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« It's Okay to Say "I'm Sorry" in Adoption | Main | Julia »

May 28, 2008



Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I don't have much to add except that I appreciate your vulnerability.


Thank you for posting your picture. I've been looking for you. :)

I know that white privilege exists, I've seen it and benefited from it. I want every adoptive parent to read about it. I want every school teacher to take courses on sociology and race.

But I also want to change a little of every person I meet so they can SEE. It can be hard work, but it's what I can do.

I've thought of moving to China so my adoptive daughter has a chance to live somewhere where white isn't the majority, or in power. So far I've compromised and live in the town that has the highest percentage of Asian students in middle and high school.

you do what you can. But you also want to remove all this icky.
Thank you for letting me see you.

You are a very good writer, and in my definition, that is when writing touches, changes and encourages you. Thank you.


Thank you for this post. As a blonde, blue eyed mom to a gorgeous little girl who happened to be adopted from China, this weighs on me.

My DH is Chinese, so whether DD had been adopted or bio, she would have dark eyes and darker skin than me. I never once thought I would have a chid who "looked" like me, so adopting out of my race didn't make me think twice.

I think the most telling comment and one that goes right with your post today, was when my best friend sighed and said that my daughter has the complexion and skin color we all desire. She wasn't talking about being Chinese though, she meant that all the white people try to be tan and my DD already was.

We all want to be "perfect" and beautiful. My challenge is to remind my daughter she is both in a world that doesn't often look like her.

And thank you for posting your picture. You know what, you are beautiful - inside and out.


I recently discovered your blog through a china adoption community website I am a member of. As an adoptive parent of a 3 year old daughter, I appreciate your thoughts and wisdom so much.
Please continue to write and share and educate us.
And by the way when I read your blog for the first time, the first thing I noticed was that you are stunningly beautiful!
thank you again for educating us.


What a wonderful (publishable?) post. Sad, really. I've had a few times of discomfort with people staring at us and Nate and I just kind of "knew" or thought I knew what it was about. Maybe I was wrong; maybe not.

People just need to get over that stuff. I think you're beautiful in the skin you're in.


I really enjoy your blog and all the contributing ideas that flow here. I like it so much that I had to comment. lol

I wonder if you ever went into "asian-pride" mode sometime in your life? Most that I'm aquainted with did, or at least joined some asian club or immersed themselves into jpop/kpop/cpop/anime/etc. It was these kid's way of asserting their identity despite it being blatantly divisive. That was the point, to secede ourselves from the common pop culture.

To mature out of it and into an aware and tolerable nature was the epitome of accepting yourself and the world you live in. It's a shame that the media in our country is still so blatantly white and people just don't notice. That a baseball general manager is being called racist because he prefers to recruit latinos like himself, what about all the white gen.managers that recruit white? Who are these ignorant people calling the racist card? lol, puh-lease.

Keep it up, lady. I'm an optimist that lives in the city where it isn't so prevalent and thus I forget that it still very much is (as shown by the negativness surrounding Rev.Wright...). I'm glad you're around to remind me.


I'm still fascinated and sickened by racism in a country like ours that purports being a melting pot of so many cultures (which in truth we have certainly become and are)- hearing first hand what you have experienced is such a wake up call for all of us. It breaks my heart that any person suffers indignities such as these (especially by those who berated you in primary school, etc). I am inspired by your speaking out, writing, and helping all of us see more clearly. As a future adoptive mom to a beautiful Chinese girl (yes!) I can't tell you how valuable your own story is to me personally. There are new pioneers in this country that are slowly changing the climate here (all for the better) and you are at the forefront of that change. I hope my own daughter can come to these archives of yours one day and witness the foundation of integration you are laying for Asian-Americans (especially those in this distinct group of adopted children) that is so necessary. For all of us.

