America Soured on My Multiracial Family



There are three basic, complicated truths about adoption. First, every adoption starts with a big loss. Through death, abandonment or even loving surrender, a child suffers from the loss of his or her mother and father. Second, the demographic data of those who need loving homes do not exactly match the demographic data of those who are looking for a new child. Adoptive parents are disproportionately white. Adopted children are not. Multiracial families are therefore a natural and inevitable consequence of the adoption process. Thirdly, American culture has long been obsessed with questions about race and identity.

Combine these three truths and you will not only begin to understand the challenge of adoption, you will also gain insight into a darkness in American culture, a darkness that detests even the bond between parent and child. I know this firsthand. Amidst the stories about adoption in America is the story of my family – the story of my youngest daughter.

I am an evangelical Christian and since I was a young man, two Bible verses have drawn me to my soul. The first comes from the book of James and defines & # 39; pure & # 39; religious practice in part as taking care of "widows and orphans in their distress" & # 39; The secondfrom the Book of Galatians, declares an eternal truth: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, nor slave nor free, nor is there a man and a woman, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." As a result, my wife and I not only felt called to adopt, but we also believed that race was not a barrier to unity for a family of true faith.

And so, in the summer of 2010, we traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to pick up our youngest child, Naomi Konjit French. As with every adoption story, hers starts with profound loss. Her unmarried mother left Naomi to her grandmother and grandfather and then disappeared from her life. Her grandparents were self-sufficient farmers who were hardly alive. Then her grandfather and Naomi and her grandmother began to starve. By the time Naomi was two years old, she weighed no more than 14 kilos. That was her condition when she was abandoned again – this time lovingly transferred to an adoption agency. Her grandmother simply could not keep her alive.

Think of the trauma. As a toddler she had already experienced death, hunger and desolation. And soon enough she would experience displacement. This American family arrived, picked her up and flew her halfway across the earth. Within a day she was in a new country and she lived with people she did not know.

From the moment we saw her, we loved her with all our heart, but every adoptive family can tell you (indeed, every family can tell you) that love does not heal, everything hurts. There is pain that can last a lifetime.

I will never forget the moment when we told our daughter her story – when we loved each other and shamelessly and publicly cried in a pizza shop in Middle Tennessee. (Tip for parents: never have the difficult conversations in restaurants.) It was a tough night, but our bond has grown and we can talk more freely about the difficult past. One of the surprising consequences of that conversation is that Naomi has developed even more curiosity about (and pride in) the country of her birth. It was as if the lighting of the veil of secrecy liberated her to embrace her heritage.

We love each other from day to day and we fight through that pain, the result of trauma and loss. How does a little girl attach herself to a new mother after they have lost one mother and one grandmother in quick succession? How does a father adhere to a little girl when the only man she once lived with died before she was old enough to speak? And malnutrition in early childhood entails development challenges that can take a long time after she regains her health and strength.

All of this is difficult, but many families face much larger challenges. And as we remember ourselves every day, we are exceedingly blessed. Naomi grows up in an intact house with brothers and sisters who love her very much. She is part of a church and a school community that are committed to helping her flourish. Her parents have good jobs and the days of material deprivation are long gone.

But floating just outside the frame – and sometimes penetrating directly into our lives – is a disturbing reality. There are people who hate that our family exists. True racists do not like the idea that white parents raise a black child, and ideological arguments about identity raise questions about whether the love of a white family can actually pissed off a child of a different race. And sometimes people even wonder if adoptive parents really love their children, claiming that parents have the & # 39; virtuous signal & # 39; or simply ostentatiously demonstrate their broad-mindedness.

Before we approved it, we knew, of course, that there had long been political opposition to trans-racial adoption. In 1972, the National Society of Black Social Workers declared the white adoption of black children famous for a form of "cultural genocide. "But that was decades ago, American churches were fully involved in an adoption movement by the 21st century, when families continued to settle in their own country, but they also crossed overseas (as we did)." In 2004, the peak of international adoption, Americans brought 22,884 children home, many of them with special needs, many of them from different races of their new parents.

In 2010, the year we adopted, the Washington Post & # 39; s Michael Gerson wrote a piece that reflected the sincere views of countless adoptive families. It was the "noblest one to America", he said, "we care about children from other countries who have been pushed aside." And what about multiracial families? His answer was our answer: "Instead of undermining any culture, international adoption instructs us." Unlike the thin, quarrelsome multiculturalism of the campus, multi-ethnic families demonstrate the power of affection over difference. "There was a spirit of optimism, of hope that we could really live the promise of Galatians, and in life help that promise change the nation we loved.

