Interview Themes and Quotes

connection to Chinese identity and culture

Most participants found that the racism experienced during the pandemic (firsthand and/or hearing it on the media), led them to explore their Chinese and Asian American identity. This included exploring their roots more and wanting to connect with other Chinese Americans, specifically Chinese adoptees, online and in-person. While this was feeling was expressed by many, there were also feelings of limbo and resentment/guilt towards the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Participants talked about how they look Asian on the outside, and are perceived by others as Asian, but they do not feel the part on the inside because they were raised by white families in – most of the time – small, white, rural towns in the United States.

Moreover, this feeling of being in-between two identities lead many participants to have a fear of being rejected by the AAPI community as well as feeling guilty of not having the same feelings as non-adoptees. For example, many adoptees cannot relate to having elderly Chinese family members who were being the target of many attacks. Thus, there is a feeling of loss and guilt.

connection to adoptee identity

In addition to wanting to connect to their Asian American identity, many participants also felt a need to connect to their adoptee identity, and other adoptees, during this time. One participant stated that during this time, she thought about her birth parents in China and the fact that she never got to know them, making her depressed and anxious about not knowing a family that could have been heavily affected by COVID. Additionally, participants have talked about using the pandemic as a time to “come out of the fog”. This is a term that was described by participant as the process of adoptees coming into more awareness of their adoptee identity and what it means to start understanding their adoption. This can include the bridge between being Chinese and an adoptee, or just being an adoptee in general.

With this idea of coming out of the fog and wanting to explore adoptee identity, many participants connected with other adoptees through Facebook and other social media outlets. It was through groups such as Subtle Asian Adoptee Traits, that participants were able to ask questions to other adoptees, share experiences of prejudice and discrimination, and just gain advice on the current situations in the world. Moreover, participants are awaiting the day to make these ongoing internet connections a reality as the world begins to open up more.

reactions to the pandemic and discrimination

When the news of violence against the AAPI community started to reach popularity, many participants felt anger, sadness, and annoyance. Participants talked about anger towards the community and the government for not dealing with the violence. There was also anger about the lack of coverage on these stories. Participants felt that in doing so, the media was downplaying their experiences as a “model minority”, leading the AAPI community to not be taken seriously. Additionally, there was growing anger towards the use of xenophobic terms such as “Kung Fu” and “China Virus” that was surfacing over social media and being used by powerful figures such as Former President Donald Trump. Some participants began to question social circles and close family and friends because of racist remarks during this time as they found that people around them would make racist remarks or blame them for what was happening. 

Many participants were afraid to go out in public for fear of being the next target of an attack, whether it be verbal or physical. Sadly, this fear was not suppressed in March of 2021 when a shooter took the innocent lives of six Asian women in two spas in Atlanta. Overall, these participants experienced emotional rollercoasters filled with anger, sadness, fear and a motivation for change.

P1: That outwardly, there are specific expectations and stereotypes to live with. Even though I don't know much of Chinese culture, I've only taken one Mandarin class ever and I've never been back. So, I guess being Chinese is something I would like to learn more of in the future, but for right now, I would say it's really dealing with how the world views me as being Chinese, even though I'm not as "Chinese" as they would probably think.

P2: …I was never really raised in like a Chinese culture, anything like that. And so, it almost feels like I'm an impostor if I try to start learning a Chinese culture in a sense because I just never really experienced it or just or like I haven't worn like any Chinese traditional clothes or anything like that. I just don't feel like I've, in a sense, "earned it" because I don't fully understand the history behind it, and I want to be respectful.

P3: There are many different perspectives from adopted people about their life circumstances and for me, there's this term called "the fog", which is the idea [of] when adopted people start to understand how adoption impacts their life. Because I think before when you're still in "the fog", it's kind of this feeling of knowing you're adopted, or maybe even not knowing you're adopted and thinking that "Oh, I am, but it has no impact on my life.” But then coming out of "the fog" would be understanding your origins, your roots, being more curious about where you come from, really exploring how did the adoption work with the legal aspects of it, being curious about all that, and really seeing some of the pitfalls and actually a lot of negatives within the adoption community.

P3: …through Facebook, through talking to other adoptions online, which is really cool. And I've been just trying to connect with people, connect with more Chinese people, Chinese Americans, connect with more just Asian people, whether or not they're Chinese or from another mother country. And [I'm] starting off small with that because you can only make such close relationships with online methods. It'd be better once I can meet people in person and make more memorable experiences with friends, but that's my answer to that question.

P3: [In] my experience I would say, there are more mild experiences of people making reference to me about having the virus or being the cause of it, in small conversation.


P4: I would feel personally attacked just because there have been so many negative things going on about Asians, specifically East Asians, around the coronavirus. Over break, I was in a very rural area of Pennsylvania, and I just heard a lot of kind of insulting things about eating bats and how the Chinese were responsible for everything, and it was just - I can't find the word - but it just was not a fun experience. It made me feel really bad and made me question who I was friends with and everything.

P5: One big thing that was kind of irritating to constantly hear was this term like "Kung Flu" or "Chinese Virus" being constantly put out into the public. I think that definitely [has] shown [its effect on] how the public is perceiving Asian Americans.

P6: And then I felt sad after the shooting happened. I definitely think like that whole week was just a really bad week for me mental health-wise. It definitely got better after that. But that was a really hard week.