I'm a black guy in my mid-twenties, and I was adopted by white parents when I was less than a year old. I grew up entirely in a tiny oil town in west Texas before moving to Austin for college. I have an older brother, who is my parents' biological son. Growing up, I very literally had no black friends or acquaintances, and I was constantly one of two or three - maximum - at my school. (Well okay, to be fair, I have some black cousins, because adoption is kind of a "thing" in my family -- but they grew up in a different city and I saw them very rarely.) All of my friends were either white or Hispanic.

In the U.S., I have never lived in a place with a large black population, and at the moment I live in a small country in the ex-USSR, so I've just always been "the black guy" and have never expected to fit in very well with others. I do often feel a frustrating sense of in-between-ness: not being white but also not being black enough for other black people or for white people.

All that being said, I have always sort of regarded the fact that I am black and my parents are white as an extremely banal thing, but people are always really interested/surprised when they find this out about me, so I thought, hey, why not do an AMA on reddit? Ask away!

Proof, hope it's satisfactory: https://imgur.com/J2JONLe

Fortunately, this picture is almost 8 years old -- I'd like to think I look at least a bit less lame now. If it's not obvious, the woman on the far left is my mom, then my brother and his wife, then me, then my dad.

Comments: 71 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

MatanKatan19 karma

Do you watch This Is Us? You should -- your story reminds me of Randall's.

gimmeonereasontostay5 karma

I haven't seen that show but I've heard some good things about it, I'll have to give it a watch eventually.

ChornWork210 karma

Do you want to have more of a racial identity (whatever that may mean)? If so, do you think the motivation is more for yourself or more bc of expectations of you?

gimmeonereasontostay18 karma

I think I would be a lot happier if I had grown up with a more stable sense of identity. I have dealt with major depression since I was a teenager and it is completely connected with my self-esteem issues and the fact that I have never been able to feel at peace with myself specifically as a black person. Still, I don't have much of a motivation to "become black" at this age, especially because blackness is something which is so alienating and confusing to a lot of people.

BobBobuliss8 karma

There's alot of talk nowadays about "white privilege." Do you feel like you've benefited from that at all, even though you're black? As a black man raised in a white family, what are your overall thoughts on the concept of privilege?

gimmeonereasontostay57 karma

I'm not a sociologist and I'm not a very active follower of the social justice culture war thing. But I do in general buy the idea of privilege, although I think it's more complex than people on either side claim, and I think there's a sort of class privilege which is more significant than white privilege per se.

The fact that upward social mobility is much more difficult than we like to pretend means that being born/adopted into a reasonably well-to-do family is a huge privilege. It just so happens that white people are more likely to belong to this category than black people, for obvious historical reasons and probably structural constraints. So I think being born white per se is not a huge source of privilege, but being born white and well-off is undoubtedly a big advantage.

I do also think that being a carrier of white American culture is a privilege in itself, given the prestige assigned to that culture. In my case, I'm privileged in that I can pick up the phone and "sound white" without any effort, and I can identify more closely with the sort of mainstream Anglo-American culture and assimilate into it more easily.

All that being said, I certainly don't subscribe to the idea that all white people are more privileged than all black people, although I think that's kind of a strawman argument used by opponents of the concept of privilege. I have (white) relatives on my mom's side of the family who didn't finish high school and live in total squalor, I am 100% more privileged than them. Basically, I think that in 2017, economic status is a better determinant of a person's chances of being successful than skin color, although the two factors interact/amplify one another in many ways.

newtonsapproximation19 karma

This sounds like a well thought out, reasonably nuanced, non-emotionally-charged piece.

You have no place on reddit, get out.

gimmeonereasontostay12 karma

ALL WHITE PEOPLE ARE RACISTS! THE MOON LANDING WAS A MOSSAD PLOT TO INFECT THE ENTIRE PLANET WITH SPACE-AIDS!

