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For Transracial Adoptee, White Privilege Proves Fleeting

Courtesy of Chad Goller-Sojourner
Chad Goller-Sojourner with his mother.

Good intentions often have unexpected outcomes, something Chad Goller-Sojourner knows from personal experience.


He’s a Seattle based playwright , and also a counselor to white parents who’ve adopted children of color. Chad is black, and when he was 13 months old he himself was adopted by white parents, along with two other kids of color.  This was back in the 1970s, when there was a lot less awareness of mixed families.


Chad’s parents did their best to expose him to other people of color. The family even lived in Nigeria for a few years, until Chad was five. When they moved back to University Place near Tacoma, they enrolled Chad in Stanly Elementary School -- where most of the students were African American.


But Chad didn’t think of himself as black, and he had a hard time relating to his black classmates.


“I was not like them at all,” Goller-Sojourner says. “In fact, when I first went there I found them fascinating. They were loud and fast-talking, and they had beads in their hair, put grease in their hair -- all this stuff you didn’t have in University Place.”


Over time, Chad got more comfortable straddling these two worlds. But, that balance would soon be upended. For bureaucratic reasons, Chad had to change schools in 5th grade to one that was mostly white.


Suddenly he found himself in a world where race mattered. He was teased and persecuted by white students, and the comfort he got from his white parents was confusing. He found he would be followed in stores when he shopped alone -- in a way he never was when he was with his mother.


“For transracial adoptees especially in today’s world, a lot of these same privileges that we talk about have a limited shelf life. And what happens is they ill-prepare the person for the world that they’re going into,” he says.


Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.