It’s 10:47 PM and I’ve been awake for 20 hours. I’m sitting here, in a hotel room hallway, a little numb and crestfallen. The living liver transplant that was scheduled for tomorrow morning has been postponed…or cancelled… until further notice.
I feel the need to get this info out there before the morning, before I start seeing Facebook messages about how people are praying for our surgery and a few key friends start asking why they haven’t heard from my husband. So I’m writing this before I try to sleep, so that I actually can sleep knowing you all will read this in the morning and I won’t have to wake up and deal with it then.
My family had to fly from Portland to San Francisco via Las Vegas. Apparently directly flights were booked due to the folks traveling to see the solar eclipse. We got to the hotel around noon and went to visit my cousin at 2 PM. He was not in good shape. Doctors were saying they wanted to do the transplant ASAP…but they were also very concerned about his condition.
My room for…6 hours?
At 3 PM I checked-in at hospital admissions and waited for a room assignment.
At 4:45 PM I was in a shared room on 9 Long, in hospital robes and visiting with my cousin’s family. I got stuck in the arm 3 times; one failed blood draw, one successful, and one failed IV port. Having not eaten solid food in a couple days, I asked for some chicken broth and apple juice for a pick-me-up. I was on a clear liquid only restriction.
Around 5:30 or 6 PM, Dr. Ascher came to visit me. She said they were still unsure if they were going to proceed with the transplant in the morning. Dr. Roberts had told her that he would decide in the morning. Her opinion was to cancel it. That was difficult to hear, as my cousin’s mom was in the room with me at the time. I didn’t believe it was a real possibility.
Around 8:30 PM I was in Randy’s room, visiting with his mom and partner while Randy lay in a restless, drug-induced sleep. A surgical intern came in and gave us the bad news. The transplant was not happening in the morning. She said I could stay the night at the hospital or go to my family’s hotel room – but that was up to me.
Then a pulmonary specialist came in and explained things a bit further. My cousin is retaining a lot of fluid, some in his lungs, and the doctors are concerned about a possible infection. If we were to move forward with the transplant, he’d be given immunosuppressants, which would then allow any potential infection to kill him. Until they “fix” his fluid situation, they cannot move forward with the transplant.
We were deflated. Angry. Confused. How would Randy take this news? He hadn’t heard any of it and we’d have to tell him.
It wasn’t long after that when Randy actually woke up and, for the first time in a few days, was talking and joking with us and alert. We told him the news as we tried to wrap our heads around it and calm our hearts.
UCSF is going to keep him there until they can get him back into a “good place” and resolve his fluid issue. This is a much better alternative than going back to his regular hospital which cannot give him the same expert care.
So what now?
Tomorrow we will know more. The experts will meet to discuss his situation and make a plan. One possible date for the rescheduled transplant is September 15th.
My husband and I are planning on staying here until Friday at least. I will have to redo some blood tests at UCSF anyway for a postponed transplant. As August 24th was supposed to be a special day for Randy, I’m going to spend the day visiting with him and hopefully make it special in some other way. I will still give him some gifts I had prepared for him and maybe bring in some balloons or…I don’t know yet.
Someday soon my cousin and I will be in this collage on 9 Long.
But then we’ll have to get flights home. We’ll have to start back at square one and make plans and prepare for another trip down, hopefully no later than next month. Flights, hotels, Moxie-sitter, time off work for my husband and my adoptive mom, etc.
We have been so blessed and encouraged by all the support we’ve gotten. Which makes it that much more punishing to have to share with all of you that this isn’t happening. At least not right now. I’m so frustrated and feel somehow false to all of those who have been pulling for us for August 24th to be THE day. I am dreading going home. I’m worried I’ll resent this time that should have been Randy’s new start and will now instead be his prolonged pain.
And yet, at the same time I do know that all hope is not lost. That God is STILL in control and working through this situation. That an opportunity for my cousin to receive better care and a better hospital for a few weeks could very easily result in a better transplant outcome.
