Every March, the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education hosts a Multiracial Awareness Week with events centered around recognition of cultural diversity in the form of food, film and heritage. The term multiracial refers to people who identify as multiple races and transracial adoption is when a person of one race adopts a child from a different race.
On March 8 in Turner Theater, viewers gathered to watch the documentary “Struggle for Identity,” a film centered around the lives of several transracially adopted adults. These adults described their relationships with their white parents and how it impacted their sense of identity growing up. Following the film, CREDE staff member senior Alyssa Meritt hosted a Zoom panel which featured transracial adoptees Annabel Bunton, former Elon staff member, and Emma Goering, ‘21.
Bunton and Goering each answered a series of questions posed by Meritt in regard to their identities. Both Bunton and Goering were adopted from China at 9 months old and grew up in Burlington.
Bunton said she didn’t always feel like she fit in with her family or her Asian identity since she was adopted, even though she knew other Asian Americans in the community.
“I still think, when growing up with Asian Americans, it’s difficult to find even the other Asians wanting to be friends,” Bunton said during the event. “We’re trying to find our own identity and where we fit in the place and I think a lot of it is about assimilation and just wanting to fit into whatever you got brought up with.”
Goering said had she not been adopted, she wouldn’t have had the same educational and experiential opportunities she does today.
Though Bunton said that she likely wouldn’t have had the opportunities she has had without being adopted, she said there was still a lot of cultural education her parents lacked when they adopted her.
“We need to center the narrative around adoption by including more adoptee’s voices in it,” Bunton said. “My parents grew up in South Carolina. They had the best intentions, but I do not think they did the best of creating a space where I could be proud of being Asian, and if I started to hate my identity, I don’t think that they stopped it.”
Sophomore attendee and transracial adoptee Gavin Connors said he liked hearing from people like him and found it informational. He attended the event after seeing it in his email, saying that it fell into his lap at “the perfect time:” Connors said he has recently been struggling with his own identity as a transracial adoptee.
“It was very nice to see myself represented on a screen, which doesn’t happen very often,” Connors said. “It was just very nice to get a lot of knowledge about something that I knew was integral to a part of me, but I never really had a space to explore them.”
Connors was adopted within his family but didn’t know he was adopted until he was older. Connors identifies as mixed, Black and white, and was adopted by his extended white family. He was told throughout his childhood that his family had “olive skin” and grew up believing that he was white.
After learning he was adopted, Connors eventually began to explore his identity and was able to find his birth parents. However, he described the experience as “freeing but disappointing” because it took him so long to find that part of his identity.
Now, Connors said he is excited to begin exploring his heritage and culture again at Elon as a transracial adoptee through events such as the multiracial awareness week.
“I’m just really glad that I was actually able to come to this and sit down and be surrounded by a group of people,” Connors said. “It’s a little bit sad that it took until my sophomore year of college to understand that an event like this could happen and that there are a group of people that care about these issues and want to talk about them.”