This essay was written by a teenaged member of FAIR. His passion and understanding grew from experiences in his own family, built through birth and adoption.
As the nation celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., people gathered in churches, public buildings and on the streets to remember his message of bringing justice to all human beings through non-violent methods. Dr. King fought not only for the rights of African Americans, but for the rights of all the oppressed, and was assassinated while he addressed a group of striking garbage men. Perhaps if he were alive today, he would be marching and fighting for the thousands of children without families.
The unadopted children face the same kind of dilemma the Blacks did in king’s time. Excluded systematically from the system which controls them, children are shuttled from foster home to foster home, often suffering abuse and neglect in the bureaucracy which cares nothing for their fate. The abusers are like the racists who burned crosses and spread terror, the negligent foster parents like those citizens who chose to look the other way. The social workers who juggle children between homes with little regard to their wards’ feelings or attachments are like the racist law which perpetrated the hatred.
With the remembrance of Dr. King, we remember the origins of the civil rights movement, especially the quiet determination of Rosa Parks. When the tired old lady refused to vacate her seat, Ms. Parks broke the chain of power which held her and her fellow Blacks repressed. Her message is mirrored by the families and parents who take children into their families. With quiet determination and tough decisions, parents silently break the chain of loneliness locking up a child. Many such parents have no such grandiose ideals; they simply want to parent a child. Neither did Ms. Parks identify her actions as historically monumental. She was simply tired from a long day’s work.
But Ms. Parks and thousands of others went to jail for their actions and beliefs. Dogs bit protesters, firemen turned water cannons on human flesh. Some paid with their lives, and nearly all paid with sweat and pain. Adopting is likewise often a struggle, a struggle to understand, a struggle of restraint, a struggle to love. Most adoptive parents can tell you their pain with unaccepting relatives, with children who tell them they don’t care about them, or with old histories buried in confused young psyches. But while the civil rights demonstrators had to learn no-violence to not fight back, parents must learn an even harder kind of non-violence: they must learn to love, nurture and understand.
Dr. King was a great man with enough room in his heart for all his fellow men. The unadopted children of this country would have a spokesperson who would bring their plight before the public and expose the injustice heaped upon them. Parents need to tell the world about adoption, especially the adoption of older and special needs children. Rosa Parks took her seat, but it took Fr. King to organize a boycott and desegregate the Montgomery buses. The complacent whites of the fifties and sixties knew the racism against Blacks, but it took Dr. King to bring it into their living rooms on their televisions sets. And even when they knew, it took Dr. King to make them say "enough!" The children need a Dr. King to stand up for them and demand their rights. Dr. King, however, was unique, but he taught us enough that perhaps we can pull together and save the children. The civil rights movement fought to change the laws, the unadopted children need new laws to protect them. Not every person can be an adoptive parent, but in America everyone over eighteen can vote.
Martin Luther King had a dream. We need to keep that dream alive for our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who do not share our families.