September 03, 2019
Twenty-six years ago, a well-intentioned white couple adopted a baby from Bogota, Colombia. However, it wasn’t until the baby was 19-years-old that she discovered that fact.
My Adoptive Parents Hid My Racial Identity From Me For 19 Years
You see, my parents decided that they were going to approach my adoption as if they were completely colourblind, despite the fact that we are not the same race.
My brother was also adopted from Colombia, but we were both told that we were Italian and Portuguese, just like our adoptive parents. Your parents’ word is gold when you’re a child; at least that’s the best explanation I have for how my parents successfully passed me off as a dark-skinned Italian for 19 years of my life.
Of course, during those years I asked them time and again. “Mom, why is my skin darker?” or “Why wasn’t I born in America?”
They always had answers. I was told that my great-grandparents had skin darker than mine, but black-and-white photos didn’t show it well. That my parents went on vacation and unexpectedly had me in Colombia.
I didn’t know any better. We couldn’t just Google things on our smartphones in the 90s.
When I was a little girl in elementary school, I was the darkest girl in my class. We were all hanging out during free play during second grade when a little blonde in a pink dress came up to me and shoved me. “You can’t play with us! You’re black!” she yelled. I was stunned, and simply just stood there in silence.
I looked down at my brown skin, and didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t the first time something like this happened and unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last. She knew I didn’t quite belong.Throughout my childhood, I was surrounded by 99% white students, in a white middle-class neighbourhood, in my white family. The only brown people I really saw were, well ― nobody. I knew I was brown, but so was my brother, right? And apparently so was my great grandpa? I fit in, OK? I was just like everyone else!
As I hit puberty, everyone assumed I was Latina, but I denied it.
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish. I’m Italian,” I would say over and over.
My parents may have lied to me. My family may have lied to me. But during those few years of my life, I lied to myself.
When I was 14, I found part of my brother’s paperwork stating that he was adopted. I searched all over the house, but my paperwork consisted of a birth certificate with my parents’ names on it and my Social Security card. No adoption paperwork in sight.
In a further exercise in lying to myself, I decided that while my brother was clearly adopted, I wasn’t. After all, he was even darker than me. And everyone always said I looked like my dad, but he didn’t. With so many excuses and so many lies already swirling around, it was simple enough to just ignore the problem.
I knew something was off, but I couldn’t admit it. It hurt too much to acknowledge that my entire life was a lie. Not only that, but my family had always said negative things about my people from my culture ― Latinos only did yard work, they were uneducated, and other stereotypes. As a child, I wasn’t allowed to hang out with other Latinos ― maybe they feared I would find out my true nationality.
Finally, at 19, I found the rest of my brother’s adoption paperwork in my dad’s office. It clearly referred to “their adopted daughter, Melissa …” It was there smack-dab in my face, in black and white, and I couldn’t hide from it anymore.
I was adopted from Colombia, just like my brother.
So, I confronted my mother. Calmly. At the moment, I just needed answers. There weren’t many forthcoming.
The way my mother was raised, it was ingrained into her that to be a good wife you needed to bear kids. She was ashamed about not being able to conceive, and back then, you didn’t speak of these things. My father, on the other hand, just went along with what my mother did. When I confronted him, he said that he promised himself that he would tell me if I asked. To him, it was that simple.
As an adopted child, I lost my birth parents, but because of my parents’ actions, I also lost my country, my language and my culture.
I didn’t talk to them for a long time. I grieved. I raged. I went to therapy. I harboured a lot of resentment for my parents, who I blamed for depriving me of my culture.  
When you bring a child of a different race into a home, it’s hard to face certain realities. My white parents decided to teach colourblindness to try to protect themselves and me from racism in the world. But, instead, it taught me that my ethnicity was something to be ashamed of. It was something to be hidden.
However, after hearing so many of my fellow adoptees’ stories, I know that my reality is not so different from theirs. I’ve been in touch with hundreds of transracial adoptees all over the world, and a lot of us feel that we do not belong fully in either culture, our birth family, or our adoptive family.
My case is extreme, but not unique.
So, many international adoptees have parents who make subtle comments about how horrible their child’s country is, dismiss talk of their birth parents, give them dirty looks if they talk in their birth tongue. Small things like this can have a big toll on an adoptee’s mental health and, despite the love parents may have for their children, it does not make these behaviours less damaging.
