The anniversary of my return to Greater Syria in 2004 marks 15 years I’ve been focused on adoption in an activist manner. I’ve watched the trends and hashtags, sensed the forward movement, believed in our progress. I no longer do. Like much adoption activism that serves as a historical precedent, there is always and ever a greater pushback if not backlash. Based on other areas of my own activism, I understand what the “long game” entails, and I am beholden to the Arabic notion of “ṣabr”: what might translate as “patience in the face of adversity”. Nonetheless, there are times when I am just crushed by adoption and by modern-day adopters, in their adaptation to any challenge to their belief systems.
To explain a bit better: We are, I believe, currently witnessing the adoption equivalent of the resurgent and unapologetic racism and classism found elsewhere in society as white supremacy and fascism “unstructure” themselves and present fully within dominant discourses. By this I mean to say that there are adopters who present themselves as “perfected caregivers”, despite issues of race or class. There are adopters who no longer hide their loathing of the children temporarily in their care. They no longer feign guarding their privacy, or pretend that they are acting beneficently or charitably. They no longer are attempting to uphold their expected performance.
This perhaps began with rehoming, though there was still a veil of “in the interest of the child” involved. Of late, looking through the blogs, tweets, and discussions of adopters (especially in the U.K.) reveals a quite disturbing trend that I can only describe as open warfare—one that the adoptive act, in and of itself, presaged and premised. I’m saying here that the extirpation many of us have been trying to point out and which was formerly denied in terms of the mythology of adoption is now being actively championed and celebrated. Society, pulling back from its own mythologies of “for all”, now allows for our active marginalization as “unfit”. And adopters are rising to this challenge: to openly perform what society has asked them to do.
On Twitter this is showing up in discussions of pathologized behaviors, projected eating disorders, controlling and passive-aggressive missives in the third person, etc. There is an equivalent “fronting” in which adopters groom adoptees by interviewing them, seeking out their opinion, especially if it is in any way pro-adoption. My concern here is what this is masking on the home front. My worry is for those children temporarily in their care, and what they might be experiencing and living in real life, as opposed to the virtual realm that their adopters present to the world. Joan Crawford has nothing on these public relations maneuvers devoted to narcissism and Saviorism. If my own adoptive parents had mediated my life in this way, I would have never forgiven them.
I do not think appealing to the law, or the social services that prop up adoption is an answer. We know the industry, we understand how it works. I do think it might be possible to take action from the playbook of decolonization efforts and point out for ourselves these acts. By this I mean to say I feel we could lift up the rock of what is going on and reveal our awareness of it by calling out both adopters and those who support them. My suggestion is to use a hashtag on Twitter such as #Adoption911, and the @account_handles of government agencies, social services, as well as adopters when replying online to such activity. We would be holding such actions to account via public awareness. We would be telling them that their own actions reveal adoption for what we know it to be. And thus “decolonizing”, in the sense of pointing out the willful structural nature of suffering and abuse.
Adoptees, I’m curious for feedback on how this might work, and whether you see this as useful in any way. I’m done with “flipping scripts”. I’m over seeking “representation”. I refuse to be an agent of my own destruction. I resist, in the sense that existence is resistance. Because it breaks my heart thinking about what young people might be going through out there, in this so-called “aware” and “woke” stage of adoption practice.