Target: Kim Kelley-Wagner, Communications Director for Miller School of Albemarle
Goal: Thank Ms. Kelley-Wagner for reminding us that racist language is harmful and unacceptable
When Kim Kelley-Wagner adopted two girls from China, she hardly imagined that people would make horrid comments about her new family. Ever since Kelley-Wagner adopted Liliana in 2001 and Meika in 2008, both mother and daughters have endured on a daily basis questions like “Why would you bring more immigrants into our country?” or to Meika, who at two years of age had a cleft lip and palate at the time of her adoption, “Why didn’t you get the one who was perfect?”. In fact, Kelley-Wagner remembers that almost immediately after Liliana’s adoption, she would walk into stores where clerks would ask her how much Liliana had cost her, even going so far as to remark that Kelley-Wagner could have bought a car with what she probably paid to adopt her daughter. As a single mother who has never married, Kelley-Wanger has also been interrogated about the girls’ “real father” from people who demand to know why her daughters do not look like her. While such racist and downright cruel remarks at first shocked Kelley-Wagner, she has resolved to make a teaching moment out of what she considers to be displays primarily of ignorance.
Kelley-Wagner’s photo project seeks to expose how such hateful words can hurt. Titled “Things said to or about my adopted daughters,” the series features Liliana and Meika, who agreed beforehand to participate in the project, holding signs with some of those comments and questions written on them. Kelley-Wagner notes in her preface to the project that words “can become tools or weapons” before entreating her viewers: “choose to use them wisely.” The photos are now posted to Facebook after having circulated throughout various small blogs and websites.
By signing the petition below, you can thank Kelley-Wagner for reminding us all of the power of words and why we must use them responsibly.
Dear Ms. Kelley-Wagner,
I am writing to commend you on your photo project “Things said to or about my adopted daughters,” a powerful reminder to us all of our responsibility to use words wisely. I commend you on developing a teaching moment out of others’ ignorant comments toward you and your daughters, Liliana and Meika. That you have found a way both to discourage your daughters’ internalization of this racism and to make your viewers think more critically about how we use our words is inspiring and refreshing. Thank you for reinforcing the fact that cruelty on any level is unacceptable and for modeling for us how we might find opportunities to educate one another in our everyday lives.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Kim Kelley-Wagner Images via facebook.com