Tag Archives: John Raible

The Success Story

Dr. Raible’s words still echo at different points in my days and weeks. One very powerful set of statements keeps playing.

“We are the success stories. But how many of the other stories were silenced by suicide?”

Here’s an account of such a story that was almost silenced.

He was twelve. Another school year was beginning. A new year, a new grade, and an abundance of promises … new books, new teachers, new subjects.

The regulars were present, too … friends, last year’s acquaintances and the same old halls. But this year, everyone was changing … physically, socially, emotionally. Some he considered friends became distant. Some began telling him that his race would exclude him from the relationships they all wanted. The “going together” moniker would be coveted but never his.

He was approached by strangers in the park who would taunt him with words that cut. The seemingly innocuous word, “Chinese” would be said with malice. There would be the pulling of eyes to assimilate his physical racial feature. He felt surrounded by a hate that he did not understand.

The words of others ridiculing him rang through his head. He wanted to hide. He felt alone. He felt he couldn’t tell his parents because they would never understand what it was like to live in his skin.

One night, he waited. He waited to hear the soft quiet of his sister’s sleeping sounds. He waited as his parents ascended the stairs to their bedroom. He could hear them brushing teeth and chatting as they readied themselves for sleep. Then, there was silence.

Quietly, he got out of bed. He took a cord and draped it in his closet. Sobbing softly, he wrapped the cord around his neck. He hoped this would numb the pain of the last few months. He hoped it would silence the voices and darken the images of kids slanting their eyes. He hoped it would give him peace. 

As the cord tightened, he sensed a darkness. Unconsciousness washed over him. Then, he opened his eyes. It was dawn. The cord lay on the floor, broken. His tears had dried. Something in him gave him resolve. He rose, got dressed and began another day.

In the days to come, he would talk with his mother about these racial comments. She would console him and try to work through the pain of the words.

His mother would never know the events that lead up to these discussions. She gave her love and advice, but he would keep this secret with him until many months later when his strength had returned.

His is a success story unlike those of us, the adoptee panelists, to whom Dr. Raible referred. The adoption community is awakening; discussions on race are finally becoming relevant, without suspicions or feelings of resentment.

The Korean American Adoptive Family Network recently blogged on the reluctance of our children to talk about issues of race with those they love the most … their families. You can find this blog post here.

Let’s keep the conversation going and add to the number of success stories.

The elephant has entered the room.

Yesterday, I served on an adoptee panel.

I have spoken about race and my racial identity as both a child and a mother.  Yesterday, feelings came flooding into my soul and spilled into the room.

The keynote speaker, Dr. John Raible, began this cathartic day with his history. He spoke candidly and with much respect for the mostly Caucasian audience of social workers. He said things in the opening that I have said in only roundabout ways in my blog, but he peeled away another layer.

It was refreshing for me, but it set me up for an emotional panel discussion. (It has always been easier to talk with the internet as my shield.) Having lived most of my life wanting to be Caucasian (said as “American” throughout this blog), a pride in who I am started to emerge. I have been changing for my children, but now, I feel it is time to talk more candidly to create a better racial climate for my children and all the other ethnic children raised by Caucasian families.

At the end of the day, Dr. Raible began his closing remarks saying that “the gloves are off.” He asked social workers to listen to my fellow panelist, Matt, when he encouraged the social workers and parents to spend time in the cultural camps or as panelist Carmen suggested spend a week somewhere where social workers and/or parents would be the minority. He gave good suggestions but strong words, and some weighted words got in the way.

After pouring my heart out in person along will all my fellow panelists, an older Caucasian man became aggravated with the weighed word “unfair.” What ensued were more negative words directed at Dr. Raible. As the older Caucasian man spoke, claps began growing around the room. I felt small and again, insignificant.

I realize that perhaps this man was trying to say that his case load was large, that there was no time or way in which to implement any of the things Dr. Raible was suggesting, but this complacency just made me feel as though our time had been wasted.

Luckily, as others spoke, it became clear that we had reached a number of people in the room. One man, Mr. Davis, finally said it well. He said that Dr. Raible wasn’t asking for immediate change, but for everyone to take the talk home and see what small steps could be made to make the next adoptee generation feel better supported in their ethnic identity development.

The next few posts will be hard for me and for you, the reader. Words again will fail me and the emotional, gut-wrenching weight of words will be on display.

Topics will include class, race, sexual orientation, medical histories and relevant role models.