As a Chinese Adoptee, I’ve often been told that I wasn’t “Asian enough” to join conversations in Asian spaces. Hearing about the tragic shooting in Atlanta just weeks ago along with the slurry of anti-Asian hate crimes that have abounded since COVID-19 has reminded many people, including adoptees, of the racism that Asian Americans experience on a daily basis.
According to a report from the Stop AAPI Hate, there have been nearly 3800 hate incidents March 2020 to February 2021. This, along with the continuing fetishization, online harassment, and physical assaults, many of the hate crimes and racist comments seem all too familiar.
Like many transracial adoptees, I grew up in a predominantly white community. My town was small, mostly white and I could count the number of Asian students in my class on my hand. Most of my exposure to the Asian American community was during college and after. However, looking back, there were moments where I experienced micro-agressions and verbal harassment.
To say that Asian adoptees are exempt from the conversation contributes to the division our communities further. Over the past few years of living in a city with a considerably smaller AAPI population and exploring the experiences of being an AAPI educator, I realized the importance of Asian adoptee and Asian American solidarity.
Although adoptees’ experiences differ from other Asian American experiences, I’ve personally been pushed to recognize the privilege that Asian adoptees have based on our supposed upbringing. While many adoptees are raised in privileged environments, some are not. We are not immune to the racism and Anti-asian sentiment that individuals and governments have propagated – especially during the past year with COVID-19.
In addition, many adoptees have dealt with unsupportive family members who don’t understand the racism and micro-agressions we face. From the outside, we still look Asian. We still have the experiences of being called a “banana”, a “ch**k” and being fetishized. Hearing about the lack of support and ignorance of family members when it comes to supporting adoptees of color in recent months has been deafening. To say the least, it has been frustrating to see members of my own family and community say nothing as the shooting in Atlanta occurred.
I remember the first time that I was called “basically white” like my Asian-ness was erased and covered with plaster. I remember the first time I was yelled at on my college campus for “stealing people’s jobs” and for “not speaking English well” even though I was an English major.
I’m often confronted with the idea that I’m “in-between” – that I’m not American or Chinese enough to join either side of the conversation. From one side, I see the media attacking the country I was born in, and on the other, I see a country that relinquished us when we were infants. However, I’m challenged to confront the notion that Asian adoptees aren’t part of the Asian American experience – because we are. Without sharing stories of the struggle of either side, we’re prone to forget about the real challenges of racism, U.S. imperialism, and rhetoric that brought us to where we are today.
As an Asian adoptee, I feel compelled to have dialogue with other members of the Asian community and seek coalition-building rather than gatekeeping when it comes to issues of racism and social justice. It is also our responsibility as adoptees to engage in this dialogue and support our communities in times of violence through amplifying stories, supporting local businesses, and donating.