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?