No Juneteenth For Adoptees

Of course, it will never happen. There will never be an official statement, much less a federal holiday, proclaiming adoptees are “free” and in fact have been even if they were not previously informed.

The United States was built on the broken backs of kidnapped and enslaved Africans. The country as we know it would not exist without them.

If you like, throw out arguments now justifying slavery. I can’t hear you so I don’t care. They may include:

~ Blacks were better off as slaves in America than free in Africa.

~ No one talks about happy slaves, where they were treated like part of the family.

~ Slavery existed in the bible.

~ My ancestors didn’t have slaves.

~ Some Blacks enslaved other Blacks.

~ They have all the same right now as everyone else. Why are you dragging up ancient history?

~ Blacks have it better than whites. I didn’t get my job through Affirmative Action.

~ They’re lazy, stupid, disrespectful, on welfare, on drugs, and criminal. The only good ones are professional athletes or musicians and they’re full of themselves.

~ I know a Black person and they don’t want any special rights.

~ I still wouldn’t want any of my kids to marry one.

~ They can move back to Africa. No one’s stopping them.

~ ALL lives matter.

I have heard all of these statements, or variations of, all my life. I’m white, so I’m protected. I don’t have to worry that someone will track me down and retaliate due to my opinions. It is staggering to imagine living as a person of color in the United States, where your every action or inaction represents your entire race, and your life is literally on the line based on the whims or “fears” of others.

But the very idea of Juneteenth pisses people off. The thought that we even acknowledge we had a system of slavery after our nation was supposedly founded on the creed of “liberty and justice for all” when that really applied only to white, male land owners is (I guess) tantamount to admitting the game was rigged. The whites were going to win because we make up the rules as we go and will use any means necessary to make sure Manifest Destiny still stands. To the victors go the spoils.

What does this have to do with adoption? Even though (I hope) most Americans think of slavery as something weird that we used to do, adoption is something we still do. And it’s just as sick and twisted. Modern adoption is based on human trafficking, coercion, lies, forged documents, money, and power. That makes it un-Christian and should be as un-American as slavery, if our Constitution had really been written with everyone in mind.

God did not create slavery. Humans did. God did not create adoption. Humans did. It is not “God’s plan” for people to be taken from their original family and raised by strangers. Even if you really believe God placed it on your heart. Even if you really love that child as your own. Just like it was not God’s will for Africans to be enslaved for the benefit of the European conquerors of North America. And no amount of gaslighting or justifying will make it true.

“Well, I’m sorry you had a bad experience, but – ” and I’m gonna have to stop you right there. Calling my entire life of being adopted an “experience” as if it were a one-time event is just insulting. Try saying these things aloud:

“Well, I’m sorry you had a bad kidnapping, but – “

“Well, I’m sorry your entire family was wiped out, but – “

“Well, I’m sorry you won’t play along and pretend you were better off being enslaved.”

And now you might say it’s not fair to equate adoption to kidnapping, but to a child there is no difference. None.

“Well, I know someone who’s adopted and they’re just fine with it.” And I know hundreds who aren’t. But let’s go back 200 years, shall we? “Well, I know a slave and they don’t want to be free.” Maybe, just maybe, saying they did yearn for freedom would earn them a lashing or being sold down river so they lied? Or they had been so ground down that they could not imagine anything else? Or their own enslaved children were part white by the same family that owned them and they had to make sure they were not separated?

Right now Ireland is grappling with the fallout of the mother and baby homes run by the Catholic church that resulted in thousands of forced adoptions, and also slavery of the women confined there, and even the deaths of many babies.

Canada is reeling from the news that the First Nations have known for centuries – that their residential schools (like those in the United States) stole children from their parents to eradicate their culture and make them “real” Canadians. Hundreds died at the hands of their white, Christian saviors and were dumped in unmarked graves. In the US, as recently as the 1950s, a white couple could buy an “Indian child” for $10. Yes, I said buy. They only bothered to call it adoption in the legal records, but the advertisements were clear. Today, Native American children in South Dakota are still one of the state’s biggest cash crops because by virtue of them being Indigenous, they are deemed “special needs” and therefore more than likely to be put on the foster care to prison trajectory, if they live long enough. This isn’t history – this is happening now.

That is why we need Juneteenth. Not “for Blacks to have something to gripe about.” But to look the truth in the face. To acknowledge this happened and why. To understand everything isn’t “fine” now. To know we have a long way to go. That we need to evolve, to better our society, for everyone. And that includes dismantling the current adoption system. Unseal the records. No more amended (false) birth certificates. No advertising for babies. No fostering or adoption for profit or monthly stipends. Tear down Child Protection Services and start over. Mainly, stop normalizing adoption. It’s not normal. It’s not “just another way to grow a family” just like slavery was not “just another way to employ people.”

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread.

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