No matter your views or politics or this man, you must agree that last night was a historic moment. I was just old enough to understand the significance of Martin Luther King’s speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It was the first in the string of civil and international ‘60s events that shaped my attitudes toward race and politics. Barack Obama’s nomination presence and role in this convention says to me that Dr. King’s dream, which I’ve watched wither and nearly die during the last two presidential terms, is both alive and shared. Whether it’s just the glow of the aftermath of this rekindling of my ideals or a real sign that I’m not as alone in my point of view as I’ve been feeling these past years, I feel hope again for that dream. Hope.
There was, and undoubtedly will be next week in the Twin Cities, a lot of talk this week about bringing America’s dream to everyone, regardless of race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. I want to see the issues we talk about here – stopping coercive adoption practices and opening adoptee birth records – elevated to this level, human rights. But the community experiencing these inequities is fragmented. Individuals and organizations, where they exist, vie to be the mouthpiece of this movement that doesn’t exist, or exists in bits and pieces, scattered across the country.
Which is exactly the kind of fragmentation that every other movement to end oppression has experienced. Oppression, after all, culls its victims from the mainstream, and separates them from others with laws and customs that apply to them alone. They are denied access to the rights the mainstream takes for granted – to the podium, even, to speak the truth. Without the truth to get in their way, those in power make up their own, and embed it in the national consciousness.
It takes a strong, true message to bring about change, even when the inequity and injustice are clear. It takes a rallying cry. In my opinion, we don’t have that yet in the adoption community. We talk about what we all know is wrong, like the separation of families and the closure of birth records, but we haven’t figured out how to talk about them in ways that make the average person get it. That person may see adoption as a laudable charitable act that deserves special treatment under the law to protect the privacy of women, or as a way to improve the lives of poor children. In my opinion, we need a message that makes it crystal clear to these same people that laws that separate people from their genetic background and connections are unjust. When they get that truth, the details will fall into place.
Think of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination based on disability and is founded in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although today it seems completely obvious that people with disabilities should have equal rights and protection under the law, but that clearly hasn’t been the case, nor was it the case that the groups working independently on this issue were on the same path. Wikipedia’s entry on the ADA says this:
The ADA is notable because many disparate groups came together for a common purpose.It could happen in adoption, too, but we need that message. The speeches of the last four nights gave the context, I think. We need to find the words that raise a person’s right to know their genetic identity and connections, regardless of current family status, to the same level as race, national origin, and the other characteristics to which we give particular attention in our legal code.
Of course, finding such a rallying cry has been and probably will be a problem for some time. But with the potential of a new administration on the horizon that just might open its eyes to adoption’s inequities, we in the adoption community need to put our heads together to find the words. We need to come together in spite of our differences in forums that focus on the injustices of adoption, and use our collective contacts to bring the message to the media and the Hill.
Honestly, last night watching Barack Obama speak, I honestly saw the possibility take shape. For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful.