Asian adoptees have a unique perspective on cultural heritage

These adopted kids are learning traditional Beijing opera dances at Colorado Chinese Heritage Camp.

The Asian American community is a diverse world, and not just along purely ethnic lines. There are mixed-race Asian Americans, generations that all have different views on culture and identity, and also a thriving Asian American adoptee community. But adopted kids aren’t always connected to their root heritage.

The New York Times last week ran a well-written story interviewing Korean adoptees about the challenges of finding their identity. The article was based on a report on trans-racial adoptions by the Evan E. Donaldson Adoption Institute, which concentrated on adult adoptees who were adopted as children from South Korea. Focusing on Korean adoptees makes sense because, as the report states, “South Koreans comprise the largest group of internationally adopted persons in the U.S., and adoption from South Korea into the U.S. has a longer history than from any other nation; indeed, 1 in 10 of all Korean American citizens came to this country through adoption.”

Angry Asian Man and Linda of 8Asians both posted thoughtful reactions informed by their Korean American perspective.

Most notably, the report found that a staggering 78% of respondents considered themselves white or wanted to be white when they were children, and also that:

Racial/ethnic identity was of central importance to the Korean respondents at all ages, and continued to increase in significance into young adulthood. Sixty percent of them indicated their racial/ethnic identity was important by middle school, and that number grew during high school (67%), college (76%) and young adulthood (81%). Based on their overall scores on the Multi-group Ethnic Identity Measure, Korean adoptees had a stronger sense of ethnic identity than did White respondents, but with caveats. While being equal to Whites in agreeing that they were happy about being a member of their ethnic group and feeling good about their ethnic background, they were less likely to have a strong sense of belonging to their ethnic group, despite identifying more strongly with it. They also were less likely than Whites to feel welcomed by others of their own race.

There are a lot of fascinating data points to mull over in the report, and whether you’re interested in adoption, Asian American identity or trans-racial issues, it might be worth downloading and reading the 111-page PDF file, “Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity Formation in Adoption.”

The “Culture Camp” reference caught my attention. Continue reading