ARP Link: Embrace of adoptee’s “home” culture can have costs

In “Another country, not my own,” a recent article in The Boston Globe, Mei-Ling Hopgood explains the challenges that can occur when adoptive parents cling too tightly to the culture of a child’s country of origin.

The woman, I know, was just trying to be loving. She was a bubbly Midwestern mom who had adopted two Korean daughters and went to great lengths to “keep” her daughters’ culture. Her girls took language lessons, and the family celebrated Lunar New Year – they never missed it. To help sensitize her daughters’ white classmates, each year this woman went into her daughters’ school and did a presentation on Korea, pointing out the country on a map, explaining its traditions, and showing the children a real hanbok, a traditional Korean dress.

She told me this, and I nodded and smiled, trying to listen politely to her story. But something about what she was doing made me uncomfortable, despite her good intentions. Like her daughters, I’m an adoptee born in Asia; I was born in Taiwan and raised by a white family in Michigan. I thought to myself: Korean-Americans do not walk around in hanboks all day, and this child had never really done that either – unless her mother made her.

When I was her daughter’s age, I wanted desperately to avoid the kind of identity that she was trying to give her child. I averted my gaze if an Asian-looking stranger threatened to look me in the eye. I didn’t want people to think I was one of them, because really, I wasn’t: I couldn’t speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or any other Chinese dialect, and didn’t do “Chinese” things in my home. My parents weren’t even Asian. I was trying so hard to show that I was just as American as anyone else. If my own mother had done something like that woman did, I would’ve hidden beneath my desk. Read more…

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek,, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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