“At any given time there exist, at minimum, as many truths as there are people in the room,” my instructor told us as she began her lecture on fair fighting. Her words resonated deeply; reverberating in much in the same way that a single string plucked on one instrument might elicit a sound from another nearby, due simply to the vibration.
“At any given time there exist, at minimum, as many truths as there are people in the room,” she repeated.
I know this to be true, implicitly. Growing up as a transracial adoptee in a White family and a White community, hearing phrases like “that’s your perception,” time after time as I attempted to name my own experiences of incongruity, I concluded that it must have all been in my head.
“That’s your perception, that’s not reality.”
And so I dutifully ignored my perception and tried to fit in, but I didn’t fit in. And because I was never taught to see or to celebrate difference, things never quite worked out the way I wanted.
It was only after meeting others like me, who’d faced similar experiences, racially or otherwise, who’d heard the same retort time after time, that I began to understand my reality – my truth – for what it was, and to finally stop denying its validity.
It wasn’t that my perception wasn’t reality. My perception just wasn’t a reality recognized and experienced by all. The way that privilege is often equated to ‘asking a fish to describe water’.
The trouble with the phrase “it’s just your perception” is that it assumes everyone has the same experience of reality, that what’s true for one is true for all. As a transracial adoptee, I needed to not only accept, but to embrace my experiences of incongruity before I could begin to fully grasp others’ unique views of power and privilege, and the society that shapes them.
Actively in the process of reclaiming my ethnic and cultural identities, I have only just begun to grasp my own privilege as a light-skinned transracial adoptee in relation to other People of Color, as well as to other placed folks. It hasn’t been easy, but it wouldn’t have been possible without first recognizing the value and validity of my unique and complex identities.
So, rather than assuring us that we are just like everyone else, friends and family would be better off recognizing the unique truths that transracial and transnational adoptees and fosters have to offer. Perspectives which wouldn’t ordinarily be accessible, but which come from valid experiences of a society that we are all a part of, whether or not recognized by all.