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home :: abduction politics :: transracial adoption and cultural appropriation

Living Dolls

In this age of cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness, white parents claim to do everything they can to learn the language, culture, and food of their abducted children of color. In newspapers, journals, fashion magazines, and television commercials, white abductors insist they are being culturally sensitive. It's time to talk about what this claim of sensitivity masks, to call it what it really is: cultural appropriation.

Many white parents use their abducted child to complete their collection of ethnic accessories. The child becomes the centerpiece in the ethnically decorated house. The child becomes the passport into foreign countries and people of color spaces. Surrounded by so much difference, in the form of two, three, or more abducted children of color, the white parents feel justified; they use the number of children of color in their possession to shield themselves from charges of racism.

Other parents admit that they have no contact with people of color, apart from their abducted children. They don't own any ethnic art. They don't enjoy eating ethnic foods. But they feel a responsibility to expose their abducted children to the tastes, smells, and sounds of their birth cultures: through culturally sensitive stuffed animals. Through culturally sensitive storybooks. Through language classes. And culture camps. Through telling their abducted children that there's nothing wrong with having different skin, eyes, and hair.

Desperate to be not-racist-white-parents of children of color, many abductors gather people of color around them and have them interact with the abducted child. By surrounding themselves with adult people of color, and throwing themselves into the struggles of their children's "people," white parents hope to shed their privilege. They are not appropriating people of color cultures´┐Ż\they're saving them.

White parents will acknowledge that their abducted child is a different race from them and "there's nothing wrong with being a different race." They are open-minded and can't fathom the bigotry that inspires some people of color to call them racist. White parents will admit they live in an all-white town, but they hastily insist they would move to a more diverse place if their child's race "ever became a problem."

Whites choose which aspects of the abducted child's culture to assimilate into family life and which to discard. The children are forced to participate in the racial fantasies of the white parents. White parents dress the children of color up in their "native costumes." They treat their abducted children like little ethnic dolls. The white parents become perversely expert on the food, language, and customs of the abducted child's birth culture. They proudly claim to be "learning with my abducted child."

What is most disturbing about this form of cultural appropriation is that whites who abduct children of color disguise their cultural fetish as a concern for the well-being of children. Whites abduct multiple children of color and say "it's important for my transracial children to have someone from the same ethnic background to grow up with." Or "it's important for my transracial children to see each others' faces." Everything is purported to be done for the good of the abducted child, when in fact, the transracial abduction industry operates to feed white parents' insatiable hunger for "difference" in a form they can dominate.