This is sort of the question that has plagued my childhood life. People will ask all sorts of obnoxious questions and assume that they’re entitled to an answer just because you’re adopted, young, a person of color, etc. This is a complex issue, and while I encourage you to view it holistically, I am going to focus on the racial issues at work.
I really do believe that race is at work here. Not being a domestic, non-transracial adoptee, I can’t know for sure what it’s like, or what the specific difficulties they face are. But I will say, that when you look “foreign”, you’re already at an automatic disadvantage. There’s a lot less sensitivity. People will tell you how “backwards” your birth nation is, relate some details of infanticide they picked up from a Barbara Walters special and then start to interrogate you about everything from your abandonment to language ability to finding your birth mother to my personal favorite, “aren’t you lucky to be chosen like that?”
Moments like these have the potential as great “teaching moments”. However, I know that personally, I rarely have the stamina. And furthermore, it’s hard to start these conversations without some sort of ally. That’s where you come in.
You daughter needs to learn early on that this kind of questioning is not okay. Otherwise in ten years she’ll end up in tears while her fourth grade teacher publicly drills her about why she was abandoned, whether or not she wants to find her birth mother and if she feels any different from her siblings. And, she won’t tell you about it after the fact, because you’ve never given her any indication that it’s okay to be upset by questions like that. True story.
You need to learn to be an anti-racist parent. That means a lot of self-education, and not being afraid to tell people off the truth.
You have to be ready for the worst. When she hits her teen years, and you’re not around, people will ask her if she’s married to your husband. People will comment on her “chinky” eyes. They will stereotype, exoticize and fetishize her in every way possible. People will accuse her of things, people will assume things about her. And you have to stand up for her – even when it’s hard. Even when it’s a neighbor, a family member, a co-worker. You have to make people realize that racism is not acceptable, and that they can’t get away with talking about your daughter or people who look like her that way.
Of course, these things are insidious, and unavoidable. They leave wounds that only time will heal. Your love and support is important – but I know that for myself, it wasn’t until I was able to relate these experiences to people who had also lived them that I was able to properly see them as instances of racism, and realize that I was not to blame.
I’m trying to come up with some good resources for aparents related to anti-racism. There will be a link appearing soon, I have a lot of reading ahead of me.