Earlier in this season of “Red Table Talk,” the women sat down with Kristin Davis to speak about her experiences raising Black children. Now, in today’s episode of the show, Jada, her mother Adrienne, and Willow sat with Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee who feels severely disconnected from the Black community having been raised by two White parents, in a predominately White neighborhood since she was 13 months old.
Check out the highlights from the episode below.
Angela: I have no sense of strong identity. Being a transracial adoptee, it’s really difficult to share what we really feel because we have parents who raised us and love us and we don’t want to appear we’re not grateful for what they’ve done. For me to talk about transracial adoption is to hurt somebody. I’m alive but dead inside in some ways, not knowing my culture.
I don’t know if trans racial adoption is the right solution because essentially we’re asking me as a Black woman to assimilate into White culture but to also keep my Blackness even though I wasn’t raised within it.
A lot of Black transracial adoptees don’t often admit this but we look in the mirror and see a Black person because we’re always around White people.
Where I fit in, where I actually belong is with other transracial adoptees. White people are comfortable around me, I’m comfortable with White people. It’s not that I don’t want to identify as a Black woman, but not growing up with Black culture and feeling fear when I met my birth mother and my whole birth family, I was a little bit afraid to meet them because they’re a Black family and I hadn’t been around them. But then at the same time I was like this is my family, why am I afraid of my own family.
Illegitimacy is how I feel even sitting at the table with you.
Gammy: The thing that’s troubling me just a little bit and I want you to clarify it if you can is the use of the term fear. Where is that coming from?
Angela: I think about all of our implicit bias that we hold and I can feel in my body how I change when I’m with all Black people.
Gammy: What have you done to assimilate into the Black community? Or do you even feel the need to do that?
Angela: I don’t feel like I have to right to do that. I haven’t thought about it like that. I have embraced my place in the White world. I’ve chosen to live in a predominately White neighborhood. And I’m just trying to be okay with that right now. I grew up in White spaces so it makes sense that I might feel safe here.
It’s hard to walk around everyday and for people to see a Black woman and for me to not even feel like a Black woman. I feel like I was given White privilege by osmosis. A lot of people like myself, once we leave the house and no longer have White privilege, it’s like an awakening. When I went to coulee, I did feel a lot of racism but it was coated in this way where I was put up on a pedestal. it was tokenism. Being in an all White school, I was always chosen to be on the college pamphlets. I don’t know if they embraced me or they fetishized me. I didn’t think of it as racism at the time I thought it was maybe flattery and then I started to realize what was happening. Not having other people to bounce these stories off of was really tough, so that’s when I started thinking about my Blackness.
Jada: You are now helping transracial adoptions by talking to families that adopt Black children.
Gammy: Is it a coaching, teaching.
Angela: It’s a lot of talking about feelings, sadly. Adoptive parents, unfortunately, they’ve commandeered the whole conversation. Unfortunately, we rarely hear from adopted people themselves because we often think about adoption as babies and I’m an adult. Reality is we grown up and we’re still adopted. Rarely do we hear from birth parents. They’re amorphous, villainized people, they’re scary. So a lot of my work is helping adoptive parents humanize they’re children’s birth parents.
My birth mom, she gave birth to me and she walked out the door and was homeless again. She said, ‘Everybody cares about you, getting you somewhere but nobody cared about me.’
Gammy: I need to just say this though, this discomfort that you have with your own Blackness but yet you’re counseling others on how to incorporate brown children into their own families.
Angela: I feel in a bind and I have fostered and my husband and I want to foster again and it makes sense to me to foster a White child because that’s what I’m familiar with.
Jada: That is quite a conflict.
Gammy: If you’re trying to counsel other people on how to do it. Counsel yourself.
Angela: How am I supposed to raise a Black child if I don’t know Black culture?
Gammy: You’re telling other people to move into a Black community, expose the child to Black culture. You can do the same thing.
Angela: What a tall order…
Gammy: It’s a tall order but it’s a tall order for a White person to do it for a Black child. So as a Black person to do it for a Black child, it certainly to me, would be a bit easier. Because you have some idea of what it’s like to be a Black person in the world.
Jada: And it could be a real healing process.
Gammy: For yourself.
Angela: But if that’s not my goal…I’ve learned how to flourish in a White world.
Jada: But Angela, we as Black people, we can’t keep asking White people to do things for us that we’re not willing to do for ourselves. White people are in their comfort zones too.
Willow: That’s how we got here.
Gammy: You’re putting up an excuse, a reason why you can’t do it. So we just want you to sit with that for a minute.
Later in the episode, Angela’s adoptive parents spoke about the challenges they noticed with Angela growing up. Angela spoke about wanting to have long, flowing hair and blue eyes like her sister and father.
Later, Angela’s birth mother comes to the table, who Angela found eight years ago.
When Jada asked Angela’s birth mother Deborah Johnson how she was feeling in that moment, she said, “Hurt. I will forever hurt. The more I see her, the more I hurt. If I could go back and undo my life, I would. No way that I would give away a child. At that time, not having a home, not having a job, it’s hard to drag a child around. But you can’t take care of it. So you’ve got to make a strong choice. So I went to a higher power and I said, ‘Help me please.’ When I put Angela up for adoption, that ended all my rights to know anything. I had no idea about transracial adoption. I was brought up in that age where you didn’t talk to White people and they didn’t talk to you…She’s her mother. I’m the vessel that God used to put her here.”
Later, Angela tells her mother, “We all know that you’ve done the best that you can. We truly want you to feel like you’re part of our family, that you giving up your right to parent me doesn’t meant that you give up your right to know who I am, know how I’m doing.”
You can watch the whole episode in the video below.