Birthdays and Adoptees: Finding Power in Both

My sons were adopted as babies; my twin daughters at six years old. When they were little, we had the mad abundance of birthday parties, at the pool, the soccer field, the grandparents’ front yard. The parties were full of presents, friends, family, ice cream, and cake.

Who was missing at these birthday celebrations? The women who gave birth to the children. The people (fathers, siblings, grandparents) who are biologically related to them.

I can’t help but wonder what those birth days were like for those family members.

Birthday parties evolve over time. Some adoptees have a rough time on their birthdays. In our family, we have all grown in our understanding of how a child’s beginnings can affect the child, and how powerful memories can be. We have seen how longing for what is not conscious can be quite deep. We have lived watching the ways that trust can be broken and losses felt, and how hard it is to heal that broken trust. My children’s birthdays are still celebrated, of course: they can count on receiving socks every year. And other stuff too. But they are in their late 20’s now. Still very young, but hardly children–except in the sense that they are always my children.

They are also the children–always–of their first families. Each child has had a different approach to connecting with their family of birth, and those stories are theirs alone to tell.

Today is the 27th birthday of my twin daughters, Adanech and Aselefech, adopted from Ethiopia in 1994. Aselefech has been actively involved with the adoptee community. She wrote a wonderful post today at Lost Daughters, a writing collective of women adopted in the US or internationally as children. In it, she celebrates her connections with other Ethiopian adoptees whose hearts are in the country of their birth, their mother land, their home country. These young people, part of the diaspora, are actively working to help their younger selves in Ethiopia: children who witness their mothers die, children who are deeply loved but whose families are horrifically impoverished, children who beg on the streets, children who are unable to walk or to see, children who never go to school.

Happy Birth Day. May all children know safety, love, education, and hope. May these adoptees bring light and healing to each other and to the children. May all the voices be heard.

My daughters, my granddaughter, and me. © Maureen McCauley Evans

“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.

 

 

 

 

The Tempest of Rachel Dolezal

The story of Rachel Dolezal doesn’t have legs: it has octopus arms and labyrinthine twists. Its reach and longevity have been astonishing, and speak to the fragility and pain of understanding race in this world.

I wonder about giving so much attention to someone who has not brought something good into dialogue. That, of course, is too often the nature of information and media today.  The people laboring in civil rights and human rights–doing positive, life-changing work–will never get the kind of coverage that Rachel Dolezal has received.

Among the many mysteries of the Dolezal story has been the role of adoption and the meaning of “transracial.” As the white parent of four transracially adopted children, now all young adults, I’ve never been and never will be black or biracial. I believe I’ve been an imperfect ally, aware of both racism and of white privilege, aware of the need for mentors and role models for my children, aware that exclusion, indignities, and micro aggressions are part of my beloved children’s lives.

The novelty of Rachel Dolezal has captured many keyboards, many hours of time by many people. As someone long involved in transracial adoption issues, I hope to see conversations about race and identity continue, especially in a public forum, though not necessarily focused on one individual. We have such a long way to go, and so many people in our racial and adoptive community continue to be voiceless and vulnerable.

All that said lol, as an ally, I’d be remiss if I did not mention these articles about the realities of transracial adoptees in light of the Dolezal discussions. Important words here.

“Transracial Lives Matter: Rachel Dolezal and the Privilege of Racial Manipulation”

“Rachel Dolezal Draws Ire of Transracial Adoptees”

“Open Letter: Why Co-Opting ‘Transracial’ in the Case of Rachel Dolezal is Problematic”

 

Being Black in Adoption: Seattle and Elsewhere

I’ve lived in Seattle about four years, and it’s still a culture shock for me to go to places like restaurants or malls, or Seattle Town Hall, Elliott Bay Bookstore, the Seattle Public Library, or wherever, and not be surrounded by black people. That was the norm in Prince George’s County, where I had lived for almost 30 years. My four children, all adopted transracially, all of whom identify as black, were raised in Prince George’s. They attended schools with black, white, Latino, Asian, and mixed race kids. There was no shortage of role models, or of people who looked like them.

