by: Cherish Asha Bolton
Popular TV show This Is Us wowed audiences again with its coverage of transracial adoption. I don’t watch the show, and a lot of adoptees can’t bring themselves to watch it either. And yet it’s immensely popular with adoptive parents. The supposedly “mic drop” scene is as follows:
Jack: When I look at you, I don’t see color. I just see my son.
Randall: Then you don’t see me, Dad.
On this second day of NAAM, it’s particularly biting to see this interaction getting mainstream attention. You see, many of us adoptees of color have had this exact dialogue with our colorblind families and friends (myself included).
This isn’t an original line, and dare I say, I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers lurk in adoption spaces and stole this from the stories of adoptees, co-opting our stories for better ratings.
This isn’t some TV script for your entertainment; this is a painful part of our real lives. It hurts us in deep, existential ways to be denied access to our birth culture and traditions and then to be unseen by our adoptive families. It is actively rejecting us a second time.
If you refuse to “see” the parts of me that are a brown Indian, then you are actively refusing to support me on my journey to discover who I was born to be. Your choice to take the easy road to claim “I’m not racist” actively isolates me, and in turn plays into its own racial problems. Take the harder road with me, with any of the people of color in your lives, and learn how to unlearn racial biases. This work requires you to see, so take off your (color)blinders.
The fact that it takes a network TV show to get this concept to take hold rather than the direct words of real adoptees should disgust anyone and everyone who loves an adoptee.
I challenge adoptive parents and allies who support the adoptee attempt to “flip the script” during NAAM to think about how prioritizing entertainment over the real words of adoptees is its own form of silencing; to be more intentional about whose voices you choose to uplift; and to be more critical of the media you choose to consume.