Heritage Camps for adopted Indian children

Just over a week ago SM commenter DesiDancer returned from a trip to Colorado and emailed me the following about a wonderful experience she had there:

I was invited to come teach dance classes at the East Indian Heritage Camp, last weekend. The organization, Colorado Heritage Camps, Inc. offers a series of ethnic camps (Latin American, Chinese, Korean, Desi, etc) every summer, for adopted children and their parents. They draw on members of the ethnic community to volunteer and help engage the families in culturally-minded activities during a 4-day camp, up in the mountains. In addition to fun stuff, there are also panel discussion with several different age groups, dealing with cultural identity, issues that may affect adoptees and their parents, and several child psychologists contribute to the curriculum. In addition to the dance classes I taught, I sat on a panel for jr. high aged kids, discussing reclamation of culture, biculturalism, and other issues…

Over the course of 4 days, several of the activities included Ayurvedic medicine, traditional dance, Bollywood dance, Rangoli drawing, traditional vegetable painting/block printing, games like Cricket and Gilli-Danda, yoga, cooking classes, music lessons, and lectures on Indian holidays, Indian weddings, travel to India, Indian history–with a weird specialty class in Freedom Fighters, and a book group. We ate desi food, and every night was a party with desi music. The closing night of camp, all the little kids (and big kids) performed dances from their classes, and the parents in my adult class performed a dance for the families, too. I’d spoken to one of the Directors of the camp about getting a DVD of “Calcutta Calling” to screen at the camp, one evening, but I think she is going to arrange it for next year instead. Though she said she watched the video stream at PBS…They loved the documentary.

Some of you may recall the “Calcutta Calling” documentary we blogged about some time ago. In it several adopted Indian children who grew up in white families came together for the first time and took a trip to India. According to DesiDancer these camps might help to fill in some of the missing pieces for these mixed families by bringing them together with similar families:

Nobody was looking at the kids or the parents strangely, nobody had to explain, “yes, she IS my daughter” or any of the usual weirdness or unkindness that these families may encounter in their daily life. And all of the families are there because they support their child’s biological heritage and culture, and they want to include as much of it as they can, in their families, even if the parents don’t quite know how to go about it. This camp is a start in the right direction.

Sounds like they are always on the lookout for volunteers as well:

Year after year, children tell us that their counselor was the MOST important part of camp for them! Many of their parents agree! Our counselors are enthusiastic young adults, some adoptees themselves, some not, who have the same ethnic background as the adopted children at each camp. They participate in all of the camp workshops and activities with the kids, but MOST importantly, serve as positive role models for the children and families who attend camp. [Link]

130 thoughts on “Heritage Camps for adopted Indian children

  1. my point is that quite often background assumptions start to slide in which imply that biology is somehow connected to culture.

    Very well put, razib! I totally feel you– and I think a lot of the thought behind the camp and its offerings is to stop the aforementioned assumptions before they become detrimentally implanted in our children. They can be whatever they want, and identify with whatever they want; identity is often fluid.

  2. gori wife, good question! At camp this year we had several families which included 1 or 2 desi parents. I think the camp is wonderful regardless of whether the children were adopted by desi parents or non-desi parents. The bonding and relationship building is the key, and that is available to all of the families at camp.

  3. Razib the atheist, I do enjoy reading your stuff. On this topic, in particular, we could use more of your wisdom. I am curious about your learned views on the assumed benefits of raising second generation Indians under the Indian cultural/religious umbrella. The exercise seems very effective with pre-teens, but the effects seem to wane as they advance in years.

  4. razib: “when fully explicated like that i have no issues at all. my point is that quite often background assumptions start to slide in which imply that biology is somehow connected to culture. e.g., black social workers declaring that adoption of black children by white parents is “cultural genocide.”

    You’re talking about a lot of issues at once here. It’s not just “black social workers” (i.e. the National Association of Black Social Workers) who declare that adoption of children of color by white parents is connected to racism. There are a lot of deeper issues at stake here. I have heard plenty of arguments from adoptees who say that their adoption had more connections to something along the lines of “cultural genocide” – or at least serious racism. Furthermore, adoption has actually been explicitly used as a paternalistic tactic to “re-educate” different colonized peoples.

