A Last Resort: The identity my white parents couldn’t give me
July 01,2007 / Rachel Noerdlinger
In 1970, when I was not yet a year old, I was adopted by a New Mexico couple. A few months before, they had adopted my brother Fred, also African American. At the time, my parents had one son together, and a daughter from my father’s previous marriage; shortly after my adoption, my mother gave birth to my youngest brother.
My father, a physicist, and my mother, an artist, were active in the civil rights movement. I guess their role in the movement was a catalyst for them to adopt children of color. When I was young and would ask them why they adopted me, I was met with silence. My questions about my biological mother – her life, her choices – remain unanswered to this day.
I now understand that there was an optimistic, West coast philosophy behind my parents’ uneasiness with my questions about race. Early multiculturalists, they saw racial divisions as arbitrary, dangerous cultural distinctions. If we ignored race, they hoped, we might all live happily as one. But when I was a child, my life wasn’t "colorless." It was white. And colorblindness is a luxury young black children aren’t afforded by this world.