“What Do You See?” Music Video: Family, Struggle, Resilience, Awe

“What Do You See?” is a lovely song by the talented musician-singers Mr and Mrs. Something.

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Today, they released the song, as well as a music video that has a story line about family, parenting, struggles, and resilience. When you watch the video, you will see and hear Mr. and Mrs. Something, and you will see my daughter, my granddaughter, and me. The video is available here.

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Bryan Tucker and Brian Lee, filming Mr. and Mrs. Something, August 2015.

The director of the video is Bryan Tucker, who directed and produced the prize-winning documentary Closure (the story of Angela Tucker‘s search and reunion), among other works. Bryan came up with the story line concept, a merging of the lyrics and a story of a family, and approached us about being in the video.  It was a brand new experience for us, and was a lot of fun. I have a whole new appreciation for the art of making top-notch videos–so much time and so many details.

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Bryan Tucker and Brian Lee, filming the video for “What Do You See?” August 2015

The lyrics and the music are strong and challenging:

What do you see…the dream that has died, or the hopes yet to be?

Someone who’s loved and lost, or someone who’s learned patiently?

The song and the video are about everyone: the struggles, the failings, the fallings, the willingness to get back up. They are about mothers and daughters, parenting, interracial families, raising children, loving each other, being angry or hurt, laughing, cheering each other on, hanging in, showing up.

We’ve heard today from dear friends who saw the video and know us (including in our unpleasant, imperfect, not in the video moments), and from strangers who saw themselves in the lyrics or story: adoptees, Ethiopians, single moms, women of color, grandmothers, dancers, aspiring ballerinas, adoptive parents, step parents, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons.

Wherever we are, we can choose to see the best in each other and ourselves, even in the midst of all our imperfections.

‘Cuz I see a will to rise again from every fall.

I see a soul that’s filled with awe at the wonder of it all.

What do you see? 

You can (and should!) download the song for free, for the next 2 weeks. Mr and Mrs. Something’s album Setting Sail will be released on November 17, 2015. We are honored to have been a part of it.

 

 

 

 

“You Are Like The Whitest Black Person I Know!”

As the white adoptive mother of 4 transracially adopted children, I know so much more now about race and racism than I did some 30 years ago, when we started down the path of building a family through adoption. “Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!,” wrote Leonardo da Vinci some 400 years ago. Living with and loving my children deeply, my eyes have been opened. Now young adults in their 20’s, they were raised in a diverse, predominately black Maryland county by a white mom and dad, were surrounded by various role models, and have lived with racist micro aggressions, as well as with overt, systemic racism. I live with white privilege. We all get up in the morning and go to work or school, do laundry, hang out with friends, travel, and buy groceries. And the world often (always?) sees us, and we see ourselves, through very different lenses, because of the color of our skin.

I continue to learn so much.

I first met Angela Tucker at the April 2013 premiere of the brilliant documentary Closure. The film is about Angela’s journey as an adopted person to find her birth parents. Whether you have any connection to adoption or not, you should see this award-winning documentary. It’s on Hulu, it’s on DVD: information is available here.

Angela Tucker and I after the April 2013 premiere of Closure

I am old enough to be Angela’s mom, and I can identify with some parts of her and her family’s journey of search and reunion. Angela and her husband Bryan Tucker, who filmed the documentary, have appeared at many screenings across the country and have been featured in many conferences. Closure is not their full-time work, though Angela has been a sought-after and insightful speaker at many venues. She is also a talented writer. Her blog The Adopted Life has provided much food for thought.

Her most recent post is eye-opening, and should be required reading for transracial adoptive parents–really, for anyone. Angela’s experience and her thoughts speak powerfully to the state of race relations in the US, maybe around the world–the fragility, the intensity, the confusion, the reality.

With her permission, I have reprinted Angela’s post here. Please read all of her posts at The Adopted Life.

 “You’re The Whitest Black Person I Know!”

By Angela Tucker

I recently led an audience consisting primarily of Caucasian folks through an exercise where we identified common racial micro-aggressions. We discussed what behaviors, language cues, social skills etc. hobbies etc. constitute receiving the label of an ethnicity as an adjective. Upon finishing the session I was greeted by an attendee who gushed; “I just love how you break down tough, controversial current topics on race relations. I was really challenged by your words, and was surprised by how comfortable I felt around you. You are like the Whitest Black person I know!”

