Identity Is A Prison You Can Never Escape

A while back someone added me to a support group for Black adoptees. I have been struggling with membership and participation, mostly for one very obviously reason -- I'm White. I do not feel I have any right to space in there. Yesterday I spoke up about my feelings after an admin posted asking our feelings about the tagline, "Identity is a prison you can never escape[...]"  



Personally, I love this quote, and all the feels I get when I say it out loud. It's empowering and it's real. It tells me that this will be a life-long battle, but also assures me it's one I can win.

My struggle to share in the group and seek support stems from this feeling of imprisonment. 

I have lived my whole life as a privileged White person, and learned only at age 37 that I am almost a quarter African. This information has been difficult to swallow, and I've had trouble voicing these feelings without the assumption that it's due to disappointment in my African roots. 

This process has landed me on the receiving end of racist remarks and jokes, and has taught me, time and again, how unsafe it is to discuss certain things with certain people in my life. 

There hasn't been a safe place to process any of it, and I cannot express the amount of process necessary. I have so many questions that may never be answered. There are so many variables and possibilities. 

I wrote: 

I've actually been torn in posting here, because of this very thing. 

Last year, I had a DNA test done and found out that I'm 21% African. I was also matched to many blood relatives who are African American/Black.


This has floored me in ways I cannot put into words. This has torn at my identity in ways I don't know if I'll ever fully understand, and I have NO WHERE and NO ONE to go to with this process. 

I am surrounded by many "well-intentioned" racists, and I have yet to share this incredibly amazing yet difficult information with anyone without hearing some back-handed racist "joke." I understand my friends and family don't know how to respond. What do you tell your very white friend who just found out 37 YEARS INTO HER LIFE that she's 21% African? How do you help her process the feelings of anger and disappointment regarding the fact that it was kept completely out of her file? How do you help her process the very real fear that if only her parents had known, they would not have gone through with her adoption? 

I was added to this group because I shared this privately with one of you, and I appreciate this space so much. I just don't feel like I've earned the right to be here. I don't feel like as a white person with privilege I get to claim any of this space or feel sorry for myself because of any of this. 

So yes, "identity is a prison you can never escape," speaks to me. Not in a good way, but in a real way. 


I feel like a poor little white girl whining. 

I can't claim the social or political identity either. How can I?


I feel like I should sit down and shut up. I feel like an imposter. I feel like I have NO right to interrupt this or any other space with my luxury problems while so many others are fighting for the right to life and freedoms that I get to take for granted every day. 

How do I ask people to spare time for this?


Do I belong here?

I was so nervous for the replies. I worried about all the possible ways I could be shamed for having these feelings or mis-communicating my feelings and offending someone. Maybe I hadn't used the right term and I would be blasted for my obvious ignorance.

And much like most of the things I spend time worrying about, I was wrong. The first response was from the admin who had posed the question:

Julie, that's why I asked the question. Black people are not homogenous. Phenotype is different than genotype (How we look vs. our genes). That's why the United States enacted a "one-drop" (of black blood) rule. What an amazing story you have to tell... 

You deserve to be here and discover all the parts that are you!

And then this one: 

 Julie Maida, first of all welcome to this group. We are glad that you are here. Feel your feelings. They are valid. Except for the one that you blame yourself and consider yourself unworthy for this space. If it only was for your benefit that the space exists, It's worth it. 

Someone somewhere along the line decided to conceal Part of Yourself and I suspect it must have been to make sure that you were adoptable. But that's only my opinion. That is your journey to discover should you choose to do so. Please know that if there is any issues any questions you want to ask please feel free to do it here. There's no judgement and this is a safe space.


And then I felt like I was home, because they were speaking my love language.

I look forward to using this incredible group to break out of my prison and learn more about all the ways I am me. 

Perhaps I will never fully know who I am or where I came from, but I'm confident at this point that I can take the information from my past and the amazing words of Jay-Z, try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow. 


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