Transracial adoptees and their allies are speaking out about Rachel Dolezal's and other's use of the term “transracial” in conversations wrestling with her identity, arguing that it does not mean choosing to change one’s race, rather it means the adoption of a child, usually a child of color, by a family of another race, usually a Caucasian family.
“Many members of the White press have appropriated and co-opted a deeply meaningful, historical term - transracial - from the adoptee community,” Kevin H. Vollmers, Executive Director of Gazillion Strong, told NBC News. “They’re treating ‘transracial’ as though it’s a new thing. As a transracial adoptee, this is, at the very least, a slap in the face."
Vollmers says use of the term is particularly harmful, given many transracial adoptees' struggles to define their own identities.
Adoptive families also take issue with Dolezal’s claim on the Today Show that she could not parent her African American son as a Caucasian woman. “This questionable and even extreme approach to parenting goes against how families with transracial adoptees should actually tackle issues related to race,” wrote a coalition of transracial adoptees, adoptive parents, and academics in An Open Letter: Why Co-opting ‘Transracial’ in the Case of Rachel Dolezal is Problematic. “A deeper consciousness of issues related to race may occur among White families with transracial adoptees. But this does not mean that White parents become people of color in the process. Instead, adoptive families need to create spaces for transracial adoptees to explore and construct their own identities.”
Adoptees navigating racial boundaries, the group argues, never actually "become White." Those behind the letter and supporters have taken to Twitter to continue the conversation with the hashtags #AskAnAdoptee and #DefineTransracial.