We are coming to an end with this lovely new HBO show called Here and Now. I have been fascinated with particular scenes in each episode that surround adoption, race and their overall complexities (and there are so many). If you have not read my analysis for the last 1-7, please take the time to find them and read them. If you are an adoptive parent, my thoughts on race-related scenes will hopefully open your eyes and better prepare you for issues that are eminent in adoption and race.
Let’s take a look at 8 and 9.
Episode 8: Yes
Ashley feels she needs to apologize to her adoptive mother so she brings an expensive gift with her and a “truce” for the “outburst” Ashley had. Focus on how her mother does not argue with her after she says “peace-offering. you are the only mom I have even if you are a white supremacist.” Her mother does not try to defend herself and Ashley is unapologetic about what she says at about 4:40. I find that somehow, money and material things buys the family love. I can distinctly relate to the material thing. My Audrey, though claiming to be not materialistic, always seemed to buy my love with expensive jewelry, rings, and headpieces she thought would look good. Once I started speaking up for myself, she reclaimed the things she had purchased and gifted me. I think as adoptees, we often learn from those who raise us and looking at the way Ashley was raised, the home she probably was brought up in, and the wealth she is surrounded by, her immediate go-to seems to be in gift buying to “smooth things out”. Money speaks loudly in this show.
At about 16:00 you will notice a white man with a Black Lives Matter poster that he plasters on Ashley’s business door. Focus on the dialogue that happens the second this man walks into her store. I find it super interesting how Ashley’s first defense was about private property. Yes indeed he was trespassing and yes he did seem to have an agenda, however, my focus is more on Ashley’s upbringing and how she was taught to respond to these sorts of situations. She is in no way comfortable with this matter. However, had she been raised understanding her blackness, and embracing her race, it is possible her reaction would be different.
At 18:23 Duc is really struggling with his father’s infidelity. Not only does he hate the fact that he cheated, but what seems to bother him the most is that he has been spending his entire life trying to be this perfect someone and trying to emulate his father on different levels. His father let’s him down big-time and he is spiraling out of control.
The father and the two daughters have a sit-down meal the father cooked. At around 29:09, the adoptee explains to her father and sister that a white man attacked her in her store for turning down a black lives matter poster. Focus on the father’s response and how he completely dismisses the race issue Ashley brings up. Both the white daughter and the father have no idea what it feels like to walk in the black girl’s shoes every day. The father starts in with all of his philosophical stuff. He says “Safety has always been an illusion.” Focus on Ashley’s face when she continues to hear the father say “unfortunately we are….” He puts so much emphasis on how much he thinks they are all “one.” I see this all the time. Adoptive parents wanting to focus on how everyone in their family is “family”…I also see this in multiracial relationships where the white partner will assume the black partner is seeing the world through the same lenses. Here’s the thing…..if you are an adoptee, the lens in which you see the world comes with the reality that trauma, and loss, and fear of abandonment is very likely part of your narrative. My adoptive parents could not see that, they wanted in their mind for us to be the “happy” family…which put a lot of pressure on the foster kids and adoptees in the home. We were supposed to be happy…..and if we were not, it was never anything they did, it was always something wrong with us. The dialogue at the table says so much….the need to think “Why can’t we all get along” seems to take precedence over Ashley’s lived experience.
Episode 9: Dream Logic
Ashley and her sister go to Duc’s book talk and at 25:21 a white man holds Duc’s father’s published book in his hand. He asks him if he has read the book and Duc says “not recently I’ve been a little busy.” The feeling of living in his father’s shadows seems to plague him to the point of not wanting anything to do with his father at all. At 25:31 the man asks “how do you think your father’s work influenced you?” Focus on Duc’s response to this and how he is not really able to answer the question directly. I can for sure relate to this as I always felt that my success was always attributed to my adoptive parent’s saving me. I was a teacher for several years and every time a new parent would put their child in my class, they always mentioned how they knew my adoptive father and so on and so forth. No one really liked my adoptive mother but everyone was fascinated with my adoptive father. I could never just be me. I had to be “the child of, the daughter of, the black kid of….” and I never could be an adult to them. They saw me as a perpetual kid, always in need of being saved. I am aware that every child goes through some kind of feeling surrounding the expectations parents have for them and how others see them in light of their parents. However, in adoption, we have two sets of parents and as much as we act and seem more like the adoptive parents, many of us have a longing to know what our actual/real/birth parents were like; did we take on any of their characteristics?
Duc says “I think living only in the present can be a cop-out”. His father focuses so much on the “here and now” hence the name of the show. And Duc is slowly coming to the realization that if we only live in the present, we may be shutting out what can be improved in the past….to make a better and brighter future.
I find in adoption, adoptive parents tell their adoptees to not worry or think about the past. It is easy to say “we are your parents now” but that does not remove the longing, the curiosity and the desire to know how they got to where they are. Duc says “we are not static….we are the sum total of our actions yesterday, today and tomorrow.” If more adoptive parents encouraged their adoptees to express themselves yesterday, today and tomorrow, I can almost promise the rate of suicides in adoption would go down.
Duc ends his book talk by saying “living a good life….that’s the goal.” In adoption, adoptive parents need to take in the whole child. Not just the purchase. It’s too easy to keep a receipt because this means that when things go bad, adoptive parents can mentally return the child. Adoptive parents need to throw away the receipt and begin to make other purchases to help the child not become something that can be returned.
Growing up I existed with the thought that I could be returned at any time. I was purchased for 50, 000 dollars according to my adoption papers. I had a large cost on my head. And yet, my therapy bills are close to that cost and where is the help? Am I damaged goods?
At 39:09, Hailey talks a bit about her picture she drew and put on the fridge. Ashley is understandably bothered by how she drew the father and daughter close by and the mother way in the background. Focus on Ashley’s sadness and jealousy.
In this episode we also take notice of Audrey and Greg’s need to understand Ramon more. They begin to search through his adoption paper work and Greg soon realizes that the orphanage Ramon was supposedly from didn’t exist. At 47:21 Audrey begins to cry saying “I’m not his mother. I’m not Ramon’s mother.” Greg tries to console his wife by reassuring her that she is. For a split second Audrey puts herself in Ramon’s mother’s shoes. Watch how the father quickly hides his adoption folder in a drawer in the kitchen when Ramon walks into the kitchen where his parents are discussing his case. We all know this will probably lead to Ramon finding it. Eventually they go to the woman’s house who completed the adoption. You will notice at 43:57, Audrey and her husband begin a real polite conversation with the woman who was in charge of Ramon’s adoption. Focus on the woman’s response to the father when he confront her with her lies. The words are so true. “Don’t look so shocked. As long as there are rich do-gooders, there will be a market for brown babies. …..Keep digging, you might not like what you find.”
I can relate to this scene very much because I found out a few years ago that my mother spent years looking for me. Every time I look at my adoption papers and see the name of another woman as my mother, I am intensely triggered. Intent vs. impact. I’m not saying I was not in need of some help, but all the lies, all the hiding? The fact that my APs didn’t ask my mother for permission but instead faked my identity, is something that is unforgivable. My APs never had to dig, they were the hole that created the pain. When you knowingly take someone else’s child without using proper protocol, you become the problem.
It will be interesting to see what happens when Ramon finds out he was stolen. Will he disown his APs like I have or will he find a way to mend the pain and his broken heart with the knowledge that his mother is also probably looking for him?
At around 54:45 Kristen gets tired of all the “nice” things said about her after deciding she wanted a “special day” for HER. For so long she has been trying to find a way to fit in since she is the only “white and plain” child in the family. Her siblings are adopted so she is a bit jealous that they are so exotic. She creates a little celebration to basically…well….celebrate herself. After her boyfriend and she gets beat up on the way home, she comes to the realization that her desire to be someone else is part of the mask and costume she puts on whereas her boyfriend IS who he is. He is not putting on a costume. All her siblings stand up to say something “nice” about her and she gets tired and embarrassed that she wanted to feel “different”. Maybe she is getting a glimpse of how the adoptees feel. Focus on what she says about her identities in 55:07. “I tried different identities and I kinda treated it like a game. Like an experiment.” Then she says “you are all my identity.” NO. No she is not.
At the end of the episode, Navid’s dad picks him up after Kristen’s celebration. He is upset that he got beat up while hanging out with Kristen. Focus on what Navid’s dad says around 57:22. He does let his anger get the better of him and almost kills them both but is stopped when he thinks he see’s his mother’s ghost on the street. Meanwhile, Ramon throws his little niece out of the tree-house because he believes the tree-house was on fire.
So much to dissect in these two episodes. Stay tuned for the last episode of this great show.