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Abduction Resource Review


Okay, this isn't an all-inclusive reading list or anything, so don't get too excited. I just reviewed a few sources that represent different types of transracial abduction literature out there. If you've done any research on transracial abduction you know there are some weird-ass sources floating around. These are actually pretty tame compared to those gross "How to abduct" and "How to raise your multicultural child" manuals. Anyway, enjoy...

Albrecht, Kirsten Wonder. "Transracial Adoptions Should Be Encouraged." Adoption. Ed. Roman Espejo. San Diego: Greenhaven, 2002. 83-90.

Albrecht is the president of the TransRacial Adoption Group (TRA Group). No, it's not a group of transracial abductees but rather an international organization "dedicated to finding permanent adoptive homes for minority children." Whatever. In this scary essay, Albrecht argues that transracial abductions should be encouraged because attempts to place "minority" children in "minority" homes often fail and lead to these children being placed in foster care. She contends that current placement policies discriminate against white parents seeking to abduct black and biracial children and implies that black children raised by white parents actually have an advantage in a white-dominated world because they grow up closer to the center of power and privilege. Like I said, it's scary.

Albrecht also uses the classic "reverse racism" charge when she argues that black social workers "discriminate" against whites seeking to abduct "minority" children. Then she takes it to another level by comparing the InterEthnic Adoption Amendment, passed in the United States in 1996 to remove the "barriers" faced by white people who want to abduct children of color, to the Civil Rights Act, essentially framing the question of white parents' access to children of color as a civil rights issue for whites. It's totally insane, blatant racism, and I felt like my head was going to explode while I was reading it.

Hollingsworth, Leslie Doty. "Same-Race Adoptions Should Be Encouraged." Adoption. Ed. Roman Espejo. San Diego: Greenhaven, 2002. 91-101. Rpt. of "Promoting Same-Race Adoptions for Children of Color." Social Work 43.2 (1998); 104-16.

In response to advocates of transracial abduction who argue that the overrepresentation of children of color in the child welfare system warrants encouraging white families to abduct these children, Hollingsworth, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan (who has the same name as my cat, Leslie!), argues that the social causes of this overrepresentation should be examined, and solutions sought, such as changing public policies that negatively impact poor and "minority" families. Aside from the "minority" shit, I think this sounds a lot better than Albrecht.

Anyway, Hollingsworth states that "minority" families should be encouraged to adopt, and that kinship foster placements should be distinguished from non-kinship foster placements in an effort to respect the support networks existing within some communities of color. Unlike Albrecht, who focus on children of color themselves as the problem to be addressed, Hollingsworth chooses to focus on the social and economic injustice that lead to the overrepresentation of children of color in the child welfare system in the first place. The article is useful for its deconstruction of pro-transracial abduction arguments and its analysis of the role of poverty and racism in the child welfare and abduction industries.

Freundlich, Madelyn. Adoption & Ethics: The Role of Race, Culture, and National Origin in Adoption. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C.: Child Welfare League of America, 2000.

Freundlich is the Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, some really important-sounding place. She divides her study into three main sections: the role of race and culture in foster care and abduction, the role of culture in the abduction of American Indian children, and the role of race, culture and national origin in international abduction. The book is pretty useful as an overview of the main conflicts and debates surrounding transracial and transnational abduction, and as a starting point for further research.

However, while Freundlich touches on the market forces in transnational abduction, she doesn't develop a satisfactory critique of U.S. "involvement" (her euphemism) in "foreign" countries. Nor does she step outside of her presentation of statistics to question the power dynamics informing the collection of this "scientific" research on abduction. Freundlich attempts to intervene in what she characterizes as a highly emotionally-charged debate, but her commitment to a "rational" review of the arguments ultimately prevents her from producing new ideas or making any useful recommendations. The book has some information abductees can probably use to help us argue against transracist abduction, but Freundlich definitely doesn't do it for us.

Dorow, Sara, ed. I Wish for You a Beautiful Life: Letters from the Korean Birth Mothers of Ae Ran Won to Their Children. St. Paul: Yeong and Yeong Book Company, 1999.

Okay, this one definitely qualifies as weird-ass. Sara Dorow holds an M.A. in East Asian Studies and is also the author of When You Were Born in China, a book (purportedly) for Chinese American abductees. Brian Boyd, who collaborated with Dorow on this project, wrote a similar children's book called When You Were Born in Korea. This collection of letters, selected from the agency's files by the Director of Ae Ran Won, a home for "unwed mothers" in Seoul, is offered by the book's collaborators as a "gift" to the parents and children whose lives have been "joined through Korean adoption." I know, it's just so beautiful, it makes me wanna hug the person sitting next to me.

This "feel-good" approach of the project's collaborators is a serious attempt to conceal power. For example, nowhere is it mentioned whether the birth mothers, who wrote these letters to help them cope with the separation from their newborns and did not necessarily intend for them to be read by others, gave consent for their letters to be published. Also, most of the letters reveal a strong Christian influence; many of the birth mothers were instructed in, and converted to, Christianity during their stay at Ae Ran Won (usually their last resort for shelter during their pregnancies). This isn't surprising since Christian missionizing and "charity" are what the transnational abduction industry was founded on.

Sobol, Harriet Langsam. We Don't Look Like Our Mom and Dad. New York: Coward-MacCann, 1984.

This children's book is a photo-essay about a white U.S. American couple and their two abducted Korean children. The book is similar to many other "real-life" abduction narratives for children. Such narratives usually include: the trip from birth country to "America," the negotiation of difference (mostly in terms of looks, but sometimes also in terms of culture), the explanation as to why the children are abducted, an episode of conflict with the abductive parents (the "you're not my real parents" scene), the resolution of the conflict (the "we're you're real parents because we love you" scene), and the abducted children becoming naturalized citizens (the courtroom scene). The emphasis of the narratives is on assimilation through the elimination of potentially threatening difference, and on uncritical multiculturalism achieved through the enjoyment of food, clothing, music and other "fun" difference.

Girard, Linda Walvoord. We Adopted You, Benjamin Koo. Niles: Albert Whitman & Company, 1989.

This children's book is a fictionalized, first-person account of a Korean American abductee's experiences at home and at school. It contains the same basic storyline as the "real-life" or "non-fiction" accounts, and as in other fictionalized abduction narratives, a "real" abducted child and/or abductive parents are thanked by the author on the dedication page. Other fictionalized transracial abduction narratives address similar themes of negotiation of racial, cultural, and national identity, with the pressure for transracially abducted children to assimilate themselves into white U.S. culture prevailing.

The Animal Book

Okay, so there probably isn't a book with this exact title, but it's a common type of abduction narrative, and since this stuff is so depressing, I'm just going to summarize. There are lots of children's books that tell the story of a little animal, like for example a bear, that is raised by a different kind of animal, like maybe a family of chipmunks, and that one day goes off in search of other bears thinking that it will find its "real" family. Long story short, the little bear discovers that it doesn't fit in with other bears and its "real" home is with the chipmunks. Apart from the completely fucked up message to children of color that our situation can be explained using a simple comparison to the animal kingdom, the point of the story is that the bear can't survive outside of chipmunk "culture," and it certainly doesn't belong with the other bears. I read books like this when I was little. I guess they were supposed to make me feel like the "chipmunks" were my real family who loved and accepted me even though I was a freakish "bear," instead they made me feel like I didn't belong anyplace at all.