One of the interesting things about being a transracial, transnational adoptee is the split view of race this curious intersection provides. Being the adoptee, I would recommend against transracial, transnation adoption unless the adopting family is aware of and committed to anti-racist and anti-colonialist philosophies. I believe that my parents did the best they could, but even at their best they were often unprepared for the challenges I faced. Because they were unprepared, I was unprepared, and the things that they took for granted were torturous for me in ways that were invisible to them.
My mom is casually dismissive of racism, a trait that only manifested after she retired to Nevada. She refuses to see race, and when I bring it up, she tells me that she doesn’t think it’s so—that I would not be treated any differently if I were a white man. When I tell her about my experiences, she cries and says she just never thinks about things like racism because she doesn’t see how anyone can be racist. But I do. I see it, and I feel. More to the point, I see it and feel it in her flat denials and vigilant policing. If C, my partner, talks to her about how our legal system has been historically used to criminialize the behavior/presence of non-white peoples, she will say, “I don’t think that’s true.” This effectively ends the conversation because if he persists with evidence, say, citing laws, she will just continue with her blanket denial until he tires. She doesn’t often explain why she believes the things he says are untrue, but it doesn’t really matter because she doesn’t seem to actually engage. She’s also quick to tell me I ought not to let my cisgender, male partner do all the housework even though at this moment I am out of the house 9-10 hours a day five days a week at a job that provides for us both. When our roles were reversed and I would complain to her that I was stuck with all the housework, she told me that C was tired and if I wanted the housework done I might just have to do it myself.
The painful part of being my mother’s daughter is that I do love her. I love her when she negates my experiences. I love her when she dismisses my partner. I love her when she structures who I can be around her through her denial and tears. I know that she’s going through something heavy, and I know it’s scary and lonely. I also know that no one can accompany her through this grief—that even though her church and her community are promising that they can be there and help guide her, her grief is her own. I also know that her privilege allows her the illusion of opting out. Her insistence on constant communication that never touches the boundaries outside of narration is nearly as foreign to me as it is oppressive. It’s a dance I have to appear to enjoy in which my participation is mandatory and my agency is restrained until it no longer feels as if it is still mine. In many ways this experience is no different from the majority of my past romantic and sexual relationships and a fair amount of my failed friendships with other white people. But she’s my mom. I can’t walk away from her.