What Is Transracialization…

Transracialization is the term I use to describe what happens to some individuals after they take part in long-term relationships of caring with people of another race. I came to this term while conducting a research project with white people who grew up in transracial adoptive families, namely, the non-adopted white siblings of transracial adoptees.

Transracialization emerges when individuals develop a deep and sophisticated understanding of race and racism. Apparently, people usually come to this awareness by being immersed in communities where they have the experience of being in the minority themselves. Sometimes they are married to or partnered with people of color, or they have other long-standing ties of friendship and chosen kinship with peers of color.

For instance, they may live in predominantly African American or Latino neighborhoods and attend worship services in churches, temples, and mosques where they are in the minority as white people. All of the white adults in my study grew up in transracial adoptive families with Korean or African American brothers and sisters, yet only a few of them could be described as having transracialized their white identities. It is important to note that the individuals I characterize as transracialized used their family experience as a springboard to forming close friendships with others OUTSIDE their families.That is, transracialization didn’t just happen simply because they had a sibling of another race.

You can read more about this in forthcoming articles and in my chapter in the book, Outsiders Within:Writing on Transracial Adoption, edited by Jane Jeong Trenka, Julia Chinyere Oparah, and Sun Yung Shin, published by South End Press.

A closing thought: The challenge to all of us who care about racial harmony and social justice is this: How are we transracializing our own lives? It requires a huge commitment to break out of the comfort zones that racialization encourages us to stay inside. But transracialization may be the best way to finally integrate our still highly segregated society. It certainly addresses most of the issues that will confront transracially adopted individuals, as kids and in adulthood, for the rest of their lives. If you are actively transracializing already, I say, Right On!

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