A two-year search prompted Seattle’s Angela Tucker to start a national dialogue lifting up the voices of transracial adoptees, or adoptees of a different race than their adoptive parents.
The blogger, speaker and educator created “The Adopted Life,” a multimedia platform and transracial adoption consulting business that started out as a blog of the same name in 2009. After appearing in the 2013 documentary film, “CLOSURE,” which follows Tucker in her search for her birth parents, hundreds of adoptive parents were clamoring for her insight — particularly white parents of black children worried about police brutality against their kids. “The Adopted Life” blog soon grew into consulting with parents across the nation and, last month, a video series of one-on-one conversations with transracial adoptees.
To learn more about her advocacy, I met her one recent Friday afternoon at Seattle Pacific University (SPU), where she works as a program coordinator for Disability Support Services. July 7 update: Angela Tucker left her position at SPU a few weeks ago and is now working full-time as the Post-Adoption Support Manager at Amara, a nonprofit agency providing children in Washington state a path out of foster care.
Trekking home with her on her 20-minute daily walk home from SPU’s campus, we race across a crosswalk just seconds before the pulsing red hand disappears and the green walking man takes its place. Together, we chatted and sweated in 82-degree Fahrenheit weather near the Fremont Bridge, where the wind cooled us down.
How do you identify yourself and how has that changed overtime?
“Growing up, my identity was strongly ‘transracial adoptee,’ which explained my whiteness and how this black girl came to be living in this place. [When I would get questions], it was nice to say, ‘Oh, I’m adopted’ and that’s why I’m this or that.”
“Now, I identify as a black woman with white privilege.”
“Having a really diverse family was helpful, but in school and around town, I was often faced with a lot of microaggression comments like ‘you sound white,’ ‘you act white’ and ‘you talk white,’ while simultaneously being one of the only black people in school. I think I didn’t have to try out for the basketball team: I was just on varsity freshman year. You know, ‘the athletic black girl.’”
“It was the tokenism combined with not black enough.”
“In my work of educating families about adopting kids of color, I know that I am listened to in a different way than … if I was just a black person raised by black parents. I have an ‘in’ that makes people feel safer because of the implicit biases that people have of what it means to be black.”
“When I went to college, I lost that. And that’s when I had to really figure out my identity.”
How do you educate prospective parents wanting to adopt kids of color? How do you encourage current transracial adoptive parents?
“I encourage families to look at their community around them. To think about how many people are present in their immediate relationships that look like the child they are trying to adopt.”
“Look at the systems that have been put in place… that caused certain areas to be oppressed and others not. If you’re not able to understand that… then that tells me that you are not aware of [how] race plays out in our society. [It is a] disservice to your kid if you are not aware of those things first. If [race] is a difficult conversation or if it’s scary, then that feels like you’re not prepared because you have a child who’s a minority.”
“They can’t wait for the right place and the right time to have a conversation on how it feels to be black: it’s just life. This is their lived experience.”
“You’re not just a white couple, you’re a transracial family.”
“Their lack of talking about is not because they’re not ready to talk about it, it’s because they don’t have the words. These kids can talk to me and other transracial adoptees instead of their parents…there are things they can say to me that they’re not able to say to their parents… because it feels safer to talk about it with someone that kinda gets it.”
Where do want to take this? What comes next?
After crowdfunding $31,801 and debuting her first “Adopted Life” episode on May 16, “my goal is to do [an “Adopted Life” episode] in every major city in the United States,” says Tucker, who has already made plans to film two more episodes in New York and Los Angeles this summer.
“So much attention is on my story … . [T]here could be little communities in every city instead of trying to reach across the country to talk to me online, which is only going to get so far.”
At the same time: “ … I’m so excited for adoptees to be able to watch this in their house, in the privacy of their own home. They don’t [get to] see themselves represented.”
This post was produced as part of the Globalist Youth Apprenticeship Program. The program is funded in part by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and the Community Technology Fund.