It’s NOT Okay To Mock Adopted People, Even When Taunting Trump

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post.

In what appears to be an attempt to taunt President Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. on Twitter, New York Times writer Sopan Deb and White House Correspondent James Oliphant did so, perhaps unintentionally, at the expense of adopted people.

Some adoptees (and an adoptive father) took to Twitter to express their grievances, but to my knowledge neither Sopan Deb and James Oliphant have apologized.


However, 7.5k people liked Sopan Deb’s tweet, and this evidences that many people think that this kind of casual disparaging humor is okay.

Whatever your views are on adoption, using us (I am an adoptee) in this way totally ignores the complexity that many adoptees (and adoptive families) have experienced. Here’s just a few reasons of why it’s not okay:

1. Domestic and international adoptees are still fighting for their rights, and we continue to be marginalized and ignored. If you are interested in finding out more about this, here is a list (not exhaustive) of adoptees who write, blog and tweet.

2. I was teased as a child and as an adult for being adopted (e.g., “Your adopted parents couldn’t love you as much as their real child”). I was discriminated against (e.g., I was not allowed access to my original birth certificate; I was ridiculed when I applied for my Italian passport and, subsequently, I do not have this, whereas my brother ― my adopted parents’ biological child ― was able to obtain this; and a boyfriend told me he would never be able to marry me because I was adopted and didn’t know my “blood line”). And, don’t get me started on the jokes about abandonment issues! This doesn’t sound like much when committed to paper, but believe me, growing up with being teased, something that was considered normal, is disempowering, and it hurts!

3. There’s research on adoptees that suggests we are at increased risk of mental illnessaddiction and suicide (controversially). I am not going to debate the merits of all the research, but I talk to local and international adoptees who discuss their issues, which they link to their adoptee experience.

4. Adoptees are also stereotyped in binary ways in movies as heroes or villains. For example, in the movie “Avengers,” a joke was made about Loki being adopted. As Guidrywrites, “Loki is also a textbook example of ‘bad blood.’ He’s destined to turn evil, and he can’t get away from it no matter how much he tries. Think Damien from The Omen, another textbook example.”

5. This notion of “bad blood” was explored through submissions to Australia’s Senate Inquiry into Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices. I am acutely aware that some still view adoptees in this way, and the joke by Sopan Deb and James Oliphant feed into that discourse.

To sum up why I didn’t find this funny, I will turn to Professor Ford’s piece on the “Psychology behind the unfunny consequences of jokes that denigrate,” who eloquently explains why these kind of jokes (disparagement humor) are not funny.

“Disparagement humor is any attempt to amuse through the denigration of a social group or its representatives. You know it as sexist or racist jokes – basically anything that makes a punchline out of a marginalized group.

Disparagement humor is paradoxical: It simultaneously communicates two conflicting messages. One is an explicit hostile or prejudiced message. But delivered alongside is a second implicit message that “it doesn’t count as hostility or prejudice because I didn’t mean it — it’s just a joke.”

By disguising expressions of prejudice in a cloak of fun and frivolity, disparagement humor appears harmless and trivial. However, a large and growing body of psychology research suggests just the opposite – that disparagement humor can foster discrimination against targeted groups”.


DAI posts news articles and commentary in areas relevant to adoption and foster care adoption as a way to aggregate information for members of our community. Links to the original article and publication source are included in each post. The views expressed in the articles posted on our News and Views section do not necessarily represent those of DAI, our staff, agents or affiliates. If you wish to read original commentary by DAI, check the blogs on our website as well as at The Huffington Post.