Do You See What I See?

Transracial adoptee Angela Tucker recently penned an insightful, thought provoking blog post over at Lost Daughters, in which she dissects the experience of being told after a speaking engagement that she was the “Whitest Black person” an attendee knew. She says she hears this sort of thing often, and that she tries to give people the benefit of the doubt when they say things like this, but that there seems to be no inverse; the people who call her the “whitest black person” cannot think of the “blackest white person” they know.

When I read this, I immediately thought of a woman whom I have, indeed, thought of as the “blackest white person” I know. She is a person close to my age, who grew up in the same city as me, yet had a very different childhood experience.

In 1973, after many years of protests by parents, the NAACP sued the Cleveland Public Schools, alleging intentional segregation of students based on race. The school system was found guilty of maintaining separate schools for whites and blacks, and in 1979 began busing white kids over to the east side of town and black kids over to the west side in order to integrate classrooms as mandated by law.

Many white parents, even non-Catholics, chose to send their children to the numerous private, Catholic schools in the area rather than allow them to go to school across town. Many white parents who could not afford private school tuition chose to move to one of the Cleveland suburbs to avoid having their children bused. Continue reading “Do You See What I See?”

Search, Research, Self, Connection

ROAR2013I used to think of myself as unique in a not-so-good way. I thought of myself as different from everyone else because of not being physically related to anyone. Of course, there were people out there who shared my DNA, I just didn’t know any of them. I saw myself as an anomaly that probably no one could understand.

Over many years of searching, reuniting, and processing the aftermath, I’ve done a lot of research on adoption. Of course, I didn’t think of it as research at the time. I only wanted to satisfy my curiosity, find answers to my many questions.

Along the way, I learned that I wasn’t unique the way I’d previously thought. I wasn’t alone in my condition. Actually, the exact opposite was true–I discovered I was of the Baby Scoop Era, a period of nearly thirty years when 4,000,000 or so babies were relinquished to adoption. I also found out that for no other reason than the year in which I was adopted, I was not entitled to see my own original birth certificate in Ohio.

Current law says that we who were adopted between 1964 and 1996 cannot see our birth records, but those adopted outside of this period can. Of course, I wanted to know why this was the case, so I searched some more and found that adoptee birth certificates were sealed in 1964. Before then, they had been accessible. And in 1996, they were opened again, but not retroactively.

A man named Brad Norris, an attorney from my hometown of Cleveland, had drafted the bill that eventually sealed my original birth certificate. Ironically, Brad was the father of Betsie Norris, who founded Adoption Network Cleveland, the organization that helped me find my own birth mother.

No, I was not unique. Betsie herself was adopted as an infant and went through a similar search to find her birth parents. She looked for the answers to her questions, and decided her calling was to advocate for adoptees and adoption reform.

Last spring, I chose the story of Betsie Norris, her adoptive father, Brad, and their relationship to Ohio’s law concerning adoptee birth certificates as the topic of a biography project for one of my graduate writing classes. A short version of that piece can be read on Lost Daughters. Talking with Betsie about her story has had a profound impact on my life: I see myself now not merely as one unique individual adoptee, but as a member of an entire community of people who must somehow navigate between two families, and sometimes even between two cultures or two countries. When I write about adoption now, I no longer write only for myself, but for the many others like me as well. My identity as an adoptee is not all of me, but at the same time, it is a part of everything I do.

Now Betsie is leading the fight to open records for those of us from Ohio who were adopted between 1964 and 1996. I’m doing what I can to support the passage of House Bill 61 and Senate Bill 23, although it never feels like enough. It’s hard to be out of state at a time like this when I’d like to do more. I am indebted to Betsie and all the others like her who have given so much of their time and energy to fight for my rights.