“What Is A White Personality?” and Other Questions From Young Transracial Adoptees

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at the African Caribbean Heritage Camp in Denver, Colorado. Instead of preaching to a group of middle and high schoolers, I invited them to participate in a discussion between myself and three other panelists about the concept of race and adoption. Many of the campers candidly explained that they feel that they have a “white personality” or that they consider themselves to be an Oreo. I asked the tweens/teens to expand more upon what they meant by white personality or black personality, and we came up with a list. They explained that having a white personality meant that you liked to hike, camp, dress preppy and seek education whilst a black personality meant that you liked hip hop, dancing, sports and could wear bright colored clothing. The panelists (consisting of an Ethiopian man, an African American woman, a transracial adoptee and myself) worked to rebut their definitions explaining that some of us enjoy hiking and camping while not enjoying hip hop music. A contemplative conversation ensued to which I ended the session by asking each of the teens to write what they felt their emotional identity to be in light of our conversation. This question was meant to tap into who these bright young adults felt their true identity to be. I challenged them to not view themselves as white because their parents and the majority of their friends are white, and to not simply think of themselves as black because their skin tone and society says they are black, but instead to think about who they feel themselves to be emotionally?

Here’s a sampling of some of the written responses I received:

“I think I’m white, maybe, because I don’t get physical when I’m mad, where a lot of Blacks might shove someone or something when they are mad.”
-13 year old male,  African-American transracial adoptee

 

“My emotional identity is gray because that’s Black and White.”
– 11 year old male, African-American transracial adoptee

 

“My emotional identity is white because of the way that I talk and dress. I really enjoy it though. I feel that I have the ability to code switch if needed. I am comfortable with the preppy style.”
– 16 year old female, African-American, transracial adoptee

 

“My emotional identity is both, because I am academically charged and I ‘dress white’ and I am black because I am all about family and think it’s important to stay together.”
– 14 year old male, White adoptee

 

“My emotional identity is white because I grew up in a white family, so I think i got more influenced to a white personality, also at my school I hang out with white people. I’m the only black person in my grade. But also at my school it’s bi-lingual so there is a hispanic culture too, and since they have darker skin I don’t feel left out.”
– Female, middle school African-American transracial adoptee

 

These complex thoughts young transracial adoptees are grappling with is a beautiful reminder that allowing our kids to be in safe spaces so they can explore these complexities is so necessary. All of their statements and feelings are true as we cannot argue with one’s own feelings. However many of the statements are laden with stereotypes, we must recognize when we do have opportunities to educate and challenge these inherited assumptions. This will allow these young adoptees to grow in to an identity that best exemplifies themselves.

8 thoughts on ““What Is A White Personality?” and Other Questions From Young Transracial Adoptees

  1. Enlightening post Angela!

    Even as a single mother/single parent of a bi-racial (black/white) biological son, this is something that comes up. However, because of his darker skin and hair texture, people have assumed he is adopted. He actually looks like me. However, as his mother, I’ve always wanted him to feel comfortable with all his ethnic heritage. We are fortunate to live in a very diverse area. He has been in the homes of the poor races (whom are good, hard working citizens) and the middle class races and the wealthier races. So he knows that race and color have nothing to do with social status and that money and wealth doesn’t dictate the character of man or woman. That for me was the most important lesson I wanted to instill in him. On the other hand, my son that was adopted (trans-racial adoptee), lives in a mostly white community and this is something that has always concerned me. What impressions does he have? I believe that stereotypes come from something we view (TV, movies), read or hear from someone who may not be well informed. Only true interactions can dispel the myths and stereotypes,

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Erin says:

    This is such an insightful post. I am sitting here contemplating how my 9 and 6 year old will feel about this in a few years. I really appreciated reading the thoughts of these young people. Thank you Angela!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jenny Grady says:

    Angela – thank you so much for sharing. My family attended this Heritage Camp for the first time this year and we all had a wonderful experience. We are so thankful for adult adoptees like yourself who are willing to share your experiences with us so that we, as parents, can gain more insight into what are kids are experiencing and may experience as they grow up in a transracial adoptive family. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a thought provoking post. Wondering what my soon to be two year olds will feel in years to come. Thanks for sharing!
    Natasha @gigglegiggletootroar

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  5. Here’s another good question for another workshop:

    When we identify our race / heritage / culture on the census and in school and college applications, are we supposed to identify as how we perceive ourselves, or identify as how others perceive us?

    And also ask people if they know why the census and schools and birth certificates ask about ethnic background and see how many people know why it’s important.

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  6. Reblogged this on The Story with the Tiger and commented:
    Sorry my own content has been sparse – job and daddy responsibilities have taken all my energy for the last several months, but now I’m revving up again. In the meantime, please take a look at this post by Angela Tucker (theadoptedlife.com). I had the pleasure of watching her documentary Closure (closuredocumentary.com) at the Mixed Remixed Literary Festival in Los Angeles in June, and it’s a film that everyone touched by adoption should see. Angela and her husband Bryan made this film from personal footage and interviews surrounding the search for her birth parents, and it goes to the heart of the desire to know your origin. Angela is now an adoption professional in Seattle, and is spreading the word with Closure. Check it out, and check out her blog!

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