Adoption in Pop Culture: Deitrick Does Detroit

Recently a special episode of Preachers of Detroit aired named “Deitrick Goes Home” focusing on Deitrick’s continued search for information about his biological father’s side of the family.  So, folks have been showing up at the blog since my post, Adoption in Pop Culture:  Deitrick Haddon and His Missing Link shows up in the search results.  Hello visitors!   This recap is for you.

Deitrick, his wife Dominique, and his children are returning to Detroit to check on his adopted father, Bishop Haddon who recently had a heart attack.  Since the last visit to Detroit, Deitrick has also tracked down some siblings that he never knew existed and plans to meet them for the first time.

When they arrive at the Haddon home in Detroit, we greet his mother and sisters.  One of the first questions asked is if he has been in touch with his father’s side of the family, the Troupes.  Clearly there is still some anxiety from the Haddons about Deitrick’s involvement with the other side of his family.  Deitrick seems completely tone deaf and answers with giddiness about his growing relationship and the fact that he has two new siblings. The mother, Momma Joyce, is shocked and exclaims that she has never heard of these children.  Deitrick pushes back that they are his siblings and implies that his mother painted the whole family as bad people because of her relationship with his father.  Sad faces all around the kitchen at that one.

He pushes on, even though the tension is thick as a mug in the kitchen and tells his family that he’s bringing his new siblings to dinner.  What?  You are just going to drop this bomb shell and then invite essential strangers to your family home.  Where they do that at.  After a little buttering up, he convinces his Momma Joyce to meet his brother and sister and to cook dinner for them.  His mother agrees as a favor for him.

At this point, I’m concerned.  This seems a bit much for everyone to take and Deitrick seems completely unaware or unconcerned about how his family might feel about the introduction of these new family members.  He has a vision of everyone getting along together and being one big family.

As an adoptive mother, I would want to support my child’s enthusiasm for finding her first family but I would need some personal time to adjust also.  How do you balance that support and not wanting to stifle your child’s excitement with your own emotional need to get your mind right?

Deitrick meets his brother Lavonas and sister Tamisha at a restaurant.  You can tell they come from the same blood immediately.  It’s all in the eyes and nose area.  Deitrick is so excited and it is really beautiful to see this place of emptiness filled for him.  After a very open discussion about their family and their shared experience of growing up without a father, Deitrick invites them to dinner at the Haddon house.  I wonder if they felt any kind of way.  They just met you and now you want them to meet some other folks.  I feel anxious for everyone involved.

When Deitrick meets with his mother and his adopted father, he tells them about his meeting with his newly found brother and sister.  He explains that he sees them as an addition to the family and wants everyone to be one big happy family, like the Brady Bunch.  His mother pushes back with, “How do you know that they are so wonderful.”

I can just feel this anxiety coming across. Deitrick is so excited and so persistent in his vision.  His easy use of the terms, “my brother and sister” definitely throws his family for a loop.   Deitrick asks his father if the Troupes will be welcome at dinner. His father lobs the question at Mama Joyce, saying, “she’s the one that has a problem.”  In his talking head, Deitrick posits that Joyce has a problem because these new siblings are around his same age, meaning that his father was cheating on his mother.

Nawl Deitrick.  You are trying to paint your mother like she is a petty person, concerned about the escapades of your father who has been dead for years.  Deitrick seems like he has a low opinion of his mother to think that is what is driving her response.   Momma Joyce is probably uncomfortable because she has a very different relationship with your father versus your very limited memories of him.  You just informed her that you have some siblings, never mind the fact that you have completely embraced them even though you just met them.  And now you expect her to not only absorb all these changes, but cook dinner and be cordial to people who are essentially strangers to her.  That is a lot to expect from someone.

Well, Momma Joyce is working it out in her mind.  She’s on board this plan, with a caveat.  He needs to work this issue out with his sister Zina, the main one that was against his journey to find his father’s family.

Deitrick starts telling his family about his new brother and sister and how they are such great people.  He gives an ultimatum, “if you love me, then you will love them.”  Record scratch.  They have a conversation about how Deitrick’s life could have been different if he hadn’t been raised by Bishop Haddon.  Welp.

Zina and Dominique go out to lunch to try to make up.  Dominique tries to explain that Deitrick started having an identity crisis when he became a father and really needed to find his family.  Zina is like, that sounds like a personal problem.  She really doesn’t see the point of this and frankly doesn’t care.

Now Deitrick sits down with his mother and sisters, saying that he felt a “spirit of resistance.”  He’s at peace with his father and who he became so he doesn’t understand the problem.  In his talking head, he claims that Zina is territorial and doesn’t want to share him.  Really?

Zina is confused about why he wants to search for his family when he never wanted to do that before.  He explains that he’s changed because he now has a family.  His family tries to get across to Deitrick that he can’t expect them to deal with all of this change.  D is pretty much like, whatevs man, ya’ll just need to support me.

Obviously he needs more information.  Zina does her best by revealing that she had to go live with their grandmother because Deitrick’s father was abusive.  She was sent away from her mother at a young age and didn’t understand what was happening.  She felt unwanted.  Deitrick, being the empathetic (not) person that he is,  points out that she doesn’t have a problem with his father, she has a problem with her mother, Momma Joyce, for not standing up for her and allowing her to be sent away.  Dang, Deitrick.  He then says that she can’t put her pain on his dead father but should put it on her own father since he left their mother which left her with a woman (his mother) that couldn’t take care of her.  And then he walks off.  Sooo disrespectful.

