Navigating Race and Transracial Adoption

Last October, I attended Navigating the Intersections of Transracial Adoption, with Torrey E. Carroll, MA, LPC & Nikki M. Carroll, MA, LPC, as the keynote speakers at the AKA Virtual Conference.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this dynamic duo couple who were engaging, educated, and provided great material with first-hand experience, this event was more difficult for me to process.

First off, everyone was using the chat feature to comment. I commented and said, “…my mixed race sons…” Someone quickly chatted back with a critique and said “her friend” hates it when someone asks if her son is “mixed”. She said her friend prefers bi-racial. Someone quickly came to my defense and said that people should be able to self-identify how they wish. I appreciated the support.

First, I wondered if her friend was a biological mother or a transracial adoptive mother. There is a difference.

The female, who obviously was not personally involved in an interracial or a transracial family, was attempting to tell me how I should identify MY family. An online stranger was attempting to tell another online mother who knows nothing about her family or their racial identity how that mother should refer to her kids based on a friend’s preference. That is truly disturbing. It is egotistical!

Sadly, this happens often in the adoption community. Everyone is an expert, even those who have no personal connection to or experience with adoption.

Over the last couple decades, we have had white transracial adoptive parents wanting to lead the racial dialogue because now that they have adopted a black or brown child, they feel entitled to speak and educate. They share their daily encounters of their struggle with race, as the white adoptive parents of a transracial adoptee who is navigating his or her way in white spaces, while at the same time, often denying and starving their black and brown children from their ethnic birthright, culture, and images of people who reflect their identity.

Blog followers and news media platforms love these white transracial adoptive parents and will empathetically broadcast their story nationwide and give them space to talk about race because hearing it from a white man and a white woman who adopted transracially is way more validating than hearing it from black or brown men and women themselves or an interracial couple with kids. They also like to use these stories to fluff the White American image. That’s white privilege.

Black families don’t just worry about one child within their family but worry about each member in their family, from parents, to children to extended members like uncles, aunts, cousins and so on. #BlackLivesMatter

When I gave birth to my first born son, I mostly heard the term “mixed” from Black/African American women. They’d walk over to me when my son was an infant or a toddler sitting in the grocery cart and ask, “Is he mixed?” I knew what they meant. I certainly am not going to disrespect the women from my son’s culture. They had been living Black in America much longer than my son. They were not being mean or insulting. They were being friendly and I appreciated their social acceptance and kindness shown to me, rather than a bigoted look or indifference.

I prefer mixed a whole hell of a lot better than mulatto which sounded like another word from slavery. In addition, let us not forget that White people have been labeling Black people for years with their racial words, stripping them of power and rights and even disqualifying them as fully human.  

The truth is I had used the term bi-racial until I did my son’s DNA. I now know that my sons are not just African and European (black/white) American. Biracial “bi” denotes two. My sons also have a small amount of Asian and Native American Indian. They truly are of mixed-race ancestry.

 “Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME.” Jerry Belson

When I was writing this, I asked my two sons how they self-identify. My 22 year old son that was parented by me identifies as a Black Man in America and prefers that over African American. My 21 year old son that was adopted out transracially by a white family identifies as African American. At the same time, they don’t tell me how I need to racially identify them as my sons.

As the speakers continued their conversation, I tried to focus more on them then the conversation side bar. The topics of discussion appeared to be geared towards those fostering, hoping to adopt, transracial adoptive parents, adoptees, and adoption professionals who are key factors in this industry. To be fair, I only attended day two of this keynote event.

This topic is important to me because my biological birth son was placed in a transracial adoptive family. I have been listening to, learning from, and advocating for adoptees for many years. But I am acutely interested in hearing the stories by transracial adoptees and adoptive parents.

Since I have my own years of lived experiences, in a mixed/interracial family, being the biological white mother of two sons with brown skin, one while parenting who was connected to both sides of his family, one while participating in open adoption through letters, emails, pictures, phone calls/txt, social media, overnight visits and shared family vacations over the years, I have unique awareness and insight within this topic. One that is often overlooked.

My son’s, whom was placed as an infant twenty one years ago into a white adoptive family that I chose for him, experience is very important to me. My choice gave him that experience. I not only live with my consequences that have impacted me, but also how my choice has impacted both of my sons; one as a transracial adoptee, and the other as a sibling living without his brother by his side.

It is like an unintended experiment that you didn’t plan to mix together while others were adding their crude elements without your permission that should have never been included in the concoction. Now all you can do is watch and monitor as it percolates and bubbles. You sit and wait, hoping that it doesn’t implode or explode, destroying anything, especially the ones you love.   

