Adoption Survivor

dealing with it

Pushing Culture

with 2 comments

Response to an Amom about her daughter’s culture:

She has NO desire to learn about Korea at this point and takes offense when I suggest anything cultural

yeah, this IS pretty offensive, actually. I was the same way.

You know – there’s ACADEMICS and there is REALITY.
Transracials are acutely aware of inauthenticity. We question the motives behind everything having to do with suggestions related to race and culture. We get tired of having to put up with ignorance of racial issues, especially when they come from our own families.

CULTURE is something you have to LIVE. It’s commonwealth, born of common struggle and overcoming, which is handed down person to person.  YOU can not provide any culture to your child that you do not know yourself, or in a vacuum removed from a cultural environment. It’s impossible/futile.  Attempts to display cultural esoterica will come off as caricature.  Over interest in culture will appear to be the cultural appropriation it probably is.

Pushing culture based on a person’s race is therefore even more offensive. Here’s this impossible thing you should strive for because you’re (insert nationality here) and because you’re not from here…you’re an alien.

Loss of culture is just one more sadness a transracial adoptee has to deal with. But because it seems so out of reach or so inadequate, a lot of us buried the desire to acquaint ourselves with it, resigned ourselves to that, had to reject it to defend ourselves.

If you aren’t near any people of your child’s birth culture, but are truly interested in your child being exposed to their culture so they don’t feel a loss later, then MOVE to some place where their culture is evident in their environment.  It’s a horribly isolating feeling to be the only person of your race where you live, know nothing of that culture, yet bare the burden of representing your entire nation of origin, simply because of the color of your skin.

If you have the good fortune to know any people of your child’s birth culture, THEY can introduce your child to their culture. But it shouldn’t be formally. It has to be real.  S/he has to see/experience how they live and develop their own thirst to learn more. S/he has to like hanging around them.  Culture camp is another thing entirely. It’s not real, but it is at least a bubble. It can whet an appetite.  But it’s just a bubble, and the child will know that too.  They’ll no doubt develop an interest in their culture on their own when they are not feeling the tension over it that they do now.

Yes. That’s right. Tension. That you bring it up creates tension.

Repeatedly the worst disservice adoptive parents do as ignorant racists – that’s right, racists – is contribute to the retardation of the child’s exploration of culture by pushing it. I don’t say this to beat adoptive parents up. I say it in all sincerity that they just don’t know – they’re just being dumb.  Most racism is just sheer ignorance on people’s part.

Odds are, you are an example. If, for instance, you are interested in knitting, your child might take an interest in your interest. Most adoptive parents aren’t TRULY interested in their child’s birth culture except to gather some exotic things and to try and elevate their children’s specialness. As if we need more reasons to justify how different we are.

Am I making myself clear here? Unless you’re going to fully embrace exploring their culture and making it part of daily life and immersing yourself in that culture and that community, then lay off – keep it pressure-free for your kid, and the kid will probably come to the table on their own.  Your job is to provide them an environment with pressure-free access, and to support them when and if they show any interest.

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Written by girl4708

October 26, 2008 at 12:32 am

Posted in Q&A

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2 Responses

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  1. “YOU can not provide any culture to your child that you do not know yourself, or in a vacuum removed from a cultural environment.”

    Exactly.

    “But because it seems so out of reach or so inadequate, a lot of us buried the desire to acquaint ourselves with it, resigned ourselves to that, had to reject it to defend ourselves.”

    When I was a child, my parents made me go to Chinese class. Yet we lived in a WHITE neighbourhood with WHITE classmates and WHITE teachers. How do you expect a child to be encouraged about learning their culture if you don’t live in a place where those resources can even be used? What’s the POINT?

    You don’t “see” yourself as that culture because you are reflected by white. all. the. time. So you think “Well, this isn’t my culture. This is Chinese stuff but I’m not really Chinese, I’m just a white person who has Chinese skin! So WHY do I have to learn this crap?” etc.

    “Most adoptive parents aren’t TRULY interested in their child’s birth culture except to gather some exotic things and to try and elevate their children’s specialness. ”

    Amen to that. Not saying that my parents *did not* honour my original culture – they recognized I was Chinese and had original Chinese parents, but aside from going to language schools once a week, there was nothing cultural in my house because I rejected it. Because there were NO others who looked like me. Because there were no “real” opportunity to delve further INTO the culture.

    “Unless you’re going to fully embrace exploring their culture and making it part of daily life and immersing yourself in that culture and that community, then lay off ”

    Yeah. It might have made a difference if my mom had tried to speak Chinese to me, or if she tried to learn about cultural events and took me downtown in another city so I could get a sense of Chinese-Canadian-ness with the Chinese community.

    Unfortunately, I’ll never know if that would have worked, because she didn’t do that. :\

    Mei-Ling

    October 27, 2008 at 12:59 am

  2. Yes.

    Pushing culture tends to underscore and highlight our isolation and estrangement.

    girl4708

    October 28, 2008 at 2:36 am


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