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Birthday Party 2006. © Maureen Evans

Of course, at the end of the day, my children were raised by white adoptive parents. My children travel in at least two worlds: the one at home with people who love them unconditionally as amazing sons and daughters, and the one outside our home, with people who saw and see them as black people first, not as beloved children.

Had they been raised in Seattle, they would have seen far fewer people who look like them. Even in Prince George’s County, a highly diverse area filled with black people, their sense of identity was challenged, by white and black people. Being adopted, and then having white parents, brought extra layers of complexity.

My daughter Aselefech, adopted from Ethiopia when she was six, is considering moving to Seattle with her 8-year-old daughter. Aselefech and I have given a lot of thought and discussion as to what this move could mean for her and for her daughter.

I recently attended a program called “The Rewards and Challenges of Being Black in Seattle.” It was held at the Bush School, and was part of their Intercultural Speakers Series. The talented Tonya Mosley led the program, which included a wonderful panel: C’Ardiss Gardner Gleser of Rainier Scholars, William Witt of the Seattle Police Department, Jonathan Cunningham of the Experience Music Project Museum, and Daudi Abe of Seattle Community Colleges. You can read more about it here.

Serious subjects were discussed. Some hard truths. These conversations are valuable for everyone, including white adoptive parents of black children–especially when the family lives in a non-diverse area and the children rarely see others who look like them.

Prospect or Suspect?

The audience of about 100 people for the program was predominately white, like Seattle itself. By the end of the 2 hours, a lot of territory had been covered. A lot of voices had spoken up. One black man in the audience offered the powerful idea of “prospect versus suspect.” Are black people (including children and teens) seen by others as prospects, as people with potential and talents, or more often as suspects, people who probably committed some crime or misdeed?

The cloud of “prospect or suspect” can start hanging over children when they start school. Seattle has a troubled history with African-American school suspensions and graduation rates, starting in the late 70’s.

Th notion of being a suspect, of course, links easily with discussions about police and radical profiling. The U.S. Justice Department said about a year ago that their “investigation in 2011 found that Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers often exhibited confusion between a casual, social contact (where a person is free to leave) and an investigative detention short of an arrest, also known as a Terry stop (where a person is not free to leave). Some data and community input suggested that this confusion – as well as other problems with training and oversight – led to inappropriate pedestrian encounters that may have resulted in a disproportionate number of people of color – in particular youths – being stopped where no offense or other police incident occurred. Incidents of overt discrimination and the fact that excessive force disproportionately occurred against minorities also gave the department concern and lead to the inclusion of these issues in the settlement agreement.” Read the press release here.

The dispassionate government language is a window to the realities of being a parent of black children, and especially of being a black person subject to “overt discrimination” and disproportionate “excessive force.” It resonates for me as an adoptive parent knowing and loving my sons and daughters, worrying for them when they are seen, unfairly, as a threat or a suspect.

I hope that other white adoptive parents who are hugging their sweet little black boys and girls will recognize what can happen later in life, and surround their children with people who can teach them what it means, the good and the bad, to be a black person in America.

Hair Care, Smiles, and the Freeze

If they move to Seattle, my granddaughter will come home from school to her black mother, a role model who has experienced bigotry, and who can help her daughter navigate through racism and difference in a way that I could not do with my children. One surprisingly complex issue is hair. I did a pretty good job with my children’s hair, but there was definitely a steep learning curve. Hair is a big issue in the black community. It was only briefly mentioned at the Rewards and Challenges program, but I’d love to see a forum where the rewards and challenges of black hair are addressed. I think it would open a lot of white people’s eyes, and it’s especially important for white adoptive parents of black children.

