This post was inspired by two things - “How to suppress discussions of racism,” which I thought was brilliant, and the comments I've received (and other TRA bloggers have received) as well as arguements written in featured stories in papers such as The New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, etc. These quotes are all actual things written by people towards those who critique the practices of transracial or international adoption.
"How to suppress discussions about transracial and transnational adoption"
1. Attack the person, not the argument:
A few key phrases will really help you attack the person, thus effectively diverting attention away from the critique. Accuse your opponent of being “maladjusted,” “paranoid,” “angry and/or bitter,” “whiny,” “ungrateful,” “over-reactive/dramatic,” or call them a “reverse racist.” For added bonus, suggest that your opponent needs therapy, question their intelligence (calling them an idiot) and assume they have a bad relationship with their parents and/or hate their parents.
Infantalize the adopted person (if they are the one offering the critique). If the person you are critiquing does not have children, it is really effective to tell them that they will understand your point of view “once they become a parent.” Be sure to emphasize that “nobody but a mother [or father] could know” and if you are close enough, pat them on the arm or hand while saying this. A similar tactic would be to use the “If you have adopted a child, then you’ve got a right to have an opinion about the nature of adoption in this country and the world. If not, then maybe you should think about it and stop criticizing.” Be sure to offer up a “Just because you’re adopted doesn’t make you an expert on adoption” while you’re at it.
Other successful ways of attacking your opponent is by using a special sub-category of the “reverse racist” arguments. It helps if you can share the one time in your life when you were “different” because then you’ll be able to show your opponents that you know what it’s like to be a “minority” and therefore, you know how these transracially adopted children will experience racism. These include the following popular phrases:
- “All your focus on race just proves that you’re the one who is racist!”
- “I don’t care if they’re black, white, purple, green or polka-dotted” because everyone knows that to discriminate against purple, green and polka-dotted children is just racist!
- “There’s only the human race – you’re the one who is racist for making distinctions!”
2. Misrepresent your opponent’s argument:
This is called the “straw man argument.” The most effective way to do this is to twist the argument around so it sounds as if your opponent is arguing in favor or against something other than the critique – especially if you quote them out of context. Common straw man arguments regarding transracial or international adoption are:
- “You think children are better off in orphanages” or “You think children are better off in foster care.” Extra credit if you use the words “languish” or “linger.
- “You would rather deprive a child of a loving home.”
- “So you think it would be better to have been aborted?”
- “At least you’ve had the opportunity to get an education by being adopted. You couldn’t have made this argument if you’d lived in [insert backward, developing country of your choice here].
- “If you lead a big movement to “send money to orphans,” then be prepared to watch how fast corrupt, third world countries use the money for anything but helping orphans they do not value and letting the orphans go hungry and unattended: (this quote also works as a tactic of Attack developing countries).
3. Deflect attention away from the specific criticism:
The best example of this is to over-generalize or use examples of people who defy the critique. It is also effective to bring in some mystical rhetoric, such as referring to destiny or fate. By all means, invoke Jesus if possible, because he is a good example of someone who was spiritually adopted.
The first category of deflective statements that work well are those that talk about families. “All we’re talking about is building families” and “All children deserve a loving family” are two great examples. If you can tie this in to mystical rhetoric, then it's extra persuasive; an example would be "My daughter was destined to be part of our family, according to God's plan."
Using a personal example helps too such as “I’m [a member of an oppressed group] and I’m not offended” and “My friend/partner/spouse is transracially/ internationally/ adopted and s/he is not offended.”
Making your opponent sound petty is an effective strategy. Try, “Why are you upset about how families are made when there are real issues in the world, like war/world hunger/AIDS/global warming . . .”
A very popular form of deflecting attention is to victimize adoptive parents. The way to use this method is to present all the hardships adoptive parents must go through to adopt. Among the items to list are how long it takes to adopt, how much money they spent, the invasiveness of the homestudy, and infertility issues.
Some people have effectively used the strategy of using “My biological family was so abusive/dysfunctional, I wish I’d been adopted.”
4. Attack developing countries and/or communities of color and first mothers:
This works so well that most stories in newspapers use a few of these statements. If you can add a personal story of the person in your office/next door/second cousin and how their adoption saved a child from infanticide in said developing country or saved a child from a crack-head mother, you’ll be extra persuasive. In addition the crack-head mother, using the argument that birth moms and dads can reclaim their children as a way to show how they don’t care about their children.
Some of the most useful phrases for your attack:
- "[Insert country or ethnic community] don’t adopt; if more [Insert country or ethnic community] would adopt, then we wouldn’t need to have transracial/international adoption.
- “[Insert country or ethnic community] don’t take care of their own; therefore white people should adopt or else these kids would just languish in foster care or in orphanages.”
- “It is unfortunate that [insert country or ethnic community here] is so biased against girls. Being adopted is the only way these girls can get educated and have a chance to have a good life.”
- Children growing up in orphanages or foster care will have no future. They will end up being prostitutes or servants because of their low status in life. At least here in [insert dominant developed country of choice here] they’ll have a chance.
Of course, the most effective attack is simply to tell your opponent to "get over it.”