Join us to talk with Angela Tucker about her new book You Should Be Grateful: Stories of Race Identity, and Transracial Adoption. Angela is a black woman adopted from foster care to white parents. She was the subject of Closure, a documentary that chronicles her search for her biological parents. Angela has consulted with NBC’s "This Is Us", supported the lead actor of Broadway musical "Jagged Little Pill", has over 15 years of experience working within adoption and foster care agencies, and has mentored over 200 adoptees, leading her to found the Adoptee Mentoring Society.
In this episode, we cover:
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Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show but I'm also the director of the nonprofit creating a family.org. Today I am looking forward to talking with Angela Tucker. She is published a new book called You should be grateful stories of race identity and transracial adoption. I'm truly looking forward to talking with her. Angela is a black woman adopted from foster care to white parents. Her book you should be grateful stories of race identity and transracial adoption, was published in April 2023. She is the subject or was the subject of closure, a documentary that chronicles her search for her biological parents. Her mission is to center adoptees is evident in her podcast, the adoptee next door, and each of the short five short films that she has produced. She was a consultant with NBCs show this is us. She supported the lead actor of Broadway musicals, Jagged Little Pill, and has over 15 years of experience working within adoption and foster care agencies, and has mentored over 200 Adopt deeds, leading her to found the adoptee mentoring society. Welcome Angela Tucker, to creating a family. Hello, thank
Unknown Speaker 1:22
you for having me.
Dawn Davenport 1:23
Let me start by saying I love the book I truly did. You did a great job of interweaving your personal story, which is interesting. I don't know that it's any more unique than others. But it's, it created a personal touch to the book and you use that as the way to wind its way through the book. And honestly, it kept me wanting to keep reading and reading and reading because I wanted to know okay, well did she meet her? How did you react and how so, it but at the same time, you also brought in the stories of many of the other adoptees that you mentored and have mentored. And some of the reoccurring themes, it was just I thoroughly enjoyed it and I truly recommend it to, to both adopted people, but also very much so to adoptive parents, as well as adoptive grandparents and older siblings and all all people who are touched by adoption I've recommended so much. I want to start by having you read your adoptee manifesto, if at the very beginning of the book
Speaker 2 2:28
and adoptee manifesto. We can love more than one set of parents relationships with our birth parents, foster parents, and our adoptive parents are not mutually exclusive. We have the right to own our original birth certificate. Curiosity about our roots is innate. We need access to our family medical history. The pre verbal memories you have with your first family or real postnatal culture shock exists. It's okay to feel a mixture of gratitude and loss. We are not alone. We have each other.
Dawn Davenport 3:06
Thank you. And I think that's a great segue into in the book you should be grateful. You talk about the concept of adoptee centrism, which is in essence part of that manifesto. What do you mean by adoptee centrism?
Speaker 2 3:23
Oftentimes, we, in the adoption world have told stories, through the perspective of adoptive parents, adoptive parents have, and have unwittingly co opted the whole narrative, oftentimes, because they have the most power and so they're speaking on behalf of perhaps their newborn, who literally does not have a voice yet. But I have found that that really continues on so when I was touring with closure, and I would say I'm an adult adoptee people would look at me kind of quizzically and be like, Oh, wait, do you mean you're an adopted child? And I'm like, I'm an adult. And I'm still adopted. So I was recognizing how hard it is for people to think about adoption, not in terms of a newborn baby, or a kid. But through the perspective of just adoptees as we grow. And so a lot of my book is looking at scenarios that many folks have thought about before, but just haven't thought about strictly from the perspective of the adoptee.
Dawn Davenport 4:35
And, obviously, given the title of the book, you should be grateful. Why is the spoken or unspoken, you should be grateful, so hard on adoptive people.
Speaker 2 4:47
It really creates this conundrum when people you know, infer that we should just be grateful for this life that we have been given through adoption. It kind of silence As adoptees who may want to talk about their biological family, in a way that might just be curiosity, like wondering, I wonder what life would have been like if I wasn't adopted that kind of thing. When we have that pressure to just be grateful we are stunted around those thoughts. And I think it's really important for adoptees to be able to explore those wonderings. And then in the book, I call it the ghost kingdom. But it's hard to do if we're continually made to believe that our life is better after having been adopted. And my belief being adopted creates a different life, not necessarily a better life.
Dawn Davenport 5:42
Yeah, and you should be grateful, also denies the reality which you get to and the adoptee manifesto, that you can feel many conflicting feelings. Exactly that it's yes, you could be. And you talk about this in the book where it's very common to say, you could be very thankful for your parents, grateful for your parents, even, you can feel all of that at the same time. Wish that you weren't adopted.
Speaker 2 6:10
Exactly. I say that often. When people look at me sideways, I can say, I really love my adoptive parents, I love all the people that being adopted has brought into my life. And I wish I wasn't adopted,
Dawn Davenport 6:22
right? And that we humans are amazingly capable of holding conflicting emotions. That's almost the essence of being human. It really is. Yeah. 100%. And, and it's really clear in the book, your parents are great. They are just I just loved. When your mom wrote a letter to your birth mom, it was so beautiful, and how she was able to support you in this search, and we're gonna we'll talk about search later. But in no way is this a bashing? of adoption, even? It's, but it is accepting the reality that it's founded in loss and that how could you as a human being not feel that loss? And how wrong of us to deny you that feeling.
