Growing up bi- racial in an all-white home isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I was adopted from Georgia when I was less than a month old. I guess I was born on an army base in Hinesville Georgia, on Fort Stewart. I know that I have a half-sister, Cory? Amber? I don’t remember. And allegedly I have a half-brother. I say allegedly because I really don’t know too much about my birth family. What I do know: I love my family. I don’t like to use the term “adoptive family” because it sounds so cold and detached. Sure I have had a lot of drama with my family, which, perhaps I wouldn’t have with my birth family. (Rumor has it my birth mom had three kids (including me) with 3 different dads-so that’s embarrassing, for her mostly.) Despite this fact, I wouldn’t trade it/them for the world. Even if my birth mom was Oprah, and I was her secret love child, I wouldn’t care because I love my family.
The rudest question I get asked a lot once people find out I am adopted is:
“Do you know your “real” parents?”
I politely answer “No.”
Then they continue and ask “Well, do you want to?”
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that by complete strangers. Like, why is that any of your concern? If we are gonna stand here and trade personal details I wanna know how much you weigh, how many people you have slept with and how big your dick is. I just don’t get why anyone would care about that. At this point I am slightly agitated, but with years of practice I keep my composure and answer:
“No, I am not interested in meeting them. My mom gave me up, and kept her other two kids; I want nothing to do with her.”
I’m not mad that she gave me up, but it kind of bothers me. I just don’t undstand why I was so special since she kept her two other kids. What is she was raped? Or was she ashamed of my father for some reason? I was temporarily placed in a foster home located in a trailer park by a woman affectionately named Miss Donna. It’s actually pretty astounding because I have a VHS tape of me at Miss Donna’s house. I am a little baby, shown bathing in a tub, getting my ears cleaned by Q-tips and playing with toys. She talks directly into the camera addressing my soon-to-be parents and sister Megan. I was already named at this point so she addresses me as Allie. She also sent Polaroid pictures of me to my family. My mom likes to tell me story of when my extended family crowded around the tv of a rented VHS tape while they were vacationing up north at a lake house.
I firmly believe that I would not be who or where I am now without my family. I have lead a very privileged life; private school, parents paying for college, good morals, a nice fairytale home complete with a pool and water slide, food on my plate, trips to Ireland and Mexico, school trips to New York and down south—the list goes on and on! Who’s to say this wouldn’t be the case with my birth family? However, sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I wasn’t given up for adoption, and then I stop myself. I realize there is no point in wondering because I am happy with my life and family. If the lady had the gall to give me up, then I really don’t care to know about her and I will not waste my time thinking about her.
Just based on physical appearance I don’t think it took long for me to realize I was different, namely because I don’t look like the rest of my family. I have creamy brown, caramel skin, dark almond shaped eyes, curly hair and a freckled nose. My mom on the other hand has milky white skin, green eyes, corn- colored blonde hair, and stands at 5’11. My dad has ocean blue eyes, black hair, and Megan, my sister has long brown hair and emerald green eyes. I used to cry because I felt so different from my family. I cried because I didn’t like the color of my skin. I would question why I didn’t look like the rest of my family. I remember my mom and sister consoling me telling me I had beautiful skin and “people tan just so they can look like you.”
For her 6th grade class, my sister made me a book called “The Girl Who Never Gave Up.” As a 6th grader she skillfully drew pictures and wrote a great story. In the story there was a girl named Beccca, (me) who was bullied because of the color of her skin, but she never gave up or let that get her down because she was a strong little girl. I still have book, complete with glitter decorated on the cover. The book was professionally bound and is complete with colorful drawings of jungle gyms and letter blocks.
Sometimes I forget how much I struggled when I was younger. I can confidently say that I don’t see a difference between me and my family because we all love each other because of our personalities, the difference in skin color doesn’t matter. I think the fact that she was 11 at the time of her writing says a lot about the love I felt from my family. She began the book with Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote “ I have dream that one day my children will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by their character.” She was a very intelligent girl as she integrated a lot of wisdom and love in her book. Here is a except from the book she wrote:
“Even though Becca is great and sports and a good student there are some things that make her very unhappy. The biggest thing that makes her sad is when people don’t accept her skin color. She is happy with the way she looks and had adjusted to living in an all-white family. But, when other people don’t accept her, life can be very difficult. Even though her family has white skin and Becca’s is a beautiful light brown, her family never sees that there is a difference”
Then in the final pages of the book she adds:
When Becca is sad because someone is making fun of her, she tries to remember what her family always tells her “Becca, if someone makes a mean remark because you look a little different from them just remember the color of your skin doesn’t matter. All people are the same inside and out.” And just to be funny they add “people lay out in the sun all summer just so they can look like you all the time!”
The earliest memories I have of being told I was adopted was when I was much younger. My kindergarten teacher gave me the book “We Are All Alike, We are All Different” to help me “cope” with the fact I am adopted.
I remember when conflict would arise, my younger self would sit atop the stairs crying and yelling out
“You don’t love me because you’re not my real family!” or, “you can’t tell me what to do, you aren’t my real mommy.”
In hindsight, I realize that what I used to say must have been really hurtful to my family, but ultimately was just a little kid who was clearly confused.
While we don’t look alike, I have similar traits with all of them. I have picked up my mom’s stubbornness, an occasionally unpleasant characteristic present in the both of us. Although neither of us would ever admit to it (hence; being stubborn,) I think deep down we know it’s true. I picked up my dad’s work ethic, striving to be the best at what I do academically and professionally. The biggest lesson he taught me was to always conduct yourself in a professional manner when at work. “Be on time, don’t make excuses and don’t call in sick.” Now, whether or not I have actually followed through with these morals, isn’t important. (Cuz I haven’t!) Nonetheless, I value what he taught me. And lastly, I mimic my sister’s tenacity. She has two college degrees and is now perusing her lifelong dream of opening a catering business. I admire her ambition and work ethic. Although I sometimes lose my footing, I try to keep on a straight- and- narrow path of following my dreams.
I think one of the most superficial things that my family (my mom specifically) had to adjust to was my hair. When I was young I had the most beautiful, curly, black hair. My hair fell down my shoulders, begging for attention as it framed my little face. As I grew up, my hair became a tangled mess and my mom got sick of trying to de-tangle my birds nest. She eventually decided to relax my hair, which is the chemical straightening of African American hair. Some people call this process a perm- but I never understood why because a perm (at least for white people,) curls you hair, but whatever! In some people’s minds, relaxing your hair is conforming to “white culture.” You leave behind curly or “nappy” hair for a more socially acceptable straight hair. I never really looked at it like this, hair is hair. All I wanted was to be able to put a brush through my hair without breaking off the bristles.
As I grew up I would occasionally encounter racism or racist remarks, which was not only hard for me to deal with, but I think it was hard for my family. I remember a little girl on my street, who was three, calling me a raisin and another kid in 7th grade told me I was a smore.
I think the most hurtful thing I have consistently heard throughout my life is when people say “I’m blacker than you.” What does that even mean?? Just because my skin is dark does not mean I have to act in a stereotypical way. To imply that I must fit into some cubical
societal norm has and will always rub me the wrong way. Sometimes I have been called an “Oreo” (like the cookie) because I look black but I “act” white. On that note, I would formally like to say a great big, heaping, “fuck you” to anyone that has ever said that to me. In this case, ignorance certainly is not bliss.
A specific situation tends to arise that makes me extremely uncomfortable. Ever since I was little and we started learning about slavery in school, I began to notice a specific trend whenever these topics came up. I noticed shady eyes, half head turns and sometimes blatant stares were directed at me. Even in high school I struggled with this issue. I remember we had a whole unit on the civil rights movement and I felt like a target. Despite being the only non-white kid, there is nothing ruder or more annoying than people giving you sympathetic or uncomfortable looks when discussing such emotional and serious topics. I remember when I was in elementary school telling my parents about this predicament and they didn’t know what to do.
When people stare at me it brings up a shit load of thoughts and emotions, here is a sampling:
Why is he staring at me? God, I bet they think this is awkward for me considering they think my great grandparents were probably slaves. Really, your just gonna stare right at me and not even try to be covert about looking at the ONLY black person in the room? Maybe I should say something? No, that’s too awkward…STOP STARING AT ME!
The reason this was such an issue for me is I was always the only black kid in the room. At Catholic Memorial, (my high school) where the tuition was $8000+ a year, I happened to be in the 1% of minorities. Very few, non-white kids went to my school. Now that I graduated I am extremely proud that I went there, but I wonder if people question the fact that I attended such a prestigious school.
This predicament really bothers me because of the fact that I don’t have any African American roots in my life. I was born and raised as a white, upper/middle-class, well- educated female. I think the assumption when looking at me based on the color of my skin is “I can’t talk good,” perhaps I have a weave and I probably don’t know who my father is.(Yu! I went there!) Yes, these are all harsh, racist stereotypes but, at 22 years of age, I am used to these assumptions being made about me. I wish people would look and me and see that yes, I have darker skin BUT understand that I am intelligent and educated, instead of the narrow minded negative assumptions that are made.
The other part about talking about slavery in classrooms that makes it awkward is the fact that most students don’t know my background. They don’t know that I was adopted and I see myself as white- I don’t identify as being African American, so in a sense it’s weird to have people looking at me, expecting me to have a strong reaction to the topic at hand. Of course as a living, breathing human being, I have compassion for the history that we are taught in classes. I sympathize with the injustice that African Americans have gone through, but I never took it personally.
This may sound silly but unless I am called out on the color of my skin, or it comes into discussion, I don’t realize that I am black. So when I am faced with baseless racism, it makes me uncomfortable because I don’t identify as a black female. My mother likes to remind me “You are as much white as you are black” because she gets mad if I label myself as black when talking in terms of race. It really pisses me off when she says this. I want to scream “yes I know I am bi-racial but the world does not see me as such. To the world I am black, B-L-A-C-K! I have stereotypes slapped on me and assumptions are made.”