Drake, Benjamin. Personal Interview, 9, Mar. 2015
Name: Benjamin Drake
Hobbies: I play baseball and football. I want to become a chief, so I cook a lot at home. So that’s what I do a lot and computer stuff.
Who's in your family? Mom, dad, siblings? Any adopted siblings?
So my mom is 62, so kind of it’s different having an older family. My dad is 65. So it’s kind of weird having an older family. My dad’s Christian and my mom’s Jewish, so that’s also like a big thing. So growing up with two different religions; so I celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. I didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah, cause my mom didn’t, she told me now, we talk about it a lot. “I didn’t want my religion on you.” I’m like that makes sense but I kind of wish now like knowing the whole culture aspect and the aspect of what it was I kind of wish I had one. And we still go back and forth about “oh I should still have one”. But I’m just too busy to learn my Torah portion and all that good stuff. I do. I have an older brother who’s 18, I have a younger sister who’s 16, and I have a baby brother who’s one I want to say, cousins and stuff like that.
Tell me about yourself?
So I’m adopted that’s really a big part of my life. I moved to Florida, when I was first taken from my mom. I lived in Florida for two years. I moved here when I was two and have lived here ever since, so that’s pretty big. I’ve been playing baseball since I was seven years old and I want to play in college and stuff, so that pretty awesome. I started playing football when I was a freshman in high school. I thought it was going to be like madden, where you can see whole thing and it’s nothing like madden. So that was a big shock to me. But playing football was pretty cool, like the whole team aspect of everything was awesome. Definitely like a brotherhood, everyone loves you, everyone on the team. So it sucks not having it year because I’m a senior and everything.
Where were you adopted?
How old were you when you were adopted?
I was 7 weeks
When did you know that you were adopted? When did your parents tell you?
Um so my parents told me… They kept telling me when I was younger so it wouldn’t be a big surprise like oh my parents are white and oh you’re adopted. And I kind of felt like I already knew. Cause I was a different color than them so. IN one of the pictures actually my dad was telling me that I was, He was kind of narrating it like “Oh who is this white lady” so it was a big surprise but like I don’t know.
Can you tell me about the day you were adopted?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, oh God yeah. So, when my parents picked me up or whatever I was in like a foster, a transition family. So first they adopted me and then they send me to a transition family kind of and then my parents come down there and stay with that family. They talk and whatever to see if it’s a right fit. So, after that they take me and they still live in Austin, Texas for a week or so to make sure everything is okay and I’m a good baby or whatever. Then they commit the process to go back. So, when the day I was adopted my parents took me out to dinner or to lunch. I was crying up a storm because it was like a new family and so they tried to do everything. They took me to lunch and I was crying, crying, and crying. My parent would take trips out and in to either try to calm me down so my mom could eat and then my dad would go out so mom could eat and stuff like that. Then they took me to a movie so if that would help if watching something would help me asleep. And it didn’t work and I was crying, crying, crying, and crying and my dad was like “I can’t take do this” and just left. So, basically my dad walked, he took a two and a half hour walk. He was just with me and he told me I eventually stopped crying. When he got back into the hotel, he got back before my mom because my mom was shopping or whatever and I just fell asleep on him. And I fell asleep for the rest of the day. I feel like that’s the rest of it.
Do you have many adoptive friends?
Dang, I do but I just forget that they are. I’m trying to think… There’s this girl that I used to go to camp with that her name was, I don’t even know, I can’t remember. But I do have adoptive friends. It’s just hard to remember. It’s something we don’t talk about we just let it be.
Do you think it can be hard to form relationships?
Yeah, this um yeah. I kind of feel distant from my grandmother and sometimes my grandfather. I just didn’t feel like I was the same as them, kind of. It’s just harder to talk with them. I didn’t feel equal kind of. I just didn't think I could talk to them as easily. My cousins didn’t really know how to take it. They had only been in a white position, like they didn’t really know black people. So they didn’t really know who to act around me. And they made awkward jokes about me being black. I’d be like “Oh, that’s kind of funny, but not really.” My aunt though, who’s the mom of my cousins, she didn’t really have a problem with it. She thought it was awesome. My other aunt was like fine with it. Not really like...um… but friend family, friends no. Except there’s always that one kids that’s a jerk about it, and you move on. You take it and fight through it. Partners not really. They like me for me so it kind of just comes with it.
