Many adoptees who have returned to their places of birth can identify I think with the reality of countries such as Lebanon, which boasts 7,000+ “non-governmental organizations”, which is one NGO for every 500 people who find themselves within this country’s current borders. We often joke here that the millions of dollars that these NGOs receive should just be divvied up equally among us, to spare us the political and (often) religious baggage that comes with such aid.
Jean Bricmont refers to this as one aspect of Humanitarian Imperialism [ link ], in which the former tools of imperialism, namely armies and colonies, are replaced by more insidious methods tied to economics and culture. In Noam Chomsky’s discussion of the subject, [ link ] we come across this interesting quote concerning Haiti, a country endlessly targeted and undone, perpetually deemed in need of “saving”:
In brief, Haiti falls into the familiar pattern, a particularly disgraceful illustration in light of the way that Haitians have been tortured, first by France and then by the United States, in part in punishment for having dared to be the first free country of free men in the hemisphere.
The reference made is to the slave rebellion of 1791, the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world. The focus on Haiti in terms of its so-called orphans during the recent earthquake brings me to a quote from the book entitled Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, by Dorothy Roberts [ link ], in which the foster care system is seen as unfairly targeting Black families for destruction, along lines that are not unfamiliar to us, in terms of the past history of adoption as used to target indigenous communities.
We come across this quote, in the section of the book entitled “A Theory of Group-Based Harm”:
Just as whites have made family disruption a tool of racial oppression, so Blacks have made family solidarity a tool of resistance. For slaves, the family was a site of solace from white oppression.
In this light, efforts to preserve family and to keep families intact is seen as a means of economic and political resistance against forces which understand very well the successful destruction that such familial breakup means for a society.
Cue the recent Russian ban on American adoption. I am intrigued by the mediation of this ban, for reasons that get back to what I’ve mentioned so far. First, the typical claim that we are “dumped” by an uncaring society is directly challenged when a country steps in and claims to act on behalf of such children. That this is not supported in foreign media is telling. Second, the rather unique case of Russian adoptees in terms of perceived race matching is interesting, if only because this is not much discussed in adoption mediation (I’ll tackle this in another post). Third, the strongest voices condemning the Russian action come from the European Union, especially France, which has seemingly equated adoption with a “universal human right”, as witnessed by Roelie Post’s documentation of the Romanian debacle [ link ], speaking of former Soviet republics targeted for their children.
Question: What hope for any kind of reform of adoption, when the supposedly progressive political voices see adoption as a given, and a human right at that? Given the bourgeois/cosmopolitan aspect of adopters (as well as the political left), and the often nether-class/rural origin of adoptees, how can there be no discussion of class difference in terms of the power differential inherent to adoption? Finally, how might it be possible, within our places of origin, to bring focus back to the local, the family, the community, as targeted by such “humanitarian imperialism”?