When the school bell rings, most kids are excited for their parents to pick them up and take them home.
However, for Donye’ Brown-Lamm, the end of the day in grade school was the beginning of frustrating and sometimes hurtful conversations.
Her classmates couldn’t understand why she, a black girl, was calling the white woman picking her up "Mom." When she explained she was adopted, she remembers some kids asking why her real mom didn’t want her.
“In junior high, I wanted a black family or wanted to be white because I was tired of explaining myself,” Brown-Lamm, now 19, said. “Little kids are mean, very mean, and if you’re different they’re even meaner.”
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“Many things come into play when forming a strong self-identity around race, gender, etc., and within that puzzle is do we understand who we are and feel rooted in a community and see people doing things around us that we want to emulate,” Professor Julia C. Oparah of Mills College and co-author of "Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption," said. “Being in Oakland isn’t a guarantee of being in a diverse environment.”
Sara Blair, 24, knows this all to well. Growing up in an affluent white family and identifying as “Filipino, African and Jewish with Spanish blood,” she said connecting with other students at the elite schools she attended was difficult.
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“I don’t regret being transracially adopted … I think it proves that we are human,” Blair said. “But I think there needs to be a movement of white parents educating themselves about what it means to be a person of color in this nation.”
“You can still live here and live in demographic isolation. You may see people of color, but you may not interact with them and that can create a problem,” Beth Hall, executive director of Pact - a nonprofit, which serves families of transracial adoption in the Bay Area, said.
While Oakland may be a diverse area, many people still live mono-racial lives, Hall added.
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Gloria King, executive director of the Black Adoption Placement and Resource Center in Oakland, said adoption when in the best interest of the child is always positive, but parents can provide a disservice to children if race is not discussed as a family.
“I think it’s a handicap if you’re colorblind, and it’s setting your kids up for failure," said King, who also works to recruit more black families as adoptive parents. "People are not colorblind, they can see it.”
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