And on a side note, weirdly- I grew up wishing I were Korean. First grade, came home, and told my mom point blank I wanted brown "slanted" eyes and caramel skin and a face that defied the beauty of any "white" girl in school. She smiled and said, "Sorry babe, you're stuck in your own skin". Needless to say, I wasn't happy. But beauty in so many ways truly is in the eye of the beholder, as the saying goes. I was feeling shocked that you were shocked to hear someone tell you your eyes were beautiful. In my eyes, they just always have been.


As a future adoptive parent of a child from Vietnam, I truly appreciate your honestly. It is really sad that one thinks they are so high and mightly to look down on anyone because of their skin color, especially in the presence of children. This is the first time I have read your post, and you are inspiring. Know that you are a beautiful person, with a beautiful spirit. Be proud of who you are and your son will be proud too.

Mom of 2

I'm white and my husband is Korean. Our son is our biological child and we have one daughter adopted from Korea. My husband is also a Korean adoptee.

My son asked me if he was born 'wrong' a couple of years ago after I was asked by a stranger one of those.... "Where did you get him from?" kind of questions.

My heart grieves and hurt for my children when they are faced with racism that is blantenly right in front of them on a daily basis, with myself present. We've had numerous encounters as you have at the grocery store where children nearby will be praised for their outside beauty and then look at my children in discuss... Then ask me, "Are these kids yours?" My son is old enough to know exactly what the stranger means and I can see his head and shoulders slowly shrink to the ground as the strangers words penetrates through his ears and into his soul.

As my children's mother, I feel pain when I see my children affected by stranger's words of hate and ignorance, but I will be the first to admit I will never really know what it is like to be a person of color. My husband says it is something I will never come to fully understand because I'm white. I'm happy that my children have my husband to turn to at these times. That my children will know that Daddy 'gets it' and they know they have someone who truly understands their pain, frustration and questions.

My husband was adopted by two white parents who never really understood either. They would always give him the blanket answer of 'how handsome and smart he was, and too bad others can't see it'. Those words never comforted him and he knew his parents could not ever understand how racism affected him. I honestly don't think any white parents who have children of color (whether it is their bio or adopted child(ren)) can ever fully 'get it'.

I may not agree with all of your posts... but this one I can more or less relate to.


Hi Paula---Exceptional post and through our various conversations I know we both relate to one another on this topic. I've experienced right here in 2008 people doing the same thing where they actually look at you with disgust. I don't think I was taunted as much as a child, but it did occur from time to time and usually I was just pissed off at their cruelty. I have realized the older I become that I've internalized so much of my hate toward my looks and that everyday I have to remind myself that short legs are BEAUTIFUL and flat faces are BEAUTIFUL and Korean eyes are GORGEOUS and black hair is FABULOUS, ETC ETC ETC. I know most women in this country struggle to feel attractive, white women included but it certainly takes a toll on you when you're not even the *right* race to begin with in the eye of what is hot in popular culture. Some would say Asian women are desirable and seen as attractive, and to a certain extent I think this is true, but until this society cuts the exotic crap and stereotyping or puts unrealistic models/actresses of ethnic minorities in this country as what is attractive, I'm not satisfied. I want to see a 5'2, size 8, flat faced Asian American woman with muscular calves and super slanty eyes deemed as drop-dead gorgeous in everyday TV shows, movies, mags, etc. I've been wanting to see that since I was kid. What's taking so long!?


I am a caucasion mother with a 2 year old daughter from China. In my opinion, she is the cutest little thing ever. However, it bothers me that every other person we pass in the mall stops and tells me how cute she is. I pass many other cute little girls in the mall, and they aren't getting the attention. I feel it is just their way of pointing out how different my daughter is. I worry that she will be bothered by this as she gets older.


Thanks again Paula for such an articulate and enlighting post.
I often wonder how my daughter is going to handle these cruel jokes and superior looks. I remember myself not doing so well and like you laughing with the others in the classroom and then later running in my room at home crying that I wanted to be "normal" not the "yellow one"!
I worry that what I lived for a few years even though I am "just" quarter Vietnamese, she might have to live it even harder.
But I also know I have been perfectly well in my skin for a while and that if she learns to love herself through her own eyes and not just the ones of the others, she will be fine too. My challenge is to give her enough self esteem and confidence to do so.


