Do Trans-racial Adoptees Know Anything About Trans-racial Adoption?

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.

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68 thoughts on “Do Trans-racial Adoptees Know Anything About Trans-racial Adoption?

  1. Emily says:

    Thank you for your voice. As a white adoptee from SC who had no information about her birth family and as an adoptive mother of a beautiful Korean boy, I am terrified I will fail him in so many ways but especially in not hearing him and making sure I listen when he needs to know more than I can give him or teach him about his culture and his country.

    Thank you for advocating for adoptee rights, especially transracial adoptee rights to a place at the table and a voice in this conversation.


    • Thanks for your comment Emily! I don’t think that parenting is a contest of perfection! I am not a parent, but I have heard and seen that sometimes the best parents are those who know that they will make mistakes, but are open to learning from them with their child. I’m glad that it sounds like you’re open to listening to your beautiful son.


  2. Frank Ligtvoet says:

    Thanks Angela, You know I was interviewed as well for the show and was not broadcasted either. I, being a gay white adoptive parent, was fine with that, and not fine with your absence. I started to speak about race and how the adoption market is racially structured: the least favorable kids with the least favorable parents (black boys – gay men) and the most favored kids with the most favarable parents (white girls – white straight couples). In between there are Lation and Asian kids with a preference for girls (Research Liz Raleigh) and single moms and lesbian couples. I see now in the light of the fluffy segment they used, that that start was probably too political. Since I kept talking about race and racism and loss my contribution was not useful, I imagine.

    Thanks for all you do for our community. Looking forward to finanlly meeting you at the end of the month in Harlem, New York!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry, Angela! How disappointing! You have such a positive uplifting voice, but still teachable voice for adoptive parents and others in communities with adoptees. Sharing my disappointment on all my networks.


  4. Beth S. says:

    As the white adoptive parents of a beautiful African-American son…we NEED and WANT to know what you have to say as an adult. It could be the most helpful thing we ever hear. Thank you for your story. Shame on NPR.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mark Humbert says:

    Thanks Angela! I agree with your points 100%. I’m a Caucasian adoptive father of two daughters adopted from China, who are now teens. I don’t think it matters much any more what I think. Instead, I’m much more interested in the perspectives of my beloved daughters. Over the years, my wife, Karin Evans, who wrote the book The Lost Daughters of China, has been repeatedly asked whether she would write a follow-up book. Her invariable response has been that the next book should be written by the kids.


    • Hi Mark, I’m sure it does matter what you think! But in terms of the mass media, perhaps the adoptive parent’s perspective shouldn’t be the only/the most dominant. But, the adoptive parents opinion certainly matters! I love your that your wife is advocating for the adoptees to speak out, and is willing to forgo authoring another book to demonstrate this resolve. What a beautiful thing.


  6. Dani An says:

    For the record the woman who was interviewed is well known in ethical adoptive parent circles. She is a monster and a horrible racist. She told me years and years ago that she wanted to write a book on being a white woman raising black children. She explained that she felt it was important for white people to adopt black children so that the white people could better understand black culture. She seemed to have this idea that these black children were genetically predisposed to the “ghetto life.” We were friendly until that point, phone calls and visits, when I started to become gravely concerned for her and her future children. She was disappointed that her writing career hadn’t taken off as she wrote about having type 1 diabetes, and then decided a better story to tell would be being a white couple with black children. She has since managed to get some blogs and interviews paving the way for her book, which she had wanted to write long before she even adopted these children. Initially she was very against adopting AA children, because she felt like it would be very hard for her friends and family to deal with having black people around, but after she was waiting a very long time and saw the lack of books about transracial adoption she changed her mind.

    If you read the article carefully you can see that she talks about how her child will see a trash truck, which of course leads to discussions of race and Rosa Parks. Now in any real world scenarios that wouldn’t happen. Because it starts with the inherent idea that only black people work on trash trucks. It is racist in its very foundation. She decided to hire a black “mentor” instead of actually working to invest in the lives of AA people in her community.

