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Finding Home in History: A Chinese Adoptee’s Perspective on Ethnic Studies

As an international Chinese adoptee, I grew up with a single white mother who didn’t have all the resources to help me learn about my culture, heritage, or history. Although my mom did her best to help me understand the adoption process and the separation between me and my birth culture, growing up in a multi-racial household meant I had to confront the realities of being Chinese American without having a mentor who had experienced this before. It was hard for me to look myself in the mirror and accept that I truly belonged anywhere.

It wasn’t until I came to college that I had a chance to directly work with other students who were focused on racial justice and had space to contextualize my own experiences. Taking classes in the Culture, Race, and Ethnicity department helped me take pride in my history as I learned more about the Chinese and Asian American leaders who had come before me, such as Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama. It grounded me in the history of Chinese American resilience and gave me a community where I felt supported and understood. There is not a singular diaspora story that everyone falls under. Realizing how my own story fit in the larger network of migration gave me a sense of belonging that I had never felt before.

I learned more about community care, advocacy, and how to work in solidarity with other marginalized people in the States and internationally. When I read Mia Mingus’s research on pods, my heart ached. Even before COVID-19 popularized the word “pods,” Mingus (an international Korean adoptee) realized the importance of creating a strong support network to hold each other accountable. To me, this is another version of a chosen family, a term that has deep significance for many adoptees. Understanding the work that has been done to create interethnic coalitions and how I can contribute to their future motivates my work as an educator and student. Contrary to the popular belief that ethnic studies leads to conflicts, acknowledging the similarities and differences between groups gives us a better understanding of how we can work together. I’ve interviewed ethnic studies organizers at my school, partnered with organizations working for racial justice in DC, and researched how to implement culturally competent curriculum in schools. Ethnic studies is empowering and it is important for all students to feel that they are represented in the curriculum that they are being taught.

Diagram of the Mia Mingus's concept of pods (source)


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