NPR contacted me and asked me to be a part of the Sunday Conversation that aired yesterday morning. I spoke in depth about my story, my upbringing, the challenges and joys of my experience being raised by White parents, only to receive an email the next day stating that they had chosen to go another route. I responded kindly by stating “I sure hope you’ve chosen to include an adoptees perspective for your segment.” I awoke to hear the one-sided, tired, age old perspective that we’ve heard so many times before. A loving, White adoptive parent of three African American children was the only voice to hear. While her voice is valid and valuable, it should not have been the only voice featured on this segment. NPR’s tagline for this show is, “Each week, Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin brings listeners an unexpected side of the news by talking with someone personally affected by the stories making headlines.” When the Senior Editor of the show contacted me, she stated that in light of the recent comments about Romney’s grandchild they wanted to expand on the topic of transracial adoption. I was glad for this opportunity; hopeful that NPR would do it justice by interviewing not just adoptive parents, but adoptees themselves, and birthparents as well. I was disappointed upon learning of the parent-centric and staid approach they took.
I wonder why NPR didn’t want to air my story? What were they trying to shield their listeners from hearing? Are the powers that be afraid that the adoptee voice will disrupt the current narrative of trans-racial adoption? Is it safe to assume that NPR doesn’t feel the listeners can understand that I, a transracial adoptee, had both a wonderful upbringing and some exposure to African-American heritage while living in a predominately white city, yet also had a need to find my roots and search for my birth parents? Perhaps it is a bit difficult to understand that an adoptee can be both glad for life opportunities afforded only through adoption, yet also wonder about what their plight would’ve been had an adoption not gone through. This is our reality! While transracial adoption is a necessary solution at this juncture in time, it’s also a solution that comes with a lot of complexity, and may not be easily “fixed” by hiring a black mentor or teaching your child about Rosa Parks.
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…” The adoptive mother was asked by NPR host if she fears the stereotypes her black son may face as he grows. Why not simply ask a trans-racially adopted man how discrimination has affected his upbringing and adulthood?
BREAKING NEWS: We no longer need to speculate about the challenges trans-racially adopted children may face as they grow. The first hand answers for these important questions can be answered by qualified, educated, articulate adult adoptees (or birthparents) found by doing a quick Google search.
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, my parents’ biological daughter and my husband and others – 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.
I know many White adoptive parents who are raising their children of color wonderfully. Comments about this conversation should not lean towards questioning an adoptive parents’ love for their child, or capability of raising their child of color. There are plenty of adoptive parents who are doing a great job seeking out appropriate resources and asking tough questions about trans-racial parenting both publicly and privately. 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.
Trans-racial adoptees have a unique bond. This is the reason why adult adoptees were so outspoken about the Baby Veronica case, and why we are speaking out now. We adult adoptees acknowledge our different paths and childhoods, and understand that no two adoption experiences are exactly alike or give any one adoptee more credibility than another. We understand the struggles inherent within being adopted in a unique way that nobody else can understand – not even our own well intentioned, loving, adoptive parents. However, those of us who were trans-racially adopted no longer need our parents to speak for us. We are grown up now. We can do it.