Thank you for the truth in this post,it really resonates with me.

Khai has not yet experienced the cruel side of racism, but he has experienced the judgemental side.

Just this weekend I mentioned to my husband how often people tell us how cute Khai is. Really, it is just about every day. People do not comment on our other(bio) kids. DH thinks it is his age(still a baby), and I KNOW much of it is his personality(very fun-loving, laughs all the time), but I really think so much of the, "he is just adorable" comments are surprise.

People are genuinely surprised by our lovely, beautiful, happy, handsome Asian son. I am not sure what they expect an Asian boy to be like, but I am realizing that Khai is not what they expect. And they don't quite know what to make of it/him/us with our 2 bio and one adopted kid all 2 1/2 years apart....

Ji In

This post really says it all, Paula, and so perfectly. I can relate to so much of this, and so many of your experiences -- from the shock and disbelief at receiving that first compliment, to the shame of feeling that I was "wrong," to the outrage and insult of those looks of disgust, disapproval, and the racist sexual harassment. Thanks for writing this, and for letting the world see the beautiful & wise woman behind the blog! :-) xoxo


I missed you while you were ¨gone¨. :)

This reminds me of a day a few years ago when I (white) was walking down the street in Chicago with my husband (mexican) and some friends; a mexican guy married to a black brazilian. We got a few looks of disgust as we walked down the sidewalk and I just couldn´t believe it! One guy did a double-take and then a triple-take as he walked by us! He had a look of pure disgust on his face!

I sure don´t get it!


I love your blog. Really love it. Your perspective is so important. Thanks for sharing with us.


Your post really strikes me in many ways. I am white, but do not an any other way look like what is beautiful in America--brown hair, overweight, short, freckled, and glow in the dark white; however, I so know that what I faced (face) is not what my daughter is going to face (and faces).
My daughter is now 4 with limb difference and Asian. When we first arrived home with her at 25 months we received comments ranging from how cute she was (and is) to disgust from both Whites and Asians. We also received (still do on occassion) the people who point out how cute she is, but really seem more to be just pointing her out.
It is interesting because at the time I just wanted the comments to go away and so did she (she got to the point she was rolling her eyes at people at the checkout line). Here is our current situation which I am finding just as painful for her--my sister just moved near us with my 9 month old niece (white and looks very much like the Gerber baby) and we have now found a new place in the checkout line=invisible. People fawn all over my niece and say nothing to my daughter even though they are right next to one another (and my daughter looks younger than four because she is tiny for her age so I know it is not a big kid/little kid thing). It is very sad to see my little one smiling and now trying to seek the attention her cousin receives--she is cute too damnit.
I guess I am getting to the point that I expect rudeness from people because I notice, but don't respond often and find it more useful to teach M that she is the most precious child in the world to me and has talent, beauty, and brains, but my sister is taking it very hard. I think it is because she was not here for the initial responses (and dealing with it for two years) and seeing the rudeness of people that she is not able to cope with it. Don't get me wrong, I am angry and educate, respond, react, etc. when I see that it may work or make a point, but my sister is dumbfounded and very worried that my daughter will grow to hate hers.
Do you have any suggestions of how to handle this?


Hi, Paula, as always an incredibly sensitive and wise post, which makes sense because you're an incredibly sensitive and wise woman.

I worry that as a white parent I won't understand this experience well enough to do everything I possibly can to protect and prepare my kids for life in a race-conscious, often racist world. Role models and contact in the Asian American community have been the most important influence on them, I think. Nothing I can say or do comes close to what they learn from other Asian Americans.

Thank you, as always.


Thanks, Paula, for another insightful post. When you put your picture up, I remember thinking how beautiful you are- inside and out. I hope you will always remember this, even as the media makes it own declarations.