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Updo Style © Aselefech Evans

 

One of the heartfelt suggestions provided by a woman at the program was that we all look at each other when we are walking by and say hello. She was a high school teacher. She said she was black and Filipina, and she exuded love for her students. Let’s look at each other’s faces and smile, she said. Let’s say hello to our neighbors.

Can that help race relations? It could surely help human relations. The “Seattle freeze” does not refer to weather, and it does not care about race. It’s the phenomena here of people being polite, but not especially friendly. I would guess that, for black people, their small numbers and the potential for isolation are exacerbated by the Freeze.

The Freeze makes me think of snow, which brings me to some of the reasons people love Seattle: the lack of snow and of humidity, the mild temperatures, the beautiful mountains and lakes, the hiking, the biking, the boating, the skiing. My next post will talk about some of that beauty, and its attraction for all of us. What might it mean for my black daughter to be a skier and a hiker out here?

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San Juan Island © Maureen Evans

 

 

 

“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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Canadian, American, Ethiopian, Adopted: A Conversation

I’m happy to announce I’ll be hosting a conversation (which will be available on YouTube) among 2 Canadians and 2 Americans, Ethiopian adoptees and white adoptive parents. In some ways, the US and Canada are similar, but there are significant political, cultural, and historical differences. Is there common ground between Ethiopian adoptees raised in different countries? What does it feel like to be an Ethiopian raised in a French-speaking part of Canada? Does growing up in a majority-black US county help form racial identity? Where and how do Ethiopian adoptees “fit in” with immigrants, Africans, and their adoptive families? Let’s start the conversation.

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One conversationalist will be Annette Kassaye MacDonald, a 28-year-old Ethiopian adoptee born outside of Gondar, adopted at one year old, raised by white parents in the Eastern Townships, Quebec, and now living in Montreal. She has 4 older siblings born to her adoptive parents and one younger adopted sibling. Annette graduated from Concordia University (Montreal) in 2013 with a B.A. in political science and human rights studies. She speaks English, French, and Spanish.

Annette Kassaye MacDonald

Annette Kassaye MacDonald

Annette will be joined by Aselefech Evans,  a 25-year-old Ethiopian adoptee born in Shashemene, adopted at 6 years old with her twin sister, raised by white parents just outside Washington, DC, and now living in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She is finishing up her degree in sociology from Bowie State University, and plans to go on for her MSW. Aselefech is a columnist for the online adoptee-centric magazine Gazillion Voices, and also is a contributing writer on family preservation issues for Lost Daughters, an independent collaborative writing project edited and authored by adult women who were adopted as children.

Aselefech Evans

Aselefech Evans

Hosting the conversation with me will be Chris Ardern, a Canadian adoptive mom of two young Ethiopian children, now living in Toronto, Ontario. Chris’s son is 3 years old, and her daughter is 6. Chris, her husband, and their children travel to Ethiopia annually to visit with friends and family. She and her family are very involved with the Ethiopian community in Toronto, from playgroups to Amharic classes.

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I’m the writer of this blog, an American adoptive mom of four now-young adults (including Aselefech), and the grandmother of a wonderful 7-year-old. I’m looking forward to my third trip to Ethiopia this July. I live in Seattle, where I am a freelance writer and artist.

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Our topics:

  • Race (What does it mean to be black in America? In Canada? In Quebec? In Washington, DC? What do the terms Ethiopian-American or Canadian-Ethiopian mean?)
  • Openness in adoption (Connections with birth families and Ethiopians: what’s possible, and what is useful?),

and, if we have time,

  • The impact of the Internet (sharing adopted children’s information and stories, accessing birth families, and more).

Please feel free to leave a message below with any questions you’d like to suggest. You can also email me at Maureen (at) Lightofdaystories.com.

We will be taping the conversation Sunday, February 23, and I will post a link to it as soon as possible. My thanks to Chris, Annette, and Aselefech.

And please stay tuned for more upcoming conversations!

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.

Martin Luther King and Transracial Adoption

Were it not for Martin Luther King, perhaps I would never be the parent of my 4 beloved children.

