A parent's perspective on RTT's episode about transracial adoption

Regardless of what you think about race in America, my experience as a white man is undoubtedly different than the experience my daughter has, and will continue to have, growing up. I never feel like I understand quite enough, and I always want my daughter to feel like she can come to me for help, so I always push myself to learn more. Her experience growing up will be vastly different than mine in part because we are a transracial family.

To try understanding what The Kid might face growing up, I follow several transracial adoptees and their journeys online, including Angela Tucker and her series, The Adopted Life. Watching the series and reading any of the interviews she shares online has helped me confront fears that I have as an adoptive parent and to better understand my own history having never met my birth father.  

When Angela took to Twitter to announce that the episode of Red Table Talk featuring her story was going to air soon, I was nervous about how they would portray her story. She has been brutally honest about her experiences; how would that be portrayed in a show that is typically under 25 minutes 

Three minutes in and I was in tears.

“Being a transracial adoptee, it is difficult to share what we really feel because we have parents who raised us and love us, and we don’t want to appear that we’re not grateful for what they’ve done. For me to talk about transracial adoption honestly is to hurt somebody,” she said.

Take out the word transracial and that is exactly how I feel about my family, specifically my mom. 
After several years of stops and starts, when I finally decided to search for my birth father, I felt that I had betrayed my mom. When I finally decided to search, it was partially because I was tired of hurting myself. From then on, every decision I made about the search was partially informed by this sense of either betraying my mom or myself. I think I will always struggle with that.

As I was processing these feelings, I also started praying that I can help The Kid avoid feeling the same way. She knows she was adopted, that Gladys and I wanted a family and jumped at the chance when God asked us to raise this little girl. She used to ask me if I ever met my birth father and is very aware of what the past year has been like for me. My personal experience tells me that she will probably want to know more about her birth parents, and I need to prepare myself so I can be as supportive as she needs me to be.

The rest of the episode was complicated. Knowing that there was probably at least two hours of taping to make a 22 minute show, I know there was a lot of the conversation that was left on the editing floor. It was edited to make the questions Angela has about her identity look more dramatic than they probably feel in real life. Sadly, it was edited to emphasize that she absolutely had to make a choice about her identity in that moment, ignoring her own agency over her life.

A few years ago, I read Laina Dawes’ book, What Are You Doing Here?, after listening to her interview on NPR. She was also adopted by a white family from a predominantly white community and became a heavy metal fan in high school, something she hid from the few black friends she had in order to be accepted. She wrote, “Most importantly, I learned that in order to maintain my sanity and love myself for whom I was, I had to be me – whether I lost my “black pass” or not,” a line that immediately came to mind when I was watching Angela’s interview on RTT.

Which is why I had trouble reading Laina’s book and watching this episode of RTT. Regardless of the steps we take to help The Kid learn about her birth culture, and no matter how black she feels, solely because she was adopted by a white man and a Puerto Rican woman who wanted to have a family, she will probably never be accepted by any of those cultures.  

Thought of another way, it’s just another obstacle that we will tackle together as a family. One that I pray will make The Kid a stronger person.

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