Why Didn’t Any Black Parents Want To Adopt Me?

Conversing about the racial hierarchy that currently exists and how that plays into who is capable of adopting, as well as who is needing to be adopted is a common discussion in our household. Speaking about the ways in which systemic racism continues to permeate our lives as an interracial couple is an ever present dialogue. In no way do I align with the Black Social Workers Association statement that black children in white homes is a form of cultural genocide (1984) as I feel that adoption is a necessary solution to an unfortunate need, and trans-racial adoption is a beautiful remedy. But why does transracial adoption always look so one sided? White parents and children of color. I know the answer has to do with systemic racism, this is not news to me. But, are we ready to move forward with an ever pressing need?

It is my belief that if we had more options of prospective adoptive parents of color we may enjoy a more positive multiracial and/or “post-racial” America. I’d also love to see the current definition of the term transracial adoption broadened to include transracial adoptive families where the parents are Black.

I’ve read countless books, blogs and articles with a title similar to “A White Mom Wonders If Her Brown Babies Will Be Black Enough” or “6 Things White Parents Can Do To Raise Socially Conscious Children” and while I’m sure these articles are helpful and provide a sense of camaraderie between white parents who are experiencing similar parenting challenges I wonder if there will ever be a market for a “How a Black Mom Talks To Her White Daughter” article or “10 Tips Every Black Mom Should Know When Taking Her White Child to The Vanilla Suburbs” blog post? Doubtful… Seriously though, who better to parent the woes brought up within articles like these than a strong, capable, resourceful, open and honest black parent?

I will again state my disclaimer that I know of countless white parents who are parenting their children of color superbly well, and enter in to these discussions with their children and others in a beautiful way – this is not my concerned line of thinking here. My desire is to find out what it would take to balance the scales in terms of the numbers of adoptive parents of color and White parents adopting trans-racially. Can we put apathy into action and step up where we are needed?

Black folks – Is it insulting to think about raising a white child?

White adoptive parents – How might you handle this question from your child?

GUEST POST: A White Mother on Explaining Ferguson, Trayvon and Jordan to Her Black Daughter

What do white adoptive parents say to their black child when events like those in Ferguson, Missouri are playing out?  Soberingly, my children, like many children, are already too well-versed in these conversations with us, from the verdict in the Trayvon Martin trial to Jordan Davis’s murder in his parked car.  We have gone out of our way to shield them from the latest story of African-American kids shot to death by white adults… and then a random taxi screen or a thumbnail on a website catches their attention and we’ve found ourselves scrambling to explain.  We’ve searched online for the right words, emailed non-white friends and experts for perspective, sit down with our children to tell them our painstaking takes on unsparing truths, hoping that we are getting it right.
 

This summer, though, we have been on a self-imposed exile in the Sonora Desert and so, when the news first started trickling in about Michael Brown’s death and the growing protests in his neighborhood, we didn’t scramble as we had in the past.  Could there be even more to say than the words we’d already put together to explain about Trayvon Martin, about Jordan Davis?, wasn’t it enough that we’d already had to break the news of life’s breathtaking imbalances and racial disparities?  Couldn’t we just coast along like desert millipedes and watch the gorgeous sunsets and revisit this on another day, at another time?  That is, after all, what privilege allows.  In normal life, we live in Harlem — a mostly white family with an Afro-Latina child on a historically black street.  We try to make the right choices, we talk openly about our dilemmas, and we grapple with issues of race/class/unfairness every single day.  We are transracial adoptive parents who took seriously our training as such; there is no anachronistic wall decoration or casual slur in our family’s or friends’ homes that goes unchallenged by us.  We came to the desert tired, wanting to take deep breaths and leave behind those daily discussions of a world that, from my computer’s headlines, was looking increasingly brutal, divided and hopeless.  In such a world, unfortunately, we don’t always get to pick when our extended breaks from thinking can happen.  At breakfast, alas, the kids finally noticed their grandparents’ newspapers full of photos of the fire in Ferguson. When you are white parents trying to raise a thinking child of color, you are humbly obliged to maintain even less control over when those breaks can happen.  It’s rough out there.  If we don’t frame the roughness with some softened grace notes, the roughness will surely frame itself first.

