Life as a Black Girl

The Struggles of Being a Transracial Adoptee

By: Rachel Anderson

Now don’t get me wrong, I have always known I was adopted. Take one look at my parents and then me. Either they’ve severally tanned me since birth, and changed every one of my physical traits to the opposite of theirs, or they’re not my biological parents. Yeah, I’m gonna go with the second too. “But when did you know though?”

I know it sounds dumb, but over the course of my life I have been asked this repeatedly. I was blessed to have my parents tell me I was adopted since I can remember. I got the classic, “Your birth mommy couldn’t take care of you, and mommy can’t have babies, so she gave you to us, so we could be a family.” Sweet right?

My parents got me the adoption books and everything else to help me understand that. It was 3rd grade when stuff started to fall apart. My Mom started to volunteer during the day and help out in my class at school, and it didn’t take long for the kids in my class to start asking questions.

“That isn’t your Mom, she’s white.”

“So you call her ‘Step Mom’?”

“You don’t look like her, she’s not your real mom.”

For the first time in my life I was faced with all these questions I was expected to know answers to. I was a different color than my mom, but why did that matter? I think the term “color blind” is BS. I think it’s a cop-out of the real issues going on, so white people say their color blind to make themselves look like they can’t be racist because they can’t see color and I hate it.

I do believe children are color blind. Young kids and children come into this world with no racial bias and no problems tied to any race. But, as we grow we have bad experiences, hear negative things from people we trust, have our privilege grow, and then starts the creation of those racial differences.

But see, up until the time I was 8 and in 3rd grade, I had never felt different. The color of my skin, the difference between my parents and I, hadn’t mattered before. And then suddenly I had all of these questions from my class mates I wasn’t sure I knew the exact answer to.

Now as you grow up you realize what adoption is, how it works, the differences between each case, each child, ect, ect. You learn your Aunt Sara is adopted, and your cousins Tyler and Bella are adopted too. In other words you learn that adoption is common. But as kids you didn’t know that.

Not that it’s someone’s fault, you just didn’t learn at that time in your life. The adults in your life thought to share these things with you when you were older and would understand better. That’s fine. So I’m not here to say it’s any of the kids’ faults; bombarding me with these questions I had no answer to give them. They were curious. That’s okay.It just messed me up.

All I knew was that my mom was my Mom, no matter what color she was and that my dad was my dad, despite the fact that he is the whitest man I have ever met to this day. My biological Mother had not sat with me at night, wiping my tears after a scary dream, my Mom had. My biological Father had not spent his Saturday afternoon teaching me to ride a bike, my Dad had.That, is what made my parents my parents and that’s all I knew for sure at the time. Nothing else made sense to me.But explaining that to 8 year olds, as an 8 year old myself, didn’t come out as smoothly as I’m telling you now, years later.

I hadn’t really thought about the color of my skin up until that point either. My parents had never made my brother or I ever feel different,  for being so much darker than them. To this day I still find myself not seeing the difference between us and my parents, and the difference between the pigments of our skin, my curly kinky hair and my Mother’s long light brown hair, the melanin in my skin, and the lack of melanin in hers. It was just something that was never an issue or problem. They never made jokes about us, we never talked about it, were just their kids. They were just our parents. We were just our family. Period.

While this worked for a while, I grew up with no sense of culture. Absolutely none. I knew white culture, purely because that is what’s in all the textbooks, all that’s taught in history, and all that was taught in my home. I knew about slavery, but I never felt like that was a part of me, or a part of my history as a black person. My parents had never talked about February being Black History Month, Kwanzaa, or even Nelson Mandela. I hate to say I didn’t know a thing about that man till he died, and I read up on who he was.

Like I said, I grew up in a very white world, and for a while I believed I was a part of it. I believed what whites believed, and even looked at the world the way whites do. In that world, you don’t bother learning others cultures. It’s like they don’t matter. As if they’re there, but not important. White is all you see, it’s all you look for.

