Where are the Outraged Parents here?


November 14, 2007 by multiracialsky

I’ve been reading the (rightfully) outraged commentary about the grossly entitled New York Times post by transracially adoptive parent Tama Janowitz. If you haven’t read it yet, this is the quote that is driving everyone the most mad:

So in a way it is kind of nice to know as a parent of a child, biological or otherwise – whatever you do is going to be wrong. Like I say to Willow: “Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”

Here’s why I haven’t written about Ms. Janowitz before now . . . Because I was waiting for the ground-swell of outraged adoptive parents, the ones who are just as angered and sickened by this commentary on [adoptive] parenting as the censored adult adoptee voices. But those adoptive parents are nowhere to be found.

The only adoptive parents I have found who are speaking out about this mess are Paula (who is also a transracial adult adoptee) and Dawn (who says only that adult adoptee voices need/deserve to be heard).

Now I’m all for hearing from adult adoptees; there is no other way to have a full and accurate discussion regarding adoption. But where are the adoptive parents who think that Tama’s attitude is garbage (and dangerous garbage at that)–just because it is!? This post offends me, and not just because I visualize my children, my friends as Tama’s child.

The anxiety that keeps me up at night is that Tama’s viewpoint really is that of most adoptive parents. That although adoptive parents may not be so ‘funny’/casual/cruel about it, they really do believe they have saved their child. Saved them not only from poverty, but also from their birthfamily and birth-culture. This ‘saving’ which then necessitates some level of gratitude from the child.

Which is why these same adoptive parents do not feel obligated to bring their child’s birth-culture into the family, or even into their child’s life. As a family member of mine said (oh yes they did, and in a totally honest way), “What exactly is good about Black American culture?” But that was a (now educated) extended family member; that was not my partner or me. (And boy, did I have to sit there and breath for a minute before answering that one. I think I started with the brilliant, “Are you kidding me?”)

I had my partner read Tama’s post last night. His take was that she was playing on a stereotype of a brash, self-centered New Yorker (“F-you, kid!”). And then the photo of Tama and her daughter at the top of Susan‘s post this morning made me think ‘child as fashion accessory’ (and honestly, I never think that of APs, not even Angelina Jolie).

AN ASIDE: I can’t believe that we (those of us who are part of the adoptive family ‘community’) are still debating whether an adoptive parent-child relationship is different–for the child or the parent–from a biological parent-child relationship. Can we just agree–it’s not better or worse, but IT IS DIFFERENT. And the adoptive parent-child relationship is (not in a bad way, but in a real way) also more complicated. When can we acknowledge these truths, and move on? As long as we (adoptive parents) try to pretend that adoptive relationships are the same as biological relationships, we are living in the land of denial. (It’s like saying that a multiracial family is the same as a monoracial family, or that a 2-mom family is the same as a mom-and-dad family. None is better or worse than another, but I think we are all (most of us?) aware that living in a multiracial family or a 2-mom family is probably inherently more complicated.)

My major disbelief? I cannot believe Ms. Janowitz has been chosen as a representative/average adoptive parent voice.

My biggest fear? That she is.



Posts by adult adoptees, including scathing commentary on the NYT’s refusal to publish their comments:

Other Posts:


27 thoughts on “Where are the Outraged Parents here?

  1. Susan says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I was wondering, too, about where the APs were in this discussion/response. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. […] Save one, win valuable prizes Relative choices? Nail? Meet hammers. Racist M/Paternalism at its Best Whoa. Hey. People — this isn’t ok Shut Up, Tama Janowitz. Just shut up. And turn in your parenting license while you’re at it. To Willow Janowitz: You’re not alone…. All The (Adoption) News That They See Fit To Print A Comment About the Comments The New York Times: Gatekeeper, Censor Tama Janowitz, My Canidate for Mother of the Year Tama Janowitz on NYT adoption blog Fairness Doctrine New York Times aka “the Adoption Police?” censorship on new york times adoption blog New York Times Adoption Blog Censoring Adult Adoptees Where are the Outraged Parents here? […]

  3. kattycake says:

    I am pretty sure that some ap’s comments were not published,
    mine were not and I tried to post two times. But, yes, I do
    worry that Tama is representative of ap’s, just look at all the
    comments praising her post.

  4. kattycake says:

    Just wanted to add one more thing. Willow, at twelve, most
    likely has school mates who are reading her mother’s post.
    I would think it must be so humiliating for Willow and who knows
    what other children are saying to her in school?

  5. imtina says:

    I left a comment but it wasn’t published. I think I must put in a post now. If only to distance myself from AP’s like her. BLEHH.

    I liked her writing in the 80’s too. Shoot.

  6. Theresa says:

    Kattycake thank you VERY much for bringing up that point in comment #4. I’ve got a post I’ve been working on and that’s one of the things that’s killing me and I’ve been trying to articulate. If Willow hasn’t googled herself and the uproar by now, someone at her school will.