Is that better? Can I stay?

ispeakmrad-13 karma

Do you #MAGA? You sound like you #MAGA.

gimmeonereasontostay16 karma

Absolutely not, what made you draw that conclusion?

coryrenton4 karma

can you explain more how adoption is a "thing" in your family? is it religiously motivated?

gimmeonereasontostay14 karma

It's a "thing" in the sense that I have 8 adopted cousins, all on my dad's side of the family, and a handful of them are black. It is not religiously motivated at all, although if I'm not mistaken I was adopted through some sort of Catholic organization which no longer exists.

coryrenton3 karma

do you know how it got started? were his parents before him early adopters?

gimmeonereasontostay7 karma

No, they weren't. It started with my dad's older sister, who adopted seven (yes seven) children over a period of 9-10 years. Then my parents adopted me, and then later my dad's other sister adopted a child.

coryrenton2 karma

Were they adopted all at once, or was it gradual, and eventually the siblings started taking care of the new adoptees so it became easier?

gimmeonereasontostay1 karma

No, they were adopted over a long period of time. My oldest cousin, who is black, was adopted sometime in the early/mid-80s (I just don't remember exactly how old he is). The youngest one was adopted in 1994 or 1995. I'm sure they did sort of raise each other to some extent.

mariusmule1 karma

I just want you to know that I fucking worship you. Keep it up.

gimmeonereasontostay5 karma

Why? :D

fisch093 karma

I'm interested in hearing more about feeling like you don't fit into either group. Are there parts of either culture that you feel you are connected to/not connected to because of the particular circumstances?

You also mentioned that you have cousins who were adopted into white families, is their situation as far as where they lived similar? and how has this affected your relationship to them?

gimmeonereasontostay14 karma

As to your first question, I would answer that I have no connection at all to any sort of "black culture" as I have only been exposed to it in the same form that most white Americans are exposed to it (i.e., TV, movies and music). So my impression of black culture is colored (heh) almost entirely by representations of black people in the media as opposed to firsthand experience with them. At the same time, I am black, and sometimes I feel like I'm expected to justify my interest in certain activities or styles of music ("You listen to Bon Iver? Haha, that's so white of you!"; "I didn't know black people liked to hike!"). I just think the fact that I'm black but not really black gives people a certain anxiety, in the same way that, for example, an androgynous appearance might. That's not a very eloquent answer but whatever I guess.

And secondly, their situation was quite a bit different as most of them were raised around large numbers of black people -- my aunt and uncle have black friends and there is a substantial black population in the city where they lived. I honestly have never talked to them about this issue specifically because I am not particularly close to any of them. Their lives in general have been quite a bit different than mine, though. I basically had a quiet and uneventful upbringing and a stable family life, whereas several of them have been in and out of juvie/mental institutions/prison (my youngest cousin got really deep into drugs and crime and is serving a 10-year sentence right now). I think this has to do with family dynamics, namely my aunt's mental illness and just the logistics of being raised in a family of 9 children, and other factors such as the high rate of crime and drug use in the community where they were raised.

centaurusxxx3 karma

Which ex-USSR country are you in? Have you experienced any racism over there?

gimmeonereasontostay17 karma

Estonia. Long story short, yes, quite a bit, but people here for the most part are pretty non-confrontational. Naturally, people are very very very curious, as black people are extremely rare here, so I do get stared at everywhere I go, but I have trained myself not to make too big of a deal out of it. Most of my racist "incidents" have been with random drunk people, although I did have a run-in with some psycho neo-Nazis once.

zT1TzbaT5 karma

Sorry that you had to encounter those types. What inspired you to move to Estonia, if you don't mind my asking?

gimmeonereasontostay7 karma

I'm in grad school here. Was actually living/working in Russia when I took a trip here for the first time and I really took a liking to the place.

Brain_Blasted1 karma

What was Russia like? I've heard there are black Russians, but I've wanted to visit and have heard some odd things about race relations there.

gimmeonereasontostay11 karma

Russia is an acquired taste. I've spent a lot of time there doing various things. I'm obsessed with the country despite the fact that I do deal with quite a bit of bullshit while I'm there (people openly pointing and laughing, coming up to me on the train and asking if I have any drugs for sale, talking shit about me in Russian which I speak, the constant stop-and-frisks and document checks by the police, don't get me started on what it's like going to smaller cities and towns). It's hard to explain, I guess it's sort of a love-hate relationship. Being black in Russia is certainly "interesting", haha.

