I am content with my racial identity

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The Independent Online
TRACY BURT'S early childhood sounds like a fairy story. Born to a white mother and black father, she was placed in a children's home near Felixstowe, Suffolk, in the 1960s, writes Joanna Reid. A kindly lady with two children, and no interest in adopting children, happened to visit the home and met Tracy as a baby. The matron asked her if she'd like to take her out one weekend. She agreed. The outings became more frequent, and she and her family grew to love the child. After living with her new family for some time, Tracy was formally adopted at the age of five.

Tracy was a pretty girl who loved to dance and sing, and was popular at school. She also suffered her share of racist insults at secondary school but fought back hard - she preferred to deal with racist taunts herself and didn't involve her adoptive parents in her battles.

Even when she moved to London there were pleasant surprises in store. From being considered a "non-attractive"girl in rural Suffolk, in Peckham young men were struck by her looks and stopped her on the street to ask her out. Tracy's story indicates that the love and care she received as a child, rather than a shared racial identity with her adoptive parents, was more important. But the reality was more complex than that. Like many adopted people, Tracy felt the need to find out about her birth parents, and traced her birth mother. She also wanted to find out about her cultural heritage, and left England to live in north Africa. Her father came from Zanzibar, and she felt that in Africa she could soak up some of his culture. She would have pursued her search for her father to Zanzibar, but her adoptive father intervened and traced her natural father himself. He turned out to be living 16 miles from Tracy's London home. She returned and met him, but didn't tell him she was his daughter.

Now settled in London with her partner and child, Tracy is content with the racial identity she has established, but glad of the affirmation of being among other mixed-race people in her partner's family. She also sees her adoptive family regularly and relations with them are "better than they've ever been".

So Tracy came through the difficulties set out by her birthright, and her adoptive parents' helped her do that. But as Julia Feast, her adoption counsellor at the Children's Society, says: "Tracy did find a racial identity that she was comfortable with in the end, but she had to travel an awful long way, mentally and physically, to get it."

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