Sunday, September 26, 2010

blond wig + Asian kid = major controversy {who knew?}

*** I just want to say that since this is my blog, I'm taking the liberty to write my own personal views on this. I am not a professional, but I am an adult Korean adoptee. And this is my perspective. *** 

So I'm a part of an adoption forum. As with any type of 'group', there are going to be things you like and things you dislike. One of the great things about this forum is that I've met some really super cool people. One of the lame things about the forum is that I've met some pretty lame people as well. 

Recently (as in a couple of days ago) there was this topic of conversation that was brought up by a concerned Mom. Her 5 year old daughter (who's Asian) wants to dress up for Halloween as a princess and wants to wear a blonde wig. The Mom was seeking advice on whether she should let her daughter wear the wig. She realizes that Halloween is just a time to dress up, but she was worried about whether people would 'laugh' at her daughter because she was obviously Asian wearing a wig. (at least this is how I understood the original question). 

The mass majority of people voted for the daughter to wear the wig. 

you'd think that would be the end of it, right?

um.... no. not even close.

Somehow it turned into this huge debate about how if you let your Asian daughter wear a a blonde wig then as a parent you are promoting the 'American Standard of Beauty' and you're telling your child that the only way they can be beautiful is if they have blonde hair, blue eyes, and a big chest. 

Here's the thing. I totally understand that each parent will have their own conviction regarding what kind of costumes they'll let their kids wear, or what toys their kids can play with. But I take real issue when some adoptive parent (who's not an Asian Adoptee) tries to tell ME how Adult Korean Adoptees feel about being raised in a world of 'white privilege'. 

A comment was made that 'when a white child dresses as a minority character, it is not the same as a minority child dressing as a 'white' character because 'white privilege' automatically has the white child dressing 'down' to a minority - thus being deemed 'okay'. 

I know, pretty psycho, right?

There were also some comments made by a person who said they've taken part in billions (yes, she actually said billions) of adoption 'panels' and all she hears from Adult Korean Adoptees are how they were so miserable because everyone was 'white' and Barbie was 'white' and they didn't feel good enough... blah blah blah

Here is where I take issue again. Granted, yes, there are Adult Adoptees who had a rough time with being adopted. I get that, and I honestly feel for them, and I truly hope that they are able to find peace about it. But not all Adult Adoptees are like that. I've now met quite a few Korean Adult Adoptees (KADs) and most of them share my perspective. Yes, we may do some things differently than our parents did, or wish our parents did some things differently when we were young, but don't we all? Adopted or not? And I don't know of one angry KAD who wishes they were 'white' or has some identity issue with not being able to be white. 

This same person (who has sat in on the billions of adoption panels) when speaking about how awful it is that all these complaining KADs wish they were white, used the example of KADs saying they wished they had blonde hair as proof to their messed up mentality of wanting to be white. 

okay. HOLD UP.

Here is where I draw the line because I told this same person, during a previous phone conversation that I wished I could have blonde hair. Yes. I totally do. I would LOVE to be a multi-tonal blonde. And I've actually tried to get as close to it as I possibly can (to mix reviews of course - haha!). But I've also had black hair, burgundy hair, red hair, brown hair... 

So I take personal offense to this person trying to use my words to support her distorted views of KADs.

What really bothers me the most about all this, is how her words effect soon-to-be-first-time-parents. She freaks them out. If a parent chooses to 'escort' their child vs traveling to Korea, she basically tells them that they love their child less. If you don't keep your child's Korean name, then you're telling them that they have to change who they are to become your child. The list goes on and on. 

What I want parents of adopted Asian kids to know, is that you just do the best you can. Yes, not all parents are going to have the same views or methods, and that's okay! Don't worry that every little decision you make is going to be the thing that screws your kid up. Love your child, foster a relationship that provides open communication, and answer questions with honesty - even if you don't know the answer - it's okay to say 'I don't know, but lets try and find out.' 

I've really tried to examine my childhood to figure out what it was that my parents did that resulted in me being 'totally cool' with being adopted. And here's what I've come up with: 

1) I was adopted with my sister. I used to not put so much stock in this, but now I'm wondering if because we were always together, if the 'change of environment' wasn't as big of a deal because we still had a 'constant' - each other.

2) My parents have always raised us to believe that while we may not always understand why God does the things he does, He knew that for whatever reason, that we would need parents, and they would need kids. We were meant to be a family. 

3) There was never an emphasis placed on our different ethnicities. This is a tough one to explain. Obviously we knew we looked different, but I never really thought about it. My Mom would always comment on how beautiful my skin was, or my eyes, or my hair, but pointing out our differences wasn't something we focused on. It was more matter of fact, rather than 'empathetic'. Sometimes I get the impression that there is almost too much emphasis put on differences. 