Speaker 2 7:05
And then when I'm working with mentees who are 1214 16 and they have just been told your birth mom loved you so much. She placed you for adoption or just been told kind of a glossy, non full truth that these mentees are they feel deep inside like something is wrong, what happened in order for me to have to be adopted, and they're not not being provided those details. So therefore, it really just creates more confusion. There is a way to tell all of us our story in ways that actually don't create more harm. It just helps us make sense of our story. And that's what I'm loving helping individuals do I love helping adoptive parents figure out the ways to tell their child their full story. When adoptees grow up kind of thinking that their adoptive parents don't love their birth parents or they're ashamed of what their birth parents have done or that kind of inference. many adoptees believe that that must be true about themselves too. And I think that's really harmful.
Dawn Davenport 8:13
And I think it could definitely be true that adoptive parents, particularly if there was some real negative things in the story, I do have highly conflicted feelings. But I also think that sometimes adoptive parents and I am an adoptive parent. So I have had the privilege of having been centered for a long time. But I think sometimes parents don't want to share the hard parts of the story. Because they love this child and they think it will cause pain, or they may know it will cause pain. So what would you say to parents who are if not withholding, shall we say candy coating the story out of fear that somehow it will damage their child's sense of self esteem and the wonder and preciousness of this child? Oh,
Speaker 2 9:00
my goodness. I mean, it's just inevitable that every adoption is going to have tricky parts about it.
Dawn Davenport 9:07
Sure. You know, it's true in the sense that inherent in the nature of adoption, nobody is adopted, when everything is great. You know, that the families are truly functioning and everything is going hunky dory. Those children are not placed for adoption. So all adoptive stories have have a hard part. But how are parents to navigate that?
Speaker 2 9:26
Yeah, I mean, part of it, I think as parents becoming more closely familiar with whatever the issue was that caused the child to be adopted. So for example, if a biological parent is incarcerated, that sometimes adoptive parents recoil from talking about what the crime was, or even where the birth parent is living in jail, and I just it really saddens me because there are so many people incarcerated in our cars. Tree and many of them have children that they love. So by painting a picture that their crime is somehow interlaced with their love or non love of the child that's really confusing, and will think for all of us in America create a negative understanding of humanity, you know, people can create confusion, chaos in their lives, love their children, and perhaps a child needs to be adapted to a different, more stable place. But please let us still know the full truth, they aren't just a criminal, for example.
Dawn Davenport 10:36
They're also someone who loves soccer, and loved jazz and had a wicked sense of humor, you know, all of those are equally a part of who that person was. And we don't want our kids to only internalize, you know, one of the things that I'd like to see if you agree with us, we tell adoptive parents is that all of the adoptee story that you know, needs to be shared with them. Now, you can start by sharing the creating the foundation, and the structure that you're going to continue as the child ages to add more age appropriate details as you go. But by the time they're 12, or 13, they should have that information. Absolutely. And really younger, because you don't want to hit them with all the heavy stuff at 13. They got enough going on at 13. Exactly,
Speaker 2 11:29
yes, I love that. I absolutely agree. I often say you shouldn't have to retract any details. So everything you say needs to be the truth. And you can add on to the truth as the child becomes older and more able to handle it. But there's never a point where you should have to take something away. Something as simple as your birth mother loved you so much she placed for adoption. Like, if you don't know that, if you've never met birth mother, if you've never heard her say that, then that is actually not true. And you'll need to retract it later. So instead saying what, you know, birth parent reached out to the agency, the agency contacted us and, you know, whatever the truth is so nothing where you're gonna have to say, Oh, actually, this is not how it went. That will create a lot of trust issues with our adoptive parents, and we definitely don't want that. Sure. And,
Dawn Davenport 12:27
and you may know part of her story, without knowing the love part, because you've never met her, you may know that she was very poor, you may know that she was raising three other children as a single mom, you there may be things that you know, or she may have been struggling with substance abuse disorder, there may be things that you know, that you can share. That might explain, but you don't know if you don't know the whole thing, which is why open adoptions are so helpful.
Speaker 2 12:51
Yeah, I mean, the supportive aspect, as well, that I talk a lot about is that adoptees need to know each other. And this is one way to help minimize the the fear and the scariness of our stories, when we can meet other adoptees who also are waiting through different stories, all of our stories differ. But that, to me, I have seen how profound those relationships are in helping us to have a really confident sense of self identity belonging. You know, we're not the only ones in the room who have an adoption story that starts with loss, but we can be surrounded by others. It's really helpful.
Dawn Davenport 13:34
I can't think of anything more powerful to be able to give to your child. So you alluded to this earlier in the book, you talk about the ghost kingdom that adoptees create around their birth family talk some about that the ghost kingdom,
Speaker 2 13:48
the ghost Kingdom is this concept by Betty Jean liftin created it but I love talking about it because it gives adoptees permission to wander to wonder about what life would have been like if they were adopted by a different family or stayed with their birth parents to wonder who their birth parents might be for myself. I thought maybe Halle Berry is my birth mom. Maybe Magic Johnson is my birth dad because he's a basketball player. I'm a basketball player. He has a huge smile. I have a huge smile. You know, that was a ghost kingdom. My parents knew Magic Johnson is not your birth dad. Halle Berry is not your birth mom. You know, they didn't know who my birth parents are. But they knew that wasn't true. And so they could say, like, No, I don't think that's your birth dad. But I could see why you would think that. Look at the similarities you have. I think in the ghost kingdom, what we're really doing is searching for our identity and for ourselves. So by having someone really kind of honored that question. It helps us to not feel so alone that it wasn't a threatening thing for my parents when I wondered aloud about who my birth parents could be. For non adopted people, I think it's really similar to the ways they might just wonder, you know, what would life have been like if I had gone to this college instead of that one? Or if I had married this ex boyfriend instead of this guy like, that is common. There's nothing wrong with doing that. We all do it in some respects. And that's the same thing for adoptees.
