Not too long ago, a little blurb about Bertha “Grandma” Holt was posted on a group in FaceBook in honor of Mrs. Holt’s birthday and a raucous discuss ensued. I think that discussion somehow got deleted, but somewhere in the thread, LGA’s new friend, Seung Mi (Laura) Klunder, author of the blog “Coloring Out Lori Jane“, posted a link to her own response to that hotly debated Holt statement. You can read the Holt statement here >>
I appreciate Seung Mi’s response because it openly address an element in international/transracial adoption that is too often ignored . . . white privilege. I was so impressed, I just had to know more about the author. Below is my interview with Seung Mi. Now I’m doubly impressed! Thanks, Seung Mi.
LGA: Hi, Seung Mi! Where are you now and what are you doing?
Seung Mi: I am living in Seoul, seeking to decolonize my body and mind by reclaiming my first language and culture. I’m blogging about my process at coloringout.blogspot.com.
LGA: You’re in Korea! Oh man, I’m jealous. Can you tell us a little about your adoption experience? Are you in reunion with your Korean family?
Seung Mi: In many ways, I have a typical adoption experience. I was adopted by a working class, White, married couple who aspired to the suburban, four-person family version of happiness. I was re-named Lori Jane, taught to speak English, and socialized to believe that I was White.
Luckily for me, I was a gay baby. Through interrogating my desires and reflecting on my internal sense of self, I was able to come out to myself as both Queer and Asian American. These days, I am simultaneously deconstructing and redefining my adoption experience by making home with chosen family, and finding community with other artists and activists seeking justice and liberation.
Since Fall 2011, I have been in reunion with my first family. At times, it feels impossible to navigate the language barrier, cultural differences, and the complicated family dynamics that led to my relinquishment. More than anything, I do feel privileged to learn their stories, to see myself in them, and to have the rest of my life to build a relationship with them. I am smitten with each of my siblings, thrilled by the emerging friendship with my father, and continue to deepen my love for my mother.
LGA: Wow, that’s awesome. Way to stick things out with your Korean family. What thoughts/experiences are you hoping to give voice to with your blog?
Seung Mi: First and foremost, I am giving voice to my own story, in my own words. I believe that White adoptive parents and professionals who are not targeted by the violence of international adoption have defined my experience for too long. Secondly, I am eager to position my lived experience with international adoption within the historical violence of forced assimilation at the intersection of White supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. In order to do this, I believe adoptees must also be recognized as orphans, who are survivors of systemic violence that targeted their first families, and continues to shape their internalized and perceived sense of self. Moreover, I am fighting back against all the messages that told me I was broken and pathological because I was adopted. Coloring Out is a defiant, “It’s not me, it’s you”. I hope that Coloring Out feels empowering to transnational adoptees resisting their constructed identities and imposed pathologies, and resonates with anyone else who is actively loving despite all the messages that tell them they are unworthy.
Seung Mi: I believe we are socialized to overlook racism and White privilege everywhere; adoption is no different. What makes adoption particularly vile, both as a reflection and reproduction of systemic racial violence, is that the agents of racism are positioned as heroes to orphan children. Adoption policies and practices that encourage the imposition of the adoptive parents’ culture and language contribute to the adoptive parents’ internalized domination, believing they are the best parents for their adopted child. Furthermore, information to our orphan stories is inaccessible and confusing. This is not only damaging to the adoptee, but renders the birth families invisible and susceptible to distortion by those in power. Therefore, the ways our first families have been targeted by White supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism has been made irrelevant to our adoption stories. White parents can interpret their adopted child as an entity who was fated to be with them, thinking of birth families as one point on the continuum to their adopted family’s love story. In my experience, I was eager to protect their White family from confronting racism because I understood that they loved me and were trying their best. Moreover, I was systematically made ignorant and believed that I did not experience real racism. I now recognize that confronting racism in my adoptive family is foundational to the sustainability of our multiracial family. I also believe that resisting racism is a powerful act of love. Therefore, out of love for my family, I continue to speak out against racism within the international adoption community.