“Kids,” I said, “do you remember when we talked about how some young people lose their lives to people with guns?”  They were all ears and anxious eyes, waiting for me to elaborate.  We have spoken to them before about racist assumptions as they were applied to Trayvon Martin, we have spoken about white privilege as it was used against Jordan Davis.  This early morning, I’m a little too lazy to find the appropriate words to explain shootings of unarmed men by police.  “Aren’t police supposed to protect people?,” my daughter asks.  Sigh.  I start to connect dots between the conversations we’ve already had and this one, I pause to look for words that are both truthful and not too scary, to reach for the required insight and then “HELLO, DOLLY” – my singing father enters the room, interrupting with a loud and un-ignorable “Well, HELLO, Dolly!”

We are in his spacious house, not in Harlem now.  Our only tether this summer to stark reality was supposed to be my father, whose worsening dementia has been enough difficulty for any of us to handle.  Indeed, in those quiet moments when my white child and my Afro-Latina child sit together with their grandfather, watching old musicals on the couch, it looks like harmony on earth is quite attainable.  Who doesn’t love Hello, Dolly?  Who can’t smile at Barbra Streisand and Louis Armstrong and all of our differences turned into glorious Technicolor?  Who needs to think about dementia, OR murder, OR mortality, OR Ferguson, MO anyway?  In those moments, I tell myself – we have made a safe home, a loving family, and the nasty curveballs outside these walls don’t matter.  We have enforced thoughtful language and rules for ourselves and for other adults in our family when speaking about race and identity to our children.  I think that we’ve earned the right to this summer break, when –  “What’s your name?”  My father has suddenly turned and asked that question of my daughter.

My heart freezes.  He has known her, adored her, up until right now and suddenly he is observing her as one might observe a stranger.  That is his illness.  Maybe she has sung “too loudly” for him or otherwise shaken the equanimity.  Whatever the reason, his expression is such that I fear what might come out next, and I rush to interrupt.  “Where are you from?”, he asks her, with a tone that holds special panic for parents by adoption.  I hear a THUD as I realize that there will be no summer sabbatical from explaining the extremely painful.  My father has loved my daughter more than life for almost nine years, has written pure and lovely songs about his love for her, has always respected those rules that we’ve laid out.  At this moment, though, he doesn’t recognize any of that, or her, and his look seems to me to underscore the power and the privilege that his color has bestowed on him all of his life.  It says to her, “Do you belong here?”   To tell you the truth, probably the look is not all that different from the look that, in his shakiest moments, my father has bestowed on all of the rest of us.  Given to my child of color, though, this questioning look must be treated differently.   As white parents, it is our duty to see its inherent power, to recognize its automatic assumptions, to react to its potential impact on our child.  This look, to us, says that we can not hide from Ferguson, even out in the desert, because we can not hide from some deep realities of race and difference, even in our well-meaning and well-regulated living rooms.

“She is your granddaughter, of course!,” I shout, as I hurry to take the children out of the path of any imminent collisions, out to the desert where we can escape.  Today is different, though.  Ferguson is exploding even more spectacularly in the paper this morning, my father doesn’t remember us or our careful rules, and so we start to scale my parents’ subdivision wall.  They live in a “gated community” built for cars; our New York need to go on foot instead leaves us climbing over the back wall of the neighborhood, balancing as if on a beam, stepping over a high metal fence, jumping onto the sand below.  This has always been an added, fun adventure — right now, however, all I can think about is the gated community in which Trayvon Martin was pursued and shot to death.  I worry about my children — no, actually just my one black child — one day scaling these walls as we have so casually taught her to expect to do.  Without us, however, with only her own skin, what will stop others from viewing her as a stranger?  How can I keep her safe then from those who would want to “protect themselves” from that stranger they think they see jumping over the fence?  Today, as we, with our privilege, jump over the fence and head into the desert, instead of asking the usual, “Who sees a jack rabbit?”, or instead of asking, “Does anyone spot coyote tracks?”, I say, “Let’s talk about Ferguson, Missouri.”