So that’s where we’re at and that’s all I can say about it for now. PLEASE KNOW I appreciate all your messages but I may not respond for a day or two.
I’ve been on a journey the past couple years to reclaim lost heritage. Specifically, knowledge of my Chinese ancestry. I did grow up knowing a little about the white side of my family, but the Chinese side? All I knew is that they were Wongs, they were from Canada and my father played the guitar.
I’ve made huge progress in my search this year. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to know my Chinese ancestral home village! This journey of reclaiming lost heritage is revealing a lot to me about the role heritage plays in our lives, in our sense of self and even in our faith.
While I’m not ready to share what I’ve learned about my ancestry just yet (so much is still happening and I’m taking time to savor and process it), I do want to share what it means to me as an adoptee and encourage you to reflect on what it means to you. After all, we all have a heritage.
Essentially, heritage is what is passed down to us from our parents and ancestors. Therefore, it’s potentially quite a lot of different things and individual families often emphasize different forms of heritage over another.
For example, some people will emphasize the language or culinary traditions passed down through the generations. Others might think more about ethnic phenotypes or national pride. Heritage can encompass generational family values like community service or aptitudes like artistry or athleticism.
Heritage, in any form, is an inherited sense of our distinct family identity, the good and the bad. A sense for one’s heritage can give us a context to help us make sense of ourselves as individuals. We sometimes call this representation or mirroring; when children have healthy relationships with adults who share their traits. Children who see themselves in those they love, learn to love themselves.
A strong sense of heritage can make people and communities resilient in the face of suffering and fight back against oppression. Embarrassingly, I think of the movies Braveheart and 300 (the one about the Spartans), but better examples aren’t hard to find.
There are many reasons why someone may not have knowledge of their heritage or have missing pieces of knowledge. Throughout history, when one group of people seek to conquer another, erasing their heritage is a common and effective tactic.
We see this in the Old Testament when the Israelites were conquered. We see it in the way European Americans enslaved Africans and terrorized Native Americans, stripping them of their language, hairstyles, and family connections. When Communist China sought the reshape the people’s national identity, many family genealogy books (which recorded family values and stories as well as hundreds of years of lineage) were sought out and burned.
There are also those who have voluntarily disconnected themselves from their heritage. Maybe it was to distance themselves from a painful family identity. Maybe to trade it in for a different group identity that gave access to privileges they wouldn’t have had otherwise. In either case, that usually signals the end of the passing down that family identity to future generations.
When heritage is lost or erased, we lose a piece of the natural human experience. We lose the ability to learn about who we are with the support of that broader context of family identity.
One last thing before I wrap up these thoughts.
The most powerful thing I’ve learned on this reclamation journey is that my identity as a Christian was never meant to replace my heritage, but to restore it. Sarah Shin’s book, Beyond Colorblind, really cracked this wide open for me.
This realization is powerful because I grew up understanding my identity and salvation through a white lens. In other words, a lens that naturally devalued ethnic heritage.
If we understand “white” as a group identity based on the made-up (false) concept of racial categories, then we understand that “white people” have a real ethnic heritage. For example; Welsh, Breton, German. However, generations of European immigrants downplayed their ethnic heritage in order to self-identify as white and access the privileges of whiteness. For example; access to citizenship, ability to own land, vote.
Reading the Bible through a white lens, it appears that is what we are to do as Christians as well. We leave behind our ethnic heritage (worldly identities) to better identify with Christ and access the privileges of salvation; what we inherit as an adopted child of God.
As an adoptee, I believed I would find more wholeness and satisfaction in replacing my heritage than in reclaiming it. My adoptive family’s heritage became mine, and that wasn’t necessarily bad. But I should have seen that as an addition to, not a replacement for, the identity I’d lost.
Reading the Bible through the lens of non-white cultures, it’s clear God never intended anyone to give up their entire identity. After all, the Bible depicts every tribe, nation and tongue represented in heaven. Instead, being in Christ allows us to restore that which was broken and lost. That way we can embody Christ’s love through our distinct family identities.