I won’t spend time delving into the personhood and personality traits of the person behind these specific comments, because this is not a singular incident. I hear this sort of sentiment quite frequently, and after having conversations with others, I know that I am not alone. It is worth noting that the great majority of folks who have made statements like this are the type of “good white people” Brit Bennett describes in her article. I shall also frame this blog post around the truism which is that we all emit unconscious stereotypes via microagressive comments, and the great majority of us are certainly not seeking to offend others.

However, even when microagressions don’t consciously seek to offend, they still hold weight and have far reaching implications for those on the receiving end. The various ways I’ve been tagged as the Whitest Black Person has left an impression on me. For example, during my high school years, the comments actually prompted feelings of pride and relative success – I felt it to be a compliment to fit in with my predominantly Caucasian peers. During early college, comments alluding to my “articulate nature” encouraged a feeling of positivity around perceived academic success. Within the work force being told that I made my clients feel “surprisingly at ease” resulted in feelings of self-adulation as I took it to mean that my work ethic and professionalism was noted. A black friend with whom I’ve recently conversed about this very topic concurred in stating that some micro-aggressions made him feel a similar sense of haughtiness, even conceit as well.

I generally give people the benefit of the doubt and offer an understanding affirmation of their well-intended comments, rather than to address the qualms in suggesting a betrayal of my own culture. During times where I have felt clear headed and rational enough to push back (thus effectively speaking out against the effects of marginalization), I’ve found that there is no inverse. That when folks state that I am the Whitest Black person they know, that this does not also mean that they have interacted with someone and deemed them the “Blackest White person” ever. This discrepancy (and others) leave me wildly curious. I wonder which aspects, in addition to the obvious implicit racial biases, are at play during these moments.

My incessantly curious brain can’t help but to wonder about the antithesis of these statements. If I’m “surprisingly safe” and “put people at ease” then what wouldn’t be surprising? If others are shocked that they are able to have difficult conversations about race, this automatically implies that other black, young adult, female, transracial adoptees have shut them down in the past? Similarly if acting more professional equals acting White, wouldn’t that suggest that Whites are the status quo and the basis for which we measure white-collar jobs (no pun intended)? It seems that this could explain the sense of pride and conceit that I sometimes feel after receiving a comment like this. It makes sense to me that any compliment favoring the status quo may be initially perceived as a positive trait.

Inserting other ethnicities as adjectives have also helped me to put the pejorative sentence in to perspective. I’ve asked myself if a comment such as; “You’re the Asianist Latino I Know!” would be met with a rational understanding, or a sense of positive self regard? It’s unlikely. Most would feel a knee-jerk reaction to the overtly racist and offensive nature of the comment. Why then wouldn’t being the “Whitest Black Person” around come with the automatic visceral reaction of disgust?

Can I posit the idea that no one is born the stereotyped adjective that currently personifies their race? People are born with a certain amount of the melanin chemical that colors our skin, but we have learned how to act like our specific race within the social confines of the region in which we live. Herein lies the racial training that must occur for Whites raising Blacks, and vice versa. For transracial adoptees, learning with which adjective that we will align is a lifelong and formative process.

To some, I may be the Whitest Black person they know, but I know that having Black skin cannot equate to that specific person’s definition of what it means to act Black or White.

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NPR Responds! Though Not to Adoptees…

Dawn Davenport, of “Creating A Family: Adoption and Infertility Education and Support,” just posted on Facebook:

“NPR Weekend Edition has asked us for help finding a young adult transracial adoptee (black child adopted by white parents) for a follow-up on their show on transracial adoption last week. Let me know if you are interested and I’ll send you their email.”

(“black child.” We were just talking about that. “Perpetual Child” is not a myth.)

Click here for Dawn’s post.

Could it really be true that NPR did not contact Angela Tucker or any of the many adult transracial adoptees who commented mightily on Sunday’s interview, and who have tweeted and blogged in detail and abundance?

I am hopeful that Angela will now be featured, since she was considered then passed over for a white adoptive parent, many of whom have been featured on NPR.

NPR, you can reach Angela at her blog. Hope that happens fast.

It’s way overdue for the voices of adoptees to be heard.

We Listened to NPR–Now It’s NPR’s Turn to Listen

We listened.