    I feel so horrible for this little girl.

  7. shannon says:

    You know, I do think it’s a fairly typical AP attitude–just wealthier and New Yorkier and therefore even more offensive. I don’t want to give the NYT any more press for this. It’s stupid and will continue to be stupid and we need to keep building our alternative message. I don’t think the NYT is “coming around” any time soon.

  8. christine says:

    Though i am not an adoptive parent, or an adoptee, i saw the racism and classism of Janowitz’s article. i did not find anything remotely humorous about it.

    Why is this woman blaming her inadequecies on this child? And how can she look into her child’s face and put down her race and where she came from in such a manner?

    i think people like Janowitz become outraged when those they “save” don’t show the proper gratitude for the white connection, the “in” the white adoptive parent often believes they are providing, which will supposedly uplift poor little colored kids.

    Because of Multiracial Sky, i know that there are many parents who strive to build their children up as the individuals they are, infusing them with pride as well as building the family around the children instead of the reverse.

  9. Susan says:

    Natasha, you know, I am still really sad and discouraged that your post is the ONLY post of real substance on this issue from any AP. It is upsetting to me and makes me really sad. Where IS the outrage, indeed.

  10. Julia says:

    I tried to get two different, pissed off but “appropriate” (according to NYT guidelines for posting) comments posted but they never showed up and I described myself as an adoptive parent, white, of an African American son. I hope Tama isn’t indicative of adoptive parents, but the Times sure gives her lots of credibility as one and all the support that was posted just reinforces that. It’s infuriating.

  11. Emily says:

    That is absolutely amazing. She seriously WROTE that?

  12. Margie says:

    Although, as always, I’m late, I just wanted to thank you and to say I’m absolutely with you. I’ve posted my thoughts on my blog as well.

    I share your concerns that Tama Janowitz has been selected as a representative of the adoption community. In light of what the Times did, I’m even more concerned that adoptees and one first mother are there less for real balance and more for its aura. I don’t know if it’s just my fine-tuned paranoia or not, but it bothered me that Hollee McGinnis’ post, which encourages just the kind of dialog they squelched, came up so soon.

    What an appalling situation.

  13. mara says:

    I’m an AP and my comment wasn’t published. But I have proclaimed my outrage. There are a bunch of us. I guess it’s just not visible because the NYTimes is choosing to only let one type of comment through. I hope that those congratulatory posts are not reflective of the AP community, though I fear it may well be. Sigh!

  14. cloudscome says:

    You are right Natasha, we have been slow to respond and much too quiet.

  15. Kari says:

    I’m here! I just don’t have a real blog and the comments on the NYT are now closed.

    I feel so sorry for Willow and a lot of adoptees whose parents have that “suck it up” attitude. I saw it even when we were still in China and adoptive parents were letting their babies cry in the stroller or were chatting in the elevator about letting her cry herself to sleep at night so she wouldn’t “win” the sleep battle. It broke my heart. American parenting is in a sad, sad state.

  16. Susan Graham says:

    Where are the adoptive parents? I would venture to guess that they are somewhere very close to the parents of multiracial children when we were fighting on local, state, and national levels for the rights of multiracial children to be classified as multiracial on forms that “require” racial and ethnic information. Many parents contacted us about THEIR child or children, and then were long gone when it came to fighting for all multiracial children. I was an outraged parent who started Project RACE (www.projectrace.com) 17 years ago. We have made progress, but our work is far from finished. So if you’re outraged, contact us. We DO, we don’t just talk.

  17. Paula O. says:

    Thank you, Natasha for this post and for your voice. I hope people keep on making some noise!!

  18. Ansley says:

    I AM OUTRAGED, Natahsa!

    Over at Racialicious, people are saying the NYT is editing the blog commentary. Basically, those comments which disagree with the blog are being rejected by the moderator.

    I will post about Tama on my blog later this week.

    You are not alone! I have already expressed my outrage to the op-ed at NYT.

  19. Jen says:

    Unfortunately by the time I read the post the comments had been turned off or I certainly would have responded. Janowitz’s views certainly aren’t representative of the adoptive parents I know. I don’t know what horrified me more – her complete disrespect for her daughter or all of the positive comments following the post. I was absolutely stunned.

  20. Nancy says:

    I have just read the NYT article so my outrage is a little late to the party!
    I do think that Ms. Janowitz was trying to be funny and ironic in an oh so cool NYC way. That said, it fell flat with me. And I imagine her daughter as well.
    Still, I know a lot of adoptive moms and I know of not a single one who considers herself her adoptive childs savior.
    And by the way this Irish/Czech girl makes a mean Kim Bap and Jap Chae.

  21. sheljena says:

    Once again, I am late to comment. This is ridiculous and scary. Thank you for writing this.

  22. cloudscome says:

    I put up my 2 cents.

