Sunday, February 10, 2013

What Is the Starting Point?

I was thinking recently about the notion that adoption exists, that it simply is, and that we must deal with it. That we must find our home within it, as it is, or make pleas for small changes in the name of social justice, and be happy with glacial responses ("Hey! It's progress!). That if we're polite enough and use the subjunctive case with precision, "the powers that be" will grant us a seat at the table, and we can effect change. To be joyful with acknowledgments of small change; to accept everyone's opinion as "only their opinion" as though that isn't dividing and conquering in one fell swoop.

Well, adoption simply hasn't always existed the way it does today. To take adoption in 2013, and say that I must be polite to those suffering from Adopter Savior Syndrome as the starting point (offending them only scares them away!) is granting those in power the parameters of the discussion. I am angry. I don't want to be a house slave. I am well trained enough to be one, but I don't want to be one.

I work every day with people who are more disenfranchised than I am. Who live on the margins of society, and who are denigrated for being there, who are blamed for their "problems." No, American culture is far, far, far from equal for all. Even given the same education, some people are disadvantaged. They don't know that they're entitled to the same funding and concern as upper middle-class students of the dominant culture. I read an article in The Times in December, about three young women of color in Texas who did not manage to make the big step up in class, even given their considerable brains, because they lacked social and institutional supports. Another man I know is a professor at a local community college that used to provide services primarily to minority, low-income populations in the Bay Area. Many of these students lost their financial aid, however, because they didn't know how to ask for help with forms; because they had questions but didn't feel entitled to go to office hours, and so on. One particular student failed a required class called "Career Planning" and thus lost his grants: otherwise he had straight A's. First of all, who among us privileged people ever the hell had to take a class called "Career Planning" in college? What the hell is it, anyway? Why would that even be required for an A.A. degree? [Please don't answer that: it's a rhetorical question.] Second, if he'd felt entitled to more (which he didn't, sadly) he could have gone to the professor, or the dean to argue the decision. That's what all the people who went to college with me did when they were unhappy with anything; then again, their parents were paying $25,000+/year. Entitlement is taught as part of social privilege; it is an invisible cloak for those who have it, and it can be devastating to those who don't have it. Anyway, the local community colleges are now filled to the brim with middle-class white kids who are deferring entrance to four-year schools to save Mom and Dad money. Their parents pay the bills on time, they come to school reliably, etc. Who do you think has been squeezed out by this influx of middle-class kids? Yes! You're right! The very students whom the community college were supposed to be helping in the first place.

Then I was mulling over, again, this idea of the history of adoption, and of culture. I was reading a friend's blog and his thoughts on how the West projects onto Islam its worst fears. It scapegoats Muslims for what it fears most in itself, and within that unadmitted conceit, the notion of "saving" children is even more repugnant. His writing on adoption and the power of language here is particularly powerful, although he is always worth careful attention for his insights.

I suppose I am a socialist at heart, at the very least, maybe even a communist. I am coming out the closet. I do know that I am sick to death of totalitarian regimes, adoption included.

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