The Carroll’s shared their experiences as both a Black/African American couple living in America and as transracial adoptive parents. They shed light and brought awareness to those who may not have seen or experienced racial prejudices while navigating in American society. They were helping to expose our own biases and our naivety, to better prepare and guide those who have or who are seeking to foster or adopt transracially, and educate the professionals, who have a great amount of power handling these cases, make better choices.

It was truly refreshing to hear a Black/African American couple speaking on transracial adoption.

They also talked about their path to adoption through foster care. In these scenarios’, birth parents have little or no rights, so their voice has most often been silenced. However, I believe it is truly important when having these conferences and conversations, that we equally give voice to birth parents in some way.

Birthparents who have chosen transracial adoption for their child have every right to participate in these spaces. I attended two other conference events the same weekend, both female presenters, one of which was by an adoptive mother and a social worker, and they both paid tribute to birth parents/families. I felt valued. They showed empathy and importance to every role and voice in this complicated topic.

As a keynote speaker (a person who delivers a speech that sets out the central theme of a conference), this is probably the most important event where all guests attending feel included. When we don’t give a voice to certain roles in this conversation, we make them less human. We devalue them.

We must remember that without a birth parent, adoption does not exist. There is no singular story within adoption nor with one birth mother or father because most often, there was not one single event that triggered or caused a child to be forcibly removed, relinquished or even stolen from his or her family.

We have learned the great biases and systemic racism exist in our foster care system towards minority and/or poor families. Adoption should not be a solution for poverty. We need to find better ways to help care for families who are experiencing poverty rather than removing their children, intentionally forcing trauma, giving them to strangers, and then paying their new care providers a monthly subsidy.

As Americans, we all become financially responsible for foster kids for the rest of their childhood through our tax dollars. And possibly for the rest of their lifetime, depending on how badly the trauma impacted them. We pay child support every time a child goes into foster care. I would much rather my tax dollars help support a poor family of origin care for their children than to give child support to a foster family who could possibly have a higher income than me. I have seen it happen.

Obviously, we don’t want Americans abusing our system. Our economy works best when everyone is participating and contributing. There is a difference between giving a hand-up versus giving a handout. There are programs that help mentor parents become more educated and better equipped to manage their parenting role and financial stability. But we need more programs! When we participate in our own recovery and achievements, this brings pride and confidence. It makes us better equipped to handle those events if they occur again in the future.

On the other hand, we do not want any child to remain in an abusive home. No child should have to endure a childhood of abuse; physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or neglect. I watched the Gabriel Fernandez story on Netflix. I was in shock and disbelief. It seemed like everyone failed him! However, I also know that foster and adoptive children (Hart Family) have experienced some of the same horrors and fatal fate that Gabriel experienced. The hope that Gabriel could have been protected by foster or adoption care is one that I hold onto with optimism. Without hope, we have nothing. But even hope cannot provide any guarantees and sadly, neither does foster or adoption care.

Adoption itself is complicated. But transracial adoption has greater accountability. As a mother, I don’t want my sons to ever feel tokenized.

Hunting, Forgiveness, and Grace

My father (step father), James, turns seventy-nine this month.

I wrote about my father in my memoir and also on this blog. We had a troubled relationship no doubt. From the time I was a five year old girl to my middle aged years, our relationship has weaved in and out continuously with both positive and negative memories.

I won’t hash over all the things that I discussed before.  

Looking back, I would attribute most of the negative moments were caused by alcohol, minus the racial discord.

Our father had no previous parenting experience. He was a thirty year old bachelor when he married our mother of three children, ages five, seven, and nine.

While my two older siblings have given him a pass for the “no previous parenting experience”, I won’t.

As parents, we all have to do the hard work sometimes. We have to be the adults, the mature ones in the family. We have to try and teach our kids without demanding unrealistic expectations.

Disciplining our kids is part of being a parent. I have no issues with giving a free pass to my father on his strict parenting rules and for not being a perfect parent one hundred percent of the time. Lord knows, I was not a perfect parent. I sometimes acted out of emotional stress versus parental maturity to handle a situation. We learn, mature, and keep learning and growing.

Just when I thought my father could not learn or grow any more as a human, he did.

One thing that has become more apparent to me in my later years, is how much our father truly loves our mother. While there were times, as a child, that I had wished my mother would leave my step father, I am truly glad they were able to commit and make their marriage work and last, which is going on fifty years. I am glad that my younger brothers didn’t have to endure what the elder three children did.

