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!”
“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.
“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.
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.
- 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.