Dawn Davenport 15:27
How could you not wonder, you know, it's a part of your life? I suppose some people wouldn't. I mean, there are different temperaments and people are just don't have that in them, but I certainly do. So I would certainly feel that way. If there's an I don't know how to pronounce this high res. Oh, the dedication of the book and then you also talk about it. I liked the term and I'm sure I mispronounced it, how do you pronounce it and then explain what it is.
Speaker 2 15:52
I learned how to pronounce this when I was reading my audiobook. I did not know either. This is a Welsh word. It is pronounced hideous. And today, okay. had to had to look it up and listen on Google.
Dawn Davenport 16:06
Google Translate. Yeah, exactly. I've done that.
Speaker 2 16:10
But it is such a beautiful word. And there isn't a direct English translation. But it is defined as a deep yearning for a home that never was. How beautiful is that?
Dawn Davenport 16:24
Yeah. That is beautiful. You know, and that's it's interesting, because it applies in some ways to adoptees, obviously. But it makes me think of for adoptive parents, I could see a scenario where not every adoptive parents situation is different, just as every adoptee has a different story. But many of them, this adoption, wasn't their plan A. So I would think adoptive parents might feel that I think
Speaker 2 16:52
a lot of people might feel this here as and I would love for people to not have guilt around that feeling. You know, just like holding the both and it is okay to yearn for a life that isn't the reality. It is okay to do that. For birth parents, of course, they might yearn to have been able to raise their child
Dawn Davenport 17:18
birth parents to gridpoint. Yes, absolutely. So I do
Speaker 2 17:21
think it is a bit of a universal but I wanted to dedicate my book specifically to adoptees who have found that because that is just my, my focus. And just like the adoptee manifesto, essentially making statements that sometimes are obvious, but if not said and stated, it can go unrecognized. And that release and relief that I see adoptees have, when given permission to wonder about their early days, or to wonder about what life would have been like or to be honest, and yearn for living in their birth country or like that, when they have the permission to do that. It really looks like so much weight comes off the shoulders,
Dawn Davenport 18:09
yeah, takes the negative power. And it just is treated as something that's just simply normal. And it's
Speaker 2 18:14
not always negative. It's not always negative. But I think the general ethos is, it is truly that we don't want to hurt our adoptive parents. And the fear that we will do that by wandering is really palpable. This is where I talk about split loyalty in my book, but the sense that we really don't want to hurt them. And so a lot of adoptees, and older adoptees who say, you know, I've never been curious about my birth family, I've never wanted to search. And then the week after their adoptive parents pass away, they say, hmm, I'm kind of curious about my birth parents, maybe I'll search that, to me is proof of this concept of just really wanting our adoptive parents to know that we love them. We're thankful for what they've done perhaps. And to do that means we're kind of stifling a desire.
Dawn Davenport 19:09
Sure. You know, another universal you talk about in the book is The having to deal with the reality that in this is not always the case, then people adoption is Plan A, but for many adoptees that they weren't the plan a they were Plan B because this wasn't their parents first plan. How to adopt these internalize that.
Speaker 2 19:32
So tough, you know, I'm grateful that really wasn't my case. So in the parts where I'm speaking about my story, it's not a piece but for others mentees. They do talk about feeling like they were second choice and how that leads many of them to be kind of people pleasers, wanting to live up to these even unspoken expectations that their adoptive parents might have never communicated, but they feel you know, and so that people pleasing behavior sometimes goes right on through adulthood. And I have one adoptee in the book. Her name is Nancy, who is an adult and she is top of her business. She works really hard in the tech world and is doing a great job. But she realized that a lot of her perfectionism stemmed from just not wanting to let anyone down, which came from her adoption.
Dawn Davenport 20:30
Colin kapernick says, since the day I was born, I've never been anyone's first choice. And that's, I mean, just think about that for just a moment to our audience, to never have been anyone's first choice. That is his reality. And it doesn't mean his parents didn't love him at all. In fact, it's not about them at all. It's about him. So yeah. Another interesting kind of universal thing, that adoptees feel I want you to read on page 19. You talk about it Well, in there, the page 19 The first paragraph after the indent?
Speaker 2 21:11
Yeah, the prevailing idea of adoption is tidy and meet. It's a simple recipe. A family with extra love and resources meets a child in need of both. What's not to love about this. Ostensibly, this greater opportunity is a good thing for adoptees, but being the adoptee at the center of the adoption can be tricky and may come with a hard truth that is sometimes hidden and silently acknowledged. Some adoptions are subconsciously measured by what the adoptee has the potential to do with the resources the adoptive parents give, essentially, will they turn out well? What do I owe my parents? How do I show them my gratitude through success through obedience?
