25 March 2014

“Breaking the Illusion of the World”

This week, the flyer for Old Navy arrived.

I had two simultaneous reactions. First, “Wow! A transracial family!” Second, “Whoa. A transracial family.”

Let me explain. But before I do, listen to this segment of This American Life. Listen for the cues on “breaking the illusion of the world.”

(You can also hear this on This American Life’s site here if the link is not loading.)

At first appalling, with Elna Baker’s description of Nubbins and his FAO Schwartz Lee Middleton Doll orphanage adoption ward, the story meanders through the hierarchy of our real life society … our society, where white sells to the affluent crowd, where wealthy parents can support their children in adopting dolls that look like them, and when white dolls are not available, we can move on to Asian, Latino and Black babies. But wait, Nubbins, the special needs doll who is white can be purchased by the entitled, young girl who will not love him and wants to call him “Stupid” … and is … before the Black babies.

This is not to say that these are the parents who become adoptive parents. However, I do believe that it speaks to the illusion of race and adoption.

My parents loved and cared for me. My family (both white and Puerto Rican) has embraced and forgotten that I was different. Yet, deep inside, I have always known I was different. My mother hoped to help me with the struggle. She did the best she could and bought this doll, my most cherished childhood toy.

While the ad for Old Navy reaffirmed my place in my family, it also scared me. I feared that others might want that little “China Doll” for their family. The Asian girl might become the trophy child … the child in the advertisements.

As I mulled over the meaning of this flyer in my mailbox, two dolls on Ebay were shared with me.

The first, was the White Swan Hotel Going Home Adoption Barbie, complete with her very own Chinese adoptee. All for $475!

The second was the 1984 “Rice Patty” baby, with her very own Hong Kong passport! She, of course, is a bargain at $78!

These images broke the illusion of my world. While adoption has complex meaning to me, the children of transracial adoption are viewed as fodder in the toy world.

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