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Mom's Photo Series Spotlights Racist Comments Directed at Daughters

Posted by on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:31 AM
  • 57 Replies

Mom's Photo Series Spotlights Racist Comments Directed at Daughters

Kim Kelley-Wagner Images/FacebookWhen Kim Kelley-Wagner adopted two little girls from China, now ages 13 and 7, she never imagined that her family would attract much attention. So the barrage of rude and ignorant comments she's received on a daily basis over the years has shocked her. But instead of dismissing her critics, Kelley-Wagner has created a controversial photo series starring her daughters, hoping to show others how words can hurt.

Though the 55-year-old  communications director at a middle school in Charlottesville, Virginia, never married, she had always known that she wanted kids. Her life changed thanks to a tiny photo accompanying a story about Chinese orphans in Time magazine. “It was an image of six babies sitting in a circle on the floor, and one had the most serious facial expression,” Kelley-Wagner tells Yahoo Shine. “That image stayed with me.” At the time, China was one of the only countries that allowed single people to adopt, so a few years later, in 2001, Kelley-Wagner adopted 10-month-old Liliana, and in 2008, she adopted Meika, then a 2-year-old special-needs child who had a bilateral cleft lip and palate when she was born. 

More on Yahoo Shine: Foster Teen Gets First ‘Real’ Thanksgiving With Adoptive Family 

“The comments began right from the start,” Kelley-Wagner says. “We would be shopping, and cashiers or store clerks would say things like, ‘How much did she cost?’ or ‘You could have bought a car for what it probably cost to adopt her.’ I would answer, ‘Are you interested in adoption?’ If they said no, I’d say, ‘Why are you asking?’ My response made them consider the impact of their words and sometimes they apologized.”  

photo: Kim Kelley-Wagner Images/FacebookQuestions and comments directed at both mom and daughters have ranged from combative to misguided. Some that Kelley-Wagner remembers include, "They hate girls from the country you come from — you know that, right?" "Why don’t you look like your mom?" "Your mom is a real saint for wanting you" "What a China doll!" "But what are her emotional issues?" and "Why would you bring more immigrants into our country?"  

More on Yahoo: The Woody Allen Adoption Question 

“One time, I was at the mechanic and the counter guy said to one of the girls, ‘You know that’s not your real sister, right?’” Kelley-Wagner recounts. “His coworker rushed over and apologized for him. On another occasion, a bookstore clerk asked, ‘Um, does she look like her real father?’” 

After fielding so many inappropriate questions and comments over the years, Kelley-Wagner was struck with an idea. “I wanted to turn this into a teachable moment, especially because I don’t want the girls to internalize this negativity.” So she asked her girls if they felt comfortable posing for photos while holding signs with the comments written out. “They were all for it,” she says. “Lily even said, ‘I think people need to know how rude people are.’ We sat down and made a list and I was surprised at how many incidents the girls remembered that I didn’t.” Kelley-Wagner titled their project, “Things said to or about my adopted daughters” and in January, she posted it on Facebook. This week it began making the rounds on the Internet after getting picked up by a few small blogs and websites

Some see the project as exploitative. “Yesterday, a woman online said that my project was a parental fail,” says Kelley-Wagner. “But I want my kids to be aware of the ignorance in the world so they’ll know how to handle it.” She admits that it can be hard for her to stay calm at times; she doesn’t want her children to respond rudely but instead to make the other person think. “My advice to them is, leave your offenders speechless,” she says. Liliana is learning — recently, a couple approached the family and the woman remarked, "I couldn’t love someone I didn’t give birth to," to which Lily cleverly responded, "Oh, did you give birth to your husband?" before walking away. “I was proud of her,” says Kelley-Wagner. 

She doesn't believe that people are being purposefully cruel; she thinks that in most cases it’s simply ignorance. “I think people are curious and don’t know any better,” she says. “Fortunately, my daughters have never questioned their place in our family or felt out of place.” 

by on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:31 AM
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Replies (1-10):
ShannyLouisiany
by Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:34 AM
it genuinely pains me to know that people are as stupid as portrayed here.
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
ladyheartbreak
by on Feb. 26, 2014 at 6:09 AM
1 mom liked this
While I think is important to share how ignorant people can be, I think it is repulsive that this mother has her daughters pose with these words for the world to see. I do not think choosing to regularly re-expose your children to these hateful words yourself and photograph them is healthy for the children. This mother is a dumb ass.
sweet-a-kins
by Emerald Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 6:13 AM
9 moms liked this


Quoting ladyheartbreak: While I think is important to share how ignorant people can be, I think it is repulsive that this mother has her daughters pose with these words for the world to see. I do not think choosing to regularly re-expose your children to these hateful words yourself and photograph them is healthy for the children. This mother is a dumb ass.

Unfortunately they are exposed to these things over and over. Addressing it is a must. Ignoring it would be a mistake

ladyheartbreak
by on Feb. 26, 2014 at 7:11 AM
Addressing bigotry is important, intentionally exposing your own children to these traumatic and harmful words a second time isn't the intelligent way to do that.

I would never have my Arab children stand holding signs that I gave them that said the vile things said about us and to us day after day.

This woman is an idiot.

Quoting sweet-a-kins:

Quoting ladyheartbreak: While I think is important to share how ignorant people can be, I think it is repulsive that this mother has her daughters pose with these words for the world to see. I do not think choosing to regularly re-expose your children to these hateful words yourself and photograph them is healthy for the children. This mother is a dumb ass.

Unfortunately they are exposed to these things over and over. Addressing it is a must. Ignoring it would be a mistake

jjames1990
by Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 7:16 AM
1 mom liked this
This hurts my heart to know people are just so intolerant and racist. Unfortunately the only way to combat it is to make the other person feel bad about themselves.
Mommabearbergh
by on Feb. 26, 2014 at 7:23 AM
3 moms liked this
I disagree that she is a idiot these kids hear it everywhere and it probably annoys the hell out of them. My girls are biracial and I hear all the dumbass comments and I know they will to. She probably put it up so that people would realize its rude to ask

Are you her nanny
Are they adopted
What is the father

Kids see and understand more then what we give them credit for


Quoting ladyheartbreak: Addressing bigotry is important, intentionally exposing your own children to these traumatic and harmful words a second time isn't the intelligent way to do that.

I would never have my Arab children stand holding signs that I gave them that said the vile things said about us and to us day after day.

This woman is an idiot.

Quoting sweet-a-kins:

Quoting ladyheartbreak: While I think is important to share how ignorant people can be, I think it is repulsive that this mother has her daughters pose with these words for the world to see. I do not think choosing to regularly re-expose your children to these hateful words yourself and photograph them is healthy for the children. This mother is a dumb ass.

Unfortunately they are exposed to these things over and over. Addressing it is a must. Ignoring it would be a mistake

EireLass
by Ruby Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 8:35 AM
1 mom liked this
I didn't read the article....the photos aren't racist.....they're saying what the tv commercials make us think.
canadianmom1974
by Gold Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 8:43 AM
1 mom liked this
What tv commercials?

The only time I've ever thought a mother was a saint for having their child was when that kid was a terror.

Though I do agree that not every comment was racist, there certainly were some listed in the article.


Quoting EireLass: I didn't read the article....the photos aren't racist.....they're saying what the tv commercials make us think.
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Luvnlogic
by Silver Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 8:48 AM
I can't believe that people have said these things....what makes a complete stranger think it's ok to ask such personal questions and make these kinds of statements? Wow
Bookwormy
by Platinum Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 9:13 AM
1 mom liked this
I have mixed opinions on this project. The comments are offensive. If the project had been the kids' idea i would be more comfortable with it. But i wouldn't want to ask my daughter to be retraumatized to create a learning moment.
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