“I believed in nurture over nature. That’s why I adopted you. But recently, your choice in music, the way you dress, the guys you’re dating- I’m starting to believe I was wrong.” At seventeen years old my white adoptive mother pretty much confessed that she thought she could nurture my black identity out of me.
In 1971, the year I was born and placed for adoption, a national study documented that 2,574 black babies were placed in white homes. Between 2017 and 2019 it is reported that more than 25% of all adoptions are transracial adoption, white families adopting kids of other races and ethnicities. What do we all have in common? As minoritized people growing up in the racially charged climate of the US, we all have to define our Black identities in a world in which we are cut off from Black culture. Being taken from your birth family and placed with another family is traumatic in every incident, add in being raised by a family of a different race, and all hell breaks loose in your identity development.
In my case, my parents also decided to move every three to five years, including a three-year stay abroad, and they sent me to predominantly white and affluent private schools! My challenge, beginning, in early adolescence, was to figure out how to move from the eight-year-old who affixed a yellow towel to her head (my flowing blonde hair) and danced around singing ABBA into my hairbrush to a fifty-something year old affirmed, self-assured woman who loves her black skin, is a member of the first and finest black sorority, and has immersed herself in Black culture.
My memoir, Adopting Privilege: Learning to Reflect, Release, and Reinvent, details the struggle and the successes of being a transracial adoptee, a birth mother, and a black female professional. It is a story of the naivete of well-intended parents and the resilience and determination of my inner black child. My story is transparent and reflective and sets the entire idea of adoption as a heartwarming ideal on its head. With twists and turns and near-celebrity appearances, it will appeal to adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, mental health providers, educators, and people who are fascinated by stories of race relations.
My journey of self-identity followed an educational path laid out by my educator parents. I began by studying myself, earning a BS in both African American studies and sociology. I became a teacher and a principal and am currently a licensed therapist.
My story looks at adoption from the perspective of being both an adoptee, a birth mother, and an adoption informed therapist. It explores my reunions with both sides of my birth families and with the child I placed for adoption as a teenager. After healing from the complex traumas of my story, I wrote Adopting Privilege as a conversation starter for anyone out there who is part of the adoption constellation.