Yesterday, a 6 minute segment on NPR created hours’ worth of responses, frustration, blogging, conversations, tweeting, disappointment, and shaking of heads. The Sunday Morning Edition featured Rachel Garlinghouse, a white adoptive mother of 3 very young black children, and the topic of the show was transracial adoption.

NPR–Your Turn to Listen:

Prior to the airing, at least one transracially adopted adult was considered for the segment, then passed over. In my blog yesterday, I wrote about Angela Tucker. Angela has not (yet) written her own book, though she is among those writers featured in the wonderful, compelling anthology Perpetual Child, which I write about further down in this post. Angela is featured in the highly-acclaimed documentary Closure

Angela Tucker www.theadoptedlife.com

Angela Tucker
www.theadoptedlife.com

I’m very glad she wrote her own thoughts today about the NPR show. Here is the link to her blog. Here are a couple of excerpts from Angela’s post:

“Had my voice been aired on the show, viewers would’ve heard me speak my truth about how I felt when being discriminated against in the town I grew up in. What we heard about discrimination in the NPR piece instead was “…it made my husband and I very uncomfortable, but our kids didn’t notice. They were just coloring and being children…”

“I have allowed my story to be shared in a documentary which is told not just in my voice, but also features the perspectives of my adoptive parents, birth parents, siblings who were adopted, birth siblings who weren’t adopted and my parents’ biological daughter, my husband etc. – all of these voices have a place in the discussion. Closure is a valuable resource, not because my story is the best out of all adoption stories, not because I am an expert on other transracial adoptions – that, I am not. It is a valuable story because there is a shortage of resources where the adoptee’s voice and experience is included.”

We listened to NPR.

Many people wondered why Rachel Garlinghouse–whose children are pre-schoolers–was on the show. There are thousands of white adoptive parents who have raised their transracially adopted children well into adulthood, and learned a lot along the way. I know So Much More now that my children are in their mid-20’s than when they were preschoolers. Parenting is a very humbling experience.

One argument for why Garlinghouse was on is that she’s written a book. That’s an NPR-consistent reason.

NPR–Are you listening? It’s your turn again.

Here are 3 recent books, written by adoptees, that would be the subjects of compelling, innovative shows. None has been featured on NPR, according to their writers/editors.

Perpetual Child: Dismantling the Stereotype. This Adult Adoptee Anthology features a collection of stories, poetry, and essays aimed at confronting the “perpetual child stereotype” faced by adult adoptees. The pieces contained within this anthology will implore readers to look deeply into their own ideas about what it means to be adopted and to empathize with the experience of being viewed as a child into adulthood.” The writers (who include Angela Tucker) are from same race and from transracial adoptions.

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Lost Daughters “The Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption From a Place of Empowerment and Peace is edited by Amanda H.L. Transue-Woolston, Julie Stromberg, Karen Pickell, and Jennifer Anastasi. It features a collection of writings aimed to bring readers the perspectives of adopted women and highlight their strength, resiliency, and wisdom.” Several transracial adoptees are included in this powerful anthology.

Parenting As Adoptees “Through 14 chapters, the authors of Parenting As Adoptees give readers a glimpse into a pivotal phase in life that touches the experiences of many domestic and international adoptees – that of parenting… As (transracial adoptee) Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW, LCPAA, PLLC, notes: “Rarely has the experience of parenting as an adopted person been laid to bare so candidly and vividly. The authors provide a provocative, touching and, at times visceral and unyielding, invitation into their lives as they unearth and piece together the magnitude of parenting when it is interwoven with their adoption narrative…Authors in the anthology include (US, transracial, and international adoptees): Bert Ballard, Susan Branco Alvarado, Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, Lorial Crowder, Shannon Gibney, Astrid Dabbeni, Mark Hagland, Hei Kyong Kim, JaeRan Kim, Jennifer Lauck, Mary Mason, Robert O’Connor, John Raible, and Sandy White Hawk. Edited By Adam Chau and Kevin Ost-Vollmers.”

NPR, if you invited Rachel Garlinghouse yesterday to talk about transracial adoption because she’s written a book, how about inviting the people who are transracial adoptees–and who have written books?

Final note about NPR: If you want to contact NPR and ask them to have a meaningful show about transracial adoption, with the voices of adult adoptees, click here. Yesterday’s show was Sunday Morning Edition, and I wrote about it here.

