure, romance, sensitivity, basic animal instincts oozing in and out of my persona and thus makes it very hard to pin point a definitive answer as to who I actually am. I can only speculate, as everyone will perceive me differently, depending on their own individuality. However, I saw myself as being a young man trying to struggle with inner turmoil as I attempted to answer these questions. To this day, I still have not found a satisfactory answer.

After year 12, a peaceful era of my life began and I have been relatively fortunate enough to have had minimal racist issues to deal with, hence my adult life had begun and I embraced it with open arms. A lot of changes occurred within me. I relocated to Adelaide to study an Associate Diploma of Business and two major events occurred in the two years there.
Firstly, the move gave Dom and myself a chance to really get to know eachother, as adoptees, as friends, as brothers. We had some really great and in depth, intellectual conversations regarding Vietnam, the causes, effects, economics, politics, and so on and so forth. Eventually, however, we came to the same conclusion that the war, when joined by the Americans became a very costly and pointless war, due to the fact the very fear the Americans installed in their countrymen of the “Domino Theory” was not realised, even thought the “Communists” won! What a FUCKING WASTE!!!! We also came to the conclusion that both of us were looking for the same thing, yet differing in perspective. That was someone to talk to who actually knew what it was like to be in our situation and going through a similar identity crisis as we were. Of course, we had the occasional disagreements, yet, through it all, came out better people for the experience.

Secondly, I was able to get the chance to visit America for about two weeks and a highlight of my trip was going to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington Cemetery in Virginia, with the changing of the guard, as well as the famous Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington. Both of these locations are steeped in history, however, I couldn’t help feeling something…….?! Tragic as the reality is, and there seemed to be an unspoken silence, especially along the length of the wall from one end to another, I couldn’t help but think that for every name on that wall, there were 20 to 30 Vietnamese people dead. Not just soldiers, whose names appeared on that wall, but civilians. My view was that, as soldiers, it was in their job description, by it’s very nature, that death may result in the course of duty, yet the civilians killed by these soldiers need to be considered too. They need to have a tomb for the UNKNOWN CIVILIANS OF VIETNAM! I was overwhelmed by an emotional force that almost sent me staggering to my knees as I mourned not the soldiers on the wall, rather the mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, children, and all other civilians that I would never get to meet as a result, be it direct or indirect, of the actions of these soldiers! It was not their job to fight and die, rather survive pressure from both sides in an unconventional war that will remain in my heart forevermore………….

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Three Servicemen Statue

I am now in my 28th year of life, and have made some decisions regarding my future and present happiness. I have moved to the Blue Mountains in NSW and work in the CBD. I am content with life as it presents itself, and am finally getting past any past misgivings. Growing up in contemporary Australian society as an adoptee from a war torn country, and as a result of that very war, has been for me, quite an experience. I have made friends, foes, and acquaintances. I have got out of the small town that was keeping me stuck between a rock and a hard place and am now making a life for myself. Sometimes I still sit and wonder what the answers to those questions are, but do not dwell on it, for I know that one day I will find the answer. I was once brash and wanted the answers instantaneously, yet now I am wiser for I am older and know the answers will come to me and I will be waiting………………..

Kim Nguyen Edgar is one of many orphaned babies who traveled to a land of opportunity and who found a new life with an adopted family. This is one of many stories about the growth of one such baby from infant to adulthood, and the challenges faced by this particular boy as he faced life to grow into a man.

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by TESS NACELEWICZ, Staff Writer

When you’re of one race and your adoptive parents are of a different one, just walking down the street with your family can feel like the whole world knows you’re adopted.

That’s one of the things that a group of adopted teens talked about recently when they gathered at a Portland adoption agency to eat pizza, do artwork, and share their thoughts and feelings.

“It’s just the odd looks, like when you’re out in public, but you learn to ignore them after a while,” said 14-year-old Tess Kupel of Scarborough, who was born in Vietnam but whose adoptive parents are white.

But Tess and the other teens laughed about how the experience can also have an up side. “It’s great because when your parents are being very embarrassing, you can just walk away,” Tess said. “It’s like, ‘No, I don’t know you.”‘

Most teenagers struggle with such questions as “Who am I?” and “How do I fit in — at school, with my family, the world?”

For teens who are adopted, however, those difficult questions can take on additional layers of complexity as they wonder about their birth parents and place of origin. That can be particularly true for teens who are members of transracial families, in which they and their adoptive parents are of different races.

continued..

I’m wondering when I’ll stop getting weepy every time I read about how proactive the younger generation of TRAs are. I guess I’m filled with part envy, part pride and much hope as I see them doing things I would never have dreamed, like actually talking about adoption.

Hat tip to Gang Shik. She does us proud. 😉

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