In fact, it was because of my father’s love for my mother that helped us mend our broken relationship.

My younger brother and I wanted to have a seventieth birthday party for our mother with all her friends and family. My brother talked with Dad (his biological father), before we started planning it. We needed to be sure our father was on board. This was going to be the first time that my son and I would be present for a social family/friend event with my father. He had only met Jaren once very briefly the previous summer in passing. It was a five minute encounter.

That evening, as my mother’s birthday celebration was winding down, she invited me and Jaren to come back to the house and spend the night with her and dad.  

I was hesitant at first. I wasn’t sure we were that far into our relationship yet. I asked my mother, “Did you check with Dad first?”

My mother figured it was now or never and she wanted to take advantage of the moment. So we did. After twelve long years, I felt like family again.

The real moment came the next day.  

Growing up, we had hunting rifles standing in the corner of our living room. There was a deer head mounted on the living room wall. Our father went hunting every year and often went on weekend long hunting trips with his father, brother, and friends.

Hunting and fishing are a bonding experience for my father. He taught all his sons how to shoot. He even taught his daughters and grandchildren. This was one of his favorite hobbies and he enjoyed sharing this with his loved ones.

The next day, I had gone out for a couple hours to visit some old high school friends. I left Jaren with my parents. My nephew came over to visit. My father took my nephew (who already knew how to shoot) and my son out back to teach Jaren how to shoot a rifle.

Jaren has grown up in the city and the suburbs. While I know how to shoot a rifle and I am pretty good with standing targets, I had never taught my son how to shoot.

When I got home, my mother couldn’t wait to tell me about Jaren’s shooting lesson. I was shocked at first. I was like; you actually let Jaren hold a loaded rifle in his hand? My mother proudly said, “Jaren shot the target (a can) on his third try.”

She saved the can and showed me. The first one missed, the second one nicked the side of the can, and the third one shot through the center.  

My father has always had this presence about him. He can make any child behave without raising his voice or hand. His posture, his look, and his tone will make any child scared straight! I wish I had that skill but I don’t. He also has a cool, calmness about him. He was the perfect person to teach my son how to respect a gun and how to shoot one.

Dad’s rules: Never point a gun at another person, whether you think it is loaded or not. Be sure you know where you are aiming. And, if you are hunting, be sure you can see your target.

When I saw the pictures and how happy Jaren was to share that bonding moment with his grandfather, Poppy, and his cousin, it was a proud moment for me as well. I’m glad I wasn’t there. Hunting has mostly been a bonding experience for the males in our family. I’m glad they were free to experience this moment together, to bond, and to find their way into their new familial relationship.

That moment told me all I needed to know about my father. I no longer needed an apology or remorse from my father for all the missed years. I doubt I would have gotten one anyway. In my father’s own way, this was his apology.

Last year, I drove home with both of my sons, Jaren and Noah, for my nieces wedding. This was Noah’s first time to meet his grandfather. As we walked into my parents home, my father stood up, looked directly into my sons eyes, and shook their hands. The last night before we drove back to Texas, my parents invited us over for dinner. My father cooked his special shrimp dinner with moms homemade French fries for us, which has become a tradition as our last meal with my parents before going back home to Texas.

My sons have also shown such grace.

When I was a child, I couldn’t always see the love in my father’s eyes when he looked at me. Now as a fifty-seven year old woman, I see it when he looks at me, when he looks at my two sons, and when he looks at everyone in his family. I see how proud he is of his big blended family.

My dad has always followed a strong moral compass, even when that compass was faulty at times. But his morals to do right have always been stronger than his morals to do wrong.

Relationships are not always perfect because humans are not perfect. While my relationship with my step father has not always been easy, it also was not toxic. I know. Because my relationship with my biological father is and was toxic. And he has made no effort to grow.

In a weird way, I respect that my step father held onto his beliefs. One thing about my dad, he is not a fake or phony person. I knew where I stood with him and why he acted the way he did. He has strong beliefs. He will hold onto them as long as he feels justified. He is not one to put on a show for others. But once he has decided on something, he commits to it. His word is solid. And as he has said many times to us kids when we were growing up, “And you can take that to the bank.”

Happy Birthday, Dad and Poppy! We love you!

Adoption Triangle or Triad

I attended a virtual adoption conference last month. It was great to share space with so many others who understand your journey, either by personal experience or by empathy. It was a two-day conference with various events and guest speakers geared towards the “three” sides in adoption.

