What does it really mean to be transracial?

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What does it mean to be transracial? Well, it’s certainly not Rachel Dolezal’s definition.

Transracial people are those who are adopted by parents of a different race and who grow up in a culture that is different than the one they were born to.

“Identifying as a transracial adoptee has a lot of power,” said Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee and subject of the documentary“Closure.” “It unites a whole group of us instantaneously, in the sense that transracial adoptees understand what it means to grow up in a community of people and all the nuances, complications, complexities that come with growing up like that.”

She says she understands her blackness in the context of how she was raised in white society. “It doesn’t mean [transracial adoptees are] trying to be a different race than what we physically present, but it does help to unite us in the sense that we know there are pieces of ourselves, emotionally, that don’t match with what society perceives of who we are,” she said.

Part of the problem for these transracial adoptees, however, is the fact that their parents can’t understand what they are going through.

“I consider myself to be a black woman, I don’t think that I said it out loud until I was probably at university. [My childhood] was full of confusing messages around race, lots of hurtful things that happened around race, not in my family but outside in the community. My parents didn’t necessarily have the tools to help me deal with that. I was out in the world as this vulnerable little black girl and people are of course treating me as a little black girl and as a black youth, and then as a black adult. Learning how to navigate those things by myself was really challenging,” said writer Lisa Marie Rollins, a black and Filipina adoptee.

“My parents provided many opportunities for me to interact with a diverse range of people, they made a concerted effort for me, and my other siblings, for all of us to learn about our birth cultures and our heritage,” Angela Tucker said of her upbringing.

“They gave me a DNA test, not just to find my birth parents, but also to learn about my ancestors who were in Africa, where my ancestors were from. So, you know, my parents did a lot of things. But none of that will automatically help to instill a sense of identity. That comes through a lot of growth and hard work. ”

The parents are aware of the divide, too. Rachel Garlinghouse, who has three black children, has worked hard to make sure her kids are able to understand their racial identity, but she says it still hurts to see how they are treated by society.

“Right now, my kids benefit from our white privilege, when we go out, they’re given more benefit of the doubt. But it really frightens me because one day my kids are going to be out without me — and I’m not going to be able to protect them,” she said.

So maybe it’s time we really talk about the people who are actually “transracial” and let Rachel Dolezal slip out of the conversation.