This is why I feel reclaiming lost heritage is so vital. It is part of Christ’s healing work to make me whole; to learn to love the parts of myself that God created for good, no longer devaluing God’s work. It is part of how God will work through me to fight injustice and strengthen me to endure suffering.
Of course, I’m learning that reclaiming our heritage is risky and costly. I’ll write again about the risks and rewards. For now I’ll just say I do believe my security in Christ is what enables me to confront the painful things in my heritage and not let fear of more loss paralyze me.
It’s been 13 years since I met Virginia and she convinced me to run 26.2 miles. As a cancer survivor and a few years ahead of me in life, she said if she could do it, then I could do it. I couldn’t argue with that. Now, I may have regretted listening to her a time or two during the following months of training. However, the fact that she was even there for that arm-twisting conversation was a medical miracle, and, at least in part, due to the love of her husband, Van.
When Virginia was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Van started researching. Sacrificing sleep to surf the 90’s internet, he was looking for something that might save her life. What a shot in the dark, right? Cancer is a big, scary monster that has bested experts for a long time. What difference would it make for this one man to educate himself on the world of cancer treatments?
The difference was that he found a clinical trial for an experimental drug. They were able to get Virginia into that trial. She became one of the first people to receive an effective dose and 21 years later she’s still alive.
For a couple years, I had the privilege of hearing Van and Virginia tell parts of their story to crowds of marathon runners. As I listened, I imagined Van accompanying Virginia to her medical appointments and sitting with her through treatments. All things that were probably difficult for him to do, yet powered by his love for her.
However, it was that additional effort of self-education and hunting down a miracle that always gave me pause. Even if the miracle drug hadn’t existed, love compelled him to do as much as he could and to refuse to accept things as they were. If you want to hear more about Van and Virginia’s amazing story, I recommend you purchase their book and read it.
When someone we love gets sick, it might upend everything. Plans and dreams get put on hold or entirely replaced with a new normal; one that might involve becoming “an expert” in the disease or illness that is attacking your loved one.
That makes me think of Jone and Joshua. Jone is my cousin. Joshua is the partner of her son, Randy. Randy also had a terminal diagnosis a few years ago and was in and out of the hospital and, sometimes in and out of consciousness. Jone and Joshua had to advocate for him with surgeons, doctors and nurses for years. And by advocate, I mean stopping them when they were about to do something that would’ve made him worse or even killed him. Time and time again, it was their knowledge about his disease that helped him get through.
When someone we love has a chronic condition, we might have to change the entire family’s diet and/or schedule. I once met a family who got their kids out to ride bikes in the pre-sunrise light because one child, who could not be directly exposed to sunlight, loved to ride. I can’t imagine it was easy to adapt to waking up the entire family while it was still dark on a regular basis.
We might be tempted to say that none of these things are difficult to do when you love someone. We might not even want to talk about how tedious it is to research cancer treatments, or how stressful it is to challenge medical professionals, or how inconvenient it is to reorient our daily life in these situations. At least I tend to jump toward thinking…“well, it is nothing compared to the struggle of the one we love who is sick and in danger.”
There are personal costs we are willing to pay if it means saving the life of or alleviating the pain of someone we love.
What if the disease attacking your loved one isn’t cancer? What if the source of their pain isn’t something wrong in their cells or even in their psyche? What if they are fighting to survive the societal cancers of racism and white supremacy?
Can you make this jump with me?
If you are not a person of color, but your loved one is, there’s a good chance you don’t automatically understand the disease that threatens them or the pain of the cumulative harm done by racism and white supremacy. There’s a good chance that the social “diet” and routines you’re accustomed to are toxic for your Black child or your brown spouse.
Like Van, does your love compel you to stay up through the night learning and researching, even if there is no miracle cure for racism?