By that, I mean birth/biological parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents, also referred to as the triad. They also had professionals attending and people looking to adopt or foster and offered CEU credits for those who needed them.

One of the first terminologies I learned when I started my personal journey into adoption research, several years after I had relinquished my parental rights, was the triangle or triad reference.

One day, as I perused through Barnes and Noble, searching for a book on adoption, I found one called, The Adoption Triangle, by Arthur D. Sorosky, Annette Baran, Reuben Pannor. I remember reading the intro and looking over the topics and quickly becoming more interested because the book included birth/biological stories. I needed some insight desperately. I needed to understand adoption on a deeper level, outside my own experience.

Inside the pages, the authors shared stories and captured the various points or angles of those directly impacted by adoption, depending on their position on the triangle or within the triad. It was the first time that I felt validation for my emotional wellbeing and the impact adoption and relinquishment had on me.

Triad: a group or set of three connected people or things.

Until this weekend, I never questioned this terminology. It seemed like a simple explanation. It was widely accepted and used by professionals as well as many of us within the adoption community.

However, while I was sitting in a virtual conference listening to our guest speaker, Sharon Kaplan Roszia M.S., share her talk on, The Ethical Traps in Building Families Through Adoption and Permanency, I seemed to have an epiphany.

Sharon, a social worker and an adoptive mom, shared how much has changed in adoption, including her own views, over the years but then how other things still needed greater amount of change. She confessed how social services unevenly and unethically impact minority families, who often become victims of a flawed system. She spoke about how fathers are too often not included in the decision making of adoption. And lastly, she talked about the impact on siblings.

At this point, she had my full and undivided attention. It was wonderful and refreshing to hear someone with personal and professional experience talk about the unethical flawed system, racial bias and to include the importance of siblings.

Siblings have always been an important topic for me but one that rarely gets discussed. Too often the biological siblings don’t get to share their side of the adoption story.

I remember sharing with family and friends how I was not only concerned for Noah as an adoptee and the impact adoption would have on him over the years but I was also concerned for Jaren and how our family’s adoption experience would impact him over the years to come. I knew how devastating it was for me at times.

I remember discussing it with my mother once and she brushed it off, as if I was making a big deal or seeing something that wasn’t there. As if I was imagining a false reality. But she didn’t know my son the way I did. She saw him once every couple years. That is surely not someone who can make a fair analysis. It is a dangerous assumption.

People rarely shared the same compassion for Jaren when it came to adoption. Jaren was 20 months old when his brother left our home. While he was not able to communicate his feelings at that time, I have asked Jaren several times over the years (during different stages of his youth), how he felt about his brother being adopted. I wanted him to feel safe that he could talk to me anytime about his feelings. But, I never heard anyone else close to us ask Jaren how he felt. That says a lot. Why were his feelings not valued.

I think some people thought it better to ignore it rather than talk about it. Others thought since he and I had a relationship with Noah, that solved the issue. And lastly, I think some people believe that when a child is parented by his or her biological parent but another child wasn’t, that the child or children who remain with their parent don’t experience a similar emotional impact caused by adoption. It is a sad and flawed assumption. Loss and grief go hand in hand.

In my heart, I knew Jaren had been impacted too. I could tell when we talked with Noah and his family on the phone or visited with them. I knew how Jaren acted at home compared to how he acted when talking or visiting them. I knew how I was different as well. We both experienced anxiety. But I had no proof until recently when Jaren confessed to me. I knew one day I would be faced with the reality and impact of my choice from not just one son but two.

Even their father has confessed to me that a couple years after Noah was adopted, he had a nervous breakdown. I guess the guilt finally caught up with him and it became too much for him to bear.

While in my heart, I know if their father had responded responsibly, the outcome would have been different. My sons know this as well. However, in the end, I was the one with the pen.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” ~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I neglected my sons the opportunity to have each other as siblings. I now understand I should have fought harder to keep them together.

Which brings me back to the adoption triangle or triad.

Most adoption triangle diagrams will show in varying degrees, only three entities on the adoption triad or triangle; birth/biological parent, adoptee/birth child, and adoptive parent. The three titles are almost always positioned on the outside of the triangle on each point or corner of the diagram. However, everyone knows there aren’t just three sides to adoption.

Adoption Triangle or Triad images

That’s when the light bulb went on. The result or cause and effect of adoption create sides, but the system itself is not a triangle or a triad. The system positions those involved in the transaction at opposites ends of the diagram. We are exchanging the loss. We are passing it from one corner to another. And truly, no one wants to maintain, manage, or carry the loss.