    I can’t make a definitive statement on it – there’s arguments going in both directions, and I’m no expert. I’m asking you not to present it as a “slippery slope” issue – the other end of the “slippery slope” exists too, in a society that pretends that race has no meaning and the solution to racism is simplistic color-blind ideology. The positions put out by Black and Native American organizations regarding transracial adoption are not some rowdy manifestation of cultural nationalism; they have some bases in reality. That’s all I’m saying.

  5. The positions put out by Black and Native American organizations regarding transracial adoption are not some rowdy manifestation of cultural nationalism; they have some bases in reality.

    i will grant this. i don’t meant to imply equivalence between the two contexts.

    I am curious about your learned views on the assumed benefits of raising second generation Indians under the Indian cultural/religious umbrella.

    “benefits” are contingent upon norms.

    my worldview can be summed up on this assertion: individuals have rights, cultures do not.

  6. background assumption: i favor elmination of south asians as a distinct ethnicity in the united states through intermarriage. i think most of the principals on this weblog know this, but i thought i would put it on the table :) so now you know why my knee jerks the way it does.

  7. background assumption: i favor elmination of south asians as a distinct ethnicity in the united states through intermarriage.

    Why? because it’s gonna happen anyway?

  8. Why? because it’s gonna happen anyway?

    to some extent. also, a) regional south asian cultural traditions are in no great danger (there are many brown people) b) high SES south asians would be a could credit to the core ethnic group in the united states c) if they create their own ethnicity, their verbal skills and high SES could solidify an oppositional culture d) america is a good place to experiment and find the supreme nick-of-all-nicks.

  9. My point was more that here on SM, it seems like whenever someone brings up anything about Hinduism, they are immediately deemed to be pro-BJP hindutva maniacs. The same does not seem to hold true for people espousing a Christian or Muslim point of view.

    i tend to agree with this. though one caveat: xtian and muslim points of view also attract idiot-nutjob antagonists. the difference is that intelligent, coherent and thoughtful people do not apply the same critique to these religions, especially islam (there is plenty of mild anti-christian sentiment now and then, though generally toward evangelicals), that they would apply to hinduism. yet we can’t just blame the SM principals for this, they have their biases, and they aren’t superhuman. what needs to happen too is that the hindutva types need to produce fewer nutjobs.

  10. Culture has no links to biology per se; however, we all have a HERITAGE, which needless to say is INHERITED. If for example a Gujarati kid is adopted at birth by German parents, and raised in Munich his whole life, completey acculturated to Germany, with no Indian/Gujarati influence whatsoever, I would still maintain that Gujarati culture and language are that child’s inheritance and his birthright, to claim whenever and to whatever degree he wished. In fact, it’s his culture even if he never claims it and remains ignorant to it his whole life. By the same token, no matter how much I love Chinese culture, and learn all about it, immerse myself in it, learn to speak several Chinese dialects fluently, decide to move to Beijing, etc., Chinese culture can never be my heritage; at most it can become my adopted culture.

  11. pooja@ post 49

    Yeah, we chose Hindi too. I suppose something is lost, but learning two (or three) desi languages is a daunting prospect; there is utility in that hindi is widely spoken or understood (including in my wife’s Hyderabadi family) in the diaspora; and there is the availability of organized instruction. Though I will say my mom can speak nine languages, including Spanish and Arabic, so if my kid’s got any of that going on she’ll be in good shape.

  12. Gautham, I haven’t seen an instance on this thread where you were labeled a fundamentalist, even if people disagreed with you… have there been attacks like that in the past? (honestly, not being facetious) People often don’t thoroughly read a post or try to understand it before replying, so I’d take their responses with a huge grain of salt.

    My comment about the Hindu camp I went to previously was possibly an isolated instance, where the leaders were proactively making negative comments about other religions. That said, it made a big enough impression for me to want others to research camps in case their children are exposed to such bigotry. There is nothing wrong with Hindu camps, but there is something wrong with teachers at those camps teaching kids to be intolerant of other religions, regardless of whether Christian or Jewish camps do. I have gone to two other Hindu camps which were both great experiences, where conversation flowed freely and learning about Hinduism and its place in the world and for each individual was the topic of the day.

    As for the heritage camp concept, it’d even be sweet to have an experience for older generations… seems like there’s a lot of interest in it. Except it might turn out to be a playground where the facilitated intermixing will produce beautiful multicultural babies. Then these kids can go to camp. It’d be a self-sustaining cycle!