Thanks for your voice.

Erin O'

Great post. I've been annoyed more than usual recently by the plethora of white men, women and children on magazine covers and inside those mags, on tv commercials, and in books at the library. We have two boys from Ethiopia, so I'm obviously more conscious of it than ever before, but I can't believe we're STILL conveying the same messages.

As for strangers commenting on our children's looks, we get the opposite type: "They're so beautiful!" Which of course, they are. But we're with our friends and their white children, who don't get any attention at all. It's as if they're invisible.

I like that you put your photo up. Yes, you do have beautiful brown eyes!

Thanks for the thoughtful post.


Paula, you are absolutely gorgeous. I saw a photo of you once before so know you are very pretty. You really are a beautiful woman both inside and out.


You are beautiful Paula. And I would kill to have your hair!


I think it is a huge help for our kids if they are able to grow up around other Asian kids and their families and not having to feel they are the only Asian kid around. We are fortunate to live in an extremely diverse city, much different than where my husband and I grew up, the only Asian kids around. My kids were at a basketball camp this weekend that was geared toward Asian kids/Asian basketball league. I was happily stunned at how many other small, skinny Asian kids were out there playing basketball, many of them probably like my own kids the smallest kids in their class at school.

Paula O.

Thank you - each one of you - for your feedback, validation and your support. . .and for sharing some of your own or your family's experiences. I truly do appreciate it.


I'm so glad you posted your picture, and I remember when I first saw it thinking -- wow, she's not only an excellent writer and intelligent, but downright gorgeous! And you are so right that media and popular culture makes many women feel they will never measure up..but especially women of color. That is NOT how I want my daughter to feel about herself!


Thank you for sharing your feelings and experiences. As a prospective adoptive parent to a child from China and Korea your comments are not lost on me.
I too am not a fan of how the media potrays "the perfect woman."

P.S. That is a wonderful picture of you, You have a very warm smile and caring eyes.

Angie in Texas

thank you for writing this post.

i'm korean born, texas raised. though i'm not adopted, i think what you have to say in this post is really important )on a lot of different levels).

i shudder every time my children's grandparents/my X ILs (who are caucasian) "compliment" my daughter with a "china doll" comment (*cough* she's half k-o-r-e-a-n) or talk about what a great "ninja" move my son just did (*cough* he's half k-o-r-e-a-n). i hope to be able to instill a sense of pride in their culture(s) and in who they ARE: compassionate, funny, smart, bright people - not what they look like or have . . .


I think your posts are amazing. I have a new blog for families considering international adoption. I would so like to paste your post on It's ok to say you're sorry. I think it would be very helpful for prospective and existing parents to read.

Please let me know if that would be ok with you.

My home blog is
The IA blog is


I think your posts are amazing. I have a new blog for families considering international adoption. I would so like to paste your post on It's ok to say you're sorry. I think it would be very helpful for prospective and existing parents to read.

Please let me know if that would be ok with you.

My home blog is
The IA blog is


I appreciate your posts so much. I am not in the same situation as I am a caucasion and half Native American, who is married to a man who is half Hispanic and half Native American. We have three boys who are dark skinned, eyed, and hair-all biological. I met my husband at a time in my life when I was for once the minority as I look "white." It was the best thing that ever happened to me as I now have gotten rid of the stereotypes I grew up with and just see people for the individuals they are.

One of my pet peeves now is the lack of role models on television for my children. My husband expressed how important it had been to him as a kid to see someone who looked like him on TV. Television shaped what he thought about himself as an American who is of Hispanic descent. I was somewhat niave as to how important this was to children until my 11 year old told me he only watched the re-runs of the George Lopez show because the family looked like him. I now search for shows and movies with people who are minorities-a nearly impossible task with hollywood still perpetuating the cycle of stereotypes. Sigh.