Side meaning: support or oppose in a conflict, dispute, or debate.

I thought all these years, the adoption industry and the persons who have been directly impacted by the act of adoption have been focusing on the three sides of adoption but there are not just three sides in adoption. Here we are advocating for the triad without transferring true power to the ones who truly need to maintain the power. Otherwise, those impacted by the result of adoption become powerless.  This has been a huge part of the advocacy that adoptees and birth parents have tried to reclaim over the last couple decades with more transparency and access to birth certificates.

The power has historically been held by the ones who control the spinner, the ones who make the decisions, pass the laws or who used their power to threaten, coerce, groom, or gaslight someone into an outcome that suited those in power, who benefitted the most from an adoption.

At the same time, historically, the spinners do their best to control the triangle and keep everyone separated and in their corners. They were the mediators. They had all the information and the power to release it or withhold it.

When adoptive parents and professionals began to see the issues in adoption and began to advocate for birth families and adoptees, society seemed to accept the information. But once we reclaimed our own voice, our advocacy became a bloody battle at times and a huge debate.

The three outside entities of the triangle or triad are at the mercy of anyone who is in control of the spinner, who ironically will walk away with no emotional or life-long impact or commitment to the process or to persons involved in said adoption.

Which got me to thinking, should we even have sides in adoption at all.

There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.” Robert Evans

National Adoption Month 2020

November is nationally dedicated to Adoption. Throughout this month, we will hear conversations around varying degrees of experiences, some focused only on the forever family, others focused on the ones left in the shadow, some who wish to crush the “awareness” campaigns, others who want grow into awareness, some that appear polar opposites, others who hold onto rigid beliefs, and some whom become allies and advocates.

First, we must recognize there are two adoption themes in November. One that has “Awareness” in the title and one that does not. And even the ones that have Awareness in their title are not always advocating for true awareness.

These two adoption themes vary in their campaign goal; the original campaign was focused solely on the act of adopting. It was created to find permanent homes for children in orphanages or foster care. The original week-long adoption campaign in November, started in 1976 by a politician, Michael Dukakis, which was ironically just two short years after the first federal law passing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974.

This campaign was never about infant adoption. Parents seeking to adopt freshly delivered newborn babies greatly outnumbered infants available. Especially after the unwed mother homes went away. There is and has been a great demand on newborns. Sadly, adoption agencies also use the November campaign to help promote their agenda.

The other adoption month focuses on awareness and the impact, the history, the gender oppression, the ethics, the corruption, the race valuing, the needs of those who have no voice, the systemic racism, the greed, the power, the iniquity, the inequity, the inequality, the support and needs of an unplanned pregnancy (as one politician said, “the village”), the adoptees experiences, and the many changes that need to occur in the adoption industry.

Over the last couple decades, many adoption roles have joined forces to bring awareness.

I recently attended a conference. After the conference was over, I commented on an event page that I attended virtually and asked the presenter, Sharon, how her view of adoption evolved. Since Sharon worked as a social worker and oversaw adoptions in the 1960’s and 70’s and spoke about her advocacy and ethics and systemic racism in the social welfare system, I was curious to learn when and how she came to her new understanding.

I explained how my view has changed since the early days after my relinquishment and that I no longer believed in the “selfless-gift promo” that I shared in my memoir.

To be honest, I started writing my book within two years after my relinquishment which was originally published in 2002. I was still raw and numb. I was still weak and vulnerable. I was incredibly sad and grieving. I was in the process of healing and writing helped me in that process. I was still protecting those who had groomed me prior to giving birth and gaslighted me after.

I needed to believe in the God’s plan. I needed to believe I did the right thing, made the right choice. I needed to believe my son was a gift to be given. What appeared to be the right choice was in fact a façade.

Truth is, I realize now that I never truly wanted to choose adoption. It was my safety net in hopes that I would NOT need it. I knew that I did not want to be indebted to the adoption agency in any way. I was never 💯. Otherwise, I would have never brought home my son from the hospital. When loved ones began to show and express their disapproval and disappointment in my choice to bring home my infant and parent my children, it became unbearable and I wanted to fix it. I greatly needed to feel their support and love and approval again. I had almost lost them when I gave birth to Jaren. Our relationship was hanging on by a thread. With no commitment from my sons’ father nor his family, I had me and me alone to rely on.

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

Even after I republished my memoir in 2012, I did not change the previous chapters. I added a couple new chapters because the most common feedback I got from readers was they wanted to learn more about me, my story, and my childhood. They wanted to understand me better. I also added a chapter at the end because in ten years, there had been some updates to the story that I wanted to include.

