So, I was on twitter where I follow a lot of people. Anyone I think might be interesting, and I often wonder if this accomplishes anything, as I rarely see any of these people again. A significant portion respond with automated DM’s, so I just kind of ignore them.
Somehow, in this madness, I followed Donna Blume. And she responded with an actual message. I’m glad I saw it and asked her what she was passionate about because she has a unique journey with insight into a sub-culture I knew nothing about: transracial adoptees.
There is something magical when you meet someone who is really passionate about something. This podcast is centered around culture and social change — and I firmly believe that the better we understand each other the deeper our connections become, and the more meaning we find in our lives.
I’ve thought about adoption, but it never had crossed my mind that there were hardships faced by adoptees of a different race.
Transracial adoptees are an interesting mix of cultures, stuck in the middle between two worlds. They miss some of their cultural heritage that their genetic ancestry or outward appearance represents, and don’t quite fit in with their adopted racial group, even though this is the family and culture that they grow up with.
Donna Blume, was adopted at age 4. What did she experience growing up?
- Micro-aggressions. They’re comments people make that may be intended to be funny or cordial, but are offensive. “You’re the whitest black person I know” or “But you don’t sound black”.
- Social awkwardness. You don’t look like your family, or the culture you associate with, so there is a separation. She noticed this even more in high school — and even had a friend who tried to give her black lessons because she wasn’t “black” enough.
- Isolation. Moving to a new place meant people would see her as just another black person. It was another hurdle to overcome when meeting people.
- Location matters: California was easier: they’re more diverse, and more tolerant. Texas was like driving a time machine into the past. Europe was a whole different story — people didn’t question her heritage, and just assumed she was Spanish or Italian.
Behind Donna’s quest and lifelong research was fueled by her experiences. Over time, she connected with others through conferences and on Twitter, and started #AdopteeChat… and found others eager to share their stories.
What’s she’s learned: even with all the technology and communication that exists today, people in high school are pretty much the same as they were in the 80s. We haven’t made much progress in terms of education.
So what can you do, especially when you’ve adopted someone from another race?
- It’s not enough to just share stories from their heritage. Find someone with your adopted kid’s cultural background so they can learn first-hand about the culture.
- Pay attention to how they’re doing. Recognize that they’re probably going to hide what’s really happening from you. (This has been a very common theme from adoptees Donna’s met… they don’t want their families to know what they’re going through, even if this just adds to their isolation.)
- Help them to connect with other transracial adoptees with whom they can share their experiences and connect with others experiencing something similar.
It reminds me of my first podcast with Mikela Thomas, sharing a story of an inner-city African American, who after moving out into a majority white suburb, ran up to her and on his first day in school and gave her a hug, exclaiming, “I’m not the only one.” Being able to find others whom you can relate to is important for finding your own voice.
Donna knows herself very well at this point — and is passionate about connecting with other transracial adoptees to hear and share their stories. I hope you enjoy listening to this podcast for more of her stories and insight!
You can connect with her on twitter @Donna_Blume, or through the #AdopteeChat (@adopteechat). Check out her poetry and insights on YouTube under her birth name: Susan Lane, or on instagram as @transracial_adoptees