    She isn’t a loving or caring white woman who decided to adopt black children. She decided to adopt black children in order to exploit that story for her dream of being a successful book author. She is narcissistic and scary and racist. NPR should be ashamed of themselves for airing this interview, especially with some of the oddly racist things directly in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Meredith says:

    Thank you for your voice! And thank you for standing up for the people involved in the Adoption process that so often get left behind in the conversation. This kind of family involves 3 sides: Adoptive Parents, Adoptees, and BirthParents. Thanks for making sure that people know that the story needs to be told from all sides. . . because each side is totally different and together they make a family story. So often when I see or hear stories about adoption on the news or a segment of a show, I just turn it off because it’s upsetting how something so near and dear to me is just marginalized or turned into a discussion of something OTHER than how to make blended families into supported and accepted parts of our world.

    I am glad you’re out there speaking for yourself and your experiences. No one else is more qualified.

    (Birth-mother of a remarkable and amazing 13 year old. Mother of one spectacular 3 year old. Older cousin of two fabulous adopted cousins. Friend to everyone.)


    • Thanks Meredith! Don’t lose hope – conversations like this are the start of major change within the media and their approach to adoption conversations! Your voice as a birthmother certainly has a place too.


  8. Melanie says:

    This is a grace-filled, thoughtful response. It boggles my mind why NPR–the news source I trust more than any others–made such an inexplicable choice, though to adoptees, whose voices are rarely heard, I’m sure the choice was all too familiar. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective.


  9. Tamar R says:

    As an adoptee from China into a family with two parents of the same sex, now that I am becoming a young adult, finding my own voice and developing my own opinions about the subject of adoption, as an adoptee, has become increasingly more important to me and to the way I see myself. I feel incredibly indebted to you, Angela, and to the other adoptees speaking out about what it really feels like to be adopted into a transracial family. It is you that inspire the younger generations of adoptees, like myself, to share their own unique voices and perspectives. Thank you for sharing and bringing awareness to this crucial issue.


  10. Jennifer says:

    As a white adoptive parent of two black children, your story is the one I am more interested in, and the one that can help me to be the best possible parent to my children. I am disappointed in NPR’s choice. Thank you for speaking out.


    • Hi Jennifer, Thanks for having such openness and understanding of hearing out adult adoptees as a reflector on your kids’ experiences. It’s so important that we as a society can hear each other, and learn from each other. Best wishes to your family.


    • Janaki says:

      ditto Jennifer’s comment – I’m also the parent of two black boys, I’m mixed-race myself, and feel acutely aware of the issues of identity. I am so interested in hearing from adoptees who can give me guidance on how to help my boys. Thank you for your voice, and this blog. I look forward to following you.


  11. Reblogged this on Red Thread Broken and commented:
    “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 Caucasian parents to speak for us. We are grown up now. We can do it.” – Angela Tucker
    Yes, yes, yes! The adoptee voice is so often ignored because what we have to say is more complex than the ever-cheery narrative supported by the media and threatens the romanticized image of adoption. We adoptees feel the brunt of the system most deeply, and our voices should be valued.


  12. As a fellow transracial adoptee, I am very grateful for your voice and experiences, Angela. Thanks so much for writing and please continue to share your thoughts!
    I ask you to consider using White instead of Caucasian to describe such parents who you discussed in your writing. People working in areas of social justice tend to prefer this term for a number of reasons. I choose to use White because I feel that it is more accurately related to a culture of Whiteness that enjoys many privileges in the US, as opposed to an ethnicity.

    Here are a few articles that discuss the terms:

    Thanks for listening!


  13. I am (hopefully) about to adopt a baby boy who will be a very different skin color than my husband or me. Can you recommend any books or blogs that I can look into that are by transracially adopted people? I know his life experiences will be so drastically different from mine and I would love any guidance on how best to prepare him for the world and the biases he may face based on his biological makeup.