Like Jone or Joshua, are you taking on the responsibility to know what you need to know to be ready to prevent further harm, even if it means challenging a doctor, a teacher, a pastor, a grandparent, a friend?
Are you willing to make changes to your life or get out of your comfort zone in order to create a healthy environment for them?
Even if you are a person of color, but your loved one is a different racial/ethnic minority, there’s a good chance you have some learning and changing to do as well because their distinct experiences of racism and racial trauma might be quite different from yours.
I’ll admit I’m a bit confused these days when someone says they love me. In this past year, there have been plenty of “I love you”s from family, friends, and fellow Christians, who seem content with leaving me (and others) to battle the societal cancer that is racism alone.
“I love you” but I will still pedal anti-Chinese sentiment around this virus. That’s like saying “I love you but I will still smoke around you even though you have lung cancer.”
“I love you” but I don’t want to understand what you’re going through.
“I love you” but not enough learn how to care for or help you through this.
“I love you” but I won’t speak up to others who are harming you.
“I love you” but I won’t sacrifice my comfort to alleviate your pain.
I have greatly appreciated the people who have listened to me or have read what I wrote. However, it seems like many white friends and family see it like a hobby of mine. Like I talk about racism and adoption trauma and how that impacts me because I enjoy it, but it’s totally optional. So they do not have to actually know anything about my little hobby in order to love me.
However, I see things like racism and adoption trauma like a disease I’m fighting, an affliction I struggle against. Somedays the pain is so bad I can’t get out of bed. Somedays I’m feeling really good. Either way, my overall health is greatly impacted by whether or not those closest to me are doing their own learning and willing to make changes.
Just like Van, by himself, did not save Virginia’s life, I don’t expect any one person to be everything I need. Virginia is still with us, not just because of love, but because of years worth of research by specialists and treatment by medical staff, as well as the support of their friends and family.
Still. The kind of love that refuses to accept things as they are and keeps trying, against all odds, can make a huge difference in the outcome. The kind of love that puts effort into understanding someone else’s struggle can learn how to help without furthering harm. That is the kind of love we need.
If you’re not familiar with this series by Emmanuel Acho, it’s pretty great, actually. The videos of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” are making their rounds in our social feeds and I do like it. I do. However, Emmanuel Acho’s adoption segment needs a critical review from an adoptee lens. There are problems here and we need to address them.
First, here is the video if you haven’t seen it. It’s about 16 minutes long.
In publishing, there is something called a sensitivity reader (learn more here). A sensitivity reader uses their lens, their lived experience, as someone with a marginalized identity (e.g. Black, LGBTQ+, an adoptee, etc) to give feedback on a work and opinions about any elements that might be offensive, harmful, etc.
When I write adoptee critique posts like this, that is basically what I’m doing. I’m revealing to you what I see through my transracial adoptee lens. I’m providing critical feedback. It might expose you to a perspective you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. This is practice for learning to walk a mile in an adoptee’s shoes. This is the whole purpose of my site; addressing uncomfortable perspectives on adoption, race and faith.
So let’s get started.
[NOTE: I’m only going to say this once. I do like much of what the parent’s had to say. I am NOT attacking the white parents.]
The premise of this video is that it discusses raising Black children. Well, if you want to talk about raising Black children, why not talk to Black parents?
How did they go from the previous segment (where they featured interracial couples talking about being parents someday) to this one, featuring white adoptive parents?
Was that just a sloppy segue to somehow connect the spot on interracial couples to the spot on transracial adoption?
I don’t see why this white couple should be speaking on this issue.
The adoptees here are children. Now, sometimes kids have found their voice on something and they are excited to talk about it. That is not these kids! They were clearly not coming in ready to engage on being Black and being adopted. They have found their own voice on yet. This should not have been asked of them.
If these kids aren’t leading the convo here, then who is? Who was invited to speak? The parents. Who got dragged along? The kids. It seems obvious to me, that they are there at their parent’s request. Even if they were excited to be filmed in this video, it was not their idea.