Dr. King died in 1968. He transformed the way we see people and race, he changed deeply entrenched racist laws, and he did so in a volatile time with dignity, peace, integrity, and astonishing strength.

I can’t say that these other events directly correlate to Dr. King’s work, but I think there is a context for them. Some 10 years before his death, international, transracial adoption began from Korea. About a year before he died, in 1967, the Loving v. Virginia decision by the Supreme Court struck down laws forbidding interracial marriage. Four years after his death, the National Association of Black Social Workers called transracial adoption of black children by white parents “cultural genocide,” expressing concern that some 50,000 black children had been adopted into white families between 1968 and 1972, with inadequate awareness of the realities of racism, identity, and discrimination. Before 1978, 10 years after Dr. King died, “it is estimated that in some (US) states, between 25 and 35% of Native American children were taken from their families, and 90% were placed in white homes. (Read more about the last 2 points here, from PBS information related to the documentary “First Person Plural.”)

Here we are almost 5 decades since Dr. King died, and still so much work remains to be done.

In just this last week, transracial adoption has burned up the Internet, via the MSNBC Melissa Harris-Perry segment on Mitt Romney’s transracially adopted grandchild, via the NPR Sunday Morning Edition show that chose a white adoptive parent over a transracial adoptee, and via a “48 Hours” show on international adoption (the focus was adoption trafficking; children from the Congo and Guatemala being adopted by white parents were featured.)

My children–two US-born sons with one black and one white original parent (though not biological brothers), and twin daughters born to Ethiopian parents–were all born in the late 1980’s, about 20 years after Dr. King was killed. In the early years of raising them, as a white adoptive parent, I thought a great deal about transracial adoption issues, about racism, about identity.

Since then, I have learned so much about how little I knew then, and how much I need to keep learning.

Through raising them, through listening to their stories and experiences, through my heart aching over ugly racist episodes directed against them, through taking a hair braiding class at a community college, through laughing over what “we” or “they” do, through loving my children with all my heart and knowing that my raising them has both diminished and enriched their understanding of identity and culture: all this is part and parcel of the legacy of Dr. King.

I know there are lots of people who are weary of hearing the experience of transracial adoption through the voice of the adoptive parents. Point extremely well taken. At the same time, it’s my white privilege, now, in 2014, 46 years after Dr. King’s death, that allows my voice to be heard in some quarters where another voice would be (and is) discounted, even as we share the same message.  It’s the tender balance of getting the microphone so I can hand it to others: to transracial adoptees.

Angela Tucker writes beautifully about it: “This discussion is about how the mainstream media chooses to portray transracial adoption. This discussion is about adult adoptees. Please stop speaking for us and assuming that your speculations are our realities. This discussion is about coming to terms with the fact that adoption ethics, practice and policies will not change until the public is willing to hear out more than just the adoptive parents’ perspective or their hopes and biased desires for our lives.” Read her whole, powerful post here.

Here is another adoptee voice of insight, wrapped up in a tweet:

Nicole Callahan 수정 ‏January 12, 2014
Always handing the microphone to adoptive parents means that those most privileged in adoption direct the narrative.

Follow Nicole on Twitter by clicking here.

One more excellent example, by Matthew Salesses: “The adoptee voice matters because the adoptee says so.” Read his entire, wise essay here.

A fellow adoptive parent also wrote brilliantly: “Oh, media and adoptive parents, will we ever get adoption reporting right?” Read Margie Perscheid’s post here.

My final point today moves from race to civil rights (it’s all intertwined, I realize). Dr. King changed our lives, our planet, by speaking out for civil rights for all people. How is that we in the United States continue to deny adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates? There is no other group denied access to this basic, human right: knowing who we are. It is shameful, and an outrage.

You can read more about OBC legislation from American Adoption Congress, from the Adoptee Rights Coalition, and from my posts, including this one.

In gratitude for the life, voice, and courage of Martin Luther King.

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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.

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.