Love Will Keep Us Together?
One of my favorite memories as a child is of riding around downtown Houston in my aunt’s cherry red Ford T-Bird. With the top down and Captain & Tennille on the tape deck (remember tape decks?) we would sing Love Will Keep Us Together at the top of our lungs. I loved the lyrics. I loved when Tennille cooed “Look in my heart and let love keep us together.” I held fast to this ideal.
The idea that “Love is Enough” is not one unique to the 1970s stylings of the famous duo. Our culture is populated with Disney like images of true love – if you love enough, the princess will wake up. Even in relationships we stress that love will find away. Ain’t no mountain high enough! If you just believe and you just love with all your might you will prevail. And there was no place this sentiment was more often repeated than in international adoption.
To be fair when international adoption first began in 1957, the idea of bringing a child of a different origin into your home and heart was daunting. Though domestic adoption had been around since the 1800’s, international adoption often constituted adopting a child of a different culture, race, and ethnicity than your own. Families were taught to ignore differences. The idea of “you’re not really Korean, you’re one of us” was so prevalent many children grew up with absolutely no connection to their birth country. Their families loved them, dearly. And their families did everything they could. But love, surprisingly, was not enough.
From adult international adoptees, we know now that as children they suffered through incredible issues of identity crisis. We know they felt isolated in the very communities they were meant to call home. And we know their families and communities had neither the knowledge nor the tools to respond. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then.
Today when a friend or family member comments, “Jack is just like one of us” I gently correct them. My son does not see himself genetically modified through passing generations of photos hanging on his grandparents’ walls. My son lost a language, a culture, and a birth family. My son is the only non-white face in our family portraits. And that matters.
As adoptive parents and a supportive community it’s important to understand why the way we talk about culture and race with our children has changed when it comes to international adoption. Whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, a neighbor, or a friend, I hope you take a moment to read and share: The Way We Think About Transracial and Transcultural Adoption Has Changed: Here’s How
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