Therefore, to me, this appears as if they are a prop for the parents to talk about something they’re still not the best people to ask about; re: raising Black children.
This tells me that the people running this show think it doesn’t take a lot of work to address adoption (or raising Black children) properly. They can just call in some woke white people and their Black kids and it’s all good.
Take note: Adoption is often a go-to, feel-good topic to fill content holes for people. As an adoptee, that hurts. This is not an easy reality to live and I don’t like anyone saying, “Hey…why don’t we cover transracial adoption? That’d be neat!” without taking the time to understand that they are stepping into a complex and often hurtful adoptee reality. It’s a topic that needs to be handled with more care!
When Emmanuel asks her if she ever wishes she had Black parents?
NO child should have to answer a question like that, unaware, in this kind of pressure situation. Her parents should’ve made it clear beforehand that NO impromptu questions be asked of their kids. The kids should’ve had the time to think about what they wanted to talk about in advance.
The question he threw to Story revealed TWO things to me.
1: That she was conflicted on how to answer and felt pressure. That sucks. Her parents were there. The cameras were rolling. A very good looking man was asking her a question. Feeling conflicted but pressured to answer is not a good spot to be in.
2: That she felt the answer had to be either yes or no. Maybe that’s because she’s not at that point yet, cognitively, or maybe she is and that is why she seemed conflicted. Still, she wasn’t able to articulate, in that moment, that the answer could be BOTH yes and no.
I have no idea what was going on in her head, but watching and hearing her, I was like…Ahhh! The power dynamics here were VERY unfair to this young lady. If she had complex or conflicting emotions in that moment, which I suspect she did, how terrible to walk away from this whole recording session, unable to express that and holding that within her.
This is why we should not have adoptees who are still children, still minors, doing things like this. We should not be making videos about adoption that feature a child’s adoption story or asks them to speak on what it’s like to be adopted.
Adoptive parents should be protecting their child’s privacy while helping them learn to make sense of their own story and find their own voice.
When we are ADULTS, then let US tell our stories and interpret what it means for you. Once adoptees have matured to the point we can hold in tension conflicting beliefs and emotions inherent in adoption AND be able to articulate that, THEN come ask us for interviews.
Why do you think so few productions like this and so few adoption centered videos online (like the viral ones that get shared) feature ADULT adoptees?
Why do they almost always show children?
It’s not like there is a shortage of adult adoptees willing to share and able to do a good job of it.
You might think…well it’s just because kids are cute.
Ask yourself why that matters? If we center children because we enjoy seeing their cute faces and our hearts are moved by their stories…then what are we prioritizing? Our good feelings and emotional entertainment.
You might think it’s because kid’s need to be adopted and therefore the best way to make that happen is feature stories of kids.
Then aren’t you treating our story (with the inherent pain and conflict)… like an advertisement?
What if instead, you asked an adult adoptee to share their story and photos/video footage of themselves as a child?
Then, they can control over how their story was presented?
Wouldn’t that be more ethical?
In Part 3, I introduced you to the feedback loop of internalized racism. Thinking about it this way helps me understand a bit better why internalizing racism is more than my individual self-hate (see Part 1 & Part 2) but can actually contribute to systemic racism.
You might ask, as I have:
“So, why don’t BIPOC just recognize that racist narratives are lies and stop internalizing racism?”
Shouldn’t ending internalized racism be that simple? Just stop the cycle by…crushing it with our mind-vice (30 Rock reference. Anyone?). In other words, shouldn’t I just stop being stupid enough to fall for this racist narrative crap?
And… that’s kind of blaming of the victim, isn’t it? I felt part 4 was necessary to explain why it’s not always that easy. I also need to have some grace with myself as I unpack my internalized racism. There were reasons I didn’t recognize racist narratives for what they were.
Above is the same feedback loop from part 3, but with two things added. First, there is the Impact of Colonization on the outside, acting as a force that keeps the wheel spinning. Second, there is an inner mini loop of “rewards”, acting as a force within. It keeps the momentum of internalized racism going as well. Let’s talk about those two things.
