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78% of Asian TRAs Considered Themselves White

March 27, 2010

Last year, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute issued an interesting report on transracial Asian adoptees (TRAs) in America. One finding that was most provocative addressed the racial identification of TRAs….

As this New York Times article notes, 78% of TRAs considered themselves to be White or wish they were White when they were children.

While shocking, this percentage is also somewhat understandable given that TRAs are deracinated from their countries of origin and are often raised in a predominantly White milieu.

To me, the experience of TRAs is in some ways a metaphor for the experience of many Asian Americans in general, regardless of whether or not they were adopted.

In particular, the sense of cultural dislocation and identity issues that are sometimes experienced by TRAs are also felt keenly by Asian Americans.

Moreover, not a few Asian Americans either tacitly or directly think of themselves as “Honorary White” people, or they are perceived as such by society in general.

This Honorary White status in part is what the Asian American Model Minority stereotype is about: Asian Americans are a “house negro” class between the White majority and minorities such as Blacks and Latinos.

In his seminal esssay “Racist Love,” Frank Chin talks about the lack of a distinctive Asian American identity and culture, and the consequent embrace of White values by many Asian Americans.

This self-destructive identification with Whiteness is expressed at many different levels from the cultural to the political, and it is an important tendency within the Asian American community, which itself is highly fragmented and weak.  

The fact that certain Asian Americans (cough, Michelle Malkin) wholeheartedly embrace this Honorary White identity of their own volition says a lot about them as individuals and the sorry state of the Asian American community in general.

People like Michelle Malkin more openly and nakedly exemplify this racial identification in everything but name. 

This identification with Whiteness is even expressed in one’s choice of romantic partners. As the Times article notes, one TRA named Kim Eun Mi Young said that when she was younger she “would date only white teenagers, even when Asian boys were around.” 

Young explains that: “At no time did I consider myself anything other than white…. I had no sense of any identity as a Korean woman. Dating an Asian man would have forced me to accept who I was.”

This is reminiscent of Frank Chin’s comments about the deeper significance of the high outmarriage rates among Asian Americans. 

Questioning the idea that “love is colorblind,” Asian American outmarriage rates, Chin suggested, are reflective of  “a people who failed to generate an identity and culture attractive and compulsive enough to make our people attractive to each other and survive as a people and grow as a culture” (Letter to Y’bird, 1977).

In other words, without a distinctive Asian American culture, there really is nothing that holds “Asian America” together as a people.

Indeed, what would really be interesting to find out is what percentage of non-adoptee Asian Americans either consider themselves White or wished they were White as children. 

More about the findings of the Evan Donaldson report can be found on the TRA blog Harlow’s Monkey.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2010 12:39 am

    What was I like as a baby? As a young child?

  2. April 4, 2010 11:29 pm

    Whiteness was used alot in this article. I have noticed when people said the word “whiteness” they mean different things. I’m curious from the author of this article,what is your definition of the word “whiteness”?

  3. jade permalink
    April 5, 2010 3:03 am

    This is a sad but true article. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help that some Asian cultures perpetuate this fondness to “whiten” ourselves. Have you seen a beauty magazine from Asia ? All they promote are “whitening” creams to become as physcially white as possible. Every other page is a whitening cream advertisement. To this day, asian people “compliment” me because my skin is so “white”. If this is what you are taught since you are young, how else do you think you’d turn out? Furthermore, when I was a young student and was taunted relentlessly at school, my parents’ taught me to “be quiet and don’t make trouble”. I was more afraid of my parent’s punishments for having actually pysically defended myself against my agressors. I think in general, Asians need to be more united in order to be able to fight back and have actual representation in politics and popular culture. Without Asian infiltration into politics and culture, it will only be a matter of time before all Asians start considering themselves white. How sad. I hope I never live to see the day….

  4. April 5, 2010 3:08 am

    Wow, that picture is intense.

  5. April 7, 2010 4:40 am

    I think Noel Ignatiev offers some interesting points about the nature of Whiteness. I tend to agree with him somewhat:

    “Whiteness is not a culture… Whiteness has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with social position. It is nothing but a reflection of privilege, and exists for no reason other than to defend it.”