  13. Oh- my question was mostly because I’m new to SM, and haven’t gone through all the past posts to know what to expect if I join in on a discussion…

  14. o some extent. also, a) regional south asian cultural traditions are in no great danger (there are many brown people) b) high SES south asians would be a could credit to the core ethnic group in the united states c) if they create their own ethnicity, their verbal skills and high SES could solidify an oppositional culture d) america is a good place to experiment and find the supreme nick-of-all-nicks.

    What does SES stand for? I had a friend who thought this way too, he wanted to start his own religion, Ericism. His name was Eric

  15. I hardly think it would be considered to libelous to cite 2000 years of history and the documented oppression and marginalization of non-Abrahamic religions.

    Paging Dr Lam…

  16. Thanks Gautham for clarifying.

    On another note, my nieces are half Indian, half Mexican. They spend most of their time with their Mexican relatives, and have plenty of opportunity to embrace that part of their heritage. Their parents are not particularly religious, but they run around the house singing bhajans, we have family visits to the temple (including my brother in law), I sing Amazing Grace to them (the only song I have mastered ;) ), they understand when my sister speaks Marathi, and my older niece is about to start school in a bilingual charter school to help with her Spanish. I feel like they’re a great example for trying to incorporate their multicultural background. These kids would be in HEAVEN at a camp like this… Maybe in 15 years or so I’ll influence them into becoming counselors at this camp :)

  17. The regional languages are basically lost to the children–don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Would love to hear other anecdotal evidence.

    Pooja this is something very personal in my house. My parents are Maharashtrian and I was older when I moved here so had a lot of exposure to the language enough to retain it 100%. My stepmom is Kutchi and neither my father nor she speak eachother’s language so they speak English and an occassional Hindi thrown in. My brother who moved here barely out of kindergarten has not retained Marathi as a result of the lack of the language in the house and sometimes I can’t help but feel like it’s severe disservice to him because he doesn’t connect with the older side of either family in a social setting because of language issues. With no Marathi family around he totally missed out on retaining the language and will not be passing it onto his kids.

  18. She promptly joined the South Asian social scene, started studying Hinduism and Buddhism, and recently became engaged to another south asian man. She confessed to me during college that despite the fact she loved her adopted parents immensely and was eternally grateful towards them, she regretted the fact she still knew nearly nothing about her Bangladeshi heritage.

    i find this comment interesting. if she was adopted from bangladesh chances are that her “heritage” was muslim, so why is she studying hinduism and buddhism? a broad minded secular bangladeshi would assert that buddhism & hinduism are part of our heritage (these religions are well represented in museums that the urban middle class patronize), but i can tell you from personal experience that this is not the view of most bangladeshi muslims (hinduism in particular is associated with idolatry). more power to your friend for expressing an interesting buddhism and hinduism, but i think it is relevant in pointing out that there is no 1:1 correspondence between biology and “heritage.” society views her as the Other, not “Other muslim.”

    there is a fine line in where you draw the boundary between what you allow society to dictate to you as a matter of realism and what you will demand from society as your birthright, so to speak, as an autonomous individual. i suspect most people are are communitarian by nature, and blood and ancestry has an instinctive and powerful draw. but, our society is built around an ideal of autonomous individuals guided by the light of reason and individual volition.

  19. I agree that my direct tone probably makes people interpret me as more hostile than I actually am.

    Actually, I bet people dislike you for your intelligence, insight and manliness, in a world were these things are rare virtues. It’s envy, pure and simple, “the green eyed monster that doth mock the meat if feeds on.”

  20. Oh boy, something tells me I’m about to get banned again for breaking up the secular party.

    Oooooooh, what a dig! It hurt.

    You obviously haven’t been banned…yet. And if you’re here, then you were probably unbanned, once you stopped being obnoxious. If we did ask you to leave, it wouldn’t be because you “broke” anything secular up– we only ban when it’s deserved, despite what some maintain.

  21. In reality, I enjoy the site immensely, but only comment on things I disagree with.

    -chuckle- Dear Gautham, Please pardon this graybeard’s little off-topic ramble. An essential part of societal interaction is to trade on people’s goodwill and to build a network that does not rend with the odd mis-step. Politeness, the odd compliment, a word of encouragement etc are all capital to be traded, so one can offer contrarian points of view without jeopardizing a relationship. When a person jumps in to a conversation without laying the groundwork for the interactions, he/she risks getting a rather frozen shoulder. So, i would strongly recommend that if you like something or someone, let them know. We are all friends here :-) .