Dawn Davenport 21:58
Yeah. And the other thing is that we often will say, look at how well that child has done or that now adult is done. But for having been adopted, this would never have happened. And so they sadly, they made the best of, you know, the opportunities that they had. I would think that we put a lot of pressure, but I may ask you, oh,
Speaker 2 22:21
my goodness, in one story, an adoptee comes to me. And the first thing they say is, don't worry, I'm not one of those messed up adoptees, I'm a really well adjusted adoptee. And I asked her, What did you have to adjust to? Because she was saying, you know, I don't think about my adoption much. It's not a real big part of my story. I just am well adjusted. And when I asked her what she had to adjust to, it was the first time she had thought about the adoption and what it may have done in her brain and realized that in order to be well adjusted, she had to have had some conflict. And that was really startling for her to realize and so that she had really been playing up this role of showing everybody around her. I'm good. Nothing to see. Here I am,
Dawn Davenport 23:13
I'm the well adjusted adoptee. Yeah, exactly. But isn't that implicit that if somebody does question, or if somebody is angry, are whatever, that they're the non well adjusted adoptee.
Speaker 2 23:25
Exactly. The angry adoptee is when they're often referred to as or the term resilient, I hear a lot about, especially adoptees through foster care. And that word as well can put some pressure on adoptees to consistently be really good to never mess up. And that's really especially tough for adolescents. Because in adolescent development, that's the whole key of that time period is to try to fail to try something else to try on a different, you know, blue mascara I remember was my thing when I was a teenager was wanted to rebel a little bit, but you know, large and small examples of that, but that's the predominant work of a teenager is to try out new things. And when adoptees are kind of subconsciously just through societal messaging told to be grateful. There isn't a lot of space for that. So what I see is a lot of adult adoptees going through those stages after they're out of their parents home, and then they are trying on new things. And I find that to be really sad that it's really delayed in that sense.
Dawn Davenport 24:41
When it's delayed. It's a little more dangerous because you have more to lose when you screw up.
Speaker 2 24:45
Yeah, you're not in that protective place of your your parents home. And again, I'm reading all of this with the caveat that adoptive parents are not doing this willingly. That's part of the whole purpose of the book is to invite often some adoptive parents who may say things like, you know, if my kid isn't bringing this up, like, for example, an idea of people pleasing, then they probably don't struggle with it. And it's nothing to talk about when in reality, they likely don't have the language to describe that that's what's happening,
Dawn Davenport 25:18
probably yet very much so or don't feel safe in talking about the negatives with their parents, because as you said earlier, they don't want to hurt their parents feelings.
Speaker 2 25:28
Exactly. How do we say something like, I wish my birth mother could have kept me when our birth parents may be unsafe people, the response is really quickly going to be like, oh, gosh, you wouldn't want that. Look at what you have here. Instead, what we're trying to say is not literally, I want to be in an unsafe place. But it's I want to know that this person who gave birth to me, cares about me loves me, do they
Dawn Davenport 25:56
thinks about me? I want them to have been the safe place? In essence, yes,
Speaker 2 26:00
yes. And I think a lot of my book, when I'm going back into the history of adoption, industry and practices, I'm trying to talk about how much of our history has to do with why adoption has to happen. So it's not that my birth mother was poor in a vacuum. But there were a lot of things that led to her reality. And those things are also responsible for me not being able to stay with her.
Dawn Davenport 26:30
Exactly. Most people find out about podcasts, to their friends and their family. That is exactly what happens to me. That happened to me this past weekend when somebody said, I love podcasts. And both of us almost said at the same time. Oh, tell me what you're listening to. Please do us a favor and tell people what you're listening to tell them that you are listening to the creating a family podcast that helps us and it helps our mission. Thank you. Okay, now I want to shift to talking about race because part of this book is that you are a transracial adoptees of black transsexual adoptee, and part of this book is talking about race identity and transracial adoption. Can you read from the very bottom of page 69 over the carryover paragraph to page 70.
Speaker 2 27:24
Since the founding of this nation, being black in America has been a complex mix. I began as the boys listened intently, a mixture of embracing one's culture and heritage while simultaneously employing code switching, acting white, letting microaggressions roll off us and many other survival techniques, looked at from this angle, perhaps being a transracial. Black adoptee is the quintessential black experience in the United States. I should
Dawn Davenport 27:55
have added that you were talking to a group of young teen black translationally adopted boys. Can you talk more about that, that the experience of being a black adoptee and what it requires of teens and adults.
Speaker 2 28:12
First off talking specifically about black boys who are raised by white parents, there is a different level of need for keeping them safe in our country. And in the book, I talk a lot about how for many of us black folks, we need other black individuals to speak to us about some of those realities. And then the sense I'm saying that for white parents, some of that parenting duties have to be outsourced, that can feel really uncomfortable. But there are certain aspects of racism that white parents simply cannot imbue cannot fully understand and therefore won't be able to have the same impact around that safety that a black person could for another black adoptee. So I talked about that quite a bit in the book, as well as just understanding in this section I was I was speaking with teenage black boys and helping them understand why they felt the need to code switch or, quote, act white, or manage different microaggressions that might be hurled their way, instead of just them thinking that they are always trying to figure out how to fit in. Instead, it's it's a survival technique. And WEB DuBois talks about this aspect of double consciousness, which is essentially what I was getting to the understanding that you have to be aware of all the realities around you as a black person in America.
