NPR Talks With Transracial Adoptee Chad Goller-Sojourner

Today, Chad Goller-Sojourner talked with NPR host Rachel Martin about the experience of being transracially adopted. Born in 1971, he was raised in Tacoma, Washington. It wasn’t until college, Chad says, that he underwent a “descent into blackness and out of whiteness. He describes it as a journey, giving up the privileges he claimed as the child of white parents and learning to accept his identity independent of them,” according to NPR’s website.

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The NPR show, called “Growing Up ‘White,’ Transracial Adoptee Learned to Be Black,” is available here. You can listen to the show, read NPR’s description, and submit a comment.

Two weeks ago, NPR’s Sunday Conversation on Weekend Edition featured the white adoptive mom of 3 black preschoolers. NPR says that conversation “drew a lot of responses.” Indeed–well over 200 comments on their website, most of them criticizing, not complimenting, the show. Many people in the adoption community (including me) took to Twitter and blog posting, frustrated and disappointed by the show, especially because it did not include the real-life experience of someone most affected by transracial adoption: the adopted person.

I’m glad NPR listened to the concerns, and took seriously the call to broaden the perspective on transracial adoption by not further marginalizing adult adoptees. Chad Goller-Sojourner’s experience will no doubt resonate with many transracially adapted persons. Little children grow up. Adoption is a lifetime of revisiting love and loss. As Chad reflects on the show, figuring out one’s identity is complex, and sometimes painful. We adoptive parents, and anyone involved with adoption, need to listen carefully to Chad’s insights.

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Chad is an award-winning solo performer, based in Seattle. According to Artist Trust, Chad’s show Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Dangerous Acts: Memoirs of a Post Honorary White Childhood “seeks to explore the dangers, complexities and occasional hilarities associated with navigating black adult maleness in America, when your only compass is eighteen years of honorary white citizenship and suburban privilege.” Read further here.

Learn more about Chad’s work: Riding in Cars With Black People, and his earlier show, Sitting in Circles With Rich White Girls: Memoirs of a Bulimic Black Boy.

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.

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.