    Of course , there is an alternative. you could be a mensch and ascribe to kierkegaard’s philosophy on living solo …

    For more proof, just look at Kobayashi’s response to my comments. He immediately summons Spoorlam, who’s expressed purpose is to mock anyone that is hindu and proud.

    … but you re-eally got to have a little thicker skin than that young buddy.

    Good luck, and let the games begin.

    V

  22. there are ways to disagree respectfully on any given site without triggering bells-in-the-head that you are a troll. i think the site would be enlivened by more diversity of opinion, so long as it comes across as sincere and respetful. unfortunately there are “false positive” issues that crop up when admins have finite time to ascertain the quality and intent of a comment. i suppose i tend to speak up when i disagree with the content more than not. when someone posts on the site as if all brownz must have the same opinion on issue X, and i disagree, i pipe up, because there is a need to stand and be counted.

  23. btw, i suspect my perception that i’m the local contrarian is supported by how many times i’ve seen, “i disagree with razib most of the time, but this time….”

  24. my perception that i’m the local contrarian

    razib, being needy (oh yes you are) doesn’t make you a contrarian…

  25. If these camps are indeed for children of South Asian descent (i.e. first or second gen desis) who want to learn more about their history and cultural heritage, I can understand why they’d be useful or interesting. But I must confess I don’t particularly understand why parents of different ethnic backgrounds who adopt desi kids feel the need to give them a crash course in desi culture and history. Perhaps it would be useful to talk to the kids about why they look different from their parents, and where they came from and so on, but I agree with Razib that there’s nothing biological that would incline these kids towards, say, bharatnatyam. I suspect this has more to do with contemporary American multiculturalism that sees cultural identity and rootedness as necessary to making a “whole” individual. Perhaps the kids will be asked about their “background” when they go to college and it will be something that helps them carve out a niche for themselves, or pick a “tribe.” But these desi camps remind me of an old Irish joke about Paddy and his wife studying Vietnamese so they’d know what their adopted baby was saying when it grew up.

    For those who are familiar with these camps or with desi kids adopted by Americans of different ethnicities, why do you think they are a good idea?

  26. razib: “a) regional south asian cultural traditions are in no great danger (there are many brown people) b) high SES south asians would be a could credit to the core ethnic group in the united states c) if they create their own ethnicity, their verbal skills and high SES could solidify an oppositional culture d) america is a good place to experiment and find the supreme nick-of-all-nicks….”

    The size of a population has nothing to do with whether or not cultures are in danger. Various forms of oppression can colonize/eliminate/damage culture, not just depopulation.

    Your statements about socioeconomic status (SES) need more explanation (I may have missed it if you already did, hard to follow every single post). With regards to high SES being a “credit to the core ethnic group” – you’re saying that rich desis would add to the power of whites in the United States if we disappeared into their midst? I think that’s almost a white supremacist statement, lol. Please explain it more.

    As far as “solidifying an oppositional culture”, again, I don’t understand. It sounds like you’re trying to decrease the amount of opposition to the “core ethnic group”, which really doesn’t make much sense to me. Seems like a healthy society should have some level of challenge to the dominant group, whoever that may be.

    I can’t even address the “nick-of-all-nicks” remark because it’s kind of weak. I believe there is often more genetic variation within racial groups than there is between them. Seems like desis could produce a n-o-a-n on their own. Of course, that’s assuming you want to create a Master Race or a Superman.

    and

    our society is built around an ideal of autonomous individuals guided by the light of reason and individual volition.

    That’s a massive, massive assumption you’re making. Euro-American societies may claim to be built around that ideal, but they’ve been clearly “communitarian” (in a profoundly racist manner) for quite some time, at least since the advent of the conquest and depopulation of the Americas, the enslavement of Africans, and the colonization of Asia. So whatever the professed ideal is, the material reality was and remains quite different. Communal divisions are unfortunately a reality of the power structure. In America these divisions are sharply made around racial lines. Racial lines will not be deleted with colorblind ideology or systematic depopulation (self-induced or otherwise). The disappearance of Native Americans is a prime example of that (not that I consider desis and indigenous people to be in the same boat, but the analogy helps, I think).

