Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Your Child Should not be Your First Black Friend": NPR, Transracial Adoption & the Powerful Voice of Chad Goller-Sojourner

It has been two weeks since NPR's The Sunday Show aired a segment on transracial adoption that caused outrage within the adoption community.  To give a brief re-cap, Angela Tucker, an African American transracial adult adoptee who is the subject of the documentary "Closure," an adoption blogger, and a former adoption professional was interviewed for the segment only to be told that her interview would not be used.  Instead, NPR chose an interview with a white adoptive parent of three young transracially adopted children.

As the initial point of contact between NPR and Angela, I reached out to the producer once I learned that Angela's interview would not be aired, and with Angela's permission, I urged them to reconsider.  After further correspondence with NPR, I learned that they chose the adoptive parent interview because they were interested in her faith background, her geographical location, and her speaking skills, confident that the history of their show portrayed transracial adoption from "many angles."  The appropriateness of a white parent speaking about the racism experienced by transracial adoptees was not factored into the decision process.

Which was in fact the issue that members of the adoption community had with the segment to begin with.  It wasn't that adoptive parents should not speak about adoption.  Bottom line, NPR stated they were specifically seeking to speak with someone personally affected by racism in transracial adoption.  As I said before, by featuring a white adoptive parent within this context, NPR made the determination the discomfort of white people regarding race is of greater importance than a transracial adoptee's direct experience of racism while growing up in an environment where your race is not reflected in those you see and love.


"Omitting the voices of adoptees of color and only asking white adoptive parents to recount their experiences of transracial adoption is a subtlety of structural racism."  -Angela Tucker


Furthermore, despite their show's purported mission to show the "unexpected" side of issues, this show very much reflected the dominant adoption discourse.  This fact is evidenced in The Sunday Conversation's own history of transracial adoption segments.  By the January 12th segment, The Sunday Conversation had aired six transracial adoption segments.  Only two of these segments featured adult adoptees and only one, from seven years ago, featured an adult adoptee independently of adoptive parents.  Not one segment featured an original parent.

When a media outlet believes its preconceived ideas about what the world needs to know about adoption are more important than what the adoption community needs the world to know about adoption, it's a problem.

After hearing the backlash in the comments section and on Twitter sparked by transracial adoptees and allies (see #NPRgate), NPR aired a new interview two weeks later featuring the incredible Chad Goller-Sojourner, an award-winning writer and solo-performance artist.  As he always does whenever he speaks, Chad delivered an insightful, wise, powerful, educational, and moving interview.  Chad has a talent for acting and speaking, but also driving home poignant points and hard truths packed in a single sentence like, "Your child should not be your first black friend."

Unfortunately, many in the comments section at NPR met Chad's words, not with gratitude, but with marginalizing anti-adoptee statements, parentalism, and racism.  Some commenters claimed that by speaking about the challenges of being transracially adopted and forming his racial identity that Chad was relegating black children to "languish in foster care."  Others quickly called him "ungrateful" to his adoptive parents.  Some commenters claimed that Chad lied about difficulties being transracially adopted to garner attention.

Chad addressed the ignorant commenters by posting in the comment section himself.  Later, he sent me and a few mutual friends the following message in further response to the disparaging and ugly comments:
"If you go to the pound for a dog they ask you a lot of questions and based on your answers they decide what types of dogs are available to you. Everybody can’t get every kind of dog. That’s why if you live in a studio apartment and work 12 hours a day you can’t get a blood hound, even if you love blood hounds. Why? Because the pound knows it takes more than love to raise a blood hound. They also know, though they won’t say it to your face that nobody who REALLY loves blood hounds and has their best interest in heart would want to see them living in a studio apartment with a human companion who’s gone 12 hours a day. 
And since the blood hound can’t speak for himself it is the responsibility of the pound to speak for the blood hounds best interests. And here’s the kicker just because the blood hound is currently in a less than ideal circumstance, it does change the pounds charge to find him the best possible fit, and not simply an anywhere but here fit.
Yes there are lots of black kids “languishing in foster care,” and just like the blood hound they deserve the best possible fit. Do I believe that fit can include white parents, yes. Do I believe in 2014 it’s asking too much for white folks interested in adopting children of color, to come to the table with a pre-existing level of cultural competency as it relates to the child they seek to adopt, no. 
“Your child should not be your first black friend" isn't revolutionary, groundbreaking or divisive speech, but rather basic common sense. And the fact that there are lots of black kids “languishing in foster care,” doesn't change this. Best practices are best practices. Transracial Adoption is no different. #ANDNOWYOUKNOW"
Chad gave me permission to share his response here, and I am honored to do so.  Chad's response needs to be heard, and I don't know about NPR, but in my space racist, parentalist, marginalizing remarks aren't permitted to be hurled at honored guests in my comments section.