As a Chinese adoptee I made this project in response to how I felt growing up in a place where my cultural and ethnic background was unfamiliar to most people. One look at me and most people see that I’m Asian, and with that comes all the racist stereotypes. But to the Asian community, since I wasn’t raised in an Asian household, I’m “not really Asian”, despite also facing the racist assumptions they also faced. Because of this I struggled with my identity a lot. I still continue to be unsure of where I stand in a country that is supposedly openly diverse. I always felt like I had to be completely American or completely Chinese, I couldn’t be both.
After recently meeting a group of adoptees who grew up with the same confusion and similar experiences as me, I realized that our stories are all too similar. It immediately became obvious that no one knew how we really felt growing up outside of the history and culture we were born in. Many of us felt alone not being able to express our thoughts and emotions due to the fear of being silenced with the remark that we all know too well: “You should be grateful for your opportunities.” We never said that we weren’t grateful. “Adopt-splaining” is a term that many of us know. And it’s because our community is rarely covered by the media, and when it is, our stories are seen as traumatic or we are seen as ungrateful for our opportunities.
It is true that many adoptees don’t grow up with the traditions of the country they were born, and that’s usually fine until someone says it’s not. With this project I am sharing how we all truly feel and our responses to growing up as adoptees.