4) My parents were honest when answering our questions. And they let 'kid comments' just be 'kid comments'. Thinking back, I remember when I was young talking to my Mom about how many Grandparents I had. I told her I had 5 sets: my grandparents on my Mom's side, my grandparents on my Dad's side, my grandparents on my birthmom's side, my grandparents on my birthfather's side, and Grandma Holt (Bertha Holt referred to herself as 'Grandma Holt' when I was little and she was still alive). I remembering telling her how it was neat that I had so many more than other people. 

Now, she could have freaked out wondering if I was having issues with being adopted, and maybe I was wanting to feel more connected to my birth family, but she just remained calmed and let me have this childish gloating moment that I had 'more' grandparents than anyone else. And then that moment passed and I didn't think about it again until just recently.

So that brings me to my last point.

5) Don't make everything an 'adoption issue'. Granted - I think you'll know if there's some big red flag waiving - and by all means, seek out what ever resources you need. But just because a 5 year old Asian kid wants to wear a blonde wig as part of her Cinderella costume for Halloween, DOES NOT mean that she is rejecting her ethnic make up  and wants to be 'white'. 

If anything, I'd give her an award for her advanced eye for detail. 


Karen said...


lizvedvik said...

(lol, Ive just glanced over and saw Karen wrote the same thing:)I think that alone says it all!!

MandK said...

Thank you Rachel! I am so glad we "met"!! :) Thanks for not contributing to making me freak out. I appreciate your perspective. Thanks much.

Ellen said...

OMG! I must have totally missed that post!

I bet I could pick the name without looking of the person making the comments. One thing is some people think the bandwagon approach is the only way to go...agree with me or you are a horrible AP and condemned to forever scar your child for life! Why the guilt and drama - Argh!

Anyway I totally agree and am thankful for your insight as a KAD!


Ellen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big House Creations said...

So sorry I missed that conversation! I assume it's gone now, huh?

Thanks for sharing your perspective on this!

April said...

Wow! Very well said! I have been very discouraged by some of the nasty, know-it-all comments that I have read on the forum. It makes me not want to post anything. But it's also wonderful to know that there are mostly kind and supportive parents that only want to help and encourage. Thanks for this post!

Kelly said...

Love you, girl, and AMEN!!!!!!

Amber said...

phew... those board can light up sometimes. Our is pretty similar. Thank you so much for the post though. You are totally right about us newly adoptive parents and our freak outs about what is and is not adoption related. I loved reading your perspective... thanks!

Kim said...

Did I mention how much I love you, from one non-messed up KAD to another?!?!?!? :0) LOVE this post!! I may refer to it when I go into a tyrade on my own about this very subject!! I'm still brewing!!

Kmoana said...

ditto to the above posted "Amens"!!! :)

The Smiths said...

Wait... you're adopted?! That explains your hair!

For the record, I was always jealous of you and Sara's hair - especially when you were in you perm stage.

Shoot, mom probably should have let you guys do that either.

Little Lesiw said...

I know that typed messages can sometimes be misread, but please tell me you're being sarcastic, right Amy? You didn't really love my permed Annie fro when I was in 3rd grade... or my still permed 'old lady hairdo' I sported in 4th. (which Mrs. Parlier and I had matching hair styles)

Now... while I may pass on some of your 'elementary years', nothing trumps your Senior Portraits. Hands down you look the best out of the four of us (Andy included). I remember when I first saw those, I thought you looked just like a model.

oh wait... maybe that's because I wished I was 'white'... since you have blonde hair/blue eyes and all... LOL

The Smiths said...

Of course I was being sarcastic, with the exception of your most excellent Annie 'fro. In actuality I always wanted hair as shiny as your and Sara's. I also wanted black hair. Ahhhhhhh, the grass is always greener...

Do you remember me telling you when you were little that you could never be Annie because you were Asian? Sorry. What did I know - that Asian chick played Eponine on Broadway.

Little Lesiw said...

Oh my gosh - I can't believe you mentioned the 'you can't be Annie because you're Asian' comment - don't you know that there are Adoption Fanatics out there that will be using you as an example of 'racism in the home'?!?! LOL

So all you crazies out there - technically my sister is right - the likelihood of an Asian playing 'Annie' is very low (unless you are in Asia) but no worries! I can't sing so I didn't have a future on Broadway anyways.

The good news is that because I AM Asian, I excel in Math and Science. Except in my case I didn't do well in math and science.

JimandJackie said...