Do you talk openly about adoption?
Yeah, I talk about it in class a lot like every year I work it in. Like parent teacher conferences come up and I try to go with them a lot. When people see me they’re like, “Who’s that?”, “Is that your grandfather?”, “Is that your grandmother?”, “Is that your mom? So your dad has to be black.” I’m like “no, those are my parents.” And everyone’s like “oh.” So, if I work it in during class like “Oh, I’m adopted, so this happens for me. Then everyone’s like “Oh, you’re adopted, you’re adopted.” So it’s like you’re adopted when the time comes when they see my family. So, it’s like easier so yeah. I’m pretty open with it. It’s like you shouldn’t really hide. I’m proud of it. Like I’m happy I’m adopted. I feel like if I was in a different situation like my life would be completely different.
What do you identify as?
I identify as black but I do feel like there isn’t acting white or black but I can act white sometimes or I can ask black sometimes. Like people say you're a social chameleon like in certain situations you’ll act a certain way and I kind of feel like it messed up that like when you’re acting in a proper situation like in a job interview people associate it with acting white and when you’re with your friends on the street or whatever you act black. So it’s pretty big.
How does race play into your identity?
It’s like a big part. It was really hard for me at first cause when I was younger I old really hung out with white kids because that’s what I knew because both my parents are white. So it was weird because you know I was like trying to hang out with kids that I looked like. But it just didn’t work because we didn’t really click. And then I met kids who were kind of in the middle. This kids Shawn and this kid, Larends. Shawn was white and Larends’ was mixed. So we made like the spectrum from white to like black. So I had my core group of friend until I want to say 7th grade or 6th grade so up until middle school. And I met this kid named Jonathan who he kind of took me under his wing and kind of taught me the ways of being black and stuff. He got me my first hair cut in a barber shop. Because at first I didn’t have a good haircut, it was really bad. My mom cut it at home and it was kind of whatever I could do. John basically took me under his wing and like I went over to his house all the time and I had Haitian food and that good stuff. It was really cool. Like looking back on it was awesome cause he, I really don’t know where I’d be without him, basically because he did a lot. And so basically I had to discover who I was a little bit, because being black under white there’s always this conflict of what am I really. I’m black but how do I act? So it’s pretty big.
How does adoption play into your identity?
I kind of feel like I sympathize with people who can’t have kids, because my mom tried to have kid; she actually tried twice and both times she miscarried. So, I feel like kind of like adoption is a great way to go. Kids have kids young I think it just a good way to get them out of a bad situation. I feel like also being adopted, I am less sensitive to things. Because like when I was younger, kids did say things like “you act white” or like “your parents are old” or whatever, alright cool. Now I’m like I don’t really care. I’m a senior so chill out. It kind of gives me like more to draw from more strength. So, it’s cool.
How does the environment around you play into your identity?
So I’ll talk a little more about it again. So, when I was younger, I hung out with Shawn and Larends like I told you. Then I ended up drifting apart from them and everything. and them coming back to me. I hung out with two white kids for two years and that was it. It was like your best friend group that you hung out with all the time. I felt like that was a big thing because at that point black kids didn’t really want to talk with me or whatever. I’ll just talk with these kids or kids who were open to let me in. So I talked with the white kids and that was a big thing because my environment was like white kids and white families. So, I didn’t really have a black influence. And then towards fifth grade people like Jamal and like Roger I kind of met up with and basketball too. I played basketball at school also I met people through that. So, I started to change my environment. 6th, 7th, and 8th grade was the biggest change for me cause that’s when I started hanging out with Jonathan, Roger, Chris all of them. After that I kind of realized that I’m black. This is going to kind of be bad but I shouldn’t be acting the way I am, I got to change. Ever since I’ve been hanging out with black people and like changing how I talk, changing how I dress and all that stuff too. So, that’s pretty big and music. Like a lot, I didn’t listen to music when I was younger but 7th and 8th grade near the end of then, it was people would be singing song and I’d be like “oh I’ve never hear that.” Like “Bro, that’s the best song now.” “Oh, I’ve never heard it before.” I’d go home and like search it and search other stuff to that, like the same artist and stuff. So the environment and stuff didn’t pressure me but shaped me like molded me a lot.