Dawn Davenport 29:45
In your story, and I want to get to specifically how being translationally adopted impacts what you just said. And in your personal story of search, one of the things you said in the book that I thought was so powerful that you feared before you met your birth mom, you feared that she would view you as a racial fraud. That was so powerful. Can you talk to us a little about that there are
Speaker 2 30:12
aspects of myself that are unique. One of those being how comfortable I am in white spaces with white people, I married a white guy. And I knew that my birth mother growing up in the Deep South, had not had much experience with whiteness with white people. And being black and having many generations live in the south, I also knew that what she may project on to my family, could be what she has witnessed in the past or felt from the past from white folks who may not have treated her well, that instead of being able to see my parents for who they are my husband, it would be a projection that's only natural. So I feared that by being raised in the Pacific Northwest, this kind of negated my ability to be one with her to be part of my southern black roots. That didn't end up really feeling to be the case. Because my birth mother really is understanding of the context in which I grew up and how that differs from her context, which I'm so grateful for.
Dawn Davenport 31:26
And do you think that if you have felt similar, if your birth mom was from the Pacific Northwest, where you were raised are, but also very imbued with the fact that she was raised in the south,
Speaker 2 31:39
raised in the south and what all that history has done, and that for many black people in the northwest, we are transplants. And that is not something that my birth mother was familiar with, she'd never gone outside of the South. So it was very unique for her to meet me and my whole family.
Dawn Davenport 32:02
But your birth father, did you? I don't think he had similar fears, because we will talk about this, but your focus was far more on your birth mom. But did you find that him and his extended family also were more comfortable than you thought they would be?
Speaker 2 32:17
They were very accepting. But there were moments that were pretty funny. Like I had brought over a cheesecake, for example, to one of the family reunion parties. And I did not know how that was like a white person thing in their mind. And they were looking at this cheesecake like, what is this?
Dawn Davenport 32:34
You're talking cheese, you put sugar and cheese, come on. Now. What?
Speaker 2 32:39
So there were moments like that, that were actually endearing. And for my birth, Father side of the family, they really took to just get to know me more when those things happen, which is really lovely. It's a different experience, given that my birth father did not even know I was alive, didn't know he had a daughter. So me just showing up one day, it was perhaps a bit easier where my birth mother and then by nature, her extended family, there was a lot of shame built up 25 years of shame and secrecy around this. And so that, of course, might lead to a bit of a more difficult time breaking down some of the barriers.
Dawn Davenport 33:21
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. You talk in the book about the term color evasiveness. I like that term, what do you mean by it?
Speaker 2 33:31
Color blindness is the the term that many of us have heard for years and years, this idea that you don't see color that everybody is the same, I want to love my child, regardless of what color they are. And sabini is a professor who has upgraded that term to color evasiveness meeting, if you can say, I don't see color, that you are actually having a willful part in choosing not to see color. It's not just happenstance. And so that active role I love talking about as well because it no longer lets people off the hook. It's saying, Oh, you're actually making a conscious choice to uphold the status quo of whiteness, instead of just saying, I don't see the difference.
Dawn Davenport 34:22
So the prevailing thing is that there's an act of colorblindness tends to be just I just don't see it don't know what's you know, my work, but I just don't see color. The other one being or I'm being facetious that I don't see color because all people are the same, I think is what that is supposed to mean. But color evasiveness has an active component to it.
Speaker 2 34:42
Yes, I love that. It is saying you are participating in the erasure of your child's history and their culture. You aren't just ignoring and trying to say you know, ignorance is bliss, and we're all a Happy melting pot like you're at actually participating in the harm by choosing to not see the fullness of who they are. Hmm,
Dawn Davenport 35:07
yeah, that makes perfect sense. Let me pause here for a moment to tell you about the jockey being Family Foundation and their support that allows us to bring you 12 free online courses. These courses are just terrific. They're interviews with experts on topics that are directly relevant to adoptive Foster and kinship parenting. So check it out at Bitly slash JBf support that's bi T dot L Y, slash j, b f support. Okay, now I want to talk about the five dimensions of racial identity identified by Susan Harris O'Connor. She's a biracial person adopted by white parents. And she's specifically talking about transracial adoptees. So this is the five dimensions of racial identity for transracial adoptees. They are genetic identity imposed identity, cognitive identity, visual identity and feeling identity. So let's start with genetic identity. And what I'd like to do is not necessarily contrast, but try to build the dimensions of what a transracial adoptee has to do in order to create their racial identity. So let's start with genetic.
Speaker 2 36:28
Well, and to back up a little bit, I just love how Susan Harris O'Connor broke up their identities. I did, too. You hear transracial adoptees fumble through words saying like, I don't act black enough, or I don't feel black. And oftentimes that can lead to people questioning their reality like wait, do you not think you're a black person? Or? And absolutely,
Dawn Davenport 36:57
they do? Have you not looked in a mirror? Right?
Speaker 2 37:01
No. So this breaks it up saying transracial adoptees have a multitude of identities.