Looking back, I had no reference, no counseling, no birthmother support groups to validate my feelings. And I worried about offending or jeopardize my relationship with my son and his parents. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. Birthparents in open adoptions and adoptees in open or closed adoptions are both told they should feel grateful or be thankful or that they are lucky. I heard this so many times over the years from family, friends, and coworkers. People have no idea how this comment makes us feel.

Sharon, the virtual conference presenter responded to my post and question so poignantly:

“Great question! I believe changes occurred as I got to know and really listen to adult adoptees and birth/first parents and hang out with them as well as watching my own children who joined the family by adoption and foster care as toddlers and teens grow through their various stages into adulthood. I also went through a period of heavy grief as I came to understand what was happening. I needed to forgive myself and others! A real eye opening journey I took during the seventies!”

I truly appreciated Sharon’s honesty and transparency.

I recently had a conversation with Jaren after watching this season’s new two hour “This Is Us” episode. I told him I wondered if the Concerned United Birthparents’ retreat had an impact on their producer, KJ Steinberg, who was a guest speaker at the retreat one year ago.

KJ Steinberg sat before a room full of mostly birthparents and adoptees and some adoptive parents. Real people! Real experiences! Real stories! I have to give KJ credit because she graciously and empathetically absorbed our heartbreaking stories.

As the hands went up and the microphone got passed around the audience, I had the opportunity to ask her a question. I told her about my sons and my role, and how both sons identify as Black or African American. And that one son was transracially adopted. I told her that I love the show and that my son and I watch it faithfully and that William is one of my favorite characters.

“This Is Us” told this beautiful story about William that America fell in love with despite his flaws. Why had they not told a story or developed a character of a birthmother? Like Randall’s therapist notated last season, the birthmothers “were cliff notes” to the storylines.

I pointed out, as I looked around the room, that even among our group at the retreat, there were very few birthfathers present. I asked KJ if we might hear more background stories about the birthmothers.

I told Jaren it seemed like George Floyd’s death (which they included in some scenes) and the #BLM movement also had an impact on how they were now telling Randall’s story and how they wanted to represent Black people and Black mothers. I wondered how much #CUB and #BLM impacted the new season.

It seemed like previously, the writers were telling two different stories about Black people. One where Black people in Black communities were poor, struggling, drug addicts, neglectful, and not sexually responsible. And then the story of Randall, a black infant, abandoned by Black parents, raised by white parents, as successful, educated, beautiful suburban home, married, a family man, good husband and father, as if those traits can only be learned and passed down by white parents. It is a grossly oppressive stereotype.

Jaren’s response was precise. He said “Does it matter?”

I was silent for a moment. I had to contemplate it. “Does it matter? Hmmm?”

I replied, “You are absolutely right, Jaren.” I said the most important thing is that when we become aware (whether we had our own awakening or came upon it with the help of others), of an issue, a negative thought or pattern, that we are able to change our perception, our thoughts, and our advocacy.

Whether we are talking about an adoption day, a week, a month, or even throughout the year, how will we support and advocate for those impacted by adoption? How will their stories get told and shared?

My hope is that we support advocacy and share awareness.

Facebook: Red Table Talk; Transracial Adoptee

Red Table Talk, Raised by White Parents; A Black Transracial Adoptee

Great job Red Table Talk! Thank you so very much.

As a transracial adoptee, Angela is responding in the way she was raised. Sadly her family did not embrace people of her culture. I call this culture genocide or an ethnic crime.

I am not against transracial adoption. Noah is a transracial adoptee. But when white people raise their black and brown children in white culture or teach them only the adoptive family’s ethnic heritage or culture (German, Italian, etc) but not the ethnicity of their adoptee, that is a huge disservice to their child. It says your culture is not as important as ours in this family. I always wonder how white adoptive parents can love a black child but not the Black community. How do they go 18+ years of embracing new friends, family, and neighbors who all happen to be white but claim they are color blind? How does that happen? That is not natural or unbiased living.

I love that Jada and Willow and Gammy gave a transracial adoptee and a birth parent a seat at the table. Willow shared some deep talk for such a young woman, I love that Gammy was outspoken and passionate in this table talk. She has experience as a black woman and a black mother. She is right. Angela didn’t have a say on being adopted or how she was raised. Her insecurities stem from her lack of Black culture and understanding her place in the Black community. And let us not forget she is an adoptee which comes with inherit emotional consequences. But also, like Gammy said, Angela can change that. It would be similar to a white person who was raised with racism. Once they become an adult, they have the choice to educate themselves and decide which path they want to take. I hope that Angela steps out of her comfort zone and begins to embrace her roots. In today’s America, there really is no excuse that ANY family should live in a bubble no matter your color or culture. But especially transracial adoptive parents.

