By way of a brief follow up on my original post,
Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture (ASAC) conference screens racist misogynistic objectifying anti-abortion maternity camp propaganda video
ASAC has added a brief addenda to their description of the film, “A Man Without Culture Is Like a Zebra Without Stripes: the Adoption Triangle in South Africa” screened at the conference:
[This description, provided by the presenter to ASAC, suggests something very different from the treatment of birthmothers shown in this film. Rather than promoting openness, the agency controls birthmothers’ communications with the adoptive family, and cuts them off after two years. In the film, a social worker claims that two years is enough time for birthmothers to grieve. Professionals and birthparents know that this is often not true, and some found her comment appalling and said so in the discussion period. Focusing on South Africa, and showing the transfer of poor black children to prosperous white families, the film painfully (and ironically) recalls the treatment of black mothers under apartheid. The film's website claims that it gives an idea of good practice in post-adoption counseling according to the Hague convention, but the accompanying film showing adoptive parents with their children demonstrates that this agency's post-adoption counseling does not provide the anti-racist perspective that adoptive parents and children in transracial adoption will need, and thus does not follow the Hague Convention's requirements of respecting the child's ethnicity and general best interests. These films received much criticism at the conference. We do not endorse their viewpoint or the practices they show. They gave us a painful education about the limitations in how the Hague Convention has often been interpreted, and serious problems in some intercountry adoption practice.]
In essence ASAC appears to be trying to say the film they got did not line up with the way the film was proposed to them prior to the conference. They then go on to bemoan “the limitations in how the Hague Convention has often been interpreted.”
None of which deals with the core issues of what happened here.
There are various different sets of people each with their own motivations who live adoption or work in relation to adoption.
Some of us are Bastards, or adoptees ourselves who once aware of our status have no choice but to live adoption, we are adoption.
Others are Mothers a number of whom have endured the all too often painful realities of adoption, as let’s face it, time and again, coercion, deception, and a variety of forms of outright child stealing have been an ongoing aspects of adoption practices.
There are adopters, who ‘opt in’ to adoption, and yes obviously have their own perspectives on it.
There is the State and its role in the very structure of adoptions. (As well as legislators, judges, etc some of whom have their own direct participations in adoption.)
And then there are the various interests who occupy that fifth spot on the adoption pentagon: adoption agencies, child marketers, child finders and scouts, recruiters, industry lobbies, adoption marketers (i.e. marketing the very concept of adoption itself, often to both lawmakers and prospective adoptive couples,) Coercive Pregnancy Indoctrination Centers (aka self described “Crisis Pregnancy Centers,”) maternity camps, juvenile delinquent centers for “unwed teens”, etc.
In all of this, there are some various factions, Bastards fighting for our own human/civil/identity rights, agencies fighting to preserve their financial interests and industry’s very viability, etc to name just two.
If ASAC failed to understand what a juicy target for a resume item an academic adoption conference held at M.I.T. would hold to those attempting to legitimize, for example their adoption marketing film, then ASAC was nothing short of naive.
Apparently, ASAC was used.
They were told the film would be one thing, highlighting “openness”, for example, yet what they got was a marketing film used in marketing adoption and fulfilling would-be-adoptive couple’s Hague convention required “educational” component. Far from any ephemeral notion of “openness” the film showcased how Abba House and Esther House in South Africa actively controlled, manipulated, and literally read any and all correspondence, stripping it of any identifying information before passing it on, between Mothers and Adoptive Couples now continents away.
As this propaganda film was screened, mind you, to an audience with (Original) family members and adoptees in it, ASAC simply let it roll. When it came to its conclusion, the ASAC representative in the room simply went on ahead with the Q & A, never once acknowledging that something extraordinary had just occurred.
There is the overt racism inherent to the film itself, as well as the racism an adoptee in the film spoke of experiencing which I wrote about eariler:
The film also interviewed several of the adopted kids themselves including a boy brought to a European country, imported from Haiti. He described other kids, particularly from other schools or less familiar with him in day to day life flinging invectives at him, calling his so called colour “chocolate” and “shit.”
Yet in an attempt at negating such, Ann Somers stood in front of the ASAC audience and flatly denied that racism had been an issue in these adoptions of Black kids taken from South Africa and Haiti and adopted into European Countries with predominantly white populations.
In essence, she stood there and overrode the direct firsthand experiences of racism that the adopted boy in her film spoke of.
Apparently to Somers, the voices of even the adoptees in the film matter not one bit.
The ASAC response at the time was non-existent.
It came down to people in the audience to even begin to question aspects of this film.
And in the end, yes, it came down to me personally, to decry the film as “propaganda” and “vile” in the Q & A session.
As I wrote for the about page on my personal Stormcoming blog, speaking of a completely different, non-adoption related context at the time:
…I’ve never been good at not saying what desperately needs saying when no one else will.
Maybe I’ll write about the aftermath of my comments at ASAC eventually, maybe I won’t. For now I’ll simply say the response to my comments was both surprising and perfectly predictable.