    Humans are not a species based on purely individual units. Our very evolution has depended on the development and maintenance of social structures, communities, tribes, and groups. These lines can be oppressive but they can also be empowering. Destroying them and denying them negates a basic part of our human heritage. Becoming more “human” shouldn’t mean denying our humanity.

  27. SP

    Glad to see someone bring the focus back to the international adoption and heritage camps. I was hoping to hear what the 2nd genners on SM had to say about this topic. (Rhetorical question: Why does each and every subject have to become a me, me, me rant on religion?)

    I have done lots of reading on this subject since my husband (a gora) and I (Sikh from India) have a daughter who was adopted from India 5.5 years ago. The US has a very long history of international adoption going back about 50 years and there a large body of research, memoirs, studies, books, magazines, etc.

    Most adult international adoptees writings that I have read so far say the following: * I wish my parents had acknowledged and normalized that different I looked from them and didn’t pretend I was a white kid growing up in an all-white environment in the Midwest. * I wish my parents had openly talked about the fact I was adopted and celebrated the fact until I said I didn’t want to anymore. * I wish my parents had acknowledged that I came from another culture and country and had exposed me to that culture and country in whatever manner they could.

    Obviously, those adoptees who did not care above the above issues for the most part do not write about their experiences.

    There are stories of adult South Asian adoptees who NEVER saw a brown face older than themselves until they were well into their 30s. And, they have said that it was a source of distress, disorientation, and sadness for them.

    There is nothing PC about wanting your child to know where she or he came from, there is nothing PC about wanting your child to know that you are happy to celebrate her or his culture out of huge and bottomless love for the child. After all without this child, I would not be a mother.

    Sonya

  28. Setting aside for a question the human effects of helping someone who feels isolated or disconnected on multiple fronts (I’d be interested in hearing how cross cultural adoptation compares with presumably same-culture adoptation–or perceivably so–like an American White family adopting an Eastern European baby and raising it as White), on this biology and culture thing:

    society views her as the Other, not “Other muslim.”
    The fact is that even if the child walks and talks “american”, reads Harry Potter and woofs down burger king while watching Friends reruns and singing the Star Spangled Banner, they are perceived by the outside world as still being brown, whether the child feels 100% American or not. I think the camp serves to address some of the mixed feelings and questions surrounding identity, as the children become more aware and/or participatory in the world outside of their family homes.

    i haven’t experienced this personally, but I think on the basis of what I’ve seen, what would happen is that the perceived biological distinction (in this case, probably race) would result in different cultural perceptions (in this case Brown) and that would lead to a back and forth between the person and the outside society over the course of their childhood/adolescenece/perhaps life where the person has to navigate a racial identity that outside society has asked them to hold and then the person’s own needs.

    So, on a very, very surface level, there’s a biological element to this (whatever produces the different features), but ultimately, for me, it seems like it boils down to how the person fits in or does not fit in to the social classification scheme of the society (in the U.S.,primarily race), which is profoundly cultural and 99.9% not biological at all. I think both the statement that Desi Dancer made above (the second blockquote) and that Razib made above about why Bangladeshi children are brought into a basically Indo-centric South Asian cultural space are both relavent in this context. If anything, this has more to do with a child’s relationship with “American” than it does with India, Bangladesh, or anything else, because, if you were raised in the U.S., “America” (and your local environs) are what accultured you (okay, probably the wrong use of the word accultred, but you get what i mean).

    -s

  29. With regards to high SES being a “credit to the core ethnic group” – you’re saying that rich desis would add to the power of whites in the United States if we disappeared into their midst? I think that’s almost a white supremacist statement, lol. Please explain it more.

    the race is irrelevant. the ideology is. i admire and emulate the “way of the WASP” in its most liberal incarnations.

    . Seems like a healthy society should have some level of challenge to the dominant group, whoever that may be.

    only within parameters of shared values.

    I can’t even address the “nick-of-all-nicks” remark because it’s kind of weak. I believe there is often more genetic variation within racial groups than there is between them.

    1) it isn’t weak. 2) you are wrong on number #2 really. see here. or, see the appropriate chapter re: awf edwards in dawkins’ most recent book, ancestor’s tale.

    Of course, that’s assuming you want to create a Master Race or a Superman.

    no a master race, but yes, i believe that maximizing admixture might just lead to supercharged genetic combinations. i believe it has in the past (there is current work which will be published that will clarify what i’m saying for those genetically & anthropologically inclined).

