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Growing Up Transracially Adopted: Stories of Race, Culture And Identity

An Indian man holds a baby and stands to the left of a white woman holding an Indian toddler.
Shruti Shah
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Shruti Shah (far right) with her father, sister and mother. Shruti's family adopted her from India when she was 11 months old.

Transracial adoptees share stories of questioning how and what they were taught about race and identity growing up.

Every family looks different. But if your parents are a different race than you are, your family can expect to get looks … and personal questions too. That’s because transracial adoption was rare, even controversial, until relatively recently. The number of transracial adoptions has increased in the past 50 years — particularly white parents adopting children of color.

Today, there are support groups and resources for those families, but they often focus on adoptive parents. And while many adoptees do find loving homes, there are common experiences of struggling with racial and cultural identity.

Every adoption of a child of color by a white family is happening in the context of white supremacy and American capitalism.
Andrew Lee

Host Anita Rao speaks with three transracial adoptees about their experiences with race, family and finding community. Andrew Lee is an organizer and writer based in Philadelphia; Shruti Shah is an independent strategy consultant based in Durham; and Rebekah Hutson is a writer, activist and consultant in Los Angeles.

Interview Highlights

Hutson on the need for more transracial adoption resources in the adoption industry:

"There is not really any standard curriculum or support or anything for transracial adoption. Like when I asked my mom if they even gave her any resources or anything, she said all they gave her was this piece of paper that said, basically: Will you love your child regardless of color, gender, anything like that? And you just had to say yes. And then it was like: Okay, here's this Black child for you and have fun. And that's just not enough resources."

All they gave [my mom] was this piece of paper that said, basically, will you love your child regardless of color, gender, anything like that. And you just had to say yes.
Rebekah Hutson

Shah on advice for people considering transracial adoption:

"Make sure that you find your child a good therapist from an early age. But also, I think, finding a community of people that look like them, with adults that they can look up to and learn from — I think it's really, really important. I think a lot of adopted kids that grow up in families where people don't look like them. I feel like they don't have reference points for what success looks like for somebody that looks like me."

Lee on how politics shaped international adoption and his own experience:

"I think what does make more sense to me is knowing that white American kids don't get adopted by other countries, kids from France and Germany don't get adopted into the U.S. ...  Me being in the United States is a political thing. My dad being in the United States is a political thing. Every adoption of a child of color by a white family is happening in the context of white supremacy and American capitalism. And I think in a weird way, having that perspective allows me to have a more nuanced understanding of my own experience."

Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.
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