Saturday, January 06, 2007

Paula Zahn Celebrates International Adoption

Well, not really. Last night on her CNN show, Paula Zahn attempted to put together a panel of "experts" to talk about Chinese adoption. Let’s see who she found.

ZAHN: One more time. Cenk Uygur, Roland Martin, Solangel Maldonado.
Cenk Uygur is a lawyer and a host of Air America Radio’s “The Young Turks” and, as far as I can tell, has no experience with international adoption in general, nor Chinese adoption in particular.

Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author as well as, I’m sorry to say, a 1991 graduate of Texas A&M University. As far as I can tell, Mr. Martin has no experience with international adoption in general, nor Chinese adoption in particular.

Solangel Maldonado is a law professor at Seton Hall University whose current work, according to her bio, “explores the reasons many Americans prefer to adopt children of color from other countries over African-American children”. As far as I can tell, she is not an adoptive parent to a child of any color.

ZAHN: Obviously the Chinese government is making it clear it wants to be more selective will prospective parents, it wants to place these children in the best family environment it can. Isn't that justified?

MALDONADO: Absolutely. I think we all know that China is a sovereign country. It has the right to place whatever restrictions on foreigners who are seeking to adopt their children that it wants. And adoption is really about supply and demand, and the reality is that there are many more Americans, many more Westerners seeking to adopt children from China than there are children available so the Chinese government can decide to do whatever it wants.
She’s right, China can do whatever it wants. And it is also true that there is a large “supply” ( for lack of a better word) of Chinese children who are eligible for adoption. However, given that most conservative estimates put the number of children in Chinese orphanages in the low hundreds of thousands, I doubt there are “many more Westerners seeking to adopt children from China than there are children available.”

MARTIN: OK, why? What's the big deal with Chinese children? Enlighten me, please, help me out.

ZAHN: You understand this better than anybody. Why don't we see more Americans adopting black foster children?

MARTIN: That's my point. What's the big deal with Chinese children? Why the infatuation?
Mr. Martin should familiarize himself with Chinese culture, which has always favored boys over girls, as well as China’s one child policy, which has been in effect for about 30 years. The shear number of children, mostly girls, left abandoned coupled with what’s generally regarded as a good and fair system of matching children to prospective parents, makes China a very popular country from which to adopt a child.

The question of why black foster children aren’t adopted transracially is more of a domestic vs. international issue. The National Association of Black Social Workers has always held the position that black children should be placed with black families, so perhaps Mr. Martin should take up the issue with them.

In regards to international adoption of African or other children of color, I personally know of Caucasian families (not named Madonna or Angelina) who have gone this route and are very happy. It just happens to be more difficult than with China.

ZAHN: You think it's something with the color of their skin? Is that what you're driving at?

MARTIN: Maybe they think they can adopt a smart kid that is going to grow up to be a doctor? I don't know. They need to realize that's called training, not just inherent, it will happen when they're born.

Angel, help me out.
I’ll help you out, Mr. Martin. I don’t know what my daughter is going to grow up to be but I’m going to love her regardless of what she chooses.

MALDONADO: Absolutely. This is something I've been looking into for a long time. Americans have this love affair with girls from China. There is this belief, this perception, irrational as it might be that if you adopt a little girl from China, she's going to be intelligent, she's going to be more lovable.
She’s right, I am in love with my Chinese daughter, but it has nothing to do with her intelligence. And I find most children lovable, regardless of skin color. It sounds like Ms. Maldonado is the one being irrational.

MARTIN: Like the porcelain doll.
Yeah, I need to hear the “doll” reference again.

MALDONADO: We definitely see that idea of the beautiful Chinese little girl, as compared to do, they really want to adopt a black boy.
The issue has nothing to do with race. They’re creating a controversy where there is none.

ZAHN: What difference does it make if the prospective parent has a facial deformity and the prospective parent weighs 70 more pounds than the scale says they should weigh.

UYGUR: I love the idea of them weighing people. All right. So you know, first of all, okay, so gay parents are out. That's a clear rule, but then also Dennis Hastert's out because he's way too fat. They put him on the scale, sorry. But I'd probably be out.

I don't know, maybe I'd have to go on an exercise regimen, to do the body mass indexes they pinch you in all of these different places.

ZAHN: You can fake it, suck it in.

UYGUR: Not me.