Adoptee-Focused: Minnesota Transracial Film Festival Tonight!

It’s a sunny. brisk day here in St. Paul, Minnesota. And while Aselefech and I will indeed visit the Mall of America, we are here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes primarily to attend the Minnesota Transracial Film Festival tonight, and then tomorrow, the first adoptee-led, adoptee-focused conference ever: Reframing the Adoption Discourse.

Info about the Film Festival program (including clips) is here.

Here’s the lineup for tonight. Click on the film title for more information about each film.

Memory of Forgotten War 
Directed and Produced by Ramsay Liem and Deann Borshay Liem
Short, 37 minutes
2013

Where Are You Going, Thomas?
Film by Jaikyoung Choi
Short, 30 minutes
2012

Searching for Go-Hyang 
Directed and Produced by Tammy Chu (Tolle)
Co-Producer: Una Kim
Short, 31 minutes
1998

PANEL DISCUSSION featuring Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem, Angela and Bryan Tucker, Thomas Park Clement, Dawn Tomlinson, Jenni Fang Lee

CLOSURE
Directed and Produced by Bryan Tucker
Feature, 73 minutes
2012

The first 3 are related to Korean adoption, and the last is about US adoption. All are examinations of the impact of transracial adoptions. (Note: I’ve written about Closure here. I’m a big fan of this amazing, beautifully done documentary.)

I’m looking forward to watching all these films, and I’m especially interested in the panel which includes the filmmakers and subjects of the films. Jenni Fang Lee is a panelist; she was in the acclaimed documentary Somewhere Between.

Follow the Film Festival on Twitter at #MNTRFF and tomorrow’s conference at #APRC2013.

Search, Siblings, and Closure

When adoptees search, it’s often for their birth mother first, and then for siblings, known and unknown. A reality of adoption is that siblings are often separated, sometimes on purpose, sometimes just as luck of the draw, sometimes inadvertently. Sometimes siblings are born before or after an adopted child is placed for adoption. Sometimes those children are placed or not for adoption.

I have no siblings, but I have 4 children connected through adoption (two are bio siblings). Maybe that’s the reason I have long been intrigued about sibling relationships in adoption. There is so much research that remains to be done on this topic.

In the brilliant and wonderful documentary Closure, Angela Tucker shares her journey to find her birth family. Born in Tennessee, raised in Washington state, she had few documents and details, but was able to connect with her original family. You can read about the documentary on my blog post here. You can learn more about the film on the Closure Facebook page and the Closure website. The DVD (and you definitely should get this) is available at screenings, and will be available for sale through the website December 1.

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Angela has found many members of her birth family: mother, father, aunts, uncles, grandmother, nieces, nephews. They continue to get to know each other, catch up on the 20+ years spent apart, and figure out just who they are to each other and with each other. I’m pretty sure that Angela, like many adoptees who have searched for their original families, would say that she has not reached full closure. The families are still finding their ways. New questions arise, new doors open, some doors close.

She has not yet been able to locate a sister born 20 months before her, and who was also placed for adoption.

In her blog post today, Angela writes about the as-yet unsuccessful search:

“…(Y)ears of searching, writing unanswered letters, sending photos to somewhere, probably landing in someone’s file cabinet collecting dust, has led me nowhere. I’ve gained no ground, and know the same two facts that I’ve known all along – she was adopted to a family in Pennsylvania, and is about 20 months older than me.”

“…While I’m seemingly stuck not gaining any ground in my search for her, I think I’ll give her a name. I’ll call her Maya – in honor of Maya Angelou: someone whom I hold in high esteem but will likely never meet.”

As an adoptive parent, I am hopeful that Angela will find her sister, and that her sister wants to be found. It’s tough and complicated. Read Angela’s thoughtful post today about this sibling journey on her blog, The Adopted Life.

Like Angela, I’m also a fan of Maya Angelou. This is one of my favorite quotes of hers: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story within you.”

May all stories that need to be told in adoption find voice. May the stories be carefully listened to, and may we all grow stronger.

I wrote about siblings in my post Sibling Connections in Adoption. I’ve written about search issues several times, such as Adoptive Parents: It’s 2013. Do You Know Where Your Kids Are…Searching?”