We talk about the importance of citizens being able to protest. We talk in smaller-word terms about institutional racism.  We talk about how rules and procedures are in place to keep things fair.  We talk about Eric Holder and Barack Obama.  We talk about how more white people tend to have more power in our culture, and that anyone who has more power has a responsibility to use it wisely.   We hear ourselves talk and we wonder if we live by these principles as cleanly as we should, as we must.  We wonder if anyone does.  We tell them that we are sure that justice will prevail, but we are certainly not sure of that at all.  We amend what we just said to, “Sometimes things don’t work out as fairly as they should.”  We say that when people talk about racism, they are not talking about “ALL white people” or “ALL black people” — obviously people of different colors love each other wildly in our family and in many families.  We say that it is our duty, as their white parents, to think and talk about all of these things even more than we already do.  We resolve to do that.  We have some revelations, (which will be Part 2 of this post).  We see that the children are understanding us.  We see that they are very interested.  We see that they are fearful.  Finally, we change the subject and we talk about jack rabbits.

When we get back to the house — climbing back over the wall, (“only ever do this with grown-ups!”, we say) — my father is there at home.  He recognizes us again; he doesn’t remember not recognizing us.  He is delighted to see the children and he playfully pretends to snatch my daughter’s nose, with all of the familiarity and love in the world.  Watching them settle back into the living room together, you might again think that there is no bad news anywhere.  “Oh, what a beautiful morning!”, my father sings at the top of his lungs.  The children answer, in pretend baritones, “Oh, what a beautiful day!”  I smile at their singing and at their familiarity, but I sit down smack in between them, a buffer and a barricade, nonetheless.  I would be negligent not to.  I am the white parent of a black child in a world where all of the protective rules that we establish, in our societies and in our homes, have shown a tendency to tumble down around us.  It is not just my job to clean up after that happens, it is my job to work to prevent that from happening to my child in the first place.   The children sing with my father, “I’ve got a beautiful FEELING/ Everything’s going my way.”   Out in our peaceful stretch of desert, on the open side of a gated subdivision, it IS an incredibly beautiful day.  Until the days get better in Ferguson (and in Iraq, and at the Nogales border less than an hour due south of us, and in Gaza, and in so many other places where we are divided in excruciating ways) — we have a particular duty in our house, as white parents, to make sure to sing songs about those places too.

 

 

As gaily told•tales, Gail Lauren Karp is the author, along with her daughter, of the upcoming children’s book Paloma the Possible (available in November 2014), the story of one girl’s imaginary search for her birth family.

Under her actual name, Gail is a long-time teacher, writer, artist, aspiring changemaker, and parent living in Harlem with her family.  On the subject of adoptive families, she has chaired the Touched by Adoption group at Bank Street College of Education in NYC since 2011 and her writing has appeared in Adoption Today magazine.

Genetics, Adoption and First World Curiosities

For much of my life I’ve succumbed to the idea that many of my unanswerable questions fall under the umbrella of nature. I hoped that someday my genetic questions would be answered through a one-time meeting or a picture (thinking that was all the openness I’d ever get). I wanted to know if my birth mom is right handed or left handed or if my birth father had dimples. I assumed that everyone in my birth family had brown eyes, 4c hair texture and dark skin. But my curiosities didn’t stop there, I was also curious about some of possibly genetically impacted markers like “Achoo Syndrome” (a dominant trait also called, photo sneeze reflex), or “hand clasping” (learning which thumb one automatically places on top of the other when clasping hands together). After reuniting with my birth family I learned some of these answers, bur remained curious about similarities between blood relatives that aren’t necessarily within the genetic category, but actually may not have to do with nurture either…

 I was enamored with this photo (this is the first time I met my birth father) for many reasons, but specifically I kept looking at our fingers. The placement on the knee, the spacing between our fingers.

I have been enamored with this photo (this is the first time I met my birth father) for many reasons, but specifically I continue to look at our fingers. The placement on the knee, the spacing between our fingers.

For example, I’ve wondered; If a birthmother and her child reunite at a later age and find out that they both use smiley faces to dot their I’s is this a coincidence, or could it be explained by genetics? (this is a true story btw).

Another [recent] example that has me scratching my head;

While on the phone with my birth mother, Deborah, she said

“Your [adoptive] father sure is smart! Don’cha wish you could just crack his head open and take a look at his brain?”