I have loving parents regardless of what they did. And yeah, we still have our issues, but we’re making it through. Today, they listen to me when I talk about racism. They have stopped using stereotypes. They try to integrate Colombian food into holidays and talk about my adoption openly. They listen to me and understand that it’s a process that I am still working through, and that even though I forgive them, it doesn’t erase the hurt their actions have caused.Now, I feel the tug of my Colombian culture. As a Latina, I’m learning my language and speak it with pride, even though I stumble. As a Latina, I speak with my family about cultural issues other Latinx people face, even though it makes them uncomfortable. As a Latina, I sing “el tiburon bebe” instead of “baby shark” with my kids.
But there is still work to do. I still have to bridge the mental gap between the cultures in my life. In time, I hope to learn how to integrate them more because your skin colour is power. Your culture is power. Your language is power. Your ethnicity is power.
Maybe one day it will get easier, but for now, at least, I’m celebrating my heritage. And maybe my story will help other families learn to celebrate every part of their children’s identity.
Melissa Guida-Richards runs a parenting blog, Spoonie-Mama, where she discusses her experiences as a mom with chronic illness, mental health, and adoption.
This article first appeared on HuffPost US Personal
Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.comMore from HuffPost UK Personal How My All-Black Wardrobe Helps Me Through Borderline Personality Disorder Why I Refused To Give In To The Pressure To Have A Gender Reveal Party When You're White-Passing, White People Treat You Like The ‘Acceptable Ethnic'
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Hasan Minhaj, Kumail Nanjiani, Lulu Wang, Jon M. Chu, Ally Maki Join #Represent: Success Stories
May 30, 2020
wuCMpiZ5t6U
'Ramy' Creator Ramy Youssef on Season 2, Working With Mahershala Ali
May 29, 2020
TZk6RXM2OiI
Chris Evans Talks 'Defending Jacob' Season Finale
May 29, 2020
EJkYstFrquo
Jake Paul Denies Looting During Protests
May 31, 2020
rpI6JokCwEQ
Billie Eilish Slams "All Lives Matter" & Addresses "White Privilege" | E! News
May 30, 2020
rrvHlSBQ3EM
Beyonce Speaks Out About George Floyd's Death: "We're Broken and Disgusted" | E! News
May 30, 2020
D815CEkJBTc
Machine Gun Kelly Hits L.A. Streets to Protest George Floyd Death | TMZ
May 30, 2020
EX4Gs53msXI
Luxury Stores in L.A. Board Up Boutiques, Anticipate Looting | TMZ
May 30, 2020
FZqAIgK_NdM
Atlanta Cop Bodyslams Protester at Lenox Square Mall | TMZ
May 30, 2020
8neGZ3_Wp0w
Kylie Jenner faked her way to billionaire status, Forbes says | Page Six Celebrity News
May 29, 2020
BCSYS0HFHG0
Zonnique, daughter of Tiny Harris, shows off Atlanta home music studio | Page Six Celebrity News
May 29, 2020
kxKFasdVQKE
Wanda Sykes and Scott Baio at war over Joe Biden’s ‘ain’t black’ remarks | Page Six Celebrity News
May 28, 2020
u3TYzRbpRdk
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
08
Mar
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Inter Milan
08
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Manchester City
08
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - Everton
08
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Betis - Real Madrid
08
Mar
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Genoa
07
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Burnley - Tottenham Hotspur
07
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - West Ham United
07
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Real Sociedad
07
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Bournemouth
07
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Sevilla
01
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Barcelona
01
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Manchester United
01
Mar
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Wolves
01
Mar
SPAIN: La Liga
Espanyol - Atletico Madrid
01
Mar
ITALY: Serie A
Cagliari - Roma
29
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Watford - Liverpool
29
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Torino
29
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Bournemouth - Chelsea
24
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - West Ham United
23
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Everton
23
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Watford
23
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Lecce
23
Feb
SPAIN: La Liga
Atletico Madrid - Villarreal
22
Feb
SPAIN: La Liga
Levante - Real Madrid
22
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Fiorentina - AC Milan
22
Feb
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Manchester City
22
Feb
ITALY: Serie A
Spal - Juventus
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k tudKp5Vhs3k iwWHibhssSo kQr0XHPbICM 5NeCb7JxaRk
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.