    In other words, Whiteness is a social system and identity that confers power and privilege upon those of European descent.

    I agree with you about the need for Asians to be more united.
    Your experiences about being taunted in school are not unusual for many Asian Americans and can leave very traumatic scars.

  6. April 7, 2010 6:17 am

    @asianamericanmovement- So “whiteness” is simply white supremacy?
    Sorry if I’m annoying you with definitions I just like to be clear what the author means when they use a word I don’t understand. (That’s why I usually define my own words on my blog).

  7. April 8, 2010 2:43 am

    Nice post.
    It is important to look at why Asian-Americans, adopted or not, can be enveloped so easily into white American culture. Just because someone grows up in an Asian family doesn’t mean they are immune to the grasp of American whiteness. I know adopted Asians who have turned out pretty well.

  8. April 8, 2010 4:11 am


    Whiteness intrinsically involves White supremacy though it is often not perceived or experienced as such–especially by European Americans who of course have a vested interest in denying the reality of who they are.

    White identity was founded as a coalition of different European settler groups in the USA, as a way to maintain racial dominance over other peoples like Black slaves or Native Indians.

    In short, White identity is a colonizer’s identity through and through. It is the original “coalition of the killing,” one might say.

  9. April 8, 2010 12:02 pm


    Hmmm. Interesting. Sounds like “Whiteness” is a safe term that suspected racists/white supremacists coined to guard themselves from the word white supremacy. White supremacy is more clear on the fact that it entails nonwhite people are abused, mistreated and killed for white people to have . The term “Whiteness” however is very very broad and confusing and often requires asking the user of the term what do they mean when they said it.

  10. Sceptic permalink
    April 10, 2010 7:40 pm

    Eep, I snuck a look at Taterpie’s page, talk about issues! I’m sure he/she will pick apart every single word of my comment to find an error then ‘subtly’ mock it under the guise of truly being interested in what I have to say. Such passive-aggressive (oh sorry if I misused the word here) approaches are truly evident of a closed mind, unwilling to deviate from any belief that might threaten their own sense of righteousness. It must be tough being you Taterpie! Why must you use such sarcastic venom in your blog? To fuel further misplaced feelings of injustice perpetrated upon honest folk like yourself by the delusioned lefties and people of colour who rule the roost while you become an innocent victim to the most heinous violence of all, ill-conceived political correctness?

    @asianamericanmovement, you shouldn’t have given this fellow/lass the time of day as he/she was clearly attempting to provoke a reaction whereupon he/she could belittle your intelligence/logic and prove his/her superior powers of intellect! *shudder* I think I’m worse for bothering to comment on his/her last comment.

  11. Sceptic permalink
    April 10, 2010 7:54 pm

    Oh dear I feel really stupid now, I’ve looked over a bit more of Taterpie’s blog and now am really confused. Maybe because I’m not American? Assuming you and Taterpie are. I truly thought it was a rightie racist white person being satirical and now I have no idea, still lotsa issues! Erase my last comment if you will, I’m so confused.

  12. papa2hapa permalink
    April 10, 2010 8:34 pm

    I think the article isn’t one so much about whiteness as much as an interesting look at the culture of TRAs in terms of racial identity. As a TRA, the Donaldson study legitimized my feelings as a child. I would hope that the article isn’t taken as a negative towards white people, but rather as a revelation that adoption reform must occur and that one of the major issues to be discussed is race.

    I also don’t think that most TRAs find that identifying themselves as white was necessarily destructive to them. There is a lot more complexity in saying that one identifies as white as a younger child. It isn’t simply saying that you think you’re white, but that your world is primarily white and that it limits how you can identify socially.

  13. April 11, 2010 5:00 am

    Sceptic, are you a white person?

    = = =
    My intention was not to cause confusion it was truly to understand the word “whiteness” in the context it was used by asianamericanmovement. Words are very important. They way one uses words and defines words should not be taken lightly and that’s often a mistake by victims of racism/white supremacy.