I am grateful to Ms. Debra and Angela’s parents taking a seat at the table and allowing those tough questions to be asked.

Lastly, I truly appreciate Angela’s honesty, sharing her story and her vulnerability so that others can learn. By taking a seat at this table and inviting us into her journey, her space, she educated so many on the many layers of adoption. We know that not one person speaks for everyone. But Angela has been given a platform. She does her best to give all sides light and exposure. She is bringing those pieces that have been dark and hidden for so long to the surface and it feels wonderful to be seen and heard with compassion. Thank you, Angela.

 

Dear Adoption, Tell My Mom Merry Christmas

By a young adoptee’s voice…

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Dear Adoption, Tell My Mom Merry Christmas

I don’t know if my mom celebrates Christmas because I don’t know who she is. I know she exists but I don’t know where she’s at.

Christmas and my birthday are the hardest times and are the times that I think about my mom the most.

I try thinking of meeting her except it’s too hard to really know what that would be like.

I think about my mom a lot and if we like the same stuff and if we both have brown eyes.

I think it’s possible that she doesn’t think about me like I think about her except I also think that it is impossible. I guess that I don’t really know.

If I could send her a Christmas card I would put my school picture in it and a picture of my family because I would want her to…

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The Implications of Forgiveness

(Please note: the original version appears to have been lost.  The title was still here but the rest of the blog post was blank.  I’m not sure how or why it happened.  My apologies to anyone who visited this site or this blog post.)

I’ve been thinking about the word “forgiveness” and the act thereof.  We hear it, see it and feel someone’s desire to implore forgiveness over others quite frequently it seems.  Friends, family, coworkers, our church or place of worship, teachers, and the media are all filled with conversations about forgiveness.

Personally, I think some of us try to simplify the act of forgiveness.  There are so many layers of forgiveness, so many various acts and consequences.  It seems we get the whole forgiveness premise mixed-up.   It can be quite complicated.

I used to work with someone whose mother died when she was five years old.  Her name is Micah.  Micah said the one thing that bothered her over the years is how people would tell her they ‘were sorry’ after she told them her mother died when she was five.  She said she got tired of hearing it and would often avoid telling others.  Micah said she couldn’t understand why people were sorry.

It does seem strange how we can so easily tell someone that we’re sorry for something that was no fought of our own.  We say we are sorry to show or convey our compassion for someone.  For Micah, I think since she was so young when her mother died, hearing the same response repeatedly over the years probably seemed more like an automatic response rather than a sincere condolence.  For her, someone saying I am sorry was the same as someone apologizing for a wrongful act.

When Jaren was around five years old, we were having dinner at an Outback Steakhouse near Austin, Texas.  We had been traveling all day, from Dallas, and were on our way back home when we stopped there for dinner.  Towards the end of our meal, Jaren began to vomit.  Then he began to projectile vomit.  With a packed house of customers, I quickly gathered Jaren and scurried to the bathroom.  One of the staff members came in the bathroom to ask me if everything was okay.  I told her my son was sick and apologized for the disruption.  She could see that Jaren’s clothes were wet.  She showed great compassion to me and my son.  She said they would clean up our table.

Jaren was overcome with emotion.  Although I had remained calm with deep concern for my son and never scolded him, he began saying, “I’m sorry, Momma.  I’m sorry, Momma.”  He was almost in tears.  I repeatedly told him that it was not his fault.  I told him he could not help it that he was sick.

I was concerned about Jaren not having spare clothes to wear home.  A few minutes later, the staff member returns with an Outback Steakhouse T-shirt for Jaren and an Outback bag for Jaren’s wet clothes.  She apologizes to me because she says they only have a large.  I graciously thank her and Outback for their kindness.  I put the t-shirt on Jaren, which covers him completely.  Then we gingerly walk to our table looking around wearily.  I am prepared for an evil eye or a remark from someone.  I pay the check and gather our belongings.  As we walked out, trying to make as little eye contact as possible, I sense compassion from patrons.

To this day, I still wonder why Jaren felt he needed to apologize.   I think he felt compassion for the others eating and he felt bad about what happened.  At that moment, I felt like it was a pivotal moment in his childhood.  One that could have an impact on his emotional well-being.  I needed to convey to  him so that he understood that he had no control over what happened and that it was in no way his fought.

