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Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

I belong to a group that I find difficult to explain to nonmembers. It is an amorphous group of individuals from around the world, most of whom have never met in person, but we know who we are and we recognize each other when we “meet” in cyberspace. I (and others) refer to it as “the online adoptee community.” I cannot overstate the impact of this community on my life. Through my participation in this group, I have come to understand myself and my experience of having been separated from one family and placed into another. …


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The impact of race on my life began before I was born. Conceived in the 1960s by unwed teenage parents, I was one of the millions of white babies placed for adoption during what is known as the Baby Scoop Era, a period in the United States between World War II and the early 1970s characterized by a rise in premarital pregnancies and a coinciding prevalence of (mostly white) newborn adoption. From the beginning, my existence was marked by contradiction and complexity. To my biological maternal grandmother, my conception was a source of shame, something to be hidden from the neighbors. My 17-year-old mother was withdrawn from school and sent into hiding with a cousin in the city as soon as her pregnancy was discovered. This cover-up came easily to a family that was already adept at hiding things (namely, my grandfather’s alcoholism) from outsiders, but it also occurred within a broader social context that was rooted in race: the preservation of white innocence. The “solution” to unwed motherhood at the time of my birth was different for white mothers and black mothers. Whereas young black women were culturally sexualized and assumed to be at the mercy of an uncontrolled libido, society clung to the illusion that nice, middle-class white girls did not have sex. …


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Why now, she asked.

I was participating in a virtual workshop for white people interested in learning how to more effectively shift from “allies” to “accomplices.” The speaker was a black woman who was wondering aloud at the sudden influx of newly vocal white supporters of the #blacklivesmatter movement. Yes, she acknowledged, George Floyd’s death was horrific, but so were the many deaths of black bodies that came before his. What was it about this one that had woken us up? Black people had been raising the alarm for years. Why was it we could only now hear it?

It’s a valid question, albeit one that I can’t really answer. I don’t know the “why.” The best I can do is explain what happened to me. …

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