Newly Minted

Newly Minted
Right after I was hooded

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Celebrating 39 Years of Life

After a certain age (21), birthdays become occasions for self-reflection. I am conflicted as to what that reflection should be. I am thinking, as always, about the biological mother that gave me up 39 years ago today. I always wonder if she thinks about me today every year. I also always wonder what she looks like. In my mind, she might be the only person on the planet that actually looks like me. A picture is all I have ever wanted from her...

I am a total advocate for transracial adoption. I have spent a lot of time with transracial adoptees; collaborating on my work. I have found that being transracially adopted, as well as bi-culturally raised, can position the transracial adoptee more in the mixed race identity than our monoracially adopted counterparts. When I put my first call for participants out for my photo essay in 2006; the call simply asked for those who self-identified as mixed race. I was blown away by the collaborators that responded. I expected black/white, asian/white, black/asian, etc. I was unprepared for the number of transracially adopted families, with monoracial parents and children, who responded. For them, as I understand it, being a transracial family made them mixed race, bi-cultural people. Experiencing race through each other had significant impact on the identification of not only the child, which one might anticipate, but on the parents. I have not discussed this with my own family, but my sister has hinted at experiencing my "otherness" in school. Also, there have been moments of realization for my husband, experienced through our children.

This question came up at the speech I gave in February 2009 at SUNY Cortland "Examining Contemporary Mixed Race". A professor asked if I considered transracial adoptees "mixed race". First, I have to say that it is not my job to "identify" other people. I am only researching people who identify themselves as "mixed race" or who identify mixed race as part of their socio-racial identity. All I can say then is that I consider my transracial adoption a contributing part of my self-identification as mixed race. For me, mixed race allows me to claim all of my intimate relationships including the one with my white adoptive family. The bi-cultural reality of my adoption causes reactions in other people and those reactions locate me outside of monoracial categories. I had one gentleman proclaim "you was raised with white folks weren't you?" Yes. Yes I was.

As I head into my 40th year (damn I AM old), I will be finishing my degree through research and collaboration regarding mixed race identities. This work is experiential, self-reflective, observational, communal and theoretical. The neatest thing about critical race studies is that it stays new. The journey is only beginning...more soon...


  1. Hi there! I came across your blog under the "transracial adoptee" tag. I am a fellow TRA and mixed race person... and the issues in your post really interest me. Did you ever look for your biological family? Are you also 'biologically' mixed race or does your identity as mixed race stem mainly from being a TRA and having a mixed race family? Lovely pictures of your family by the way.

  2. I am glad that my blog came up. I have not blogged before and it is a very new medium to me. I think I like it if it means I get to connect with folks this easily! To answer your question, I am both a TRA and a mixed race person. The story I was told was that I was a hard to place adoption in Texas BECAUSE I was mixed race. I was blessed that my parents were eager to give a hard to place child a home. Thank you for your note and for your comments on the family. I would love to hear more about you!

  3. Hi...I just wanted to tell you I love you..and I am very proud of you Professor! I have learned so much about myself through your journey to your Phd. Thank you.