You said when you were younger the black kids didn’t want to talk with you, why?
Yeah, they just didn’t, I think they just didn’t understand cause they felt like I was like a white kid, “Oh, go play with them.” “Alright, cool.”
How did your family integrate your culture into your life?
They did. They told me they played a lot of black music like Jazz and stuff, not really rap. They took me to the African House and they tried to teach me that kind of culture. My mom is really big into equal rights and she would tell me about Martin Luther King. I don’t know she tried. She did put forth some effort. I feel like when I was younger I didn’t really care that much for that stuff at that time. But I definitely remember one of my birthday's at the African House whatever it was. It was like African museum and I had a birthday party there and we tried to learn some culture. So I definitely feel that she tried. It was a plus for the one thing I remembered
Do you like learning about your heritage?
I love it because I feel like it gives me a unique perspective on life and on everything because being black and being adopted by white people; I know both sides of the story. Especially talking with my family I hang out with predominantly black people now so I get the background of what it’s like being white and what it’s like being black since I am black. Especially learning about my mom’s Jewish heritage was pretty cool. Because you don’t really hear about a lot of black Jewish people and it’s just cool learning about the different religions and what different people believe. But I haven’t really decided what I am yet so, I’m going to let that come with age. But it’s just awesome because especially Miles, one of my friends, he’s black and Jewish. He’s Bar Mitzvahed and learning his experience versus mine. We are both Jewish but he went the route of more Jewishy than me. My mom and what she was. I asked what nationality I was. I learned that I’m part Indian and I did not just know that. It was just pretty cool that I am kind of learning more about myself then I knew because I knew myself pretty well. What I like, what I don’t like. But learning about the inner me kind of pretty cool.
Does your whole family accept you as an adoptee?
Yeah, it funny, well it isn’t going to be funny when I tell you. But my grandfather just died, like last week, and my grandmother was really sad or whatever. As we were walking she was like “I’m glad you’re here ‘cause it’s nice to have some color,” like around in the family. I was like “aw, thanks grandma.” Like we just joke about it. It’s like a friendly relationship. We talk; she makes jokes about me being black and her being white. Everyone’s really open so we don’t care like it’s something that happened and we kind of just let it be.
What stereotypes have you faced?
Stereotypes of being, well I don’t know, when I tell people that I’m adopted and I have white parents, “oh, so you’re rich” or “oh, so you have money” “Oh, your parents treat you amazingly” like you’re not blah blah blah. No, I’m like treated pretty much the same as you guys are. Like my parents, I’m not rich, my parents treat me like any other teenager, and I have a curfew. It’s not like do whatever you want. The worst one I get a lot, I got a lot is “you talk white.” That was the worst because I was like I don’t’ know what that means, like I’m just talking how I talk. I was so confused and then I started listening to black people and listening to white people. I’m like “oh there is a difference in how I talk.” So, I’d try to talk like the black people because that’s how I wanted to be. So, I was just funny to notice it. Looking back it now I noticed the difference and stuff. Stereotypes sucks, you into it and you get away from them. When you try to play away from them you play into another stereotype. It’s kind of a never ending string sort of.
Do you have any role models who look like or come from the same background as you?
Alright so, role models… most of my role models are sports people like athletes. So when I was in elementary school it was Hines Ward. Middle school Ryan Howard, he’s a big black first baseman on the Philadelphia Phillies. I just fell in love with him; he was big and black and owned it. He had big earrings. He’s just obnoxious, he’s not obnoxious, he’s just out there. I was like “Oh this guy’s awesome.” Now Ben Rivera, let’s see, like all the baseball players, black baseball players. It’s funny cause I noticed I only like black baseball players. I only want them to win. If they are coming up to bat no matter what team they are on, I’m like “yes let’s get a hit.” I don’t… football, [for] black people it’s just a big thing; running backs a lot. It’s going to sound really bad but I hate it when there is a white running back. “Cause I’m like “bro there should only be black players being running backs.” That’s really bad but it’s just what I think now. It’s interesting because I used to only know white athletes because that’s who my parents knew. And now it’s completely opposite.
Why are you attracted to black athletes?
Because I want to see my race do great… especially in a predominantly white sport. White people do so well so often. So, I’m like if you’re black you should take flight, be the best that you can be in that sport
Just athletes not artists or musicians?
