I don’t know the name I was given at birth. I don't know the hour, minute or second I entered this world. I don't know why my biological mother gave me away. Do I wish I knew? I don’t know. Do I want to meet my biological family? I don’t know. There’s all these unresolved questions and I’m not sure if I want them answered.
I was adopted by white parents and grew up in a white suburban community. Friends would make jokes about me eating dogs and doing their math homework. Other kids would chase me around the playground saying “ching-chong”. As I got older, people would think I was dating my Dad or that my Mom and I were just acquaintances. These are common experiences for interracial adoptees who often grow up in places where their birth culture and language is unfamiliar. We grow up in families who don’t look like us. We grow up not knowing our medical history. How do we form our identities at the loss of our birth heritage and language?
The adoptee experience is often overly romanticized and seen as giving a child a new life. In reality, it’s a new life that’s completely disconnected from our cultural and genetic history. Adoption can only happen when someone is separated from their biological parent(s). Often times it's children of color being separated and adopted by white families, rather than giving biological parents resources to raise their children. Growing up with that disconnect usually leaves adoptees with subconscious trauma, complex feelings of isolation and confusion about our identity.
Many adoptee experiences are invalidated or silenced with the remark “You should be grateful.” We never said that we weren’t grateful. Being so far removed from our roots is something we can't control. This project gives a platform to the interracial adoptee community using photography, ink transfers and handwritten elements. It considers how adoptees can define their identity in a society that is not colorblind, even though adoption is often treated that way.
Installation Photo Courtesy of Denny Henry