Apparently Momma Joyce prayed about it because she seems to be excited about the dinner and has cooked all day.  The rest of the family…not so much.  When the Lavonas and Tamisha arrive, Deitrick is like a little kid.  You can tell that he really wants this to work out.  Bishop Haddon says some words that are very accepting to make them feel comfortable.

I really appreciate that because that’s a strange situation for the new siblings too.  They have no idea what they are walking into and don’t know how these people will react.

After dinnner, they start talking about his father and sharing stories of growing up.  Deitrick calls Zina, putting her on front street and asking about her feelings.  She explains that she has nothing against the Troupes and her reaction was because Deitrick had never wanted to search before.  I can see this being an issue in an adoptive situation.  If a child has never wanted to search before and then all of sudden changes their mind, the entire family can no longer be complacent in dealing with their feelings.

Of course we have a happy ending.  Deitrick explains that he loves Zina and is sensitive to his pain but still wants to move fowrard.  Zina claims his new siblings as family and apologizes to Dominique.  Everyone smiles and hugs.

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Mainstreaming the Adoption of Brown Children

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Last week a Cheerios commercial starring a Canadian couple, Andre and Jonathan, and their daughter Raphaëlle  made the rounds and there were quite a few strong feelings about it from some folks in the adoption community.

I encourage you to read the blogs by Red Thread Broken and Frank Ligtvoet as they both brought up issues related to ignoring first/bio families and dismissing the loss that adoptees feel. I’m glad that people are bringing this issue to our minds and continuing to remind us that adoption is not something to be taken lightly.

But something else was bothering me about this commercial.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and even now, I find it hard (uncomfortable) to accurately articulate  it.

The mainstream version of adoption is one where white people adopt brown children.

I would like to understand what is so compelling about that narrative that it continues to be the storyline for commercials and movies.  If the couple had adopted a white toddler, would people think this story was as cute?  What if it was a black couple with the same adorable little girl?  Would the commercial have went as viral?

The reality is 49% of adopted children are White (non-Hispanic origin).  About 16% are Black (non-Hispanic) and 10% Asian.   According to the census data, ~24% of adopted children were of different race than the householder. Adopted Children and Stepchildren Report: 2010

So less than 1/3 of adoptions are actually transracial/transcultural but yet, this story seems privileged in the adoption narrative.  It makes me wonder if there is more of a reason for this than just the public interest in seeing stories about color-blind love.   What impact might this have for those involved in the adoption process from expectant mothers, potential adoptive parents, recruiting adoption agencies, social/placement workers, etc?

*shrug* More thoughts to come as I continue to mull this over in my mind.

By the way, here’s another commercial that I saw last week that also got the wheels turning.

Preachers of LA Deitrick Haddon Paternal Family

Adoption in Pop Culture: Deitrick Haddon and His Missing Link

When you are a part of the adoption community, you start to see adoption themes everywhere in pop culture.  The latest one that I’ve come across is the reality-show, Preachers of L.A.

Deitrick Haddon, one of the main characters, decides to go back to his hometown of Detroit to find his biological family on his father’s side.  His bio-father passed away some years ago and he never had a relationship with him.  According to his mother, his father was abusive and that’s why she left.  He was raised by his mother and his step-father who adopted him and gave him the name Haddon.  Now that he is married and has two daughters, he feels a pull to find out more about his paternal side of the family.

“They have my blood, so there are things that they might have questions about that I won’t really be able to answer because I really have no connection with my biological father.”

Upon arriving in Detroit he attends a family dinner with a woman who I assumed was his full sister (same mother, same father) and his other half-siblings, all whom grew up together as Haddons.  After informing the family of his journey, his sister gets very upset and emotionally expresses that she thinks its disrespectful to look up his father’s side.  From her point of view, they are Haddons, they were never treated any differently and this is their family.  She throws Deitrick’s new wife into the mix, claiming that it was his wife’s idea and she was ultimately the problem.   The wife tearily explains that she supports his search because it’s bigger than them as individuals.  Now that he has children, he needs to understand where he came from and he desires that his children know their entire family.

Deitrick meets his family for the first time and they embrace him, telling him stories of his father, and listening to old recordings of his father singing.  Multiple times they express amazement that he looks, acts and sounds so much like his father.  It ain’t all chins and grins because they also have some issues with Deitrick.  They were upset that he didn’t reach out to their side of the family before.

Now that he is a grown man, Deitrick has more of the skills that he needs to navigate the feelings of both sides of his family.  His paternal side seems happy to be in reunion with him and ready to develop a relationship. But there are barriers with developing relationships as an adult.  His paternal family all have shared experiences, shared family customs, shared slang and memories.  There are also a host of half-siblings that may not have had a similar lifestyle of growing up in a nice house and having a live-in nanny like Deitrick did.  So there may be some class tensions that are thrown in the mix.  They are essentially strangers that he now has to get to know and integrate with his new family.

At the same time, there is tension with his Haddon family.  We didn’t get much of a perspective on the other Haddon siblings but we know he has to manage the rejection that his sister feels.  His father, Bishop Haddon, kibboshed the discussion at the dinner table, and made it clear that he considers Deitrick his son, full stop.  But we don’t get to see the conversations between Bishop Haddon and Deitrick’s mother – are they fully supportive, do they have any concerns?  How do the other siblings feel?

The impact of adoption doesn’t just stop with the triad.  It ripples outwards and affects siblings, parents, grandparents and the children of the adopted person.