Why yes! – I wanted to exclaim, but Deborah couldn’t possibly have known about all of the time I spent time in undergrad researching brains, and that I’d you-tubed every TEDtalk having to do with brain science and the psychology of why we do the things we do, read many books on the neurobiology of our brain, and singlehandedly tried to learn about the key differences between the brains of those who’ve been abused in utero, and those who were born with healthy utero experiences. I have long dreamed of looking at the minds of people and learning how traumas have affected their amygdala, or what makes different neurotransmitters fire. Yes, Deborah. My answer is yes! Wait…does that mean she’s done all of this, too?

Okay – I understand, that one was kinda a stretch, though titillating for sure. How about this one;

When I met my birthfather after being introduced to Bryan he replied; “It’s good ta meet’cha Bryan. B-R-Y-A-N, Bryan” spelling his name out loud. At that moment my mom and I exchanged long glances silently flashing back to all of the times I spelled out words just for the sake of spelling out the word. Throughout my childhood we thought this habit was to help me to more clearly understand the word as my hearing loss made it difficult to hear the difference between the words “curb” and “curve.” But now…now I wonder – could this be genetic?

Seems kinda goofy, I know, but these are the subtleties that matter after a couple of decades of deprivation. Example #3:

When my sister met her birth mom about two years ago, we all immediately noticed their similar sense of humor and their biting sarcasm (Example – I can guarantee they’ll both laugh at this joke; “Two scientists walk into a bar. The first one hits his head. The second one does too, in order to verify his results.”). Anyways, more interesting to me was how quickly they began discussing cats. I can’t remember a time when our family did not have a pet cat that my sister took care of. She has received countless gifts, cards and shirts that have pictures of cats on them – she can never have too many. It won’t surprise me if/when my sister and her birthmother both post a status update with the same pun about cats. Will I think it to be a coincidence? Probably not.

 

Not only does my brother and his twin look alike (obviously they are identical twins), but they even act alike after living their entire lives in different families. We've learned that they've made similar life choices throughout their lives at the same points in their lives.

My brother and his identical twin grew up in different families (long story). After unexpectedly reuniting at age 18 they learned how they made similar life choices at similar times in their lives.  Scientists who’ve studied identical twins who were raised separately have found that they had similar intelligence, personality, career and leisure interest.  

I’m no longer solely curious about hitchhikers thumb (the autosomal recessive trait of having a thumb curved back at nearly a 90 degree angle), diabetes or depression, but am continually curious about how to reason and understand the non-genetic similarities between biologically related peoples who haven’t known each other. Of course, I’m well aware that these are First World Curiosities and that without the good fortune of early childhood nurture, it’d be a far cry that I’d even be positing these questions.

I greatly dislike the idea of using adoptees for scientific experiments, or my first world curiosities, but it’d sure be wonderful to learn whether of not there is a genetic mutation for spelling, hobbies, smiley faces, or…a love of cats.

New Book Written By and For Adoptees; Dear Wonderful You

Dear Wonderful You is an anthology of letters written by adoptees specifically to foster youth and teen/tween adoptees. This book will come out sometime in the fall of 2014. I was honored to be asked to contribute to this anthology, and wrote a letter specifically to one of the most special people in my life. She happens to be featured as the “actress” in the book trailer (watch the video below).

Video credit: Fob & Dongle Productions

How This Adoptee Feels About Her Birthday

I am currently sitting in a viral incubator AKA, an airplane, flying over one of the Great Lakes en route to Philadelphia on this day after my birthday. I’m cramped in the middle seat with billions of microscopic cabin air pathogens swirling around mixed with my never-ending thoughts. I’ve contemplated reaching across my neighbor to lower the window shade so I can drift off in to a blissful dream, but that would be rude and ignorance doesn’t do my body any good. I decide to keep my laptop out, and let my stream of consciousness go – a belated birthday present to myself of sorts.