MARTIN: Paula, you raise the question - China, first of all, they do have the right to do it, but the flipside is what is the infatuation by Americans and other foreigners when it comes to adopting Chinese children? That is a real issue there, and why do we avoid other children and not just -- children who are here in America, who are looking for homes, and who just like Chinese orphans want a nice place to live.
Mr. Martin just won’t let it go. All kinds of Americans love all kinds of kids. Some feel that China is best for them, some Guatemala, some Russia, others domestic adoption. I think the “infatuation” Mr. Martin sees is that of people seeing their friends adopt from China and noticing what the process is like and deciding that that is the route they’re going to take to adopt a child. I’m sure if Malawi had the same system and the same number of children, you’d see quite an “infatuation” with Malawi.

It also has to do with publicity. Look at what happened with Romania in the early 90s. More people know about China now, so naturally, that’s where they’re going to look.


MALDONADO: I think what we need to do is we need to break down some of the misconceptions. For example, people believe if they're adopting a child from China, the child is going to be healthier than a child they adopt in the United States and that is just not true. Even if the child is born ...
The children in China are relatively healthy, but probably no healthier than children here in America.

ZAHN: It defies logic. The quality of the medical care many of these kids have suffered through the first several months of life.
Medical care varies in different parts of China, just like it does here.


ZAHN: What are some of the other assumptions you think people in America make about the native intelligence of children based on whether you're Hispanic - We had a guest on the other night when you were with us suggesting that Hispanic parents don't take education as seriously as some other sets of our population. There's a very complicated picture here.

UYGUR: And America is changing and some of the assumptions are going to change because of that. What really happens isn't of course that Asians are smarter. Immigrant families foster a culture where they work hard and emphasize education so Jewish families went through that, Asian families went through that. But now Eastern European families are coming and doing the same thing and African families are coming and doing the same thing. So I can't wait for 10, 20 years down the line, everybody's like I've got to have an African child. Because they're all geniuses.
Even though he was trying to be cute, Mr. Uygur makes a valid point here regarding immigrants.


ZAHN: All right. Hispanic ...

MALDONADO: Well the idea about Hispanic kids, it's sort of mixed. I think the stereotypes about Hispanic kids are both positive and negative. They believe that Hispanic kids are likely to work harder than black kids, but they also believe that they're not going to be as intelligent as Asian kids.
By the way, Guatemala is now second to China in the number of children adopted out of the country.

ZAHN: Muslim kids.

UYGUR: They're going to grow up to be violent. Who is adopting a Muslim kid? Has anyone adopted a Muslim kid in the last 20 years in America?
First of all, kids aren’t born Muslim. Islam is a religion one must either accept or reject when one is old enough. Besides, there isn’t much (any?) participation from predominantly Muslim countries in international adoption.

MARTIN: You've got somebody sitting there saying, keep the Muslim kid out of chemistry class. Keep them away.
Nope, no stereotyping there.

ZAHN: How about black kids? Do you think the average American out there makes the assumption they'll be lazy and never make it through high school?

MARTIN: I think they probably assume they're going to sing for them like Jay Z and play like in the NB[A].
I think Mr. Martin has proven he cannot be taken seriously in any discussion about adoption.

ZAHN: Anybody would love to have Jay Z's career.

MARTIN: I'd rather have Bob Johnson's. He's a billionaire and Jay Z isn't.

ZAHN: Thank you, Roland Martin, Solangel Maldonado. Thank you, all. Appreciate your time.

So on to another controversial question, who is smarter? Men or women?
Certainly not the men and women Paula Zahn chose for her panel. In the future, she should probably consider Jane Liedtke from the Our Chinese Daughters Foundation. Or someone from Half The Sky (Karin Evans would be a good choice). Or Steven Curtis Chapman from Shaohannah's Hope. Or Joshua Zhong and Lily Nie from Chinese Children Adoption International. You know, someone who actually knows something about Chinese adoption, not some ivory tower dwellers with an agenda.


Blogger Kate said...

Hear, hear.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Joanie said...

Ray - Great breakdown of the transcript. Also - I believe we are neighbors here in the Potomac Falls area. Our daughter was adopted in 2004 as well and we are DTC Sept. 2006! Ping me if you guys want to meet up at Algonkian someday. Joanie

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a quick comment about Mr. Martin. When he said that about JayZ, etc., he said so with the straightest face. He wasn't joking. I don't know what he was doing, but he wasn't laughing, or smiling one bit. Crazy, just crazy.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Thanks for taking the time to break it down.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Wow... great post! I am appalled by what was said on that show! Love your comments...

5:14 PM  
Blogger Third Mom said...

"You know, someone who actually knows something about Chinese adoption, not some ivory tower dwellers with an agenda."

Perhaps some adult intercountry adoptees, who IMO are the real experts.

Thanks for the transcript, reading the comments of these "experts," I'm glad I missed the show.

9:32 PM  

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