  14. Oh how I wish we could hear your interview now, Angela! Personally, I think my six-year-old son’s perspective would have been helpful on NPR. He already has such a depth about him. [So, I can only imagine how deep and rich your perspective is.] Months after he came home (and we live in a very diverse area), my husband took him to a sprinkler park. My white son was in the minority there. A child came up to Abraham and started calling him, “White, Black, White, Black” because the child had seen my husband. Abraham was 4 at the time. Immediately, he switched from calling my husband, “Dad,” to telling the child, “No, that’s Mister Andy.” He told us during those early months, he wished his skin was white (not because we only had him around white people either…he was in the racial majority at his school). He wanted to match. Oh, how we pray for wisdom as we raise him. We always welcome advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lisa says:

    YES!! I so agree with everything you said and we all need to hear your story and all the other adoptees who want to share. This is an important side of adoption that needs to be recognized and heard. Everyone whether they are adopted or not has struggles in their life, why can we not acknowledge that adoptees clearly are giong to be impacted by the fact that they where adopted – and in different ways? Not every adoptee is going to have the same struggles, but they should all have the right to be heard – both the good and the bad . This will help us all better understand and to help those children growing up right now who are adopted, they need a resource to know they are not alone in their questions and struggles.

    My beautiful son is adopted and I have searched for resources written by adoptees, I want to know their prespective. I have found one book! I want to know what questions he may or may not have, not just the ones I may think he will have. I want to know as a mother what I can do to help comfort him as he deals with this.

    Thank you for sharing your important story. People do want to hear it. Please continue to share with us. We need to hear it so we can all understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s disheartening to know that, instead of bringing your story to its listeners and readers, NPR chose to broadcast the AP point of view that added nothing new to the dialog on TRA and instead painted a very one-sided picture based on speculation more than anything else.

    It’s equally heartening to know how many eloquent, passionate transracial adoptees are working to change that dynamic. Thank you for writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wonderfully stated. Thank you for sharing this piece. As a birth mother to a bi-racial (black/white) son, I have concerns for my child. Not that his adoptive parents love him, not whether or not they have provided a good home, both are true. But are they aware of his feelings or his self image in an all-white family and a prominently white neighborhood.

    For NPR to not air your interview and perspective in their segment about trans-racial adoption is very irresponsible on their part. Frankly, I am very surprised because I always believed that NPR was different. They were the ones who didn’t mind sharing the real truth and the WHOLE story. Keep speaking your truth and sharing your voice. People are listening!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Stephanie Roberts says:

      Thank you Angela for your thoughtfulness and honesty. I am very disappointed in NPR for not airing a different perspective. As an adoptive mom of an African-American girl I can tell you that I am tired of hearing the adoptive family story over and over again. I want to hear what YOUR story is, and other adult adoptees! Without knowing what others have gone through, how can I honestly help my daughter as she grows and matures.

      My hope(s) for her in her life are many but I can say that my hope for her as a woman is to be strong, confident and ready to take on whatever challenges she will face as an African-American woman from a trans-racial family. Without the knowledge that I can gain from listening to you and other adult adoptees have gone through, I don’t believe that I will be as equipped as I want to, or need to be.

      Please keep this much needed and important dialogue moving forward in your words, as you have many, many people sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to listen!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. bet says:

    Very well said, Angela! I certainly hope to hear more from you. I have been looking for books, articles, writings, etc. from an adoptive child’s perspective and trying to soak up every little morsel of information that will be beneficial in raising my precious, black son. Thank you!


  19. MaryT says:

    I could not agree with you more, Angela, as a white mom of two daughters (20 & 12) adopted from China. Growing up non-white w/white parent(s) is not our story or experience to tell. I am acutely aware that for all its complexity, this is my daughters’ identity to own, their experiences to share as they choose, and we should listen to their voices in the telling of this story. Which is not to say that as a parent I can’t speak on my behalf about my experiences raising my girls, my worries for them. But I am not walking the road of being caught between two cultures, each of which have expectations, rules that don’t quite fit. It is presumptuous of parents of any kind to think they can can speak their children’s mind. Shame on NPR for not being inclusive and including the primary voice in this experience.