This weekend I’m speaking to The Academy of American Adoption Attorneys for their annual conference – I’m looking forward to meeting more professionals within the adoption community, and to be involved in legal conversations around adoption ethics. As I approach this weekend it’s saddened me to realize that historically I’ve lumped adoption attorneys in to one stereotypical pile. I’ve considered them to be nothing more than the folks who pushed the paper that led to the separation with my birth-family and the subsequent unification of my now-family as if this was as routine a job as scooping ice cream on a sunny day. I posit my angst to be rooted in the fact that the week after my actual birth date an attorney somewhere in the State of Tennessee scooped me up and moved me – in the legal sense – without listening to my pre-verbal cries. This is the precise moment that I feel my birthdate became reduced to a confusing date on the calendar, devoid of celebration and mired with illegible signatures, legalese and a sorry name; Baby Girl, ______ (my original last name was redacted of course). I hope you don’t misunderstand what I’m attempting to communicate.  I have had many a wonderful birthdates which included candy filled piñata parties in my parents’ backyard, Oreo ice cream cakes with candles blazing on the top awaiting my wish, beautifully wrapped gifts filled with books, games, outfits – all of the quintessential Americanisms that turn a birthdate in to a celebratory occasion. To top it off most of my large family was generally present to revel in the celebration of birth and life.

Though my birthday was typically surrounded by youthful anticipation, joyful celebrations and reminiscent fun, these celebrations naturally also conjured up images of a stranger writing my thoughtless name; “Baby Girl” on my motherless crib.

This year was filled with many unforeseen highlights and privileges I’m still working to understand how I could be afforded such goodness, the least of which being the chance to hang out with my birthmom and show her around the city where I grew up.

Through all of the highlights of this past year, including, traveling to speak with transracial adoptive parents, listening to young adoptees try to make sense of their story, text messaging a friend in the Congo who has spent the past few months living with her children in their home country, and listening to my brother read his original birth certificate for the first time and learning how intoxicated his birth mother was during delivery, it can’t be understated the toll that these stories have taken. It is my great hope that the decision-makers at the conference this weekend will gain clearer understanding of how simultaneously woven in to each of these highlights are lowlights if looked at through an adoptee lens.

Though this year is certainly celebratory and cake-worthy I can’t help but to see the irony that the actual day of my birth is shrouded in more mystery than fact – largely due to the very people to whom I will be speaking. Rather than feel anger in the awareness that I cannot yet find or meet my other birth sister because of rules put in place by the folks in that room, I am choosing to accept this moment as redemption. As an adult I will be speaking to a group of people who were the first people to speak for me when I was just one year old. Oh the irony.

I’m so glad to continue to have the opportunity to give voice to adoptees.

Quote

Dear Writers, Listeners, and Writers Who Do Not Listen. Guest Post by Diku Rogers

This poem is exquisite in its beauty, and poignant in its words. I’ve chosen to share her voice on my platform as our society continues to grapple with what it means to be privileged, what it means to have privileges and how to reconcile that within yourself so as not to feel ashamed for being born in to a society that overtly values or devalues you, nor to be ignorant of this same point. I can especially empathize with Diku’s frustration around spellcheck not recognizing the word microagressions, as I have often wanted to punch my computer screen for giving the red squiggly line under the word, “adoptee” — what a clear example of one way adoptees feel that our very being is less than.

 

Dear Writers, Listeners, and Writers who do not Listen

This piece was originally published at Soar. Diku Rogers is a junior in college from Brooklyn, New York. 

My poetry makes you uncomfortable
My stories do not make sense to you
My characters are not “relatable”
So, like many have said before me,
Please take several seats.

Your privilege will not show up on my pages.
It is not my fault that the reality of my reality
Is a universe you can never imagine
The sh*t that goes down for me
Goes right over your head
You search through my words
Like they are broken mirrors
Looking for some resemblance of yourself
You will not find yourself here.
You will not find yourself in the dropping of my “g’s”
Or my metaphors of city streets and Caribbean eats
You will not find yourself
In my similes of browns and blacks
You will not find yourself
In my harsh tone
I have no atonement
For your inability to empathize.

Stop trying to gentrify my stories
They do not need more characters YOU can relate to.
They do not need more characters that look like you.
Go look in your English classes, History textbooks, dining halls and dormitories.
I will not twist my words to appease you.
My characters are already oppressed by the pages they are confined to.
Every narrative does not have your voice. Deal with it.

