The New Abolition: Ending Adoption in Our Time

By Daniel Ibn Zayd, Dissident Voice

In no way should my color be regarded as a flaw. From the moment the Negro accepts the separation imposed by the European he has no further respite, and “is it not understandable that henceforth he will try to elevate himself to the white man’s level? To elevate himself in the range of colors to which he attributes a kind of hierarchy?” We shall see that another solution is possible. It implies a restructuring of the world.
— Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Two years before I was born, Frantz Fanon’s seminal work The Wretched of the Earth was published at the height of the Algerian War that France was waging against its rebellious colony. Fanon’s text provides a framework for liberation from colonial subjugation, and it describes the psychological and physical trauma inflicted by a foreign power upon a dominated populace. It further elucidates the functional role of the “native intellectual”, the indigen who identifies with his colonizers. Fanon uses a striking passage to enlighten us concerning the mental makeup of those who acknowledge, accept, and finally assume the voice and narrative of the dominant culture. He states:

The intellectual who is Arab and French, or Nigerian and English, when he comes up against the need to take on two nationalities, chooses, if he wants to remain true to himself, the negation of one of these determinations. But most often, since they cannot or will not make a choice, such intellectuals gather together all the historical determining factors which have conditioned them and take up a fundamentally “universal standpoint”.

This is because the native intellectual has thrown himself greedily upon Western culture. Like adopted children who only stop investigating the new family framework at the moment when a minimum nucleus of security crystallizes in their psyche, the native intellectual will try to make European culture his own. [emphasis mine]

In comparing the colonized to the adopted child, Fanon makes an elliptical reference that merits expansion. The implication here is that the adoptee also traverses the phases of being “colonized”: coddled by the seeming safety of his new-found place, seduced by the imposed mythology of a dominant culture, and abetted by the willfully distanced memory of his generational past. Fanon thus provides a clear definition for what is often referred to within adoptee circles as “the fog”, or “drinking the Kool-Aid”: the acceptance of a fragile notion of security sustained by a false sense of self within an alien and alienating environment.

Given that adoption, like colonial oppression, is a function of a power differential determined by particular economic and political realities, Fanon’s guide to liberation can equally be applied to the condition of the adopted child, subjugated both physically and psychologically within a foreign realm. As adoptees come to realize that their “minimum nucleus of security” is highly questionable not just within the family but also within the world at large, the current normalizing analysis of the adoptee condition becomes an increasingly dubitable endeavor, especially when employing the tools, language, methods, and modes of the “colonial” system that engenders adoption in the first place.

Fanon’s liberatory strategies of decolonizing our minds as well as our sense of belonged-to place provide a lifeline for the adoptee attempting to return to her land of birth or to assume her place in the culture she was adopted into. Furthermore, they help us understand how our narratives mesh with others similarly displaced, including the immigrant-based families we are often adopted into. Finally, via these strategies, adoptees as well as their families, communities, and places of birth can attempt to find at the very least psychological solace from such a radical engagement, but more importantly they may discover a truly active role for themselves in this increasingly revolutionary world.

There are some who say, “Well, we’re the black Americans.” Junk. You ain’t nothing but an African, and you ain’t had nothing to say about where you were born; the white man decided where you would be born, when you would be born, and how you would be born. For us to keep talking this junk about “We’re Americans first”—thats junk. We’re Africans. We happened to be born in America because the white man needed us there, and that’s the only reason why. That does not make you an American, incidentally. It makes you a tool of America.
— Stokely Carmichael, Stokely Speaks

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2 responses to “The New Abolition: Ending Adoption in Our Time

  1. Pingback: From Citizenship to Equality | The Critical Historian

  2. Pingback: Frantz Fanon Colonialism & Development

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