Surprising, in that to my utter shock, a few people in the audience applauded.
Perfectly predictable, in that after I spoke my POLITICAL analysis of what had just happened, I was accused of being “wounded” and “hurt.” The same old tactics always used to shut down and derail Bastard political criticism.
Once you’re to that point, there’s no point in hanging around. Attempts at rationally discussing the content of the propaganda film had devolved down to personal attack decrying how “wounded” I personally was.
It’s impossible to discuss the actual content of the film in such a context.
When those who dare reject have their political criticism ignored as nothing more than some aspect of being personally broken, said conversation has ended.
I’ve spent my life working for women’s reproductive autonomy.
I did not expect to be subjected to an anti-abortion/pro-adoption ministry spotlight my first day at the conference.
But when the conference itself lacks an understanding of the landscape their conference and adoption itself occupies, and of the various interests who would themselves utilize the conference to their own ends, and clearly have no bullshit detectors to even understand what just happened, why should I be surprised?
An addenda after the fact about how ‘gee, some people’s interpretation of the Hague Treaty really wasn’t what we thought it would be’ doesn’t even begin touch on the depths of what occurred in Boston.
No matter how good or strong the rest of the conference, the contaminating presence of such adoptee negating, autonomy denying, industry propaganda, AND the ASAC lack of response in real time is both a corruption of the very space and a violation inflicted upon some of the very people sitting in that audience.
No Mother should be expected to sit silently by while being told after 2 years they move on. No Bastard should be expected to sit silently by while being told racism isn’t a factor in these adoptions and that the adoptee’s own voice, both used and then shoved aside doesn’t matter.
Yet giving the conference more respect than was its due, that was precisely what some of us in that audience did, waited silently until it was over, until the Q &A.
When the ASAC representative in the room was clearly blithely unaware of what had just gone by, I looked around the room and waited for someone else to state what was more than obvious to some of us.
When no one did, I waited my turn at the microphone and stated as plainly as possible what little I could without first sitting down to do the websearches to dig out the full details of what this was (covered in my initial ASAC post.)
I don’t know how to put it more plainly than this,
You cannot ask Bastards be supportive of a space when an adopted child’s own first hand experiences of racism, of bullying and cruelty he was subjected to as a direct result of his adoption experience are invalidated and shoved aside so carelessly by those the conference chose to showcase.
Our voices matter, be they the voices of the Mothers in the film who one after another reported their reasons for adoption were economic, and that in at least one case, she actively wanted to keep her child, but economically was unable, or the voices of an adopted child saying ‘I DO experience racist treatment as a result of this process.’
Sadly, ASAC valued the output of industry over the voices of Mothers and Adoptees.
They had an opportunity, in real time, once it was clear this film was not what had been pitched to them in the submitted proposal to do something about it as it was screened. Yet Joyce Maguire Pavao, of the Center for Family Connections who chaired the screening for ASAC, apparently saw nothing wrong with what was happening in that room. (Not surprising considering the CfFC is itself steeped in both triad thinking and “attachment issues” (see my earlier ASAC post for my critique of both “the triad” and “attachment issues.”)
The bottom line remains, Bastards and Mothers were objectified by the film, which was nothing more than an anti-abortion adoption ministry related propaganda piece.
Those responsible for the film get to go home to Belgium and tout how their film ran at the ASAC conference at M.I.T. and ASAC’s pathetic addenda tacked on after the fact to the films page, not even the front conference page, (nor have I seen any evidence of anything being broadly mailed out about the addenda beyond to some of us who questioned what took place,) nor Facebooked, nor utilized in other forms of social media, doesn’t begin to address the concerns some of us have had with what occurred in Boston.
ASAC to the best of my knowledge only mailed their response to those of us who raised our concerns, not to the broader body of conference attendees.
ASAC holds the ultimate responsibility for the fact that this happened.
Whether the film was run sight unseen or not, ASAC still had a responsibility to what was being run as part of their own conference and how this disaster was not handled at the time.
It saddens me deeply, as yes, there were reasons I attended the conference in the first place (though there were also apparently other aspects of the conference that I suppose I’m glad I missed at this point.) There are some people who presented there who are without a doubt, doing the real and important work.
Yet to be told in no uncertain terms on he very first day of the conference that Bastards and Mothers voices were in certain times and spaces, simply not relevant and that this was a conference that welcomed industry propaganda over our voices, left me with no recourse. My conscience dictated it was past time to go.
Now, here we are after the fact, and Marianne Novy has both contacted me in personal email with the addenda and this morning left it as a comment to my original ASAC piece. While I appreciate her letting me know what ASAC has done, there have been extenuating circumstances on my end.
It’s been one of the strangest weeks of my life this past week, and no I haven’t gotten to writing this post until now. Whether that’s been convenient for ASAC or not I’m afraid has simply not been foremost on my mind.
I find their response misses the point entirely, and is far too little too late, but that’s just my take on it.
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