How quick you are to praise
The story of a “typical” college kid
But notice how quick you judge
The microaggressions faced by a little black girl.
As I type this a red line appears under the word “microagression”
I mean Microsoft Word doesn’t even know what the f*ck I’m talking about.

Dear Writers, Listeners, Writers who do not listen
You wanna kick it with Raymond Carver but can’t take Audre Lorde out on a date.
You’re afraid to sit with James Baldwin at lunch but you run to stand in line next to Bukowski.

Writers, Listeners, Writers who do not listen
You amaze me
Tell me what it’s like
To pick up your pen
And not have it bleed to death
With ink that’s black like me
Now before you tell me how hard it’d be
To write with a white pen
Have you ever heard of invisible ink?
It’s written all over your face
Signed on all your credit card receipts
It’s used in court rooms
And classrooms
Which are sometimes the same thing
Because while you cast judgement
I am tired of being trialed
I am tired of shining
My black light on your invisible writing
Trying to make you see the words
You don’t have to say

Your privilege will not show up on my pages.
And I am trying to get published
So realize you will not find yourself in my words.
Cause I had to realize- a long time ago- that I wasn’t going to find mine in yours.

Black Angst: Outside The Quite Visible Black Backpack

Black Backpack
A professor at Seattle Pacific University recently told me that she requires her students to read Peggy McIntosh’s essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. My gut reaction was that of delight and satisfaction. A feeling of being glad that students in the very Caucasian northwest corner of the United States, at a college located in a particularly affluent area in town will be forced to realize, understand and then acknowledge that they have an unearned privilege because of their race. Through my pride I felt that perhaps I should give the article another read, as I’d read it so many times before.
Almost immediately I realized that the once very poignant words sounded differently than  read them before. Perhaps it was Lauryn Hill’s song “Black Rage” playing on my speakers in the background that seeped in to my subconscious. Maybe the shift represented the change in the way I saw myself, moving from a youthful Black adoptee in a largely white smaller town, to a young Black women in a large American city. Whatever the reason, my gut told me that educating students cannot simply stop with an acknowledgment about the unearned advantages that Whites have, but educators must also provide a narrative from  the opposite viewpoint and a history about what had to happen in order to allow for hierarchies and such privileges.

McIntosh’s infamous and well-written piece was published in 1989. In this 21st century, Black men and Black women are learning how to climb out of the deeply entrenched history of oppression simply while journeying through our everyday lives. By the time Black men get to their classroom, they have learned the correct way to walk the streets in order to avoid being accused of acting in a disruptive or frightening way. Black women, like myself, have exerted much work and effort in learning how to be proud being dark-skinned despite the defaming innuendos and sexual objectification of African-American females.  This readily backed-up fact is a far cry from Ms. McIntosh’s account on her Whiteness:

“My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture.I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will.”
It seems to me that Blacks have realized that many doors open for people most certainly due to virtues bestowed upon them before their birth. Peggy’s list contained 26 indisputable facts aiding in her unearned yet, more privileged life. I have realized that for me, a Black Women, my very visible black backpack can be summed up in one undeniable truth:
Ordinary privileges cannot be had for Blacks, without a fight as this country is founded upon a widespread enslavement and systemic genocidal dispossession of my entire race.
Only once we truly understand that the U.S. history of capitalism, followed soon thereafter by racism, aids in the privileges of Whites and fuels the angst of Blacks and our uphill battle. Once this knowledge is truly assimilated will we be able to move forward with peace and understanding around the continued oppression and denigration of Blacks. Coming to this realization may not stop the bloodshed or lessen the dormant fear others have of black men, nor should it lighten the feelings of white guilt and the desires for white folks to “rescue” or adopt black children. These truths will remain. Even under the leadership of the first Black president our country has ever been bold enough to elect. Even with the hiring of the first president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts (Cheryl Boone Isaacs). Even with the first African-American female four-star admiral (Michelle J. Howard). For as long as we enthusiastically salute African-American firsts as though we are babies moving into toddler-hood, I will know that racism and Black oppression is systemic. It is my hope that the confusion around with whom is oppressing whom is banished under the cloak and facts of our history. We must know that the reason behind the oppression goes much deeper than Mike Brown ever would’ve seen had he not died an early death because of his quite visible black backpack.

