Trauma and Transracial Adoption

We talk today with Dr. Gina Samuels about Trauma and Transracial Adoption. Dr. Samuels is an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and In-Coming Director at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. She is an adult transracial adoptee. She has a newly published article in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect titled “Epistemic trauma and transracial adoption.”

In this episode, we cover:

  • How do you define trauma? What is complex trauma?
  • What is epistemic trauma and how does it differ from the trauma caused by abuse or neglect or witnessing violence? 
  • The article, “Epistemic trauma and transracial adoption”, asks how might the theory of epistemic injustice highlight conditions endemic to the experience of adoption, and specifically transracial adoption, that mark a distinct type of trauma? How does this apply to all adoption and how specifically to transracial adoption?
  • The article posits that the condition of being transracially adopted can represent intersectional minoritized statuses. 
  • What are some other life experiences that can result in epistemic trauma and intersectional minoritized status? Mixed race? First generation immigrant?
  • What are ways in which transracial adoption is traumatic? Racism? Adoption based microaggressions? Racial microaggressions?
  • What are ways in which the institution of adoption aid in this epistemic trauma? 
  • “Hermeneutical smothering”—the deployment of dominant meanings that drown out, distort, or obscure one’s own meaning making processes. How does this apply in adoption? How does it apply in transracial adoption? (How adoptees experience racism; how adoptees experience adoption)
  • “TRA does not adopt children out of racism. In fact, TRA can place children right in the center of it.” Being transracially adopted, also amplifies a person of color’s proximity to whiteness, and to the meanings of race and racism that exist within in these spaces.
  • The feeling of being more fully understood with other transracial adopted people.
  • How can we do better? 
  • The Creating a Family Facebook Support Group had an interesting discussion from all sides of the adoption triad (adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents) of the following quote:  “Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” ~Rev. Keith C. Griffith 

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Music Credit: Michael Ashworth

Image Credit: Kampus Productions