Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Only" American

One of the many facets of adoption I have spent time thinking about is the name given to international adoptees. This 4th of July gave cause for me to think and re-think my position on this subject.

Korean-American, Thai-American, Chinese-American.......

Our first 2 munchkins were born in S. Korea and were placed in our arms at 4.5 and 5 months. Our children have tan skin, almond shaped eyes and jet black hair. They are Americans. They have been raised Americans, even though we incorporate their Korean culture into our lives. We live in America. I have not understood the need for one to say Korean-American, etc... We are all American citizens, regardless of our nationality, and I have felt it is something that actually works to divide us as a people. We have chosen to live in the United States of America as Americans. It simply feels like a division, showing and creating a difference where it doesn't seem necessary to have one.

I mean, our children are Asian. Papa and I are not. Papa has black hair and olive colored skin but me? Not so much. In fact, I am a glow-in-the-dark kind of white gal! It is fairly evident upon seeing us as a family we are multiracial. Yet why must there be that separation? They are OUR children, our sons and daughter. They simply could not be more ours had they come from my womb. We became family and each of them an American citizen when a judge declared it so. (Really it was before that but you know what I mean!)

I do not mean this to say it is not important they were born in S. Korea. I do not have any desire to deny their start in life. We discuss their birth country, birth family, customs and traditions of S. Korea. Our munchkins celebrate all 5 of our nationalities with art like this:

(For your reference, 2 S. Korea flags, 1 Thailand, 1 German and 1 Poland flag)

I end up feeling like we are being asked to separate our children from us by stating the rather obvious Asian-American or Korean-American. There are so many moments and times we have to differentiate our relationship to our children because they are adopted. I don't feel it necessary to add to it.

It is Jet's situation that made me start thinking about this conundrum.

He lived a Thai life for a little over 8 years. 8 years. He experienced the culture, food, Buddhism, traditions.....He speaks, reads and writes Thai. He has piles of pictures from his first 8 years in Thailand. His friends and caretakers were all Thai. All of them "like" him.

By saying he is an American instead of Thai-American does that "remove" the Thai life from him. Would we be saying his first 8 years living in Thailand weren't important? Yet he is OUR son. He will become an American citizen in just a few short months. Could we be saying to him "you aren't a full American" by including the Thai?

As a parent, we want to do the best for our children. Adoption adds an extra element of circumstances where you feel the need to proceed with caution. Each child is different in the way they will connect with their birth country and what it means for them.

It feels like we live in a world where everyone struggles to be "better", noticed, more important than the next person. That can only cause division and conflict.

It seems to me like it should be really pretty simple. We are Americans living together in the United States of America.

One nation. Under God.

We are all blessed to live in a country where we are free to live our life, incorporating our nationalities, beliefs, customs and traditions. God bless the U.S.A.!!

Some may agree and some may disagree with my views. Please respect that and be kind in the comments. I do appreciate good healthy discussions that makes one think.


Angie said...

I couldn't agree more! You are NOT denying their past culture. They are Americans, with Korean or Thai heritage. We pick up our son from Thailand on July 27th. He is stateless, so even more of a reason to say he's American when the time comes. We should feel blessed to call ourselves American!

Kam said...

Amen and amen! You said it way more beautifully than I ever could have!
Love you and that sweet heart of yours~

Ann and Bryan said...

Very interesting and I totally agree. I was just having this conversation with my aunt over the holiday (she was adopted by my grandparents from the Philippines when she was 8). We are all Americans and we should not have to be hyphenated. After all, America was founded by mostly non-Native Americans. We are one big, delicious, multi-colored melting pot.