Ditto to the Amen! Sigh, sometimes O wonder who is watching some people's children when they have so much time to spend criticizing others on the BB....just saying...some of those meanies made me feel like a crummy Mom, when I was first home and feeling like a crummy Mom over it!

Kim said...

You and your sister sound *exactly* like my family!!! I had to tell them all to stop posting on FB such sarcastic remarks or people would think a racist family adopted me! I too did not excel in math or science and had a perm that would scare Whoopi Goldberg for most of my young life. I don't think that's an Asian thing, I think our moms must have been sisters in another life. :0)

Little Lesiw said...

Okay, one last comment from me...

My Mom let my Korean sister PERM MY HAIR when she was like... 10? Maybe 11? Because she thought my sister had such good dexterity with her hands!!!

Good news is that she was right and my perm actually turned out okay (as far as perms go).

Leah said...

WOW..... Agreed! :) I think everybody else's comment said it all!

Kim said...

Okay, that made me laugh out loud!! Your 10 yo sister gave you a perm?!?!? That's awesome!! And frankly, I'm impressed!!!

-Stacy and Ted said...

Um, have I told you lately how much I love you?!? and respect and admire you!?!?! Keep speaking up! We must STOP THE MADNESS! :)

Don Gordon Bell said...

AMEN to all of you. I live here in the "land of the morning calm" hearing and reading some of the KADLinK (Korean ADoptees Living in Korea) and a very small group of 30-50 are WHINERS. They have formed political groups that misrepresent all KAD as being "Angry or wished they were whyte" (can you hear them moan).

I have surfed the web for years and I declare the whiners seem to run all over the net and blast their opinions and attack others.
I agree with 100% of what you wrote.

Since I was a founding member of GOA'L with Ami Nafzger back in 1997, I have met and spoken with hundreds of KADs. I would say less than 5% ever complained about their adoption. Many who DO, have reasons that, well, happen to all families-abuse, divorce, kids 'persecution', etc.

Even the Evan B. Donaldson's Adoption Institute's report that touched this "wish we were white" was only 179 KADs and 80% of them were women who signed up for the survey. (Me thinks they were heavily salted with activists, LOL).

Identity was never much of a big deal but the progressive/liberal scholars make huge. It just IS what it IS, no big thing because in the end how MY Parents (not my A-mom or whatever) loved me and raised me was the main thing.

I wish I could join your forums sometimes. You all ROCK.

The Korean War Baby salutes you all.

Kimberly and Ed said...

I finally read the HUGE thread and I knew who you were talking about on your post before I read the thread! I admire you for standing up to her - she has no right to speak for you or any other KAD!!!

Jason, Kelly, and Luke said...


Jason, Kelly, and Luke said...


Anonymous said...

Those forums you speak of, wow, I have been blasted before for talking about my own story and still being happy in my life. Needless to say, I am no longer on those forums, I can't stomach these rants and I don't have the time! And to think these people are PARENTS! They have no clue who is reading these, social workers, managers, directors of adoption go girl!

Dena said...

I just found your blog from the Holt boards, and I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this post. (My husband & I are in the process of adopting from Korea.) The angry adoptee voices can be so loud that sometimes it starts to seem that they're the only voices. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Laurie said...

Girl, that mess was CRAZY!! CRAZY, I say! Who loves ya, baby? (kurle)

Tracie said...

YES! Thank you for standing up on the Holt BB and on your blog!

It's always good to hear from you and Kim as KADs... and I enjoyed these comments on your post, too. (Don's was extra great to read.)

I never post on the BB anymore, but my daughter has been home for almost 8 months. I try to get on and read every few days, though.

Thanks again for sharing your perspective!

Jessica said...

Whoa Girl,
And here I thought you were the most beautiful girl in school...Oh well, it's the blue eyed, blondie wishful thinking coming through. :) I'm so very proud of you for sticking up for yourself. Oh, and I bet you didn't know there's a Korean deli in our home town right next to the 31 flavors now. So, maybe we're getting cultured.....Ha, ha, ha. Anyway, just wanted you to know I've been cheering for you here in Portland.

Jenny said...

wow, this is what i miss when i don't visit the boards as often? such drama! i'm glad you were there to help set things straight.

Amy, Jeff and Kimchi said...

Thanks for writing this! I followed you from the boards and I agree that things can get wacky in there. I've been told things on there that were not true that had me crying in the bathroom. More importantly, I really thank you for your honesty about being adopted. It's a lot easier to find horror stories that make you question everything you've done than to hear from the many adoptees that have grown up well adjusted and happy. You have been amazingly supportive on the boards and I wish you all the best in the future.

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