“I’m Too Old To Be Adopted” -16 year old

 

Interact with me on twitter as I’ll be posting actual quotes from teens who are currently in foster care. I’ll be using the hashtag #agingout in an effort to bring awareness to the kiddos and ensure that they have support as they age out, or even better that someone may decide to adopt or seek guardianship. Everyone deserves a place to call home.

Ferguson and the Responsibility For Transracial Adoptive Parents of Black Boys

I am appalled (but not necessarily surprised) at the actions taken by Ferguson police this past week. From this horror comes a fear and curiosity of how white parents with Black sons will speak to their children about our current climate. Here’s an excerpt from my most recent piece;

How will white adoptive parents teach lessons of safety to their growing black sons?  How will they teach that it’s okay for some people to talk trash during a spirited football game, but not them?  How will they explain that daddy can walk to 7-11 with a hooded sweatshirt for some skittles, but if they want to make a midnight run to the convenience store then they need to code-switch and whistle Vivaldi as they walk with their hands in plain view in an attempt to lessen the fear from strangers who automatically perceive them as a threat.  How will a black boy learn appropriate behavior in a city like Ferguson if he grew up in a culture where he was consistently fetishized by his teachers and joyously picked first to play basketball as classmates espoused to the black athlete stereotypes?  How might a transracially adopted black child gain a healthy identity when the world that you’ve created in your home or community does not match this world we live in where the police, Congressmen Steve King, Cliven Bundy, Janelle Ambrosia, Donald Sterling (shall I go on?) don’t care if they grew up in a stable and loving adoptive family? Their skin is still black and according to some, that in and of itself is a crime.

Read my whole piece at The Lost Daughters.

Adoptee Solidarity and Post Reunion Support

At the beginning of the month I spent a few days up in the mountains with adult adoptees after candidly speaking to a couple hundred adoptive parents. Our retreat included a meditation room, art, journaling and yoga supplies, food, wine, and a graffiti wall (of course). The emphasis on self-care and the sanctuary of having an adult adoptee only space helped me to not only regain my balance after speaking engagements, but it also helped to provide a blueprint through some of the muddy waters of adoptees in post reunion after a lifetime of secrecy and wonder.

Before, during and after my recent visit with my birthmother I received texts, emails and calls from these incredible folks, acknowledging the plethora of emotions that I was feeling. The feeling of connectedness, being understood and uniquely known by others who have experienced similar trials is a long awaited gift. We may differ in our religion (or lack thereof), gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, body shape, hair color, clothing styles or any other segregating way that Americans like to section off and isolate members of society, but our adoptee status binds us together. My post-reunion sadness is palpable, but my community is strong.

Adoptee Solidarity

Below are some sweet lines about the importance of having an adoptee support system from some of my adult adoptee friends:

“Being a transracial adoptee growing up was a bitter sweet experience. I always felt unique and special, but at times I yearned to connect with others that shared my experience. As an adult, having other adult adoptees in my life has given me the validation and support that I was lacking. It is without a doubt essential to my identity development and overall happiness.” – Mariah Dixon

“What an amazing group of fellow adoptee activists at PACT camp with 98 families of adopted kids of color. I’m so grateful that these kids get to experience this great community but it’s so bittersweet and painful too. We can’t rest until women are given the support and resources they need to parent their children! Let’s redefine birth justice to include birth mothers at the forefront of our movement.” -Chinyere Oparah

“I always underestimate the power of coming together with other people who Get It. It’s healing, beautiful, moving to spend time with other adoptees. So needed.” – Susan Ito

“I appreciate the diversity in our community. So many different lived experiences with space for all of them.” – Steve Kalb

“There was something really powerful about sitting in that lounge and just being with everyone’s energy. There were times when we talked and times when we just sat and I needed all of that!” – Katie Wynen

“Being and sharing with other trans-racial adoptees is absolutely CRUCIAL to creating a counter-narrative to the negative and oppressive internalized messaging of not being perfect, good enough or less than on so many levels…race, family structure, birth order, gender identity and sexual orientation to name a few.” -Amy Cipolla-Stickles