Mailbag: Replies To My Wo Ai Ni (I Love You Mommy) Posts

Friday, September 03, 2010

As some of you may or may not know I'm kind of lazy - hell - I don't even respond a lot to comments I actually like - much less people who send me in e-mail or comments that I'd usually just not even care about - but as a couple of people sent me in some things and also left a comment on a couple of my posts about the film Wo Ai Ni (I Love You Mommy) and I've seen that it's had its DVD release along with some other recent posts on it - I thought what the hell.

I need a good workout.

A Random Fact About My State

If you didn't already know - my state - MN - has been called the Mecca Of Transracial adoptions where some people even like to joke that there're more Korean Americans who've came here via adoption than we have lakes and I think that's actually true because we're the land of 10,000 lakes and there's like 30,000 KAD's here.

And yes - with so many - and this being the Mecca - I've gotten to know some of them. At the same time, I've also gotten to know that landscape in regard to adoption agencies, organizations, culture camps, and varied other people within those communities - et al. - both here and in other states - because unlike some folks I know - I'm kind of all inclusive.

Obviously I don't know everyone, I'm not a KAD, nor do I speak for anyone except for myself - but I do like to think that I have a nice base on this issue.

Another Random Fact

If you know anything about the Transracial and International Adoption communities you know that two things run rampant: Images of children, and voices from parents that adopt. And you'll also know that voices from this community - adult voices - are often shut down and not listened too.


Because they bring up questions about the commodification of children and Human Trafficking. They bring up voices about the tenuous racial issues that come up even in the best of families. They bring up in a very real way, that for some, transracial and transnational adoptions don't end a few months, or a few years after one takes place. That they exist far beyond that scope of what's normally focused on.

And they have to fight when they speak their truth about the issues they've overcome - both inside and outside of the API community - as they're labeled bitter and angry simply for saying how they feel or being told time and again that they should be lucky for their circumstance.

That they are intrinsically better off.

And actually - now that I'm thinking about it - mmmmmm.....maybe this is true.

Maybe losing a family and being an orphan really is lucky - kind of like winning the lottery, because in all reality - I think orphans probably get all the breaks.

You also may want to know that the appropriation of the Asian American Transracial experience - by people who aren't themselves (some might say mouthpieces for parents who adopt and the organizations that help facilitate the process) isn't really looked at fondly.

And Just One More Other Tidbit Of Information

I heard from a good authority on the matter that when P.O.V/PBS had their roundtable/strategy meeting that the representation of people there who actually had some sort of personal connection to adoption - as in people who actually were - was pretty - how shall we say - next to nothing.

Barely an API transracial voice to be heard.

Just let that one fester for a second.

And then ask yourself if you want an Asian American film festival that's only put on by White People for the "Asian American" community.

But wait. Maybe it wasn't for them anyway.

I Digress. Let's Answer Some Questions Thrown My Way

I know I've been a little - how shall we say - well - just the way I am some days - in this post and previous posts on this - but this e-mail I got from reader Dianne - definitely appreciate the questions.

Here's the full e-mail:

Big fan of your blog; thanks for all the great work you do. I'm a bit
confused by this post, however:

I saw a screening/Q&A of Wo Ai Ni Mommy last month and as an Asian American and someone who knows and has worked with many adopted Asian Americans, I found it fascinating to get this set of perspectives on international adoption, particularly one involving an older, special needs child--a situation I knew nothing about. You clearly find this film extremely offensive, and I'd like to know why. I can see where adding a camera to the already tremendously stressful situation of leaving everything you know could be traumatic for a child, but from the Q&A with filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal, it seemed that having a Chinese American Mandarin-speaker there (though I believe Faith/Fang Sui spoke Cantonese; I don't entirely remember) ended up being an unintentional softening to the blow of arriving in America. Obviously I don't know for certain whether Faith actually felt this way.

Wang-Breal also largely focused her lens on the adoptive parents, who were completely open about their feelings and difficulties, no matter how cringe-worthy some of their well-intentioned quotes may have been (having worked with parents of adopted Chinese and Korean Americans, I know that this is not at all uncommon). Scenes that focused on Faith almost always had one or both of her parents present, and I never once had the feeling of exploitation or racism.

I'm wondering, do you feel it's inherently racist to get the first-person viewpoints of international adoptees and/or their parents? I walked out of the theater feeling a new understanding of the complications of international adoption, a developed empathy for adoptees, their parents, and their families, and a curiosity about the experiences of the adoptees I know. If the parents in the movie had adopted Caucasian children, would that still have been "racist?" Perhaps international adoption itself is intrinsically racist? I know I personally have mixed feelings about international adoptions, but in the end I feel heartened about the fact that the children are getting care and attention that they likely wouldn't have received otherwise. Even if there is a problem with this process, is there any reason it shouldn't be explored and shared on an open, personal level, as in this film?

Do you think it's inherently exploitative to film children for a documentary? If so, what what age is it acceptable to consider film subjects "consenting?" And do you have a similar problem with other documentaries that feature children (Babies, Spellbound, and Born into Brothels all come to mind)? Perhaps you think there was something specific to the technique that Wang-Breal used here that you find offensive? I'm interested to know why you had such a strong negative reaction to a film that I found quite eye-opening and sensitive.

Many thanks,

I'm wondering, do you feel it's inherently racist to get the first-person viewpoints of international adoptees and/or their parents?

Not at all. In fact I think the voices from those within the transracial and transnational community should be heard. But I believe this should be done when they've reached an age where they've acclimated to a point where they understand what they're giving and what they're sharing to the world.

Because of the complexities that can be involved I don't think it's fair to them - especially in this case where Fang is adjusting - especially as an older child going through the process.

One thing to note too is that I've never used the word "racist" in my past two posts about this film.

Perhaps international adoption itself is intrinsically racist?

Many would say yes. Many would say no. In my personal view - race and underlying stereotypes can indeed play a role however.

Do you think it's inherently exploitative to film children for a documentary?

I really think it comes down to the subject matter. In this case - I do find it exploitative for a lot of the reasons I've talked about in this post and the last two posts.

My Bottom Line

I'm obviously just one guy. One blogger. I don't speak for anyone else but me - and some people may like this film - it may give them something they may want - transracial, not transracial, have kids, don't have kids - whoever they may be.

But I'll ask a few questions.

1. If you loved this film and thought it was heartwarming and spectacular do you think it helps to legitimize an industry - which adoption is (and is one of the few industries left in the world where the trade is a human being) - where the majority of children in regard to nationality are Asian and who could be trafficked for money? Because this does happen.

2. Do you know about things like the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption or Outsiders Within? Do you know what the phrase "open adoption" means and anything about the lack of rights of people who've been adopted (transnationally and domestic) for simple things like birth records?

3. Do you wonder why a film like Wo Ai Ni (I Love You Mommy) is getting so much fan fare but in comparison (at least in my opinion) films like Adopted The Movie, or In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee haven't. Could this have anything to do with the fact that the voices from those movies have adult voices in them and ask tough questions?

4. If you think this film is outreach - when you think of outreach what does that really mean in regard to the space of transracial and transnational adoption?

Edited on 9-3-2010 ("codification" --> commodification)