On a different note I have a question. What are your views on using terms like, African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, etc? Personally I have a problem with this. To me when someone uses the word Hispanic American to refere to my children I find it offensive. In my mind it seems as if they are trying to make my children less American-like they are only half American since they are of obvious heritiage other than Caucasion. Because of this I never use these terms with my children. People are never described as Black, White, Asian but rather "the woman with the blue purse," or some other means of identifying them. Other than to fill out a police report I find it silly to refere to human beings by their race.

Sorry for the book! lol


Your neighbor was right! Not that you were looking for a compliment... but, you got one anyway!

It is quite interesting how the Media has such an impact on us all. It is quite sad, actually. I just watched a show on Anna May Wong (the 1930's actress, who I hadn't heard of)... and it was interesting how they said she didn't get a couple of parts that were deemed "Asian" roles even though she was Chinese. They said she was 'too Chinese'. What?!!

Anyway, loved the insight. :)


Essie usual, I love your posts, and wish you would write more often. But when you do...always thought provoking. You are beautiful. Brown eyes are beautiful, be they from Asian people, caucasian, black, Hispanic...brown eyes are my eye colour of choice. I am adopted, with hazel eyes and blonde hair, and never fit into my family of brown-eyed people, although we were all caucasian. I cannot imagine how hurt you have been, and the feelings of exclusion that you must have had. I did, and certainly it was not anywhere near your experience.

In Canada I do believe we celebrate diversity a little more than our counterparts in the US. Your "melting pot" which suggests assimilation, and turning everything into one(predominately white) here is considered a "mosaic". And I recall having a conversation with a friend about those differences when I was 11. I am now 45, so that was awhile ago. But, having said that, I will not hesitate to say for a minute that racism does exist, and it is cruel and wrong.

I work with our First Nations people, and I am subjected to racism every day, for being white. The difference a white society, we hurt our First Nations people horribly, and therefore, I understand it. I may personally not deserve it, as I am not one that perpetrated the abuses on anyone, but I understand why the hatred to people of my colour comes from . We treated them horribly, and to this day, do not really recognize how horrible we were. I am appalled daily about how many people even in my own family do not see anything outside of their own little perfect world, and what we do to each other in the name of race , colour or religion.

On an interesting note, one of the girls in my group home(First Nations)said to me "I know why you adopted her...because she looks like ME". There was no hatred there, but pride in her skin, and her eyes, and her hair, and she knew I loved her. Even if I was white. I loved her, didn't feel sorry for her, didn't think I was better than her, didn't feel repulsed by her...just loved her. And she accepted our mix of races and cultures.

My daughter from China is seen every day as "so cute" and "so lucky" from people in the mall, or the restaurants. I worry that she will feel excluded by this in points out her differences, (not mine from her, but hers from me), and doesn't celebrate that she is an enjoyable and beautiful and intelligent child. It pains me that she is seen as this lucky little Chinese kid who has this wonderful family to raise her, and give her everything she couldn't or wouldn't have had. I don't see it that way. I took her from her home country because I wanted a child. Yes, I will raise her well, but she is not the "lucky one". I am the lucky one, for having the good fortune of having her in my life. She has blessd me, not the other way around.

My personal preference always has been darker skin, and dark hair, and dark eyes...but that is no different than someone liking thin or well-padded. When a person is selected to be less than another based on colour, it is simply wrong. We, as a society, need to be better.

I hope that information like what you give to others, and what some of us are trying to do will eventually make our world a better place. The girls in my group home often get on my case because I am a bit of a nag when it comes to history, and social ills. And my answer is to that...look at what has been wrong, and the steps that people have made to make it better. And every day we need to continue to do so. By learning from past mistakes, hopefully we can make the future a better place. 30 years from now, what we are living will be history, and maybe people can learn from us!

Again, thank you. Your posts always make me think, and yes, I do believe help me to be a better mother to my child.


