“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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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.

Calling NPR–KUOW: Who’s Missing from Today’s Transracial Adoption Discussion?

Today’s NPR Sunday Morning Edition show (broadcast locally here in Seattle on KUOW) is about transracial adoption. The guest is Rachel Garlinghouse, the white adoptive mother of three black children, all of whom are under six years old. Rachel seems like a lovely person, has a very popular blog, wrote a book about transracial adoption, and dispenses lots of advice about transracial adoptive parenting. The headline is about the double takes the family gets. Let me assure you that’s the least of what transracial adoptees go through, yet that’s apparently the big draw to advertise the segment.

So who’s missing from today’s discussion? The people most affected by the topic.

While I don’t dismiss Rachel’s perspective, I am deeply disappointed that Yet Another Show about transracial adoption features Yet Another Nice White Adoptive Parent, this one whose kids are preschoolers.

She lives in a predominately white area in Illinois, and has hired a black, Christian woman to be a mentor for her children. Hired.

She says on her blog description of herself: “I really wish I lived on the beach. Except sand and Black hair don’t mix well.” Oh my.

What do all those folks in the Caribbean do?

My gentle jabs here at Rachel are nothing compared to what her children may face later, as black Americans in what remains a racist society. She clearly deeply loves her children, but she can only imagine what lies ahead for them.

Look at most NPR segments on international and transracial adoption, and who are the guests? Nice white adoptive parents. And often nice white adoption agency executives and lawyers (who are often adoptive parents).

NPR lost, yet again, an opportunity for listeners to hear from those most affected by transracial adoption: adult adoptees. Angela Tucker was passed over. She writes a blog called The Adopted Life. Yes, the bright, warm, perceptive African-American adult adoptee, raised in Bellingham, WA, by white parents, featured in the powerful documentary Closure (about her search and reunion with her original African-American family in Tennessee), now living in Seattle–the NPR producers decided not to have her on.

Other transracial adoptees that might have provided an “unexpected side of the news,” as the Sunday Conversation describes itself, would be the Ethiopian adoptees mentioned in Kathryn Joyce’s recent Slate article “The Tragic Death of An Ethiopian Adoptee and How It Could Happen Again.”

Another would be Chad Goller-Sojourner, an African-American transracially adopted adult, “a storyteller, solo-performer and recipient of a distinguished Washington State Arts Commission Performing Arts Fellowship. Most recently he served as the 2013 Ohio University Glidden Visiting Professor, where his work focused on the social, political and historical dimensions of multi-identity construction and intersectionality. In 2011 he was awarded both an Artist Trust Grant and Creative Artist Residency to further develop his sophomore solo show: Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness.” You can read more about Chad and his other plays and work here.

In May 2013, NPR (and KUOW) did have a Sunday Conversation on adoption that included Nicole Soojung Callahan, a US adult adoptee in the Washington, DC, area, and an adoption attorney, to discuss legal issues in adoption searches. Nicole is an insightful, smart person, and as usual did a wonderful job discussing the story of her search. She had written a great piece in Slate about her search; click here  to read it. The segment was not about transracial adoption, though Nicole could have talked on that subject, on today’s NPR show. You can listen to the May 2013 show here.

Who are the people most impacted by transracial adoption? I’d argue it’s the adoptees, for whom transracial adoption was not a choice, for whom other people decided that transracial adoption would be best. Adoptees who do not remain children, as sweet and wonderful as they may be as preschoolers. Adoptees who grow up and can speak genuinely of their experiences with racial discrimination, of what their parents did and didn’t do successfully to prepare them for adulthood as people of color, and of what “transracial adoption” really involves. Other great people to talk about transracial adoption could be found via Lost Daughters, Gazillion Voices, and many other resources. Many have written books, just like Rachel Garlinghouse.

Rachel Garlinghouse’s 3 little African-American children are all placed as open adoptions, meaning some form of ongoing contact with their first/original parents. It would have been interesting if any of the those parents were also on this show. As best I can tell, none of the 6 is included.