 

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In Christianity, we have several stories that are used to provide an example of forgiveness.  One parable has a traumatic story.  The other appears to be an average familial story.  Both stories involve jealousy, greed, and ego.

Let’s take a look at the Prodigal Son story.

We have one son who lavishly wastes his father’s inheritance.  When he has nothing left, he returns home.  Ashamed of himself and his actions, he asks his father if he can return to the family as a servant.  To his surprise, his father welcomes him back home, not as a servant but as his son.  He even celebrates his son’s return.  The older son is upset with his father for welcoming back his younger brother and celebrating his return.  The father explains to his older son that he will in fact inherit everything almost as if he needs to insure his older son that the return of the younger brother will not financially impact his inheritance.

In this parable, we have three parts to forgiveness.

First, we must realize that neither the father nor the older brother searched for the younger brother who left home with his inheritance.  Forgiveness is not seeking out and searching for someone so you can forgive them, especially someone who does not want nor seek someone’s forgiveness.

Second, when the younger son returns, he is not cocky or proud.  He does not shout or complain to the family that they should forget about what happened, get over it, or move on.  No, he is actually the exact opposite.  He has been humbled by his experience.  He comes home submissively.  He knows his choices have consequences.  And he has prepared himself for those consequences.

Third, we have a father willing to forgive because he sees his son’s heart has been humbled.  His father believes his son is truly sorry and has learned from his experience.  And… he is his son.  It is easy for a parent to forgive their child.  But the older brother on the other hand doesn’t really care that his younger brother is truly sorry or humbled.  His jealousy prevents him from forgiving his younger brother initially.

In the other story, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, jealousy again appears to be a factor between the brothers.  The brothers decide to take drastic matters.  First, they planned to kill Joseph.  Then, they put him in a well but had planned to rescue him later.  Then they decided to sell him.

Joseph goes from being a slave to second in command and a ruler over the land of Egypt.

Twenty some years later, Joseph’s ten older brothers come to buy food in his land.  They don’t recognize Joseph, who is now dressed as a prince and seated on a throne.  Joseph recognizes them.  However, Joseph is not ready to make amends just yet and decides to not disclose who he is to his brothers.

The story then tells us that Joseph wished to be sharp and stern with them to test them.  He wanted to see if they were still selfish and cruel.  The story unfolds much slower than the Prodigal Son story.  Joseph is not easy to forgive.  And who can blame him.  His story is much more traumatic than that of the prodigal son.    Still, Joseph has a desire to forgive his brothers.  So he continues to test them until he realizes that his brothers are truly sorry and no longer cruel and selfish.

Again, as in the Prodigal Son story, Joseph never search for his family who wronged him.  Surely he could have.  He was pretty powerful and had lots of resources.  He could have gone home and told his brothers that he forgave them without them offering an apology to him.  He could have gloated about his position and his wealth.  He could have used his power and demanded they show remorse.  Or he could have punished them.  But he didn’t.  Joseph didn’t allow what his brothers did to him make him hard, resentful, hateful and cruel.  Joseph remained humble and true to his heart and to his God.  He continued moving forward with his life.  Joseph knew his worth as a human being.  Not as a powerful ruler over Egypt but as a messenger of God.  It seemed that God was working through Joseph and had big plans for him.

Another thing to point out is that Joseph didn’t forgive his brothers at the first sight of them.  Before Joseph could forgive his brothers, he needed to be sure they were truly sorry and not the same as before.  Forgiveness did not come forth as easily for Joseph’s brothers as it did for the prodigal son.  Only after Joseph was sure his brothers were not selfish and cruel was he able to forgive them.  His brothers were sincere in their humility.  They were submissive in his presence and sincerely remorseful for their actions.

For me, when I hear Jesus speak about forgiveness, these are the elements I think about.

I believe that if someone is truly repentant of their actions that caused us harm and apologizes, then we have an obligation to forgive them.  Truly forgive.  However, if it becomes a repetitive cycle, as in abuse, that’s a very different story.  When a person is truly sorry and remorseful for their actions, they don’t retreat back to cruel or selfish acts over and over again.

On the other hand, we may or may not ever hear an apology or an admission of guilt or remorse from a person who directly or indirectly harmed us.  However, we cannot allow what happen to freeze or burden us with anger and hatred.  Whether or not we ever get an apology or are given an opportunity to forgive, we cannot allow the actions of someone else who meant us harm to keep us from our good.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)