Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Here come the weird, uncomfortable ethnic comments

I already get quite a few stories about how this lady's nephew adopted two darling little Chinese girls and that guy's sister adopted a son from Korea (oh but he's 35 now). Those are okay. It pleases me that people feel comfortable blurting out these adoption experiences to me, a complete stranger. It gives me a sense of how very, very common adoption is in our society. We tend to assume it's not very common at all, that our families will stand out, but I get a stranger coming up to me to talk about their family's adopted member(s) at least once a week. Sometimes more.

I think for now it's important to be friendly and open. These people aren't trying to intrude on my privacy. They're making a connection with me, and they want me to know about that connection. That's cool.

Sometimes it's not so cool. Today a man came up to me and, in the course of conversation, decided he wanted to discuss China's occupation of Tibet. Now he's sorry. And I gave him the light, humorous version of my well-read understanding of history and current events.

Just because I'm female doesn't mean I don't read history! I could have overwhelmed him with a thoroughly informative lecture, but I didn't. Mother Bear has a sense of mercy.

(For the record, I brought up Hawaii as a comparison. It was a random choice. The US has been guilty of a large number of genocidal atrocities. That doesn't mean I condone the occupation of Tibet; it means I refuse to be a hypocrite and praise our own culture while condemning China's, which was what this guy was doing. I love American culture. I love China's culture. Both nations have done horrible things to other peoples.)

(Fortunately, Maoism didn't enter the conversation. That would've been a whole new can of wyrms.)

(Ultimately, my point is that my kid can almost understand functional English, so if you're going to give him an impromptu political history lesson, make sure it passes his mama's standards for fairness and accuracy.)

The other encounter was with a woman who wanted to tell me all about her daughter adopted from Korea. The daughter had been severely underweight and badly treated at the orphanage and the doctors thought she would suffer lifelong problems. However, she beat the odds enough to be living independently now and hold a job.

That one wasn't annoying. It was poignant and touching. It was just a little awkward. If AwesomeCloud had understood every word, he might have found the implications unpleasant to think about.

Someday he will understand. He already understands more than he lets on. Just because he says, "Da?" whenever he wants something does not mean he completely lacks language.

Next year, he'll be asking me unexpected questions to me out of the blue, questions that may be inspired by ideas he gets this year.

If people are still doing it next year, I'm going to start saying something.


  1. Oh, I am SO glad you brought up Hawaii... having attending junior high and high school there, I am very familiar with all that the United States did to the Hawaiian nation. Horrific.

    And yes, nowadays I turn to the Tongginator and ask her, "do you want to talk about this topic?" She almost always says no... and it teaches The Idiot to think before speaking.

  2. Good idea.

    And thanks for vindicating me! Not that I wasn't sure what I was talking about, because I was. But it's still good to have someone back me up on my POV.

  3. What a great idea from TM. Ask her "Do you want to talk about this topic?" If she says no then just wheel away. Love that option. I'm tucking it in my back pocket for future reference. ;-) I wish I had thought of that when the woman in TJ Maxx cornered me in the back of the store. I practically had to push her buggy out of the way to get past her. That was after she asked me about my infertility problems and how much she cost AND WHY I would want to adopt someone from "OVER THERE". YEEKS! I think we should print cards that say stupid comments do not deserve a response. Mind your own beeswax. :-)