Well my role models are mostly in sports but it’s funny because I was thinking about Kanye because of the Grammys. He recently, when he took the mic and said “I’m sorry Taylor Swift, but” whatever. And he almost did it again cause if Sam Smith (Beck). I’m like “dude, Kanye don’t do that he deserved it.” But it kind of sucks because I did watch some of it and I was like “wait there’s no rap?” And they only did the “white” categories. So I was like “dang that’s bogus.” You’re only doing what “America” wants to see versus what everyone should see in the whole Grammys.
So tell me about your birth family?
So, I’ve never met or seen my dad. I don’t even know his name. I just know that he left my mom and he's not in her life anymore. But my mom I know she’s in her 40’s. So, I was the second one. So, my brother was born and a year later she had me. I always question why she gave up me instead of him and it kind of sucks because I felt like I’m not wanted a little bit and why me always, but I don’t know. But she has sisters and all that stuff and still lives in Texas. What I can see know is that she’s in a stable relationship with her kids and stuff. We’ve talked a little bit, never on the phone just on Facebook and stuff. And it seems that she still loves me and she still wants to meet me. So, yeah.
Do you want to meet them face to face?
I do but I think it’s going to be so scary cause like I’ve talk to my brother on the phone and they talk a lot more different than we do. I’m always scared the way my parents raised me. I’m scared that the way they raised me differently will be the way they perceive me that they are kind of not want or accept the way I am. So, I kind of feel like it’s going to be a really hard thing to go through. Like I kind of want to do it when I’m a lot older not right now. Because right now I’m definitely not ready it would just be, I don’t know, I’m not mature enough right now.
Do you think you were abandoned or place for adoption? Why?
That’s hard… I think she gave me up for good reasons because she kept her first son. At that time she thought that she could handle it. Her mom, I feel like her support system was like I’m bored with whatever's happening. But when she had me I feel like I was unexpected. So, the best option was going to be giving me up. And looking at what else could have happened if she kept me, I would probably, I don’t know what would have happened. I could have been in a bad situation. I could have not been fed well or anything that could happen when you don’t have enough resources for your child. Or I could have been aborted which could have been that other option and I’m glad she chose adoption because I get to live instead of being killed off or kept in a situation where I couldn’t thrive. I feel like she wanted, she had the best intentions.
What are positive effects of adoption?
So I think a positive is perspective because I get a lot of different looks on stuff. Because one thing that a lot of white people, white families do is listening to NPR. So I listen to NPR a lot. I kind of turn a little nerd or something and so I listen to NPR a lot. So, I kind of get more educated on the world and stuff. Another positive is family because they love me for who I am, just because I am their son. And I was thinking about it yesterday, my dad just loves me for me, that I am his son. It just feels great that that’s how they feel.
What are negative effects on adoption?
Because I didn’t have a black role model I feel like I lost a lot of culture, a little bit, especially with, this is going to sound weird but with food. Because I like to cook, food was a huge thing. I just never knew that this could go with that or we need theses food when this is happening. Like Flaming Hot Cheetos like that’s a kind of thing that black people eat. Never ate those, didn’t eat those until middle school. I was like “oh, that’s too hot.” I don’t know just small things. Nothing really big or drastic that’s a negative I think. Only cause I’m living and I’m healthy. I’m happy and I have friends. My parents love me. I can’t really think of anything bad.
What is your advice to other adoptees?
Advice...um... Talk to everyone. To be honest talk to everyone, be open, don’t be afraid to ask for anything because I was kind of scared to approach people. Be yourself like everyone always says. Just do whatever feels right for you at the time cause don’t try to force it too. Because I remember I tried to force some things and it just didn't work out. It just made me look stupid. Also talk to your parents cause if you don’t have a good relationship with your parents in high school, in anytime it’s going to suck. Now I’m starting to realize my parents did a lot for me that I didn’t know about or acknowledge. And looking to college, it’s going to suck because I realized that my parents did a lot for me. I mean I just didn’t take… I wasn’t really thankful for it and I neglected it. It’s going to be a big wakeup call next year because I am kind of looking in to the future. Talk to your parents, I think that’s my biggest advice is talk to your parents and make sure you’re open with them.
How did sports, baseball, help you?
