Saturday, April 10, 2021

The Other Ones

I have some very special Facebook friends, and I mean that seriously. I appreciate them and wish I could see them in person instead of just online these days.

One is a former longtime coworker who is a Korean transnational adoptee. She married a guy whose parents were Korean immigrants in the 1960s, so that makes him first generation Korean American and her a Korean immigrant. He's an academic researcher in psychology, studying transnational and transracial adoption. She's now a genetic counselor (though I knew her in her previous career as a graphic designer... she's a talented person!).

His brother is an artist and cartoonist, and it turns out he's been publishing a cartoon strip called The Other Ones online since the end of February this year. He describes it this way:

The Other Ones: the ones that revolve around the Peanuts gang, but are not in the Peanuts gang. The Other Ones, the ones that act and react within the sphere of Peanutsville, USA. The Other Ones, the ones that have experiences unique to the BIPOC community and, yet, maybe not so unique.

My friends have been sharing some of the strips on Facebook off and on for the past month or so. Maybe the shares started right after the shootings in Atlanta? 

I just realized the strip has a website (rather than only being on Instagram... I avoid Instagram), so I'm finally posting about it now. Plus, today's strip has a tie-in that pushed me even more.

First the setup. As it says on the website, where were the BIPOC people in Peanutsville, other than Franklin?

Today's strip is a great example of what the cartoonist, identified on the cartoon's site only as Lee, had in mind when he wrote these words on the About page:

I wrestle with both the past and the future while trying to remain present with the characters and setting. While wanting to remain true to the ever-present-1973-feel of the Peanuts world, I feel compelled to move the characters into 2021 and the issues we face today. And, yet, I recognize that many of the issues we wrestled with in 1973 are, sadly, still present today.

By coincidence (or not) I saw that strip posted on the same day my friend posted about an upcoming virtual conference on genetic testing for adoptees:

Rudd Adoption Program Virtual Conference: Genetic Testing for Health & Birth Search

During this live session, we will explore the different benefits and risks posed by genetic testing and genetic counseling, as well as look into the factors that drive adoptees and adoptive parents to attempt to uncover answers through genetics. We will be speaking with researchers, Greg Barsh, Heewon Lee, Richard Lee, and Tom May who have focused their work on investigating the various options available to adoptees' while on their journey to discover answers through genetic testing. Sign up for the conference here

Just a few days earlier, I had seen a thread on Twitter by Martha Crawford, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist, retweeted by Nicole Chung, who is also a Korean adoptee and author of the National Book Award-nominated memoir All You Can Ever Know. The tweets are not related in the sense of being about genetic testing, but they are about transracial adoption by white parents, which is the most common form of transracial adoption in this country:

In the past, when I would lead conversations with white adoptive  parents, knowing that there are all kinds of parents at all different stages of awareness of their (our)  whiteness/complicity — I would tread lightly and carefully, trying to help them across the shame line.

I would do this for their kids sake — but as I’ve gotten older, and more — I dunno — CROTCHETY, I try to be aware of parents' willingness to characterize adoptees as “angry” when they share painful content — and so somewhere along the way, I just decided it was better for me to deflect that and to be the one who makes them the most uncomfortable.

I am no longer cautious and tender. I no longer coddle white parents who choose  whiteness over their kids. Now I’m just like: Yeah. Whatever. WALK THROUGH THE FIRE, tell your other white people to STOP IT and suck up your discomfort because that is what your kids deserve from you.

Basically: I’ve become a disinhibited impatient crone and I don’t have the soft edges and endless patience that I used to.

Just: be braver. Face the scary shit, so they aren’t facing it all alone. Be your bravest self for your kids or why are you doing this at all?

Just be aware — before you stick me in front of a room of white adoptive parents. I have completely lost my filter.

As the cartoonist Lee says on the Brief History page of The Other Ones site, in describing how he grew up as a Korean kid in Connecticut and then came to create the strip:

I have seen that people are not inherently good as we’ve been told, but basically not good. I have been reminded that it is our task in life to learn how to be good. And the only way I know of learning how to be good is by having opportunities to teach and learn from.

Teaching and learning require honesty. Sometimes that's subtle and humorous, and a cartoon is a good method. Sometimes it's a crotchety crone using her white privilege.


Here are a few more of The Other One strips that I saw shared on Facebook:


I want this work to become a book or reach a wider audience some way.

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