    • Thanks Mary! I greatly enjoy hearing your point of view – – I often ask my mom about her experiences with all of her children. The issue certainly is not that the parents’ aren’t worthy – they are! The issue is just what you stated, ‘inclusion’!


  20. Nancy says:

    So many people here have already spoken my point of view as well, but I think the more replies the better – just in case NPR is really paying attention to feedback. As a white mother of Asian girl -almost-grown-up now, I have ALWAYS looked to the grown up adoptees for advice and understanding of how these issues affect the adoptee and what we as parents can do to help facilitate their grown and understanding of their unique lives. I am totally sick and tired of hearing the ‘rose colored glasses adoption story’ that sounds so wonderful and painless. I value, above everyone else’s point of view, the voice of the trans-racial adoptee trying to make sense of their identity and where they see themselves in the world. So NPR should really be paying more attention to that. IT’s not just for us white parents, but also for our totally ignorant family members who are not able to support us or understand what we are trying to do by listening to the painful voices of our adopted children. So thanks to Angela and all other transracial adoptees who have had the courage to speak up so eloquently about their experiences so that they can help the entire world open up and look at these issues. And let’s hope that NPR can open up too and change the way they portray trans-racial adoption.


    • Per my ability to view my blog stats I’m fairly certain that the folks at NPR have been trolling through my blog. They’ve heard us. Whether they choose to expand the discussion we have yet to see…

      Thanks for finding the value in the adoptee voice long before so many others.


  21. Angela,

    Are you aware of whether the show was sponsored? I am curious as to whether they were and if that sponsor had any ties to the adoption industry. Or did the person they did interview have a tie to NPR and didn’t want a perspective that was critical of transracial adoption. Those would be the only logical reasons why they wouldn’t have aired your interview. Not that it would make it right but at least that would have made sense. Otherwise I don’t see any logical reason not to air your interview. I don’t see anything that would NPR have lost or been hurt from by airing your interview.

    The whole thing doesn’t make sense to me on so many levels. First having only a mother of young children rather than mother of grown children who a mother of young children could learn from. And more importantly it makes zero sense not to include an actual transracial adoptee who can provide insight that adoptive parents of transracial adoptees could learn from to help better understand their children to become better parents. As a society we could only benefit from that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My son had that very same concern (regarding the sponsor). I didn’t even consider that but when he said it, it was an ah-ha moment. Which that would make me even more upset to know that money could have influenced their decision making.


    • Thanks for your comment.

      I’m not sure about whether or not NPR had an agenda, though it’s pretty safe to assume that all public media entities work very hard to maintain what they think the public can and wants to hear. I don’t doubt that there were some politics within NPR playing out, but I also think that this is representative of the fact that the general public still isn’t ready to hear from adoptees yet. That adoptees are still seen by many as perpetual children needing to be saved and spoken for.


  22. NPR did air this one back in 2008. It’s been five years. I think it’s time for them to update their archives with some new fresh material. Not to mention that ONE person cannot speak for thousands. We’ve heard from hundreds, maybe even thousands of adoptive parents. Let the adoptees speak. After all, adoption is for the children right? So why wouldn’t we want to hear from the adult adoptees about their trans-racial childhood experience from their perspective. Seems like a no-brain’er to me.

    John 8:32
    “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


  23. Naomi says:

    I just want to say that I am not involved in adoption in any way other than finding other people’s stories interesting. As a regular NPR listener, I would be a lot more interested in your story than in hearing from yet another adoptive parent about THEIR view of trans-racial adoption. Because YOUR story, I haven’t heard 20,000 times before.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Corrie says:

    Thank you for this perspective. As a mother to three boys (2 bio, 1 domestic infant adoption) AND a member of a mixed race family I appreciate this very much. The one thing that helps me sleep a little better at night is to see how much the world is changing, even when it stays the same. My husband is Puerto Rican and Filipino. I am Caucasian. We are gratified to see mixed couples in almost every facet of life. It is, in fact, my youngest biological son who people often think we’ve adopted, as he resembles his father the most. I try to find the humor and irony in that, even when it’s a bewildering world.

    Liked by 1 person

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