Sadly, NPR’s approach today is nothing new for NPR or other media outlets. First parents are very marginalized in discussions about adoption, as are adult adoptees. We white adoptive parents are almost always the first picks for shows about adoption, and that has to stop. I wrote about this very topic last September: “To NPR, PBS, HuffPo, News Media: Don’t Quote Me, Don’t Ask Me.” 

You can link to the NPR show, and comment on 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?”

Angela Tucker and Aselefech Evans On Transracial Adoption, Search, and Reunion

Angela Tucker, featured in the new documentary Closure, and Aselefech Evans will talk about transracial adoption, search, and reunion on Tuesday, June 4 at 7 p.m. PDT. You can watch their conversation live on Google+ Hangouts On Air here, or later on a YouTube page I’ll link to after the conversation.

Angela was adopted as a baby from Chattanooga, TN, and grew up in Bellingham, Washington.  Aselefech was 6 years old when she and her twin sister arrived from Ethiopia to join their US family in Maryland. Both Angela and Aselefech have searched for and reunited with their birth families. Each now in their 20’s, Angela and Aselefech will talk about race, hair, identity, loss, grief, and love, hosted by yours truly, Maureen McCauley Evans.

Update, Previews, and Teasers

It’s good to be back.  In the last few weeks, I’ve gone from Seattle to Vancouver and back, and then from Washington State to Maryland to New York City to Maryland to Washington State.

Update:

During these 3 weeks: One of my daughters ran her first 5k, and finished in the top 20. My other daughter made the honor roll for her college semester, and was asked to be a teaching assistant this fall in the psychology department. One of my sons received the certification for sanitation at the Culinary School he’s attending. My other son closed on several real estate/rental contracts.

I attended my granddaughter’s dance recital in Maryland.  She has since had two tee ball games, Field Day in kindergarten, and her piano recital.

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In New York City, I saw the play “The Call,” about a white married couple considering adopting a child from Africa. I also attended the annual conference of the Joint Council on International Children Services. I presented a session on “Standards of Practice for Adoptive Parents: Ethics, Economics, and Responsibilities,” as well as a lightning talk (20 PowerPoint slides in 5 minutes) on The Art of Adoption, featuring poems, paintings, and plays by adoptees.

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And each Friday, whatever time zone I was in, I skyped with my dad in Massachusetts. He’s in amazing physical health for an 83 year old.  He lives in the Harbor unit of an assisted living facility, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  He’s delightful to talk with, often asks if any of my kids are getting married. No word on that yet, Dad.

I’ve had lots to reflect on in terms of family, adoption, being in the moment, the futility of art-directing others people’s lives, and more.

Previews and Teasers

Tomorrow night (Tuesday June 4), 7 pm pdt/10pm edt: Angela Tucker (of Closure) and Aselefech Evans via Google + Hangout. The conversation will be about transracial adoption (US and Ethiopia), hair, race, diversity, search: how perception and understanding of adoption changes over time for adoptees, how our definition of “family” can be so complex.

In the next week or so, I will be posting my JCICS workshop information about Standards of Practice for Adoptive Parents.  (Teaser: The basics are citizenship, DNA testing, and role models/mentors who are adult adoptees.  The more controversial: Insisting on equitable pre-adopt and post-adopt services for birth families.)

I’m thrilled to be soon getting an advance review copy of The Declassified Adoptee‘s soon-to-be-published book. It’s going to be wonderful, powerful, provocative, insightful. A tremendous benefit to the adoption community.

Washington State has also provided two items of fodder recently for writing and commenting. For one, a less than adequate “compromise” bill on access to OBC’s. The second item is still not having a trial for Hana Alemu, more than two years after she was found dead in her adoptive parents’ back yard. A hearing is scheduled this week.

So.  There’s lots going on. Lots to write about, think about, reflect on. It’s good for us to be here.