The Call

Monday, April 9, 2018

After taking a deep breath, I called Ron and told him everything. He was just as shock as me.

“How do you know it’s not a scam? Did the adoption agency ask for your social security number?

“No, they didn’t. I only provided the agency with a copy of my driver’s license. And guess what? My birth name is Jennifer Brooks!”


“I’m Jenny from around the block!” We both laughed. “Oh, and one more thing. My birth father is Jewish. He is white!”

“Whaaaaat?!? Janeen!!!”

“I don’t know if I should say Shalom or As-salamu Alaykum!” Ron and I laughed hysterically.

“Have you spoken to your mother?”


“What? Why not”

“Ron, I’m about to embark on a journey like no other, and I will not take the next step if you aren’t ready.”

“Janeen, it’s not about me.”

“It’s not about me either. It’s about us. Also, I haven’t called my mom because I don’t know what to say.’

“Well, first, make sure you’ve eaten.” I looked at the meatless mees of a sandwich I made and threw it in the trash. “Second, don’t sound angry. Be matter of fact.”

After I hung up the phone. I grabbed lunch and prayed. I was really nervous. I refused to believe Pat because there may have been a mix-up! Maybe my dad had a baby by another woman, and she put me up for adoption. What if my parents had me via surrogate, and the woman ran away and put me up for adoption, and then my parents found me? I was willing to accept that one of my parents wasn’t biologically mine. But I refused to accept that both of them are not biologically mine.

It was time. I called my mom.


“Hi, Mom! Whatcha’ doing?”

“I just finished lunch.”

“Yeah? Me too!” I tried to sound as upbeat as possible. Because the next question was going to be a big one. Cheerfully I said, “Hey Mom, I have a strange question for you, and I want you to understand that my question is coming from a place of love.”


“Today I was told I was adopted and I wanted to know if you could confirm that or not.”

“Who told you that!”

My voice dropped an octave, “The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey.”

My mother’s voice quivered, and she began to tell me the story of my adoption. And just as I suspected, her doctor told her she wasn’t able to get pregnant. She said their lives were perfect and they felt the need to share it with a child, so they adopted me.

I cried.

“Why didn’t you and dad tell me?”

“Well, that was the plan until I became pregnant with Jermaine and then with Jamar.”

“Wait! Jermaine and Jamar aren’t adopted!?

“No, Janeen, they aren’t.”

“Mommy!” I squealed like a child watching her pet die.

My colleague in the office next to me ran over and knock on my door.

“Janeen, are you okay!?”

Wiping my eyes, I said, “Yes.” I closed my office blinds and locked my door. I can handle this, I told myself.

I had put my phone down on my desk, and I could hear my mom yelling for me.

I picked the phone back up. Our exchange was emotional. I asked my mom if she knew that my biological father was white. She said yes, and that doesn’t change anything. “You are Black.”, she said.


My brothers Jamar and Jermaine. 1998

Okay, I know that I’m Black. But I was severely bullied as a child because I am significantly lighter than the rest of my immediate family. I don’t think my parents understood the gravity of what I went through. I was called a “Reverse Oreo Cookie—white on the outside and black on the inside,” a “safe black” because I was fair-skinned and people felt more comfortable talking to me. I have been also called an Albino Black, and a few other names. Some of my schoolmates would say that my mother had cheated on my father with the milkman or with someone white from her job. And here’s the kicker. I was told numerous times that I was probably adopted, but my parents haven’t told me yet—little did any us know how right they were. Unfortunately, the comments and jokes didn’t end in childhood. I’ve had adults approach me with all forms of foolishness about my skin complexion. “Have you see “Imitation of Life”?” or “You can’t be Black! Your nose it too tiny!” I’ve spent my whole life defending my Blackness and my family. I was insecure, depressed, confused, and I hated being fair-skinned. I was continually asking myself what did the world see that I was missing. Because of this, I had a rendez-vous with darkness often.


“Mom! I know I am black. I just wished I had known.”