    Communal divisions are unfortunately a reality of the power structure.

    it isn’t either|or. iceland is genetically 40% celtic and 60% norwegian. but culturally it is old norse.

  30. Sonya,

    Exactly, these are the same things my friend tells me (Comment #. 45).

    NYTimes years ago did an article on similar theme, your knowledge is orders of magnitdue is more.

    Thank you for bringing kindness and love to someone – your daughter.

  31. Abhi

    Re Calcutta Calling…I have to tell you that it is a very distressing documentary to watch in some ways. It is available on online on the filmmaker’s website and on PBS (http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2006/01/india_calcutta.html).

    The attitude of the Indian guide in Calcutta was terrible. She told the three girls who were adopted from Calcutta that the women who give birth to babies who are then placed in orphanages are like animals. They just give birth on the streets like animals and don’t care for the babies. Which is total bullshit, imo.

    We had a long discussion on this in our online adoption group and some of tried to contact the filmmaker but didn’t hear back from her.

    Sonya

  32. Kush

    Thank you for bringing kindness and love to someone – your daughter

    My husband and I adopted not out of nobility or wanting to do charity or any such nonsense. We adopted because we wanted to be parents and did not care about a genetic link to our child.

    I know you mean well by your comment but if you ever met my daughter you would realize how lucky we are to be her parents. She is so smart, intelligent, beautiful, and so special that I can pretty much say without ANY bias that she is the most fantastic kid in the world. (Also, it is for her to decide if we are worthwhile parents.)

    Sonya

  33. We adopted our 14-year old daughter from Kolkata when she was six months old. She has been to India enough times to see what being born on the streets is like. We tell her that her biological mother put her up for adoption because she wanted a better life for her baby than she could possibly have provided. I don’t think that is far from the truth.

  34. The attitude of the Indian guide in Calcutta was terrible. She told the three girls who were adopted from Calcutta that the women who give birth to babies who are then placed in orphanages are like animals. They just give birth on the streets like animals and don’t care for the babies. Which is total bullshit, imo.

    this issue was discussed & deplored here when the documentary was brought up.

  35. We adopted our 14-year old daughter from Kolkata when she was six months old. She has been to India enough times to see what being born on the streets is like. We tell her that her biological mother put her up for adoption because she wanted a better life for her baby than she could possibly have provided. I don’t think that is far from the truth.

    This makes me want to cry. Thanks for sharing, Floridian.

  36. Sonya, just saw your comment regarding nobility. Same here. But we do have friends who adopted for the cause. One white couple we are close to have three biological children of their own. Yet, they adopted two African American kids, both with certain birth defects because their biological mother was a cocaine addict. We think this couple should be nominated for sainthood.

  37. Floridian

    Here is the interesting dichotomy I see between Western families and the desi community.

    The default and automatic assumption in the desi community is the reason one is adopting is because of a) noble aspirations or b) want to do charity (this in particular makes me gag) or c) problems with getting pregnant. And, of course this then makes the adopted child an object of purient curiosity and pity from the desi community and allows them to ask rude, obnoxious, and annoying questions right in front of your child.

    The defaut and automatic assumption in the mainstream is that you have so much love and dearly want to parent even more children that you have that you will adopt any child needing a home. And, there is no hint of charity…the key is sharing, loving, parenting.

    Sonya

  38. Apologies for the typos and missed words.

    As you can tell, I’m a tiny bit emotional about this subject.

    Sonya

  39. Thanks for your thoughts, Sonya. I used to babysit for a (white) American woman who had two adorable adopted kids from India, and she explicitly wanted an Indian babysitter to help the kids learn about their heritage, took them to sitar concerts, etc. and I was always a bit surprised that she thought it so important. It’s helpful to hear the perspective of the kids and of adoptive parents.

  40. And, of course this then makes the adopted child an object of purient curiosity and pity from the desi community and allows them to ask rude, obnoxious, and annoying questions right in front of your child.

    if i may ask, were the people asking questions american born or not? i ask because my own personal experience is that there are assertions and questions mooted in front of children by brown people that just seem rude to me, but seem quite acceptable in the brown cultural context. in other words, there are different cultural boundaries and what not at work quite often.

    best razib

  41. Razib

    I don’t meet a lot of 2nd gen desis…these are comments made by 1st gen desis here and in India. Yes, the desi culture is pretty intrusive but adoption seems to bring a whole new low to our community. Don’t get me wrong. I have heard horror stories in the mainstream too but nothing to match the desi stuff.