“Colonization” is maybe the wrong term, but I’m using it to refer to the white European legacy of severing ethnic minorities from their heritage and history. With Africans, it was stealing them from their country and stripping them of their cultures and ethnic distinctions. With Indigenous peoples, it was genocide on top of taking their land and forcing the survivors to assimilate.
With me, it is quite different, because it was an unwanted pregnancy and an adoption that severed me from my ethnic heritage and history. However, modern adoption practices (e.g. the tendency to assume that being adopted by white parents means a better life) have definitely been a tool of colonization and white supremacy.
Let’s look at how this keeps the feedback loop spinning.
It’s hard to know and affirm the goodness in our ethnic distinctions when we’ve lost connection to our roots. When we do not have a healthy grasp on the goodness of our ethnic identities, it is harder to recognize and fight racist narratives when we encounter them. We will hear the lies and not know for certain they are lies.
Using my Chinese restaurant example from Part 3, I didn’t know the glory and variety of Chinese food culture. I hadn’t grown up watching my Chinese family use fresh ingredients, lovingly prepared, and turn them into our favorite dishes for family holidays. So, when I consistently encountered racist rumors of dog or cat meat in Chinese food, I didn’t have this robust positive context with which to refute and reject the racist narrative. I just had lies stuck on repeat that seemed to make more and more sense in the absence of truth.
A whitewashed history erases the sins of white European colonizers and focuses on events from a perspective that glorifies them. When BIPOC are deprived of understanding history from the perspective of our racial/ethnic group, we struggle to recognize the common racist narratives used against us.
For example, I did not know that racist depictions of Chinese immigrants included cartoons of them eating rats. I wasn’t taught about the exclusion act. Now that I am learning this other side of American history, it is much easier to see anti-Chinese racist narratives for what they are.
The most recent example is the scapegoating of Chinese people for COVID-19. I see now that this racist narrative is also over 140 years old and it also has staying power in the minds of Americans. In fact, I knew the moment I heard about coronavirus, that anti-Asian hate was going to get more aggressive and more visible again.
Now, about that reward mini loop. In the graphic it says this:
“Dominant white culture may reward BIPOC by granting access to some privileges, reinforcing their internalized racism.”
Here are two hypothetical example scenarios:
These examples aren’t that hypothetical, are they? Living in a world that has been shaped by racist policies and narratives, BIPOC are constantly pushed to meet racist expectations. People want to see us a certain way. Going along with that can feel easier in that we avoid the friction and confrontation required to go against it. Getting applause and praise feels good. It can even feel like love.
However, when BIPOC internalize racist narratives, it does deep harm to ourselves and others. It leads to self-hate and self-sabotage and turns us into an actor in the oppression of others. These ‘rewards’ merely mask the harm being done, like a pleasant side-effect masks the symptoms of a lethal drug. So you keep taking it because you don’t realize it’s killing you.
In seeing internalized racism in myself, I have felt the need to be aggressive at times. It is important to own up to the truth of how I have upheld racist narratives and excavate my mind, heart and history for the root my racist beliefs. Yet I’ve also felt the need to extend grace to myself as one who has been harmed by racist narratives and policies that I did not create, and is recovering from self-hate and shame.
Truth and grace are both required.
This is why I am so critical of white Christianity and white culture. I feel I have to right my wrongs by speaking against the beliefs I formerly held. While it might not be the best way for me to atone, it helps me heal. I have gone through much of my life experiencing racism that I was unable to name and process. Now that I am learning the words and tools to do that, sharing that feels like freedom.
I believe that confronting and deprogramming internalized racism is godly and necessary healing work. However, it is costly (i.e. I have lost the ‘rewards’ of certain relationships and opportunities). I’m sure as I learn more and get better at seeing internalized racism in myself, I’ll want to explain some things differently.