As you may have gathered, I have been woefully remiss in publishing and keeping up with my website and blog lately. Suffice it to say that it has been one of the most insane summers and falls of my life — maybe the most insane actually, although all the changes are good (got hitched, having a baby in early February, writing and teaching, etc.).
So, I am now trying to catch my website up on my publications, articles, and other assorted activities recently.
In that spirit, here is an article I wrote for the newly-minted Conducive Magazine, an online publication founded by sociologists who wanted to explore social issues and problems from progressive standpoints.
By Shannon Gibney
AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2009 CONDUCIVE
I. Some Visions I Have Seen…
How would various communities of color look and function if adults had enough education, training, and opportunity to ensure that when and if a family did encounter challenges, the local community could step in and care for the children in the least intrusive, most culturally-sensitive manner? What if families had every opportunity to remain intact and children were not removed from their midst on a regular basis?
Certainly, in such a world, the reproductive debate would be expanded to not only include the right of women to have safe abortions if they so choose, but to also raise their children in their own families and home communities.
What if families had every opportunity to remain intact and children were not removed from their midst on a regular basis?Poverty would have to be reconceived in the child welfare system as a systemic process that creates less real choices and resources for those mired in it (mostly people of color in the U.S.), rather than a moral shortcoming of certain “irresponsible” individuals. A ruling of “Neglect” would not be reason enough to terminate parental rights – community-based and elected panels would look into the causes of the neglect (which are often, though not always, catalyzed by a lack of economic and social resources).
In this world, the needs of children would be put first, rather than the needs of parents/consumers. Just as importantly, children would be seen as complex individuals whose needs far exceed those of mere survival. As a culture, we would see ourselves in our children, and recognize the web of emotional, psychological, cultural, communal, and other levels which they/we juggle every day, and which they/we will need to fully engage in order to reach their/our potential.
They (the adoptees) are also committed to exploring a collective solution that redirects the communal/spiritual disruption felt by these children toward something far more positive and far more beautiful.There would need to be a reckoning, throughout all levels and sectors of society, that race and culture do matter in America today. The public would have to recognize the notion that all any child needs is “the opportunity for a good education, a safe neighborhood, and a loving family” in order to thrive in any environment is based on the lie of a color-blind society. We have to face the painful truth that race and racism have seeped into every nook and cranny of American society – including, and perhaps most insidiously, the American family.
In this world, a Christianizing mission, and its historic role in conversion by any means necessary to the point of separating children from their parents, would be undermined. This would be accomplished via a devastating critique from the public and educational spheres, as well as through the de-funding of organizations and groups that purport to determine who is and who is not fit to parent based on a person’s adherence to a specific set of “Christian” values. The connection between Christianization, racism, and cultural genocide throughout the world (especially in indigenous communities in the U.S. and in Australia) would be made so plain that to deny it would be to deny your own heart.
children would be seen as complex individuals whose needs far exceed those of mere survivalThe sexism that women face – be it in a powerful institution such as her employer, or the church, or even from family members – would not be allowed to fester and grow in such a world. Women in every culture would have as much access to education as their male counterparts, and would be encouraged and supported in their efforts to tell their stories and present their reality. Even though she might at times feel like her choices were more limited than she would like, depending on her situation, no woman would ever feel that external forces made her either relinquish a child she wanted, or take on a burden that she could not bear alone. In short, there would be far more understanding and support for, by, and of women in this world.
II. Angle of View
Are these visions of justice so impossible in this kind of world? Are they so far off? In some ways, politicized transracial adult adoptees carry these visions with them in their minds, bodies, and spirits all the time. They embody the response to the all-too-familiar questions, “So, you believe we should get rid of adoption altogether?” or “What should we do otherwise?” Such a polarizing approach to the complicated and often contradictory process of child relinquishment and re-attachment to a new family and new community is as limiting as it is unimaginative. Has society’s angle of vision really become so narrow? Can it really only see what is already there, the mess all of us are standing in?
The visions put forth above are not the stuff of fantasy; they represent the labor, analysis, and dreams of so many people.What a collective group of adult adoptees have done is provide a space to discuss these complexities. The organizers and participants of the Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed Conference look forward to continuing the political education and growing consciousness that is shedding light on the chronic problem of removing children of color from their home communities and placing them in predominantly (foreign) Caucasian ones. They are also committed to exploring a collective solution that redirects the communal/spiritual disruption felt by these children toward something far more positive and far more beautiful.
The visions put forth above are not the stuff of fantasy; they represent the labor, analysis, and dreams of so many people. Socially aware people have noted and identified the intersection of the multiple oppressions and systems of power in transracial adoption: sexism, nationalism, Christianity, militarism, racism, poverty, and so many more.
Shannon Gibney lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota where she teaches writing, journalism, and African American topics at Minneapolis Community & Technical College. She is a 2002 graduate of Indiana University’s MFA program in fiction, and also holds an MA in 20th Century African American literature from that institution. Gibney was awarded a 2005 Bush Artist Fellowship and the 2002 Hurston/Wright Award in fiction. Currently, she is at work on a novel that chronicles the journeys of 19th century African Americans who colonized Liberia [excerpted in Fiction on a Stick: New Stories by Minnesota Writers, (Milweed, 2008)].