    That’s why I asked asianamericanmovement what they meant when they used it because definitions of words varies by each user.

  14. April 24, 2010 6:57 am

    The report actually says 78% of those adopted from Korea not all Asians. I find the conflating of the term Asian to include anyone from Asia as one homogeneous whole quite annoying.

  15. April 24, 2010 8:23 am

    Thanks oh so much for sharing, “Benjamin.”

  16. Ktown permalink
    July 31, 2010 4:12 am

    Adoptee Asians are just throw-away kids.

  17. sonya permalink
    October 3, 2011 6:37 am

    After reading this article, Im quite offended. there are plenty of asians from china, thailand, korea, japan, vietnam, phillipines who are happy and proud of their own culture. no i’m not adopted, i am of mixed race, korean and white american,born and raised here in new york. I’ve never wished to be of another race, i embrace both of my heritages. this author unfairly generalizes asian americans in one category. how pathetic. and what is with the photo of that pretty asian lady wearing a kkk outfit? how sad.

  18. leaff permalink
    November 3, 2011 8:36 pm

    That “pretty asian lady” is Michelle Malkin, a white-wannabe.

  19. January 5, 2012 7:28 am

    I’ve said that least 805511 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

  20. February 11, 2012 2:12 am

    Somebody necessarily help to make severely posts I would state. That is the very first time I frequented your website page and to this point? I amazed with the research you made to create this particular post amazing. Fantastic activity!

  21. Brent Snavely permalink
    March 30, 2015 10:28 pm

    “Ethnocentric monoculturalism”

    I’m Hapa, and was raised in a white household and lived/live in white communities. I hoped my skin would become lighter, my hair would turn blonde,and that my eyes would someday be blue… transracial adoptees frequently have no nations to call their own.

  22. MIllie permalink
    April 3, 2015 1:45 am

    Whiteness of skin in Asian cultures goes back centuries and is associated with high classes not have to work in fields. Not with Caucasian

  23. MIllie permalink
    April 3, 2015 2:09 am

    I also think this is a very sad statistic.

  24. April 3, 2015 2:13 am

    She states she had no sense if identity as an Asian woman? Why? Did her parents not let her spend quality time with other Koreans as a child? Or did the local Korean community reject her?

  25. John permalink
    April 20, 2015 3:04 am


  26. April 22, 2015 10:39 pm

    Reblogged this on yoomokgirl.

  27. Sunyata permalink
    December 9, 2015 9:52 am

    Ok, here’s the thing… I think that Americans of both Asian and European stock hold a lot of the same values, in that they both tend to view success in life with participation in and improving their society. Americans of a more “equatorial” stock seem to prefer isolating themselves from the mainstream and doing what they can to take advantage of it.

    Obviously these are generalizations, as there are people from both camps on either side, but this is basically how the lines are drawn. I see Eurasian Americans as essentially on one side in this battle to keep civilization intact and prosperous, while Equatorial Americans are on the other, participating in organized crime (cartels), actively working to completely disrupt the status quo (countless student protests), or just mooching off the system.

    Apparently the authors of this article are seeking to isolate themselves from the Eurasian side of civilization by making an issue out of a nonissue. I personally believe that this “white” that Asians claim to be identifying with is simply a Eurasian identity. People of Asian decent would likely not consider themselves as having European decent, even if they did consider themselves “white.” In fact, in “black” circles, African American cops are commonly considered “white” simply because they work to maintain civil order. Whiteness simply means that you value our civilization.

    This “Asian American Movement” won’t go down well because Asian Americans aren’t seen as victims. They are seen as even more successful in this society than European Americans. There is no sense in this campaign. Its not even like Asian culture isn’t represented in America anyway. I mean, its everywhere… martial arts studios, Asian cuisine, Buddhism, anime, yoga… European Americans don’t feel cheated by this blending, and Asian Americans shouldn’t either. Sure, we’re still learning about each other and trying to understand things properly so that we can live and work together, but all in all, I think most of us can agree that we are on the same page. Lets just keep it light hearted.


  1. Transracial Asians – Vassar ASA

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