But as I saw my mom sitting in the back of my class, working on papers my teacher had given to her, I looked down at my skin color, over to hers, and suddenly there it was. We were different.

I’m not saying it was wrong of my parents to never point it out even a little to us kids, because I truly believe they didn’t think about it. It was just hard because I think my parents thought they had more time to explain, to talk about the differences between us, but, as it turned out, time had run out.

I didn’t tell my parents about all of these questions for a long time. I’m the kind of person who hates asking for help, I just wanted to figure it out of my own. I don’t recommend that.It was a very hard time for me. My identity had taken a rough turn, and I wasn’t sure who I was. Was I black? What did that even mean? Was referring myself as an Oreo bad?

Now this doesn’t always happen. Some adopted kids have an open adoption so they never have to face this, others write to their birth parents and get a reply, or are even able to see their birth parents and have a sense of where they belong. It’s not always how mine was. But for most of us on the closed adopted side, this is how it is for us and coming back from it, is one of the hardest things I have ever been though in my life. Every day I go through it, and honestly the pain has never completely left.

•••

I didn’t write this to be negative, or to make adoption look like a negative thing. It’s not, it’s quite beautiful, the fact my brother and I are black and have white parents, and we live in a time where that is acceptable, because lord knows it wasn’t that long ago that transracial adoption was looked at as a sin. So, it is a beautiful thing. But I wanted to share that there are some very hard parts. Some very dark times in your life when you’re adopted.

When people see I’m adopted, it’s like they always try to convince me how lucky I am to have the parents I have. My parents are and were put up on a pedestal constantly for adopting “those poor black kids” Like they had saved us from this impossible horrible experience we would have had. I do love my Mom and Dad. As I grow, our racial differences do as well, but we make it work. We talk about race constantly, and I think it has really helped awaken my parents out of the very white world they live in.

I never look at either of them and want to call them by their first names, or feel uncomfortable calling them Mom & Dad. That’s who they are. I don’t want to have my biological father walk me down the aisle, I want my Dad to. I don’t want my biological mother to be by my side when I have a baby of my own, I want my Mom to, but that doesn’t make what I go through on a daily basis any less hard.

I live in a severely white world with very white people, with very white beliefs. As a woman, as a black person, I am constantly being gawked and marveled at or spit on and criticized when I’m just trying to be me. This used to be very hard. I wanted to be white for a very long time. I wanted long blond hair, and a tiny waist and light skin.My mom was the only one who wanted me to be myself, and she was white. I took for granted what a privilege that was, to have my adoptive white mother love me for exactly who I was, and what I looked like. But it wasn’t enough.

The boys at school and my church didn’t like me. They liked the white girls. The biggest compliment I got as a young black girl was that I was an Oreo. Y’all, my teachers called me this. And like I said, I thought it was okay because my white parents took it as a compliment, that their daughter was white on the inside, because I wasn’t “hood” and I spoke refined and my mom dressed me nice.

Whatever the reason, I grew up loving the fact that I was an Oreo. I thought it made me both white like my family, despite the fact that I just looked like a normal black girl. The boys in my class would say I was “pretty for a black girl” or that “I wasn’t too dark” and that was a good thing. Ladies, never take those as compliments. From a black or white, girl or boy.

I want all you girls to know, a Transracial adoptee or not, that you are valid. Your feelings are valid. Your opinions on the gross and destructive way the world looks at you is valid. You are totally and completely allowed to feel these things. To love yourself one day and want to rip off the shade of brown you wear the next day. To just give up and wear weave, to give the world the standard of beauty it will take as beautiful.But never forget, the world needs you.

It needs your voice, your strength. Your other black sisters need it, your future daughters will need it. I, need it. So be strong. Be brave. Be true. Be you. Be unapologetic.Love yourself. It won’t be easy. Anyone that tells you differently is lying to you but life is too short to not realize the beauty you are, the little ray of sunshine you shine in this dark world.

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Brian Anderson
1 year 10 months ago

Well written! Honest and thought provoking. Thank you!

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