But then there was a backlash. Claims from cultural imperialism, wounded national pride, and rare, sad horror stories of exploitation or abuse soured foreign nations against American families. And at home identity politics and even outright hostility to the Christian adoption movement attacks from some on the left – attacks that would soon be matched and surpassed by attacks from a racist right.

The first major blow came from the Obama administration IRS. The tax reduction for adoption (a substantial financial support for adoptive families) is fully reimbursable for the tax year 2010 and 2011. The IRS reacted with massive audits of adoptive families. In 2011, it performed a dizzying audit 68 percent of families who have claimed the tax credit for adoption. In 2012, that number hit 69 percent.

My family was trapped in the trawl. So at the same time as we were integrating a new child into our home, we were also combing through adoption vouchers to prove to the IRS that we had indeed assumed that we had indeed spent the incredible sum we had reported, and that we had not cheated the government. Thousands of families faced the same task, often with much more complex adoptions with receipts and documents written in languages ​​that they could not decipher. A GAO report from October 2011 indicated that the IRS "did not find any fraudulent tax claims for adoption claims and that there had been no references to tax credit applications in the unit for criminal investigations."

In 2013, Kathryn Joyce, a writer and journalist who conducts research and reports on American evangelical Christianity, published a book The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. It was a blistering attack on the evangelical adoption movement, claiming that the adoption industry was full of corruption and that evangelicals were in the grip of an ominous "orphan fever"This was mainly motivated by a desire to evangelize orphans." The book received a lot of attention. "Joyce wrote essays in the New York Times Sunday Review, and Mother Jones. She was interviewed on NPRs Fresh air.

We quickly discovered that if you are the white parents of an adopted black child, and you are completely in the open, men and women criticize you fiercely because you have the guts to believe that you can raise your child. Sometimes the criticism was direct and personal – the majority focused on my wife. It was one thing to make hostile comments on blogs or random tweets. It was a different one to take in angry, direct messages and sometimes tense personal encounters in public. Family and friends were appalled. Look at what the left does and say to loving families, we noticed each other. Look at what they believe about faithful Christians.

Then, sometime around the summer of 2015, we began to notice a change. The attacks on our family came less and less from the left, and increasingly from the alt-right – a brutal movement of Trump-supporting white nationalists who hate multiracial families. They detest international acceptance. They call it "race-cucking your family"Or" raising the enemy. "Heaven helps you when they find you online and find us what they did – partly because I criticized their movement directly – and partly because I refused to support Donald Trump in 2016 – they came after us with a vengeance.

She picked up photos from my then-7-year-old daughter from social media and photographed her in a gas room, with Donald Trump pressing the button to kill her. They placed her image in slave fields. They found my wife's blog and filled the comment section with gruesome photos of dead or dying African-Americans. They have wished me the days that & # 39; the left hand & # 39; arrived behind us; at least progressive critics did not want my daughter to die.

We are an extreme case, especially because my wife and I are both writers and we have both offered a very public (and controversial) political comment. Not every adopted family has been controlled by their government, attacked online from left and right and their child is threatened by racists. No one should believe that our experience is the experience of every adoptive family. But many, many families have their own experiences of hatred and ignorance.

White parents see racism focused on their black children. Cruel people use social media to accuse parents of raising children as fashion statements. Others tell them about their inherent inability to meet the needs of children of color. The hatred that our family received was perhaps more productive because of who we are, but that hatred is real, it is part of American life and will find its way to too many families that resemble ours.

In the years since we took our daughter home, the adoption abroad has declined-72 percent lower since 2005– and it is not difficult to see one of the reasons why. A broken American culture affects itself abroad and families at home, and the attitude shifts. In 2010, before we left for Ethiopia, the primary reaction of friends and acquaintances reflected the hope and joy of the moment. "Are you so excited?" They asked – the cheerful rhetorical question that was always asked to expectant parents. Since then I see the question put to adoptive parents change: "Are you ready?", Ask people to wonder while they try to prepare parents for future problems.

For our part, we have protected our daughter against all these attacks. One day she will learn. One day I'm sure we'll hold each other again – not this time in a pizza restaurant – and cry for the hatred that's aimed at her because of her beautiful skin, a hatred that wants to hurt her precious soul. We will do our best to protect her heart against those who try to turn the child against the parent, to claim that her parents' love was somehow suspicious and that their faith was a source of oppression instead of a source of life and hope.

We love our daughter more than our own lives. But the idealism of 2010 has disappeared. Then we thought that our family reflected the future. Now we know that that was naïve. Now we know that although the promise of the Galatians – the promise that we are "all one" – is true in the Kingdom of Heaven, in America it is not yet applicable.


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