Dawn Davenport 37:07
It for a parent standpoint, what I liked about it, and I promised we are going to get back to your ex explaining what they are. But what I liked about it is it it was very graphic explanation of the multiple levels of identity that our kids are naturally having to grow up with and deal with, oftentimes, silently and on their own, and a time when they're teens, because that's when it often begins. And it just gave me such a deep understanding of the complexity. And it's a lot of work to put this all together,
Speaker 2 37:40
especially when you don't know you're doing it. But yeah, the genetic identity is, is basic, just the genetics of you know, from my biological parents, I you know, I'm black, for Susan Harris. So Connor, black, Native American, and wait, this is no different than the imposed racial identity, which is what others say, and impose upon you. So for this, this is where a lot of the microaggressions come in. For me, people would say, you know, you act white, you talk while we talk, wait, right? The cognitive racial identity is what we think or know ourselves to be. So, you know, ideally, your genetic identity and your cognitive identity would be the same. But for some adoptees, they don't know, their genetic identity. They don't know the facts of their birth parents. And so they have to maybe, guess, and then there's the feeling racial identity, which I really work on a lot with teens in groups that I run and at adoption camps, but this is what they feel themselves to be. So this could be you know, that you feel white as a result of your socialization. I would say this for myself that I being very comfortable being in white spaces. Know that that is a distinctly different aspects of my identity than what my cognitive identity is or what my genetic sense is.
Dawn Davenport 39:19
Do you view that as a benefit or as a hindrance, that feeling comfortable in white spaces?
Speaker 2 39:26
Currently, it is it is very beneficial. I'm really grateful that I'm able to not just code switch but have an impact and kind of be a bridge builder in many senses. I wouldn't be thankful for it if I didn't know it was happening. So I'm thankful to be able to articulate that this is the reality this is why it is the reality versus just feeling safer in those spaces and not articulating the why. Which is why I'm really grateful for like a breakdown Unlike this Yeah,
Dawn Davenport 40:00
I think the breakdown is immensely helpful. And I wanted to give an example of the visual because I think we think in terms of what do you mean the visual, you just look in a mirror. And you see, I just recently was listening to a podcast with Malcolm Gladwell, his Revisionist History podcast. And he is biracial. And he talks about that visually, unless you know what you're looking for, he would not look like he has a black mom, and a white dad, he looks more white. When listening to him speak, I was thinking in terms of these five dimensions, and I won't speak for him. But I think he, he has his own unique way of having identified and these five dimensions. It's fascinating. And so I was very appreciative that you brought it to my attention of Susan Harris O'Connor's? Yeah, because it makes you look at identity racial identity quite differently. And deeper and a more deeper level, I suppose to be that way to say it.
Speaker 2 40:57
So great. So wonderful. I think there's folks who kind of misunderstand some of my work, you know, saying that I might be anti adoption or anti transracial adoption? And I'm certainly not, although I wish that we could do more work on the root causes to make adoption less necessary. But I do think that it at this point, we do need other folks to step in and raise kids at many different times. The thing that I'm asking for is for adoptees to have the space the correct people in their lives, so that they can make sense of their story. And one way is through the realization, the truth that we do have a multitude of identities and that we can look at it in these different ways.
Dawn Davenport 41:52
Another theme, that I think many transracial adoptees have to deal with, is something you call white privilege by osmosis or I think one of the adoptees, actually a very, very wise teenage adoptee said I'd like that term, we often speak of it as an umbrella, that children who are under the umbrella of your white privilege up to a certain age. And then when they're not seeing with you, they don't have that privilege. And that's the same with so talk some about white privilege by osmosis and how that is tricky for transracial adoptees.
Speaker 2 42:27
Yeah, that's exactly right. So I think when transracial adoptees are in the presence of their white parents, that society makes some connections. They're like, Oh, this is who they are. They are in this city, for example, that might be predominantly white, because look at who's with them, those white parents, all right now I can make sense of them. But for many adoptees, when they go off to college is the first time they're outside of their parents purview. And that privilege of people just being able to make sense of why you're here goes away. And all of a sudden, like for me, I was just a black woman in this predominantly white college institution. And people were asking, like, how did Why are you at this school? How did you land here? And for me, it made complete sense. The school looked a lot like the people I'd grown up with, it was wonderful. And then I realized, like, oh, without the context of my white parents, I now need to help others make sense of who I am and why I'm here. That safety kind of dissipated.
Dawn Davenport 43:33
Hmm, yeah, that makes perfectly good sense. And I think you're right, it's when they first start individuating separating from us, and they're in the world on their own. I have a question. Did you receive much or have you received much flak for marrying a white man? You talk about Brian. He is such a powerful character in your book. He sounds wonderful. But he is a white man. And so you as a black woman? Have you received flak?
Speaker 2 44:03
I certainly wouldn't say I received flak, but I think people have questioned you know, if I am so outspoken about racism, and the need for belonging that it would be confusing Why would choose to marry white guy and it's really truly the environment. I grew up in Lent way for me to have a lot of access to white folks. I did not have a big black community in my early 20s. I had to build that and develop it. So I think now there are folks who are seeing my body of work and curious about that, but I wouldn't say I've received flak and in fact, it's been more kind of beautiful to gain other kind of marital interracial marriages from people who love like the loving generation or the that yeah, So they'll talk about that quite a bit. So I certainly didn't receive any sort of flak. I think with my birth families there was, they would make fun of him. A lot.
Dawn Davenport 45:11
He handled it beautifully.
Speaker 2 45:12
Yeah, yeah. It's all in good fun. Yeah.
