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Thursday, December 11, 2008

An Apology

This week I hurt someone quite a lot. I don't know this person very well, so I don't know whether this person feels easily offended or rarely so. I don't ever enjoy hurting people. That doesn't always mean I can and will change my behavior. Because sometimes expressing what I feel and believe is more important than someone's feelings.

This isn't one of those times. Because lighthearted fun is supposed to be just that: lighthearted and fun.

I wrote my recent post Dear Santa with an eye for irony and cuteness. It's not a letter I would write today, but crossing a few words off the letter I wrote to Santa in third grade... well... to be honest, I still don't quite get it... not the way this person wants me to get it.

Entitlement is such an ugly, ugly word. And it exists throughout the adoption industry. Make no mistake, adoption is an industry, whether one adopts domestically or internationally. There is a dark, ugly side to adoption that social workers and adoptive parents speak about in hushed whispers. The money sometimes paid under the table. The disrespect often shown to first mothers. The whispers of finding fees.

Adoption IS an industry.

I also know how difficult it is to struggle through an adoption wait. When you apply to adopt from a country - and the current wait is at eight months... or 11 months... or 14 months - it is very, very difficult to watch that wait slowly quadruple before your eyes. Entitlement creeps into your views, whether you want it to be there or not. You can battle against it, but you must consciously do so or it will take over your soul.

"The Tongginator was one when started our paperwork. She'll be five in a few months. How old will she be before we finally receive a referral? Will she be in first grade? Do I really want to start over THEN? I wanted my children close together in age. I didn't want to be out of the workforce for years and years."

"Our social worker said it wouldn't get past 18 months. She said that no program in the history of international adoption ever went past 18 months. Now we're at over two-and-a-half years. Why didn't they make changes before it got this bad?"

Entitlement edges its way in. I wrote about it this past summer. As you can see, I'm still struggling through it.

And the Dear Santa post? I'm deleting it, when I've yet to delete anything from my blog except for a few comments from spammers. I still don't truly understand, perhaps because I haven't walked in CVT's shoes, but I feel strongly about this verse:

1 Peter 3:8 "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble."

I hurt someone, when I meant to share lighthearted humor. And that is never okay.

I'm sorry.


Amy said...

Dear TM,

I feel very strongly that what I say on my little piece o' web real estate is mine so I do admire that you took down your post and made a heartfelt apology to the person you offended. I probably wouldn't have because I'm not nice like you and because I know how the post was meant - lighthearted and fun. Now, in the interest of disclosure I did not see the comment(s) in question so I can't speak to those but I did not feel that you were expressing any sense of entitlement at all.

I do try to be aware of the many issues we'll face in the future with our little one - but sometimes I do wish people could lighten up and understand that other-race parents are mostly doing their best to raise happy-healthy-culturally aware kids the very best way we know how.

Jennifer said...

I'm white. And I have one child, not adopted. And I didn't read the comments on your Santa Letter post.

But, I use Google Reader so I went back and read the post to figure out what this was all about. And, I read the other blogger's comments about your letter.

And I have to ask... what happened? I can't figure it out. The way I read it, there was some problem with you thinking you are "entitled" to a "China baby."

Would the letter have been less offensive if you were dealing with your own infertility and had revised a childhood letter to say you "would like your own flesh and blood baby"? Is international adoption such a holy grail that a person can't use humor to express their frustration at the process?

I, for one, can not see how you think you are entitled to a baby, from China, Africa, or your own womb, in any of your posts. But, your expectations haven't been met, so, you vent your frustration on your blog from time to time.

I am sure someone is going to call me insensitive here... I won't accept that, but I'll let you call me confused and honest about how I view the situation.

CC said...

Hugs TM! I for one know the gut pain of knowing you have hurt someone unintentionally. So I offer big hugs and the knowledge that you never meant to offend.

And to the commenter, I know that I (and I am assuming almost all commenters) did not read his comment. So his shock and anger that no one responded to him may be unfounded.

Regardless, however, I still offer hugs.

Mom To Six said...

I, as a non-white (caucasian) Mama to 2 Asian and 1 caucasian children, am baffled. Being of a different race, my parent's always taught me to take pride in myself. I have and this has allowed me to be a successful adult without the fears of always waiting to see who is against me. We are all one body in Christ. That's how I've always seen it.