Monopolyalou1 karma

Have you had any racist experiences?

gimmeonereasontostay4 karma

Talking about my life in the US, I guess I'd say I've experienced more casual racism than anything else, although I have had a couple of crazy experiences.

Like once during college, I came to class early and discovered that one of my classmates had written "FBI statistics" about the racial breakdown of rape suspects in huge letters on the whiteboard (to the effect that there are more black rapists than white rapists, or something, don't remember). After a couple of minutes he started to shout hysterically at me, asking me if I was okay with the fact that blacks are rapists and why are blacks so violent and etc. Then he was screaming at the top of his lungs about how his dad died of a cocaine overdose and no one cares because he's white. He was literally shaking and pounding his fists on his desk and I was sure he would turn into the Hulk. Some of my classmates stepped in and basically everyone was screaming. He ended up pretty much getting dragged out of the building and I never heard anything else about him. I have to think mental illness/trauma was more at play here than racism per se.

Come to think of it though, it was a pretty amusing experience. Some woman called me later that day from the university and told me in the sappiest voice ever, "I am your advocate! I am here for you! I am your support system!" and once they established that I had no plans to pursue any sort of action against the university or go to the media or whatever, I never heard from them again. They even called up my parents and told them I had been the victim of a "racial incident" but wouldn't give them specifics. 🙄 🙄

[deleted]1 karma

I was adopted too so I can understand what you mean. I'm Asian and there's not a lot of Asians in the US.

What are your thoughts on your real parents? [I don't know mine so I cannot say much]

gimmeonereasontostay1 karma

I also don't know my biological mother and I've never really felt all that interested in finding out about her. I'd be curious to at least see what she looks like and maybe if I have any biological brothers or sisters but I'm not very interested in developing a relationship with them.

RodriguezMommy1 karma

Do you date black women or do you prefer white women as you said you felt white growing up with an all white familia?

gimmeonereasontostay2 karma

I don't have any sort of racial preference when it comes to dating, but I've never dated another black person because I just don't ever come across them and I don't go seeking them out.

Autistic_Mexican1 karma

How did it feel knowing that you were adopted by a white family and when did you find out or when did tell you?

gimmeonereasontostay1 karma

I don't remember if my parents ever sat me down and told me what adoption was and explained to me that I was adopted. I don't remember ever not being aware about it. Remember, I was adopted as an infant.

sockmulletco1 karma

What do you think about Kapernick?

gimmeonereasontostay2 karma

Almost literally nothing. I did not follow the whole NFL kneeling thing (that's what he's known for, right?) at all. Just scanned Wikipedia and found out that he was adopted by white parents. Seems like an interesting character but I can't say I have any positive or negative feelings toward him.

iinnaassttaarr-1 karma

[deleted]

gimmeonereasontostay12 karma

No, that has never ever happened, and even though we don't have the absolute best or closest relationship I can't imagine him ever saying something like that to me. And in my case, it wouldn't have made much sense for me to be using racial slurs on my brother given that I "saw myself" as a white guy as well.

iinnaassttaarr3 karma

[deleted]

gimmeonereasontostay8 karma

Now that I think of it though, when I was a kid there was this one time that my brother's friend came over to our house, and to keep me from bothering them he (the friend) stuck a piece of paper to my brother's door that said "whites only" or maybe it even said "no blacks" - I don't remember for sure. I couldn't have been older than 6 or 7 or possibly even younger but I remember being really hurt, especially by the fact that my brother didn't try to stop him.

Belrick_NZ-34 karma

At what age will you start hating white folk and go all for muh black oppression? Or do you also think colin kap [something] is a racist twat?

gimmeonereasontostay23 karma

Given that 99% of my friends and family are white and that I'm surrounded all day every day by white people, yeah, I'm sure that'll be happening any minute now. And unlike some people I don't spend all my time thinking about Colin Kaepernick and have no opinion on him.