Dawn Davenport 45:15
That's how families do is tease each other. So in a way was when they were teasing him, I thought, Okay, now you're becoming a part of the family because of family with a lot of respect. Well, at least in my family, that's not how we treat each other. You know, you're going to have to hold your own and except a lot of teasing and everything else. That Do you think it is common for transracial adoptees to marry? Assuming they were raised by white parents. And we should stop and point out that transracial adoption can also be brown parents adopting white children. In this case, we are talking more about why because that happens more often. So is that a common thing for transracial adoptees of color?
Speaker 2 45:58
I see it a lot marrying folks who fit the culture that they were predominantly around, I really do see that. And then I see after the marriage happens, a lot of transracial adoptees wrestling with their identities in that decision, that somehow
Dawn Davenport 46:15
they're going back to the racial fraud idea that, that by choosing someone outside of their race, maybe they really aren't a real Hispanic or Latinx. Maybe they aren't really fully true. Air quotes around the word true black person or whatever.
Speaker 2 46:31
Yeah. Which is absolutely not true. And it's helpful to then realize so many folks who have no connection to adoption, you don't marry internationally, of course, exactly takes time to get to that space and to feel comfortable with ourselves, our decisions,
Dawn Davenport 46:49
right? And own who you are all five elements, all five dimensions of your racial identity. Exactly. Yes, yeah. Creating a family has an interactive training support curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families. It's designed for both support groups, as well as skill building type of trainings for these families. We have a library of think we currently have 24, we will soon have 25 separate curriculum on topics that are directly relevant to help you either run a high quality support group with almost no training because it is a turnkey resource. Or you could do the same with any type of training that you are conducting. So please check it out at our website, creating a family.org, hover over the word training and click on Support Group curriculum. Okay, so for the last section of this interview, I want to talk about search. That was the intertwining theme that you use in the book to introduce a lot of different concepts. And it's also, if you haven't watched the documentary closure, I strongly encourage you to do it. Just Google it, it's available. And that was the focus of that documentary. So I want to spend some time talking about it. I think there's almost a maybe I should ask, is there almost a universal fear of searching or even talking about birth families, from adoptees because they don't want to hurt their adoptive parents. And conversely, the fear of some adoptive parents that they will someday be replaced, once their child finds their first families, because I think those are two sides of the same coin.
Speaker 2 48:31
I see it dissipating. Good. It's happening less. And I can see this when I am mentoring different age groups. So it's funny because I will mentor an adult, maybe 20 or older, who will talk like that, who will say like, I'm afraid to search, I don't want to tell my parents, I'm curious. And then I'll mentor a 12 year old who will say like my birth Mom's coming over today. I'm tired of seeing her like I just saw her a couple days ago. And they're just
Dawn Davenport 49:00
I'd rather go play basketball. And you know, now I'm stuck having to talk to her.
Speaker 2 49:04
They're so comfortable with their birth parents being part of the family because there has been such a shift in adoption education, thank goodness. But even with that, there still can be a sense of wanting to make sure our adoptive parents know that you're not going to be replaced. And that can be done in so many different subliminal ways. But I definitely see that winning. It's not the same. It's actually good
Dawn Davenport 49:33
to get it used to be it makes me feel like our educational efforts. And as an educational nonprofit, we certainly are glad to hear that. Maybe some not that we are alone are doing it but all of us are making a difference. And you know, I do think that adoptive parents, we can intellectualize all we want and we know that we can love more than one person. And we know that our children can love both sets of grandparents. Yeah, we know all This on the intellectual side of things. And when we take it to that level, the emotional aspect, yeah, you you love these children and you. There's one adoptive mom said, but whose table are they going to sit at at Thanksgiving, that's all I want to know. And it broke my heart and I get it. It's like, I want to still have that place. And even if I'm willing to share it, but that still, it's hard.
Speaker 2 50:25
It is so heartbreaking. One of the most healing things for me has been the way my mom and my birth mom love each other and have this relationship and want to be together. So the idea of you know, whose Thanksgiving dinner table will they be at? For me, it's like, I love knowing my mom and birth mom would like to be at the same Thanksgiving dinner table with me. You know, and that's part of the idea of the Sanders fear. This kind of made up word that I talked about in my book that is, in my opinion, it's the next step from openness and adoption. It's actually now talking about developing this deep, true relationship with many people in our lives, including our birth parents that embraces the ebbs and flows that naturally come with relationships, it doesn't cut people out, when things get too chaotic. It keeps people all at the table together. And I think another aspect of progress that has been made that has helped decrease that sense for adoptive parents of fearing that they'd be replaced, is that I do know a lot of adoption agencies working really hard to help adopters understand that they might need to grieve a child they couldn't have before adopting a child, really making it super clear that if infertility was part of their journey to choose adoption, that we need to talk through that before you adopt otherwise, you may unwittingly put a lot of the expectations that you have on the biological child that you wish you could have on this adoptee. In reality, they're completely different people need different experiences from you, I think that has really helped parents understand their role.