While I understand (to some extent) the other blogger's feelings, I believe the entire response was a bit over the top. To ask that your post be removed, when blogging is all about journaling your feelings (and I saw no hate or racism in your cute post) is a bit too much. I commend you for being the bigger person. I probably would not have, especially since your apology was taken as a "reaction" instead of an "action".

I don't like and try to never hurt anyone intentionally, but when I apologize sincerely for something, it's because I have given it much thought and expect my apology to be accepted for what it is.

We live in a world that is way too politically correct for my liking.

Thank you for allowing me to ramble.



CVT said...

Okay. This is my last-ditch effort to explain. The frustration grows as I realize this is a battle I can't win. It's me versus a bunch of folks who can't understand because they've never had the experience. And I don't blame any of you - because it's not necessarily your fault that you don't have the experience. Which makes it even more frustrating.

Anyway - this is not about "entitlement." Obviously, when we're talking about race, entitlement is always involved to some degree (it was your choice to ignore my comment or not - and I appreciate that you chose not to).

But no - this is about referencing a Chinese child as you would (did) a toy or a "China doll." Because, you yourself wrote (in your post "Seeing Race") the following:

"While y'all may not know this, the term China doll carries with it a history of meaning that causes me to blush in embarrassment and rage. Don't use the term in reference to my daughter. Never.

Not. Ever."

And then you did exactly that.

And then continuously said that it was just "light-hearted fun" or "humor." As has your readership. "Not. Ever." That implies not even in jest.

And for the sake of your child(ren) - throughout their life, they will be faced with ignorance and outright racist acts. They will suffer small slights that add up, and big slights that knock the wind out. And those few times when they say something, guess what is the most common answer? "Dang, can't you take a joke!?" "It was a joke!!" "Calm down, I was just having fun."

And, as a result, your child will learn that there is seldom a point to try to address these slights. These slights and wrongs that hurt your child will continue, because they will know that saying something about it will just result in the same old faux apology followed by references to "taking a joke," and they will be dismissed as "too sensitive," etc.

And to answer your question - I do NOT offend easily, and I have constant cause to do so living in this country. I pick my battles. This is one that I chose, because I saw it as an opportunity to educate somebody who seemed to honestly care enough to do something about it. Hence my frustration when that did not occur.

Because my frustration, CC, was not that people weren't responding to my comments (or ignoring them), it was that they were ALLOWED to. That, had the personal apology been it, nobody else would ever have known, or cared, or had to even think about any of this.

And that is why I continue to worry. Because I appreciate the response, and the attempt to address it on its own post. But without an explanation of exactly what happened (or allowing readers to see what you wrote, what I wrote, etc.), then it is so easily dismissed. It gets summarized as, "I tried to make a joke, and this overly-sensitive guy freaked out," and everybody moves on as if nothing happened.

Consider my comments as an attempt by your future (grown) child to come back and help you understand what it is like for them here. What growing up with race really means, and how it's going to affect them. All the tiny little things that don't matter if they happened in isolation - but never actually happen in isolation. That's the only place where "entitlement" happens here - the ability, if you are not a person of color, to look at an incident as isolated, and therefore dismiss the reaction as "overly-sensitive" because you don't deal with the weight of this EVERY SINGLE DAY. Every thing that gets added on every time I watch tv, or see a movie, or go shopping.

So - if you could take one tiny burden off the shoulders of your child, wouldn't it be worth it? Would you leave it there because it was "just lighthearted fun"? Of course not.

So I thank you for not dismissing me like most others would do. And your kid will thank you because - had you done so - you would have been dismissing her.

And I truly, truly hope that you continue to read my other posts, so you can get a taste of what it's like to "walk in CVT's shoes" - and what it might be like to walk in your kid's, as well.

The key to understanding race is to understand that it is a constant experience for people of color. There are no isolated incidents, just one more bottle-cap added to a landfill of negative experiences.

Misty said...

TM, this post strikes a chord, and makes me sad in a way I almost cannot express. Not because of you, or the person you offended, but maybe that there is even such a thing as offense. When I was in college, I took all the classes that a certain professor took, and he got me interested in "otherness" be it gender studies, race/Other, class, or sexuality. It was a rhetoric that I could speak fluently on the surface. Then, I got disillusioned. There were all these questions, and no answers, and I had even begun to question my God and been mad at him for what my prof was teaching me. I joined a church that had as part of its focus racial diversity. We lived in a city that to this day is still one of the most racist in the nation, and the old adage about Sunday mornings being the most segregated part of the week was so true. But joining that church opened up old wounds.. wounds of misunderstanding and feelings of incompetence. I am white, I am "middle class," and I have never been the target of direct prejudice by society. I felt as if it didn't matter what my heart was, or my actions, because at the end of the day I was still white. I still struggle with this, and have often let this sense of defeat leave me hopeless. I too often forget we have a Healer and a Maker... the ultimate Redeemer. Something my husband used to say about marriage applies: he made us different so we could become one; while there are a lot more than 2 races of people, and it's not so much a marriage we're talking about, I DO believe there is purpose in differentness, a sense of completion and beauty that only the Artist sees in us, but maybe that's something we'll only see on the other side of eternity. I don't know. I am not sure what ot think about what this other gentleman said about your post (I did not read any of the comments so am unsure what was said/ignored) or the fact that you took it down, but I know you feel it is right for you, an that's important. I have no idea what it's like to be Asian, or to be an adoptive mother, nor to profoundly deisre to adopt internationally. My heart is with you, though.

Briana's Mom said...

Wow - I am speechless.

I can't really comment on the comment that was written because I didn't read it. I usually just leave my comments and don't have time to read other comments. To be honest, I cannot remember if I commented on that particular post or not. I do remember that I didn't think negatively about it.

I just know the kind of person you are from what I read on your blog. You are someone that makes sure that you are doing what is very best for your daughter every single day. The fact that you do a Sunday Linkage each week to raise racial awareness shows what kind of person you are.

This commenter is entitled to his/her opinion. You are entitled to yours. The one thing that has upset me was that this person insulted the commenters to your post on his/her blog saying that "these are people that want to raise a Chinese kid! " Well, I am sure some of them already are. That was really harsh. No one can judge anyone from a one or two line comment written on a blog. That's just not fair.

discombobulated said...

I guess just an "I'm sorry" without an explanation that CVT can continue to pick apart would have been better. Sometimes I read others' comments and sometimes I don't. I thought it was understood that people do not read all comments especially when so many are written. If I knew that someone was offended I certainly would not have continued to call the post cute. I am very offended about the unfair generalization that was made about your entire readership. Anyhow, I think this has kind of snowballed out of control. DVT is offended. You've said you are sorry, though not enough. You've deleted your post, though not enough. You are going through such a hard time right now, just trying to stay afloat to make this Christmas memorable for your precious daughter when you probably just want to stay in bed for a few weeks - and now you have to deal with this. I hope you are able to bury this in your mind because so many people love you. So many people need your blog to make them laugh, make them think, make their day a little better.
Sidenote: I especially love the posts referencing your early years because that's when I first knew you. Those are the images I remember.

Patty O. said...

Keep your chin up. I never read the original post, so I have no idea what CVT and you are referencing. All I know is that I admire your willingness to apologize and retract the post. I agree with CVT that race is touchy and many of us cannot relate (though, I have to say that even though I am white, I have had a teeny tiny taste of it--while living in Asia. Sadly, racism exists everywhere and it is up to us to do our best to eliminate it. However, looking for offense and racism everywhere you go is sort of a form of prejudice in itself, in my opinion....). Well, I better not get started on my many opinions about racism, sexism, etc. or I will probably offend someone...

Anonymous said...

"Make no mistake, adoption is an industry, whether one adopts domestically or internationally. There is a dark, ugly side to adoption that social workers and adoptive parents speak about in hushed whispers."

Yes, yes it is.

a Tonggu Momma said...

If your problem is with the phrase "China doll," then I am really confused, seeing as how I wrote that letter when I was eight-years-old. And I was literally referencing a toy - a doll made from porcelain - NOT a person.

In my letter to Santa (written as a CHILD), I also asked for a baby sister. As an eight-year-old, I didn't fully understand the implications of that request, but I sure as heck didn't consider a baby sister "a toy."

I appreciate what you mean about the cumulative effect of small slights, however, which is why I took down the post. I still don't understand your reaction, but I'd rather listen to other people and attempt to learn from them.

I read the blogs of several other Chinese-Americans and many adults adopted from Asian countries. I also have relationships in real life with many Asian-Americans. I'll be looking to them to learn more.

Jennifer said...

Wow...wow. I just want to say that I love your blog TM!!!

I think you are light hearted and funny.

I am waiting too.

I also want my baby home for Christmas. I also wish for my children to be closer in age.

Nothing wrong with your post. I did not see the comment that caused this. I DO NOT feel you should made to feel bad for your post.

Big Hugs! Jen

CVT said...

This really has snowballed into something crazy.

I just wanted to make the point that it definitely looked to me like you adjusted your desire for a "China doll" into a "China baby" which seemed like equating the two. I tried to articulate that, you apologized, and then . . .

This is the problem with anonymous, typed communication. People choose what they want to see (and I'm talking about myself as well), and go for that. We all get defensive, shoot holes in the other side where we see fit, and then we all quit on each other and give up.

But this is a good demonstration of what the discussion of race does in this country. I tried to say how I felt. You tried to say how you felt. And now people are insulting both sides, and nobody seems to be getting anywhere.

So - I thank you for keeping it all civil. I hope this is a beginning of some kind of real dialogue (and not some crazy internet "fight") that helps all sides learn. It's hard, when race is the question because we're all (and I mean ALL) so dang sensitive about it all.

I never said or implied that you were racist or anything of that matter. I really do think you're trying your best. And I think you're trying much harder than most people in your situation. And I really do appreciate all that.

And, in the end, although you still didn't quite get me (which, I admit is frustrating, but I get the whys of it all), you still made the change I asked, which is very admirable. I just hope we move to a point where we're getting each other better - because your reaction (on an overall level) gives me some hope about all this.

As for the readership - I actually invite discordant views than my own to read and comment at my blog, so those who have chosen to do so, thank you. If you're willing to keep it civil (like the author of this blog has), then we can do something with it. And since I went a little over-the-top with my emotional response (because you BET it was emotional), I'll address it on my side of the internet world to stop taking up TM's space.

discombobulated said...

Yes CVT, please, please, please stop taking up TM's space. If we want to continue your debate, we'll do it on your blog.

Michelle said...

I'm at a loss for words. It sounds like this started by a misunderstanding. In the end, I think CVT is trying to help educate us and see things from another perspective. One thing I know about you, TM, is that you always seek to inform your readers. So... I never read the first post, didn't read the comments, and I don't really have anything to say here other than I'm glad that I have the opportunity to learn new things every day through this world of Blog.

Jill said...

TM, We Love your blog, and take it as it is meant to be taken. Sorry to hear this has gotten so out of hand.
Hugs, Jill

Aunt LoLo said...

Good heavens, what a day! I've read both sides, I FINALLY see why CVT was offended (I didn't get it at first, at all.) and...this might be the beginning of a really interesting dialogue.

Merry Christmas, Tonggu Mama. You're a good person. I think we all got a bit emotionally invested in this, for a VARIETY of reasons.

It's 3 am - hopefully you're asleep and tomorrow is a new day, anyhow. ;-)

Lisa Cairney said...

Oh my. Oh my! My goodness. Well, TM....you know that I love and enjoy you and your blog. And you know I AM half Chinese, half Jamaican....And you know I DO sometimes say quite inappropriate, off-the-cuff, and perhaps even (although I HOPE not) offensive things on my blog...and knowing all that, let me assure you that I found nothing at all inappropriate or offensive in your very humorous post. And I'm sorry you have had such a tough time and I hope it won't discourage you from putting your stuff out there, girl. Hope you are FEELING THE LOVE, girl, from your many, many followers (no, I'm not jealous at ALL) who enjoy and appreciate your gift with writing and the way you are able to zoom in on the hilarious AND heartwarming. Keep it up, TM.

Anonymous said...

WTMD (way too much drama!)

Have a happy day, I thought the post was cute and did not see anything insensitive.

However, it was insensitive on his part to make about your ability to raise Chinese kids. Gimme a break, now that is insensitive.

I am from a mixed background as well. I have gone thru that 'diaspora' but I don't expect everyone on this planet to see things from my perspective.

I guess I just don't have that pent up anger inside where I feel everyone has to understand ME.

It was big of you to remove the post, and even apologize. This is your spot in the blog world. Everyone has a choice to visit you or not. But that choice should not dictate how you express yourself.

Put the post back and move on.

I'm posting anonymously because I don't want any reactions from this person to my opinion but you know who I am


Debbie said...

I am so far behind on my reading and have missed this whole thing. The only thing I can say is that it sounds like you have tried hard to respond and care about how your writing impacts others.

The Byrd's Nest said...

I just wanted to send you a big hug. Please don't let this stop you from sharing your heart with us. I love your heart for your family.