That was enough for the day. I had so much to process. Her last words to me before I hung up was, “Don’t be mad at me. We gave you a good life.”

And THAT they did.

Let’s talk…

  • Have you every had to deal with issues around your skin complexion?
  • Have you ever been affected by colorism? Colorism: discrimination or prejudice based on skin color in which people who are usually members of the same race are treated differently based on the social implications that come with the cultural meanings attached.

2 thoughts on “The Call

  1. I’ve been a victim of racism most of my life. You see, I am a biracial woman–I’m a black woman with white skin and blue/grey eyes. My mother was black and my father was white. My mother was caught in a whirlwind of violence during the D.C. riots after Martin Luther King was assassinated. Shortly after, she met my father. As a couple, they witnessed and experienced racism first-hand during the civil rights movement and in most of the 36 years they were together. My father was not one to be messed with and he had no problem proudly parading my mom up and down Broad Street in Richmond for all to see. But that’s a different story for a different time.

    My parents raised me to be color-blind and I was—until I was probably 4 or 5 years old. One day while I was out shopping with my grandmother, who happens to be very dark-skinned, a white woman alerted a store manager about a lost little girl. She didn’t believe we were together until I called out for my “Nanny, Nanny she’s trying to steal me!” My family laughs about this now, but the reality is, it changed how I saw color forever. I remember later going thru the members of my family and pointing out who was white (my father and my biracial grandfather whose skin was as white as mine), who was brown (my mother, my aunts and Snoopy, our dog), and then there was Nanny who “stayed out in the sun too long.” Before that white lady marred my color-blindness, it had never occurred to me that Nanny and I looked nothing alike. I was an outcast at her church’s vacation bible camp, and in the Catholic school my parents enrolled me in for first grade—I was not invited back for the following year.

    I was seven years old when we moved to what is my hometown of Stafford, VA. I immediately became a target for almost everyone at my elementary school simply because of what my parents looked like. Even my 2nd grade teacher treated me poorly after meeting them for the first time. As if being biracial wasn’t enough, to make things even more difficult, I was raised in a gated community that was considered by many to be an affluent or rich neighborhood. That presented a whole different level of issues for a biracial girl trying to fit in. I believe there were maybe a small handful of black families—then there were my parents and me. I remember when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I was walking to a friend’s house and one of the high school kids who lived around the block, shot me in the leg with his BB gun simply because of who I was. He yelled something racial—I can’t remember what it was now. I have a vivid memory of my 5th grade birthday party where my secret crush and some of his friends came—I was so excited I thought I’d die—my crush gave me a gift wrapped in black and white paper and as he handed it to me he said, “it’s a zebra, just like you!” I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong– over the years I made a lot of friends that accepted me regardless of my skin color—or that of my parent’s—but in middle and high school, it was a really big struggle to fit in—more than the norm. My parents tried to instill in me that I had the best of both worlds but it was so hard to embrace that fact when I was being called half-breed, half-[n-word], half-cracker, half-coon, zebra, [n-word] lover, checkerboard and mutt. Most of the black girls disliked me because I was TOO white and most of the black boys were either interested or intrigued by me and the black girls hated that. There were plenty of white boys who were very aware of my race and for them I was too black. Eventually I had friends in just about every clique but not one day went by that I wasn’t reminded of how different I was from them—there were so few biracial kids in our area back then. I just wanted to fit in somewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shannon! WOW! It appears that we went through similar situations in the bullying department. However, I would always respond, “I’m Black and Black”, because I didn’t know I was bi-racial. Honestly, now that know what many bi-racial people went through (confused about having to choose) I’m glad that I was raised as a Black child. I didn’t have a choice in the matter about which side to pick.

      I also heard from my bi-racial female friends (all of them have white mothers) that I was very fortunate to have been raised by a Black mother because they have told me that their mother’s couldn’t affirm their Black beauty (hair, skin, etc.). Did you have a similar experience?


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