A few weeks ago, NPR Weekend Edition ran a segment on transracial adoption where they interviewed Rachel Garlinghouse, a
white adoptive mom of three black kids. Good interview, but many in the adult adoptee online community were irritated outraged (#NPRgate) that the recorded interview with adult transracial adoptee Angela Tucker was not also used in the segment. How, they wondered, could you possibly say anything relevant about transracial adoption without including the words of those who have actually lived the experience as a child and now adult. How indeed?!?
The Real Experts on Transracial Adoption
Being inundated with negative comments clearly sent the message that they needed to present the voice(s) of adult adoptees. Duh! I have no idea why NPR chose not to air the interview with Ms. Tucker, and I had hoped that they would do a longer segment including interviews with several adult adoptees, but the interview they aired this past weekend with Chad Goller-Sojourner was terrific.
Goller-Sojourner was adopted in 1972 at 13 months by a white family, who clearly loved him and did their best by him. They read books by black authors, sent him to diverse schools, and came to his defense when racial taunts were slung. They could not, however, make race or racial differences go away. They could not teach him to be a black man.
Goller-Sojourner describes so well the cloak of white privilege from the vantage point of one who experienced its protection when he was near his parents and absence when away. Children, he points out, experience race and white privilege before they have words to express it. His spent his 20s falling in love with himself and being black.
Checklist for Transracial Adoption
Goller-Sojourner is not necessarily against transracial adoption. “Perhaps a black home is probably best for a black kid”, he acknowledges, but he knows that he might well have never had a family if he had not been adopted by his white parents. He had been passed up by several black families because he was “too dark” and was being moved to a group home for older foster kids when his parents adopted him.
He does however have suggestions for white parents adopting kids of color. He strongly encourages transracial families move to diverse neighborhoods. “Someone’s going to have to be uncomfortable, and I think it should be the parents.”
“One of the things I think was hardest for me is I didn’t have any independent relationships with black people, especially adult black people, till I was an adult,” he says. “I was 25 before I saw a black doctor.”…
“I don’t have a checklist,” he says, “but if I did, it would sound something like this: If you don’t have any close friends or people who look like your kid before you adopt a kid, then why are you adopting that kid? Your child should not be your first black friend.”
There are over 300 comments on this segment on the NPR site, and I read about 100 or so. Most were insightful, until I came to the following that made me want to reach out and smack the commenter.
IMHO [In my humble opinion], instead of appreciation for his parent, when other prospective adoptive parent of same black skin deems he is too dark skin, he turns around and get quite insulting.
Sounds like there are some patent-child hostility here.
There are people in this world, when given free things, still complains.
ARGHH!!!! Insulting? Hostility?? GIVEN FREE THINGS!!! Fortunately, the NPR commenting crowd quickly said what needed to be said to this (hummm what PG rated word to use?) unenlightened person.
What’s on your checklist for transracial adopted parents?
P.S. Whatever reason NPR chose to not air Angela Tucker’s interview, it is not because she isn’t eloquent and thoughtful. Her website, The Adopted Life, is one of my favorites, and I suggest you make it one of yours.
P.P.S. Check out Chad Goller-Sojourner one-man show in Seattle: Riding in Cars with Black People & Other Newly Dangerous Acts: A Memoir in Vanishing Whiteness, the story of “what happens when a black boy, raised by white parents, “ages out” of honorary white and suburban privilege and into a world where folklore, statistics, and conjecture deem him dangerous until proven otherwise.”