    From what I have compiled from my own and the experiences of our group of 65 families here in the bay area, here are the topics one can feel free to comment on especially if the child is standing right there: * Do you know anything about her parents? (Duh, I’m standing right in front of you.) No, no, not you…her real parents? (What am I? Chopped liver?) * Was her mother a prostitute? (WTF) * She could be pretty, such a pity she’s so dark. (Obviously, you haven’t seen yourself in the mirror in a while huh?) * Her nose is so squished, she’s going to be so short, dark, etc. etc. (see above) * Now you will get pregnant since the pressure is off your uterus and you will have your own. (God, I hope not since we are done with 1 kid.) * Do you feel the same love if she was your own. (WTF) * Can you bring your child to my house so I can see an adopted child. (No. My child is not an exhibit.) * Did she cost you a lot of money? (About as much as a pregnancy.) * What if she wants to find her real parents when she grows. (I will help her to the best of my ability.) * I hope she is properly grateful that you have adopted her. (Nonsense.) * You mean she’s going to inherit all your money? (Yes.)

    I think you get the picture. The ( ) are my some of the responses I have given and some I wished I had. Of course, I’m a lot wittier and biting when the moment is long gone. But, I keep practicing and hope to say WTF very soon in response to any idiotic question on adoption.

    Sonya

  42. Sonya: Given the relative uniformity of the desi diaspora, you and I probably move in very similar circles. But my experience has been surprisingly quite different. I can’t say we have been subjected to any objectionable remarks or questions. Yes, I can recall a couple of accolades on our civic mindedness, but they were well-intentioned.

    I must share with you a pre-adoption experience. I was having a difficult time accepting the idea because I am a “pukka” first generation Indian. Indians do not adopt, or so I believed. My wife, on the other hand, is a little more westernized because of her Trinidadian heritage. She wanted to. I refused to. There was a complete breakdown in our negotiations. One Thanksgiving, we were visiting her sister, and after the big dinner, we were sipping the good stuff and just talking. Her sister’s husband, a white guy who is quite an Indophile, made one remark that completely changed my mind. He said, “Why is it so easy in your culture to arrange a marriage but not parenthood?” I concur. Nothing against arranged marriages – my parents did it – but arranging to become someone’s husband is probably more alien a thought to me than arranging to become somebody’s father.

    After gaining that piece of wisdom from my white brother-in-law, I have successfully converted two other relatives in India into the joys of adopted parenthood. Some days I curse my white brother-in-law for talking me into this thing, but most days I am thankful.

  43. Re my comments in #102…

    These are the collective experiences of 65 plus families so I haven’t experienced every single thing I listed but someone in our group has.

    I have to say that as time as passed, we have been naturally drawn to and have made very close friendships with other families with adoptive children and the result is that I hear less and less negative comments.

    Also, our adoption group is exceptionally strong…we meet once a month as a group and some of us also meet other families socially and the result is that our children are experiencing being adopted to be a very normal experience. We do have a mix of bio and adopted kids but obviously the percentage of adopted kids is very large and this creates funny situations where our kids think that all kids are adopted or in one instance, the older bio sibling had major issues with the fact that he was not adopted like his sister.

    My daughter upto the age of 4 thought that all kids were adopted. One of her closest adopted friend was under the impression that there is one woman in India giving birth to all the babies who are adopted. My daughter’s best friend (who is not adopted) has firmly decided that since she doesn’t want babies busting out of her tummy, she will be adopting her two children.

    Sonya

  44. Indians do not adopt, or so I believed

    You might be right, no contest. Some examples though:

    However, I do have a childhood friend (originally from India) in US who has adopted a son (from India) and also has a daughter by birth. His wife is white.

    My cousin in India has adopted a son. There is a lot of unofficial adoptions in India through extended families. I know many, many cases.

    I think one of my cousin sister-in-law has an adopted sister through offical channels (not extended family).

  45. in east asia until recently adoptions were not common because of the importance of a blood patrilineage in performing ancestral rites. adoptees would not be within the lineage and so they would not suffice to perform these rites. i think the situation has changed a lot in recent years.

  46. Indians do not adopt, or so I believed

    I have more examples of family and freinds proving the above incorrect that the comment space will get overwhelmed.