Jada Pinkett Smith is giving a powerful inside look into transracial adoption.
On Monday’s Red Table Talk, the actress, 47, her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris and daughter Willow Smith sat down with Angela Tucker, a black adoptee who was raised by a white family.
Tucker was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy at birth and was placed for adoption by her birth mother, Deborah Johnson, who was not able to raise her due to homelessness.
Her adoptive parents, David and Teresa Burt, raised her and provided her with all her medical needs. The outcome, however, has caused conflict within Tucker.
“I have no sense of strong identity,” Tucker said on the Facebook Watch show. “I understand that keeping me alive and prioritizing my medical needs was really important and, look, I’m alive today.”
She continued, “I’m alive but dead inside in some ways without knowing my culture and not being connected.”
Despite being raised by white parents, Tucker said she has come to believe “transracial adoption is not the solution.”
“That’s asking me as a black woman to assimilate into white culture but to also keep my blackness somehow even though I wasn’t raised within it,” Tucker said.
She added, “It’s not that I don’t want to identify as a black woman but not growing up with black culture and feeling fear when I met my birth mother and my whole birth family, I was a bit afraid to meet them because I haven’t been around a black family and I haven’t been around that.”
Tucker clarified her fear came from not being able to fit in.
When Pinkett Smith pointed out the “internal conflict” Tucker exuded, Tucker said, “I struggle because I’m certainly grateful for the life I’ve been afforded but at the same time it’s hard to walk around and have people see a black woman but not feel like a black woman. It’s a huge weight.”
Based on her own experiences, Tucker founded an adoption consulting firm that specializes in educating adopting families on transracial adoption.
“Adoptive parents have commandeered the whole conversation,” Tucker said. “Unfortunately, we rarely hear from adopted people themselves because we often think of them as babies and I’m an adult. The reality is we grow up and we’re still adopted.”
Both of Tucker’s adoptive parents and her birth mother appeared in the episode.
“I waited 25 years to thank Deborah, thank her for sharing Angela. She did a hard thing, she did something I don’t think I could do, and I did something she wasn’t able to do,” Teresa said.
For her part, Johnson said she “will forever hurt” about placing Tucker for adoption.
At that time, not having a home, not having a job, you’ve got to make a strong choice,” Johnson said. “So I went to a higher power and I said, ‘Help me, please.'”
As for her outlook on Tucker and the Burts, Johnson said, “Teresa is her mother. I’m the vessel God used to put [Tucker] here. But that’s her parents right there.”
Tucker also took a moment to reflect on Johnson, telling her, “We all know you’ve done the best that you can and that we truly want you to feel like you’re part of our family, that you not being able to parent me doesn’t mean that you give up your rights to know who I am, how I’m doing.”
Red Table Talk airs Mondays on Facebook Watch.