stereotypes

Sharing Your Story Alleviates Stereotypes

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In watching Chimamanda Adichie eloquently speak of The Danger of a Single Story, I couldn't help but to reflect upon my own experience with Closure. Over the past year I have felt a nagging conviction that although Closure is affecting people positively and in droves (awesome!), I often find myself editing my words during the Q&A portion after screenings of the film. I am constantly searching for the words that help to reinforce the fact that my story is just one of many unique, valuable and beautifully tragic adoption stories. I'm often asked questions such as "...has being in reunion with your birth family brought peace and happiness or more struggle and confusion?" followed by "...would you suggest all adoptees to search?"  I work really hard to consistently only answer from my experience only, hopefully helping folks to understand that my answer and this film shows only one story. That my answers are not every adoptees' answers, and that my style of searching, the age I chose to start searching etc., was simply one approach. Chimamanda's TED Talk beautifully explains the danger of attributing one single story to an entire subpopulation.

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

I found this TEDTalk to be a remarkably great reminder that although we learn a great deal by watching documentaries, reading memoirs, autobiographies and listening to keynote speeches etc., we shalt not think to apply these details to all who happen to fall within the same category. The danger in this is that by attributing my answer to all other adoptees you're branding all other adoptees as intensely curious, psychologically minded, introverted, basketball playing, pianists who are determined to respectfully find their birth families at all costs. Or that we read Night (Elie Wiesel), and that we then think of all holocaust survivors as people with a resolve to understand the inhumanity that man is capable of, or that we read The Reason I Jump, and attribute Higashida's thoughts and words to all people with autism. There is a danger in hearing and interacting with a single story and that is the risk of attributing one's story to everyone else within that category.

I am moved by the amount of adoptees I've met while since Closure debuted. So many of these adoptees stated that they felt ready and interested in sharing their own story.  Please do join me on this liberating (and scary) adventure in vulnerability.

 

Whistling Vivaldi

An African-American man, Staples recounted how his physical presence terrified whites as he moved about Chicago as a free citizen and graduate student. To counter the negative effects of white fear, he took to whistling Vivaldi. It was a signal to the unvictimized victims of his blackness that he was safe. Dangerous black men do not listen to classical music, or so the hope goes. The incongruence between Staples' musical choices and the stereotype of him as a predator were meant to disrupt the implicit, unexamined racist assumptions about him. It seems an annoying daily accommodation, perhaps, an attempt to make whites feel at ease to grease the wheels of social interactions—unless we fully recognize the potential consequences of white dis-ease for black lives. -          Whistling Vivaldi by Claude Steele, Provost at Columbia University

I understand this sentiment all too well, as though I'm an African-American female, there are ways that I feel that I am a recipient of White Privilege. In the same way that this gentleman whistled Vivaldi in order to lessen others' fears, sometimes I wonder if people's awareness of my transracial adoptee status and primarily Caucasian upbringing make me seem more approachable?

I can't help but think of the now deceased Jonathan Ferrell, and the tragedy in his death. Had he whistled Vivaldi, or been a known female trans-racial adoptee raised by Caucasian parents, would that have helped him to be alive today?