Dawn Davenport 52:16
I totally agree with you. It also puts the responsibility on the parents to do some work, before the adoption on themselves to get ready. You had a very strong desire to meet your birth mom, but not a particularly strong desire to meet your birth father. And I think that's fairly common. Why do you think that is, I attribute
Speaker 2 52:35
it to the primal wound to being in utero, of this person of smelling them of that first separation. There's those aspects. And I also think the value that we put on mothering and motherhood is really strong. We don't hear that same narrative with fathers, we often hear about fathers who aren't present and then different ways in the media, we see that more often than we see mother abandonment. And so I think all of those things played into it, as well as I didn't have any details about my birth dad. So I didn't have any really place to wander. But my focus really was on my birth mother, throughout my entire life. I loved meeting my birth dad and his side of the family. But there was certainly a poll. And I tried to counter this with one of my recent documentary films where I interviewed this 85 year old man who had been searching for his 55 year old daughter for 54 years. And it is a beautiful story. And it was a story I felt like I needed to tell because it's not common that I hear about birth dads who are doing this, but that really took my breath away talking to this man and learning he would say things like, you know, if I had the opportunity to raise my daughter, who he desperately wished he could have, she would have gone to this school, I already found this teacher she would have had she would have gotten in this sports team like he had, that all of these aspects through. For me, it was a newer experience to hear a biological father speaking in that way. Unfortunately,
Dawn Davenport 54:29
they're more the invisible and silent and that says something. I think, certainly it says something about perhaps birth fathers, but I think it says as much about the adoption industry and professionals and in groups like ours that need to continue to talk about birth fathers and bring them out of the shadows. So I think it's it's one and you could would they be able to see your documentaries on your website? Angela tucker.com.
Speaker 2 54:54
Yeah, exactly. I worked really hard to create all of my films to be open source So you don't need to pay to view it so that agencies individuals can use them as talking points as trainings. So yes, on my website, they can find all five of those short documentaries.
Dawn Davenport 55:16
Yeah. Angela tucker.com. The last question I want to ask and feel free if you don't want to talk about this, but several years ago, you appeared on red table talk at Facebook watch show with Jada Pinkett Smith and her mom and her daughter. And it was an interesting interview at the time. And I wondered how you felt about it afterwards, I watched it not real time. But right after it came out. And reblogged on it, but didn't go into a lot of detail. Are you comfortable talking about how, how, especially how you feel about it now and how you felt about it at the time?
Speaker 2 55:53
Yeah, I mean, it's it's tough. I signed an NDA. So you can't, you're not allowed to talk about a lot of things, which also was part of an experience that I didn't realize. And that really shook me because all of my work is about transparency, vulnerability, honesty. And so being in this Hollywood reality show, really, it was tricky. But essentially, you know, as I was on set and had a three hour conversation with all of them, that was really deep and actually really meaningful. It was surprising to me when the episode was 20 minutes long, and it was heavily edited and cut up in different ways to make things look different than it was in reality, which very frustrating. But you know, there were some truths that came out. And I thought it was interesting, recognizing the difference in generational beliefs about transracial adoption that came through when you heard gammy, who is Jada Pinkett Smith's mom, and then Jada. And then the daughter, their outlooks on transracial adoption really gave us a glimpse into the different eras of this work, you know, gammie being very opposed to transracial adoption, thinking it should never happen, Jada saying things like love is love a little bit of the colorblindness theory. And then Willow was alluding to, for her how hard it was for her to be in a very wealthy, predominantly white place outside of LA, I thought that was kind of like, very true to the experience that we're all grappling with. So that was really interesting to me.
Dawn Davenport 57:34
That part of it, I thought, as well. And I was struck by the same thing about just the but I thought it was helpful to see the different views of transracial adoption within the black community. Yeah. And of course, they're not a monolith either, you know, as a community, and so they have absolutely not strong. Yeah, that's what
Speaker 2 57:53
it is a great example of the You should be grateful narrative when gammy said to me, something to the tone of like, why don't you just have a greater black community? Why are interested embedded more? It's like, that is fascinating, because growing up in a predominantly white space, which didn't leave me an opportunity to do that. I wondered for gammy how I or other transracial adoptees would be expected to really get rooted in our own community if we are being raised so far from it, you know, it can't just happen. But her expectation, and I think many people's expectations of transracial adoptees, this is specifically the white privilege by osmosis thing like after they leave the home is that we are just somehow automatically fully embraced and embedded in our own culture. How would we possibly do that? In an instant after growing up the way we have?
Dawn Davenport 58:57
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It was an interesting interview. I did not realize it was three hours and cut down to what about 20 minutes? Yeah. So what people can't see is there was a faceplant on the hand on Angela's face. Yeah. And we shouldn't know that. Because reality TV shows are intended to to, that's how they work. And I should have thought of that and realize that. Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Angela Tucker, for being with us today. And I want to encourage everyone to go out and buy you should be grateful stories of race identity and transracial adoption. It is both a educational read. But perhaps this important. It's an interesting read. It's a fundraiser that I've kept wanting to read to find out what's going to happen next, even though I'd seen the film and I kind of knew. Yay,
Unknown Speaker 59:47
thank you so much.
Dawn Davenport 59:49
All right. Thank you, Angela. I truly appreciate it. I hope you've enjoyed the show as much as I did. As you could tell I truly enjoyed the book and I have been a longtime fan of Angela Tucker. So I hope you enjoyed it as much as me. And if you did, you can thank the sponsors of this podcast as well as the sponsors and supporters of our nonprofit, one of which is Vista Del Mar. They are a licensed nonprofit adoption agency with over 65 years of experience helping to create families. They offer home study only services as well as full service infant adoption, international adoption, home studies, and post adoption support. They also have a foster to adopt program. You can find them online at vista del mar.org/adoption.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai