Photos courtesy of Sara Bennett

I've always known that I was adopted. My parents never tried to hide this from me. For one, they couldn't. I didn't look anything like them. Their smooth, pale, white skin contrasted with my darker complexion. Their double-lidded blue and green eyes were nothing like my brown monolidded ones. Strangers would often ask if I was sure that the tall, balding, white man was my father. When I eagerly nodded yes, a certain look would come over their face.

For as long as I've known that I was adopted, I've known that I was loved. My parents always made sure that I knew down to my very core that they cared for me. Even though I looked nothing like them, they were quick to tell me that it didn't matter—that they would love me the same if I were purple with white polka dots, or if I had red hair, or if I were taller. And when I was younger, I accepted their words as the absolute truth.


But, as I grew older, the narrative that my parents told me—that they didn't see my race—was challenged by those around me, who did see my race—and it mattered. Who asked me if I was bad at driving or assumed I was good at math. Who confused me with the only other Asian girl at my school of 1,500 students.

I had to reconcile what my parents had told me with what I had experienced outside of my home

I could no longer pretend that my race didn't matter. But what did it mean if my parents didn't see my race? Did that mean that there was a part of me that they couldn't see nor understand? I was trying to figure out how my race factored into my identity, and realizing that it was a much bigger part than my parents had led me to believe. Just because they saw the world through this colorblind lens did not mean that my own personal experiences reflected this.

In college, I gained the knowledge to truly understand my Asian American identity. I learned about microaggressions and stereotypes and the model minority myth. I met other people who had had similar experiences growing up. I learned to name the ways, both small and big, that my race impacted my day-to-day life. I felt validated realizing that there were others who understood who I was, race and all.

My race mattered. The only question was how much?

Now, as a 25-year-old, I wish my parents had talked to me about race. With the wisdom and grace that I gained in college, I understand why they didn't. But their lack of comprehension of the subject impacted the way that I saw myself and forced me to put together my own racial identity like pieces of a puzzle, with no help from them.

I wish that they had made more of an effort when I was younger to acknowledge my race. I wish that they would have told me that they saw me for who I was, race and all. I wish they could have helped prepare me for the way that my race was going to impact how I moved throughout life. I wish that they would have explicitly stated that they would love and support me through the complex journey of discovering what it meant to be an Asian American woman. But they didn't. And I was forced to learn all these things on my own.

I had a recent conversation with my mom about Black Lives Matter, which made me think that my parents just might be ready to hear my story. During our conversation, my mom seemed willing to listen to the ways in which Black people are discriminated against in this country and the way that the color of their skin impacts each and every interaction that they have. And while I know that my privilege is different, I am still affected by the way other people perceive me. And I just want my parents to understand that. I still have hope that they can learn.

I'll say this up front so that there's zero confusion: Child sex trafficking is real, it's heinous, and it's been going on for a long time. Everyone who buys or sells a child or partakes in harming a child in any way should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. There is no place in civil society for people who sexually abuse children or who profit off of the abuse of children. Full stop. No question.

But we have careened into some twisted waters in our social discourse around child sex trafficking, to the point where the real issue of is being conflated with outrageous conspiracy theories that deflect from the real work being done to save children, put innocent people in harm's way, and interfere with the integrity of our elections.

I wrote about this issue recently and was met with accusations of being paid off by powerful pedophiles (ugh, seriously?), a flood of people saying "No, you're wrong!" while offering zero evidence, and a bunch of YouTube and Facebook videos that people seem to think are credible sources. I got fake screenshots of supposed Wikileaks emails that aren't actually on Wikileaks when you search for them. I got people who only listen to fringe outlets that have no oversight or accountability claiming that my well-cited, real news sources were a part of the whole conspiracy. All of that stuff I could ignore. Whackadoodles are gonna whackadoodle no matter how many facts you throw at them.

But I also got a few people sharing a list of nearly 100 politicians and other powerful people who have been convicted of child sex crimes. That was different, because it was factual.

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It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

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Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

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Forrest Galante will never forget the first time he ever saw a shark in person. "I was 7 or 8 years old and was snorkeling with my grandfather," the outdoor adventure TV personality told Upworthy. "We were in Mozambique where I grew up and I was holding my grandfather's hand underwater as he guided me. It was a small reef shark. What seemed like this huge animal appeared out of nowhere, racing through the darkness and suddenly I was looking into its beautiful eyes. I was in awe but I also think I grabbed my granddad's hand just a little bit tighter."

25 years later, Galante, is a world-renowned conversation activist who hosts the Extinct or Alive program on Animal Planet. He has interacted with some of the planet's most intriguing and intimidating creatures but it's hard to think of a living creature that has more powerfully captured our collective imagination than sharks.

This year, Galante is hosting his schedule special as part of the legendary Shark Week series. In tonight's episode, Galante travels to the northeast coast of South Africa, the "Land of the Lost Sharks," where he looks to find the Pondicherry, a species of shark believed to have gone extinct decades ago.


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