15 Things Never to Say to People Who Were Adopted

15 Things Never to Say to People Who Were Adopted
Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

"Why didn't your real family want you?"

When it comes to social decorum, sometimes Americans are downright clueless — something Kim Kelley-Wagner knows all too well. The mother of two adopted girls from China, Kelley-Wagner posted a series of photos to Facebook to document some of the "things said to or about" her daughters. 

The images have elicited hundreds of responses, and made people think about how even their well-meaning comments may have undercurrents of hurtful ignorance or racism.

In the photos, Kelley-Wagner's daughters reveal an anger and frustration that may resonate with other adopted children when presented with similar questions. By juxtaposing the seemingly innocuous words with the girls' pained expressions, these photos illustrate just how harmful racist speech can be. 

In 2013, 7,094 children were adopted from other countries, according to the State Department. 2,306 of these children were from China. Kelley-Wagner's images highlight challenges often faced by these individuals, including the potential psychological trauma of having to justify their new family to society — especially one that already has a troubled relationship with its immigrant community. 

Kelley-Wagner recognizes that many of these comments may not be said with ill intention, but her photos demonstrate that those in the minority position — here, the children — too often bear the onus of explaining race to other people. 

"I have tried to explain to my daughters that people do not say these things to be mean," she wrote on Facebook. "They say them out of ignorance, which is why I am sharing some of them. Words are powerful, they can become tools or weapons, choose to use them wisely."


h/t 22 Words

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Marcie Bianco

Dr. Marcie Bianco is a Staff Writer at Mic, a Contributing Editor at Curve Magazine, and an adjunct associate professor at Hunter College. She has contributed to AfterEllen, Feministing, The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Lambda Literary, XO Jane, and The Women’s Review of Books. She writes and lectures about ethics, from feminism to race relations. Her current writing projects include a manuscript about lesbian academic affairs and a collection of feminist essays.

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