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War Babies


"The Department of State has received many inquiries from American citizens concerned about the plight of the children of Iraq and wondering about the possibility of adoption." (U.S. Department of State, April 2003)

Xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, patriotic hatred of 'chinks.' Growing up, I felt these forces directed against me but I didn't understand why. I felt ashamed to be Asian, and really ashamed to be a visibly Asian girl in a white american family.

I remember people in my town calling me a 'war baby.' It was anachronistic, but on some level rang true. The international adoption industry continues to capitalize on the effects of war on countries like Korea. And the pitying or disgusted looks that always accompany the phrase reveal the shame and embarrassment white america feels over the physical evidence the u.s. military leaves behind in Korea, and every time it occupies other countries. America the Savior loves cute orphans from a distance, but when those orphans become immigrants they threaten the security of the all-american family and disrupt rigid racial categories. White saviors at home, white soldiers abroad. Each plays a role in maintaining u.s. dominance, and transracial adoption is a prime example of how white america commodifies and consumes the cultures and bodies of people of color.

I felt a lot of guilt growing up in america. I felt guilty for making my parents the object of other people's questions. My parents' response to stares and questions was always to reassure people that "she's ours." "We've had her since she was a baby." "She's american now." As a little kid the last thing I wanted to do was show any disloyalty to my family. I became bonded to my parents in a joint struggle to defend our family's legitimacy. Just like blood. No different than if we were blood relatives. That was my defense against racism. Was I hiding behind my parents' white skin privilege? I just wanted to feel protected and be loved. In order to earn the love of my white family I had to deny my roots.

Looking back at my childhood, I begin to see racism as a central force that shaped my experiences, and my worldview. Racist name-calling, sexual abuse, the 'love' between me and my white parents: all were different responses to a foreign pet, or threat, being introduced into the environment, all were different ways whites dealt with me being brought into their world.

As transracial adoptees we need to realize that every time the united states wages war on another country, our numbers grow. Every time the u.s. government cuts welfare, healthcare, and housing vouchers, our numbers grow. Now is the time for transracial adoptees to start talking about these issues. Together we can build a powerful voice to challenge the transracial adoption industry.