So playing a predominantly white sport, it’s pretty funny hearing and listening to all the people like “oh you play baseball. I always took you as a football or basketball type person.” It’s just funny seeing all the different people’s first assumption. Like “oh you play basketball?” “No I play baseball.” They’re like “oh really how is that?” Like “You must be fast.” I just listen to all the people that think they have you figured out. But it’s pretty fun. I like baseball. My parents had the World Series, not the World Series, they had the Cubs in the playoffs on one day and I just started watching. After that I was like in love with it. I was calling balls and strikes before they crossed the plate. I signed up for baseball and then after everything else it was like the rest is history like they say. I just started playing and tried out for travel in 8th grade and made the B team. Freshman year I made the A team. After that I’ve been starting except for last year I had to pinch run because we had a pretty good team last year. But yeah, it has a good family aspect too. You're like; especially having more black kids on the team now it’s really fun.
What is your definition of identity?
Identity… I think identity is kind of who you are, who you identify as like what you think of yourself and how about yourself. Not what people think of you as but more of you.
What is identity to you? (It’s importance)
I think it defines who you are and I think a lot of outside influences can kind of blur or skue who you think of yourself as and how you think of yourself. I just think it’s really important to keep who you are at heart and don’t let the struggles and the stresses of life affect your identity even though it happen. Just try to get back to the roots.
How have your adoptive friends help you through your adoption journey?
Well Miles is a big guy. He’s like a great person to have around especially because that’s all we talk about. We talk being black on the team and being adopted, not having that like kind of base. Like “oh have you seen your mom?” “Oh yeah I’ve seen my mom.” “Have you talked to her?” “No no.” Talking about that stuff. I feel like he’s the person I can always talk to about that. He, like if I even have a question about something, I can always go to him. Like I feel like it’s a connection, an unseen, unspoken connection that we have that makes us closer. Like we’ll joke around about stuff that I couldn’t normally do with anyone else.
What do you identify as and why?
I identify as black because it’s how I was born. Like I wasn’t born white or like Mexican. I was born black. Granted I was raised like a traditional black person like I still think that’s who I am. It’s kind of, it’s weird I just don’t think I’m anything else but how I was born.
Opinion on adoption
I think it’s a great option. I definitely think if you’re not ready for like a child and you don’t want to abort it and you can go through the process of giving birth. Then give, adoption’s great because it’s that way out. But it’s not really a way out because you give the baby up like you still know that they are alive and well. They have a family that can take care of them. You kind of get to see the miracle of life and you’ve gone through it. But for some people it’s not the move, it’s not what they want. Like abortion is their choice or keeping the child is their choice. It’s whatever you feel is like the best option. But I’m kind of glad I got adopted because I really wouldn’t know where I’d be right now. Like it’s always something hard to think about because it can always go from the worst to the best and in between. You can have an overactive imagination.
Do feel part of the adoption community?
Do you feel included in the community as an adoptee?
I mean at first I didn’t know like a lot of adopted kids at Evanston. It’s not something I think about like “oh hmm maybe this person’s adopted.” Like it never crossed my mind. After a little bit I was like dang there are a lot of people I just never knew were adopted. I feel like if I knew all the people who were adopted like I’d definitely feel closer to them but at the same time people might be, not so much ashamed but kind of want to keep it to themselves. Like it’s something you don’t really want to share until you absolutely have to. Because I know right now I told somebody in my ceramics class that I was adopted and they were like “oh my God. I’m so sorry,”blah blah blah. I’m like “yeah it’s fine. It is was it is.” Like I can’t really change it. So they ask all these questions. I don’t want to answer them but it gets a little bit repetitive. I wish people understood a little bit more about what it meant to be adopted, what it means to be adopted. So you’re not wounded, you’re just in a different way of life… (Feel part of the Evanston community?)... Oh yeah especially when I was younger I used to see like kids, adoptive families like me being, having white parents having an African American or black son. I just, it was like dang. I thought it was awesome. I always get excited when I see that. It makes my day when I see another family like me. So yeah, I’ve never felt like out of place really because people, especially in Evanston, are really accepting. It’s one of those things where people hear about it and you’re known as “oh you’re that black Jewish kid on the baseball team.” It’s just like people always knew me by that. People have always been accepting in Evanston. You hear about and you move on. Like oh, I’ve never been made fun of for it in the older grades really.