Simon Hendry


Thanks again for your openness. I live in Australia where as in the US the "standard" of beauty is somewhat the same. Being an adoptive parent myself I always worry about my childrens perception of themselves. However I think it is important to understand that if you went to Sth Korea ( or japan/china etc ) you would find plenty of examples of the portryal of beauty being women from those countries. (Think any of the Stars of Winter sonata)

I believe self esteem comes from a large number of different things, but things like "understanding where your from","believing in yourself" and knowing successful happy people who you identify are two big things.

In regard to self esteem for adoptive children and their own perceptions of beauty these are the things I have tried to/continue to do.

-Answer EVERY single question about adoption with a REAL answer.
-Expose them to their birth country culture all the time by taking them to resturants, shops, suburbs/area.
-Cook food from their birth counrty and try to integrate cultural events/holidays into their lives.
-Download and watch kids tv shows from the country. ( PPung PPungi is a favourite of ours from korea)
-Talk about the country
-Teach them their birth country language.
-Find and meet with friends from that country
-Try and find a mentor for your children from the country.
-Travel back to country as much as possible so they can see in their own eyes that there are places where everybody looks like them and that the world is a diverse place.

And constantly tell them that they are "the best person in the world" and that they are loved and smart and good looking and cool.

You are always going to meet stupid biggoted people, that unfortunately is the human race. But teaching your children their own self worth is a great defence against this.

Aunt LoLo

Thank you for this post. I came here from a link on Tonggu Mama's blog. I'll be adding you to my reader. I'm white, and my husband is Chinese. My daughter is beautiful, a mix half and half. Growing up near Seattle, WA, I always knew that the Asian girls in my classes were usually going to be the prettiest, most accomplished and (usually) the most popular. I have since moved to the East Coast, and it makes me uncomfortable how OUTNUMBERED my little band of Asian Persuasian is! It's interesting - my daughter is cute, but nearly 9 out of 10 compliments have to do with her eyes. She has her father's almond-shaped eyes, but my green color. It is striking, but people don't realize what they're seeing. Only other women with "mixed" children know what they're looking at. They ask me where my husband is from. I'm always proud to tell them. I worked hard to learn his language (before i met him, actually) and I'm fiercely proud of our Chinese heritage. It was interesting reading your post...because I received comments, similar in nature to yours, growing up as well. I was a twin, so we got "cute" alot (anything in a pair is automatically cute, right?) but we had chests before anyone else, and I was ALWAYS one of the biggest girls in the class, weight wise. I guess what I'm trying to say is this - there will always be jerks who will find SOMETHING to pick on. I'm sorry you were picked on for being Korean. (Your picture is beautiful, by the way - it makes me miss my friends in Seattle and China.)

That's wordy...but thank you for your post, and your story. I wanted to ask for your help, too - I'm raising my daughter with two cultures, and I want her to be comfortable in both. We get dirty looks, sometimes, when we practice our Chinese in public...but that's life. Did your parents do anything to help you feel at home with other Koreans?


I really appreciate what you've shared here. This has been very helpful to me as I'm working thru some family conversations around these topics and the way you have shared your experiences have helped me to make productive progress without it being confrontational or mean spirited. Thank you. Thank you.


How very sad! Because of this very thing I have immersed my child in the Chinese American community where she gets to hear how cute she is at church and has boys try to kiss her who look "just like her" relatively speaking. She has, however, not had negative remarks about her appearance from Caucasian folk, and we do live in the Southern U.S. in a multicultural but predominantly white school. At 8 years old, she has heard people say they thought Chinese people were "weird" (at school) but no one to make fun of her appearance and as such she regularly admires herself in the mirror. I do worry, with your experience that perhaps we are raising her in a "protective bubble" and when she hits the real world it will be traumatic. She also worries about being "too fat" concerns she has picked up in both the American and Chinese communities and I worry about future eating disorders. What is a parent to do?


Ended up reading through all of your posts (I had found a couple in the past) and they were a great read, thanks for putting it all out there as you have some great things to say.

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