Responses to the NYTimes Ethicist

27 Jan

I left a comment on THE ETHICIST post  What if I Don’t Want to See the Child I Gave Up for Adoption? I seldom respond in comment sections as I don’t have the luxury of time to walk away, return, re-read and see obvious errors (not that I ever see them all) – but I strongly disagreed with the response given and left the following comment in response.

“Adopted children are naturally curious about their biological parents. Occasionally, they even have a need to find things out about them in order to understand their medical situation, though that will be increasingly unnecessary as we get to know more about the human genome.”

What a curious term to use in regard to what an adopted person may feel. A term used everyday to muse about little things in your life Curious about what the weather will be today, how you did in an interview. Curious, though, does not even begin to untangle the feelings evoked when a person doesn’t have any ancestral knowledge, not even the basic knowledge of their closest ancestor of all, their mother, nor their story. Legally severing of that link by the mother does not quench the need to know where you came from, who your ancestors were, where they came from, what type of people they were, nor why you were chosen to be severed from your family. It’s not merely curiosity, it’s a yearning that runs far deeper than that, along with another common desire, to be connected to your own, to see yourself mirrored in others in your family, to be claimed.

As to your reference re the lack of family health history being fixed one day with more understanding of the human genome. We won’t get there in my lifetime, nor your lifetime either. We are at the point that there can be no promise of privacy given because DNA testing has changed that forever in adoption and donor conception.

Others in the community have felt the need to weigh in, a few below, and if there are more, if you’d be so kind as to leave them in a comment I’d appreciate it very much.

Lynn Grubb wrote this at No Apologies for Being Me: Response to the New York Times Column, “What If I Don’t Want to See the Child I Gave Up for Adoption?”

Sunny J Reed wrote this at Medium: In Response to Today’s NYTimes Ethicist Column

Rebecca Carroll wrote this thread on twitter and be sure to click-through and read the entire thoughtful thread:

Amanda Woolston at The Declassified Adoptee wrote this: “What if I Don’t Want to See the Child I Gave Up for Adoption?” & NY Times’ Troublesome Answer

Lorraine Dusky at First Mother Forum wrote this: What if I Don’t Want to See the Child I Gave Up for Adoption?

Be safe…



Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Adoption


Tags: , , ,

15 responses to “Responses to the NYTimes Ethicist

  1. Heather

    January 27, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Again more cruelty. How cold.

    It makes me wonder if the original post was written by an AP. I realize that some mothers don’t want to be found but that post just reeks of stereotypes to me … and the response by “THE ETHICIST” … I just can’t right now.


  2. pj

    January 28, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Unfortunately not surprising, Tao. I follow ” The Ethicist” and he’s usually off the mark when it comes to an adoption-related issue 😦


    • TAO

      January 28, 2018 at 3:29 pm

      Well then, at least he’s consistently wrong?


  3. Sunny J. Reed

    January 28, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    Thank you SO much for the shoutout, TAO and I really love the emphasis you put on curiosity. By now Mr. Appiah has seen the responses and I hope he’s a good enough person to reply.



    • TAO

      January 28, 2018 at 4:59 pm

      Anytime Sunny 🙂 and I wouldn’t hold your breath for a response… Cheers

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Tiffany

    January 29, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    The comments section is now closed. I did just send an email. I’ll copy it here. I tried to keep it short to increase the chances it will be read, but I struggled and finally gave up. I decided it is likely he won’t read any of them, anyway.

    Dear Mr Appiah,

    I just read your NYT column dated Jan 24 2018 titled “What if I Don’t Want to See the Child I Gave Up for Adoption?” For the second letter of that column, you said the following: “Franca Viola told an interviewer that her advice, when faced with an important decision, was “to follow always your own heart.” She’s a hero of mine because she makes that sound far easier than it is.”

    As an adoptive mother, I would scrub your response to the first letter and replace is with the above statement that you make in the second. It would vastly improve your response.

    It’s a shame that someone who prizes the intellectual curiosity that drives philosophy cannot understand the deepest needs of a human being to connect to and know from whence they came. You dismiss the adult adoptee’s curiosity (yes, adult, not child- that was the height of patronization to continue to refer to a grown adult as a child), if that is even what is driving her, in a manner that would greatly disappoint Socrates.

    I find it discouraging that those with no understanding of adoption continue to dole out advice more befitting the 1950s than today. You believe an adoptee should remain quiet and closeted, holding to a bargain they themselves were never a part of, and remaining a forever child. This is not free human agency.

    I would never treat my daughter who is adopted as someone not deserving of knowing her own history, her roots, and her family of origin, and I’m grateful her mother and father of birth do not feel that way either. In the same way, I would not discourage my biological daughter from knowing her own history, her roots, and her family of origin. If ever there is a time to break an agreement (one that I would assume, based on knowledge of how these work, was made by the agency, not the adoptive parents) it is keeping secret from a person their own genetic history.


    Tiffany, an adoptive mother

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      January 29, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      You rock as always Tiffany – my ire was brought to the point of responding to his poorly thought-out advice. Thank you.


    • Pj

      January 30, 2018 at 1:14 pm

      Tiffany, loved your letter ! (Tao, wouldn’t allow me to “like” ?)
      I was heartened by so many of the comments, despite Mr. Appiah’s response. He has a powerful platform and many do read the comments . I’m thinking + that hopefully readers will better understand adoptees deep need for connection…

      Liked by 2 people

      • TAO

        January 30, 2018 at 1:30 pm

        No idea why you couldn’t like Tiffany’s post.


      • Tiffany

        February 1, 2018 at 9:14 pm

        Thanks Pj.

        I’ve been thinking about this for days. It’s kinda morphed with the #metoo and BLM movement in my head in terms of feeling that so many people speak for adoptees. I wonder if I do that too much- use my voice in the wrong way and take space that really belongs to adoptees… I don’t know. I am working hard to use my privilege to empower adoptees, not to overshadow them. I wish I had included in the letter that I feel this advice was so dismissive of the adoptee and her voice and her rights as a human. It diminished her and further emphasized how silencing society is of adoptees and their needs and desires.

        It troubles me so much. My youngest daughter is a minority, is a female, and is adopted…. sometimes the weight of my concern for her and my anger on her behalf is really overwhelming, and it’s hard for me to tread the line between advocate/ally and taking up too much space.

        Liked by 1 person

        • TAO

          February 1, 2018 at 9:22 pm

          You empower and you’re always welcome to do a post anytime…


    • Heather

      February 5, 2018 at 1:52 am

      Thank you Tiffany. I always enjoy reading your writings.

      On the other hand it makes me sad that your words likely hold more weight than the words of adoptees.


      • Tiffany

        February 5, 2018 at 7:01 pm

        “On the other hand it makes me sad that your words likely hold more weight than the words of adoptees.”

        Me too.

        I’m so invested in helping to change the mindset of society on so many aspects (women’s equality, minority equality) because it matters so much to me that my daughters one day can reap these benefits. I feel the same about changing the discourse around adoption. I want to not have to use my voice as an adoptive parent one day because the primary voices will be the ones that should have been listened to all along: adoptees. I want my daughter to feel that she is a powerful force when talking about adoption because it is her personal experience, and one that matters far, far more than my viewpoint.

        It’s not reality right now. I wish it was. But we can keep working towards a day when it will be; and I say “will” with intention because I believe we can change this.



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