Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An Open Letter: Why Co-opting “Transracial” in the Case of Rachel Dolezal is Problematic

Dear readers, please share this letter with those who question the validity of the word, “transracial.” Saying the word “isn’t a thing,” is denying my lived experience as a transracial adoptee. If you Tweet, please use #DefineTransracial.

My sister, my parents’ biological child, would never consider herself Korean, but we both consider ourselves Tennerican. Let that sit a while …


June 16, 2015

Please direct all media inquiries to Kimberly McKee, PhD at mckee.kimberly@gmail.com.

This past weekend the world took to social media to dissect the events surrounding Rachel Dolezal, the former president of Spokane’s NAACP chapter who came under heavy scrutiny for falsely representing herself as black. As part of this real-time discussion, the term transracial is being co-opted to describe Dolezal identifying as black despite being born white.

As members of the adoption community — particularly those of us who identify as transracial adoptees — we are deeply alarmed by the gross mischaracterization of this term. We find the misuse of “transracial,” describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of “blackness” in order to pass as “black,” to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.

Transracial is a term that has long since been defined as the adoption of a child that is of a different race than the adoptive parents. The term most often refers to children of color adopted by white families in the Global North, and has been extensively examined and documented for more than 50 years by academics and members of the adoption triad: adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents.