Searching for Identity: Race, adoption and awareness in the millennial generation

Searching for Identity: Race, adoption and awareness in the millennial generation


Dwight Smith

What happens when a black boy is adopted at birth into a white world where race and racism are ghosts of the past and racial identity is a silly thing to waste time thinking about? As a transracial adult adoptee of color, my life journey reveals some insight into this very question.

And what happens when a mostly white millennial generation is raised without an accurate understanding of race, racism or their role in a racialized society? As Slate’s chief political correspondent Jamelle Bouie puts it, our generation “think[s] if we ignore skin color, racism will somehow disappear.”

Both questions are connected because I — and many of my millennial peers — came up in similar race-erasing worlds. Both questions are important to me, because my life experiences motivate me to address the racial confusion of the millennial generation.

I lead the Impact Race initiative for a global nonprofit called Net Impact, connecting our 100,000 members with the awareness, language and resources to lead for racial equity in their communities and careers. Members represent hundreds of campuses and companies across a wide variety of industries, including the local tech industry. Aspects of my journey as a transracial adoptee, and the majority white millennial generation experience in the United States, highlight the importance of pushing the conversation toward an honest, reflective look at how to understand racism and lead for racial equity.

Ignorance is bliss, until it isn’t.

I am a mixed-race black male raised in and around whiteness. Race had about as much real significance as the color of one’s shoelaces, and racism was a wrong of years gone by. In this world, to be ‘black’ (this is how I was and am categorized) meant a list of hollow stereotypes such as the expectation of athletic skill. But mostly there was just deafening silence when it came to me being black. Of course, all of this was ‘normal’ to me, in the sense that it was all I ever knew. It was also normal to all the white kids I grew up around. This is, in part, the reason that a ‘raceless’, colorblind worldview is normal to many of my white millennial peers today…

…Simply opening one’s eyes is not enough, we must seek the context to interpret that which we now see. My faith, my current understanding of the factors that influenced my childhood experiences as a transracial adoptee, and my everyday experience as a black man in America, fuel my life’s commitment to education and advocacy…

Read the entire article here.

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