Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Transracial Adoption and Sociological Theory: Understanding My Identity

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Transracial Adoption and Sociological Theory: Understanding My Identity

Article excerpt

Since the day my mother brought me to the United States from Guatemala she has told me that I am adopted. Even though I have known this since I was very young, it was not until I was four that I understood what this really meant. I was watching the popular children's show titled "Sesame Street" one day, and I remember that the episode was about one of the characters giving birth. I specifically remember that the mother had dark colored skin and so did her newborn. I immediately ran to my mother (who has white skin), and held my arm up next to her and said, "My skin is a different color than yours, why?" My mother was shocked, because she thought that I would not mention race until I was much older. At that time there were not that many adoption resources that dealt with the issues experienced by transracially adopted children. In a recent adoption newsletter I found that nowadays many adoptive parents are aware of this. For in stance, Lois Ruskai Melina observes that "A 3 year old is aware of people's color differences ... By the age of 4, those color differences are understood to have racial implications; that is; the child is aware that people with dark skin belong to a specific 'group'" (2).

There are many aspects to being a transracial adoptee. For example, in certain places it is harder for me to fit in. If I go to a party with my mother, people always assume that we are not related. Sometimes I feel frustrated because I know that if I had white skin, no one would even question whether or not the woman I walked in with was my mother. To take a closer look at this and other issues related to transracial adoption, in this paper I will use various sociological theories to help me understand my search for identity.

Since the day I realized I was different I have been through many obstacles, including a birth family reunion. Although it has been very difficult for me over the years, each day I get closer to a better understanding of who I am.

One sociological theory that has helped me probe deeper into understanding who I am is phenomenology. "Phenomenological sociology asks us to challenge our culturally learned values and ideas by questioning our way of looking at and our way of being in the world" (Contreras 14). In the movie, The Matrix, for example, Neo, the main character, questions whether the world he has been living in is real. When he learns about the Matrix, he begins to realize that what he regarded as truth is false, and that in fact he has been living in the Matrix, a false world created by a computer program. This idea of problematizing certain things in life has led me to look further into the reasons behind some of my actions and choices. An example of this happened for me when I went to Guatemala to meet my birth mother for the first time in 17 years.

Before I arrived, I was constantly trying to think of why it was that I wanted to meet this woman who was a complete stranger to me. I did not have an innate feeling to have to meet her. The only reason I could think of was because of the society I had lived in. I tried to remember all of the instances where my birth mother had been talked about. The beauty salon was a perfect example. When I was a child I remembered going to get my hair cut many times with my mother. The hairdresser would always ask me who the woman was that came in with me. I would tell her that it was my mother and they would look puzzled and ask me more personal questions. I was almost always forced to tell them that I was adopted. Then they would say things like, "So do you have a real mother? Have you ever met her? Have you ever wondered if you have other family?" I would get so angry because this stranger who was cutting my hair would get into my personal space but I would not defend myself to her face. I assumed her authority as an adult which was above me, the child, and that is why I answered her questions. What bothered me the most was that after hearing these questions, I would actually start thinking about my birth mother, just like how Neo started to question his "world" and the Matrix. …

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