Occasionally I write about my work in diversity; it certainly informs some of the writing I do here about the cross points of diversity, race most specifically, and adoption. For the last few days I’ve been pondering the #flipthescript hashtag on Twitter and why it hasn’t shown up on my “tailored” trend feed as a “trending” hashtag. Certainly the content is there; the tweets from adoptees are deeply meaningful, sometimes provocative, and shouting the desire to be heard as loudly as the voices of adoptive parents.
And yet, it’s almost as though there is a dull pinging in the Twitterverse.
Now, I’m not really into tweeting. I’ve been working on getting into it; it just moves too fast for me, frankly. Gosh, Twitter makes me feel old.
There I said it.
Anyhoo, maybe I’m missing the big trend? I’m just not seeing it; though I do still see folks tweeting about Apollo Nida and Phaedra Parks from the Real Housewives of Atlanta. (Disclosure: I tweeted about them last night too.) There have been some great blog posts about the sensitivities around NAAM, so I don’t want to downplay those, but even those–like this post–have been largely written by adoptive parents.
So, in the midst of sifting through Twitter this afternoon I came across one of Angela Tucker’s tweets that made me really ponder.
Something about Angela’s tweet drew me back into my day job in diversity and who creates the narrative, keeps it going and has the power to change it.
National Adoption Awareness Month is really about adoptive parents, not adoptees.
Ouch right? No, really it’s true. And before you hit the x-box in the corner of your browser, stay with me for a minute.
In any social moment, there is a dominant group who gets to create the event, set the tone, invite attendees, host the party and send everyone home with the parting gifts of their—the hosts–liking. The assumption is that these folks care more than anyone else, and that they know best how to throw this party and what it should be about. They just know more.
This isn’t true of course, but when you are the dominant social group, the group with the power, it’s true because you say it’s true and because you act like it’s true. And as long as other voices are mute or silent or muted and silenced then who’s gonna check you boo?
This is what the use of power and privilege looks like.
Ugh, yeah, yeah it does. I know we adoptive parents probably don’t want to hear that, and it’s hard to write it, but it is what it is. I recognize that my fellow adoptive parents want and strive to be good people and good parents. We love our kids and our grown kids so very much. But the nature of the relationship—parent/child—creates a power dynamic that is hard to shake even when the adoptee is waaaaay grown. The use of power and privilege, even blindly and unintentionally, can be and often is oppressive.
Oppression has many antidotes, but its healing treatment is most effective when dominant group allies pick up the issue and carry it alongside (don’t take over!) those who have been oppressed. Oh, the irony that the marginalized group must, in part, rely on the dominant group to carry the weight should not be lost on any of us; it’s aggravatingly pissy.
But let’s not kid ourselves, I’d still be drinking at the colored water fountain in my segregated school but for some White folks who stepped up and joined ranks in saying, NO, Jim Crow is not any kind of right. My LGBT friends and colleagues would continue to live in environments that crush their spirit back into a closet but for straight allies also saying NO, this mess ain’t right. As the narrative dominant group, we have got to use our power and voice to promote inclusion. Giving voice to adoptees shouldn’t be threatening to feeling happy about having the families that have been created through this process. Inclusion of their voice sensitizes us and everyone not on this journey that it’s not a walk in the park for any of us.
Adoption is complicated. I still celebrate my kid this month, probably almost invisibly in my “real” life. I am delighted that I am a mom and that our adoption has afforded me the opportunity to step into this role. But I recognize that this path is different, that my Hope’s needs are at times very different, that her voice in this journey is different, that she has emotions and feelings about being my daughter that I will never quite understand, that some of these emotions—even though they have little to do with me—will hurt both of us on various levels, and that advocating for her means listening to her voice, even and especially when she is saying something I’m not sure I want to hear.
As her mom and her biggest ally, it isn’t enough that I go through this with her, that I have my own story and write about in this space, that I bear witness to her as she navigates and creates her story or that I honor her story alone. I have a responsibility in this thing to amplify her voice and the voice of adoptees like her. It’s sad that many of the stories I see crossing social media don’t really mention the world view of the adoptee because adoptive parents are throwing the Adoption Awareness party. I don’t think it’s malicious, but I think it speaks to the blind pervasiveness of power and privilege in our culture.
So, my fellow adoptive parents, take a moment out to amplify the voices of the adoptee. Make sure they are heard in your circles. They have a voice, just it and turn it up. As the dominant voice in adoption (all the time, not just during NAAM), we should be active and activist allies for adoptees and ensure that they are as visible as they choose to be, as loud as they want to be, and always, always heard. That is our challenge as the folks with the power and the privilege positions in adoption.
Being a good ally doesn’t mean that you can’t still celebrate the creation or expansion of our families this month, but be sensitive that it isn’t a celebration for everyone. Look, listen and retweet their voices. #turndownforwhat #flipthescript