  23. Ken says:

    Well put, and thanks for your efforts to get more attention to it.

    Even if you take the comment to her kid as satire, that doesn’t erase the overall dismissive tone towards concerns about how adoption impacts adoptees.

    The obligation as a person of good faith is not to reach a particular conclusion; it’s to be open to the discussion about the impact of adoption and not treat adoptees as if their job is to make us feel good about ourselves.

  24. Ryan says:

    I am just SICK reading this… and further pissed off that I can no longer comment!!!! I am completly shocked that a mother would say a comment like that to her dayghter. Wow.

    The irony to me is that this AP thinks that her daughter is being a typical teenager, when in fact, the mother sounds like a HORRIBLE mother.
    As for this little comment: “A girlfriend who is now on the waiting list for a child from Ethiopia says that the talk of her adoption group is a recently published book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly about being treated as if they did not come from a different cultural background. They feel that this treatment was an attempt to blot out their differences, and because of this, they resent their adoptive parents.” I don’t think that the Midwestern Asian’s in the book are “complaining”. Complaining = bitching because your husband wants to watch UFC for the gazillionth night in a row. Obviously Tama didn’t read the book, because if she had she would have a COMPLETLY diferent perspective.

    I wish I had known about this earlier. I don’t think (or as least I PRAY) that adoptive parents just weren’t aware of the NYT blog post, because any that I know would have been over there in an INSTANT raising hell.

    Please know that there are PLENTY of adoptive parents who are doing things the RIGHT way. We are reading, researching, and fighting for our children’s self and their futures. I truely believe that this generation of adoptive parents will turn the tide. I hope. Many of us are HAPPY to see that certain countries (Like S. Korea) and working hard to keep their babies domestic. We are even MORE THRILLED to see that true “open adoption” (with international adoption) is becoming more common. In fact, I had a dream last night that my son’s first mom showed up at my door step and when I opened the door we embraced sobbing into each others shoulders.

    Anyway, I hope to God that this NYT article is a POOR representation of AP’s. It is in my opinion.


  25. Talula says:

    Sadly; it is not just the “white” class or culture who behaves in this way toward their adopted children in this world. Historically; “saving” children from their own family trajedies and culture has been the norm in many societies through-out the ages. There has been (and still is) a particular type of person who takes children from those circumstances and considers them to be pets, welfare projects, as stated earlier a “fashion accessory” or even as domestic or sexual slaves. I have been lifelong children’s advocate and educator who has seen it firsthand from all sides. I can only pray loudly to the universe along with those ethical/ caring parents for more loving and nurturing people to take-in or adopt children for the for the right reasons and for the “human kindness” that is needed so desparately by these children who will become the leaders of tommorow. For by loving these “lost” or “leftover” children and raisnig them with beauty and kindness; honoring their beginnings is just a tiny step to the global peace we (or at least most of us) strive, hope and pray for to whatever god we claim. good luck to all adoptive parents.

  26. Debbie Georgens says:

    TJ’s words hit me like a punch. I found myself cringing for her daughter, embarassed that Jana has not educated herself and risen above such horrible thoughts by now as Willow’s parent, and really, really surprised that the NYT would publish this. I am an AP who read this too late to comment. Thank you for this opportunity to post.

  27. Kat says:

    I’ve only just discovered your blog (love it), so I’m coming to this discussion late, but have just read the post regarding Tama Janowitz’ offensive comments. I’m mom to a three-year-old daughter we adopted from China. The comment at the beginning of this post that most adoptive parents think they are saving a child from whatever fate awaited them had they not been adopted also offended me. I imagine there are many adoptive parents who feel that way, and shame on them if they do, but most of my fellow adoptive parent friends bristle everytime someone tells us how lucky are children are that we adopted them. We give the usual line that we are the lucky ones, because we are, but it’s difficult to make people understand. I think if you’re adopting to save a child, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. It’s an honour for us to be our daughter’s parents, and it’s also an honour and privilege to be able to celebrate her culture at every turn, to be with people who share her heritage, from friendships to cultural events. I should point out that, far from feeling I had saved my daughter, I cried as our bus was leaving for the airport in Beijing, knowing I was taking our daughter away from her culture. I attend every workshop and conference I can in the hope that I can be a better parent to her. A recent one on transracial families, with an amazing panel of adult adoptees and adoptive parents, was an eye-opener. I know we will make mistakes along the way, but I hope that, armed with knowledge, and a genuine love and appreciation for her culture, and a huge distate for offensive cultural stereotyping, such as the comment made by Janowitz, we can raise our daughter to be proud of who she is, and where she comes from. I had a friend who told me I was being too sensitive when I called her recently on a ridiculous comment she made. Like it or not, I’m forced to educate the idiots out there who mistake racism for humour, ethnocentrism for wit. Which, come to think of it, I was doing long before our daughter joined our family.

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