By Tamera “EON” Pillay, Staff Writer

You’ve been there: you hear the word adoption and cringe at the idea of a child not being raised by their parents. You were annoying your older siblings, and they convince you that you were adopted. Your world shatters.

Mariah “CONTRAST” Johnson, an Iowa State University charter, hasn’t been there. She has lived a life where adoption has been a commonplace, behind-the-scenes part of her life. She is a Korean-American adopted by a Caucasian family.

Johnson is fundraising for Holt International, an organization dedicated to helping “orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children to thrive by finding families to love them,” with a goal to raise $2000. If her fundraiser is a success, she plans to run across the state of Iowa alongside bikers participating in The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), starting from Glenwood to Muscatine July 24 thru 30.

“I am really hoping that doing something crazy like running 420 miles over seven days will push people to donate to see me run this long stretch during RAGBRAI,” she said.

She is currently promoting her fundraiser via Facebook and also uses the fundraiser to spread the word out about adoption awareness. Through Facebook, she has received a few reactions that really make her feel her efforts are worth it. Aside from raising money, she has been able to meet other adoptees through the process.

“Overall, the life I have lived as an adoptee is the only life I am familiar with. It has developed me into the woman I am today,” Johnson said.

Instead of wondering about life without biological parents, she is curious about what her life would be like with them.

“During high school and my early college years, I was very disconnected and developed internalized racism toward my Korean background,” Johnson said. “It was not until I took a class at Iowa State, called Asian American material culture studies, that the switch flipped for me.”

“The instructor of the class pushed me to confront issues of racism as it has directly impacted me,” Johnson said. “Although it may not have anything to do with discrimination or adoption, it does have to do with the existence of multicultural families.”

A few negative attributes exist as part of living the life of an adoptee, such as identity issues and wanting to know who the biological parents are. However, being adopted at a very young age, she sees her life as an adoptee as a blessing.

“It almost feels as if I got a second chance at life, an opportunity to live a full and beautiful life,” Johnson said.

“I wanted to discover other adoptees and adoptive parents that I may or may not be acquainted with,” she said. “I have already had one individual message me about not knowing I was adopted and vice versa.”

Johnson notes that a friend was adopted into an Asian family, whereas she was adopted into a Caucasian family. Her journey is bringing awareness, not only to the community, but to other adoptees as well.

Statistics about adoption research are what motivated Johnson to move forward with her fundraiser.

The National Association of Black Social Workers is adamantly opposed to transracial adoptions, arguing that such adoptions are “racial genocide.” A statement on transracial adoptions was released by the organization in 1972. Read the statement here.

According to “Cross-Cultural Adoption: How to Answer Questions from Family, Friends and Community” by Caryn Abramowitz and Amy Coughlin, more than 60 percent of children in foster care spend two to five years in the system before being adopted. Almost 20 percent of children spend five or more years in foster care before being adopted. Some never get adopted.

“With the large number of children who go unadopted within and outside the United States, more families need to adopt,” Johnson said.

So far, Johnson has raised $200 for Holt International. To donate, click on the link below.


Featured Image: Mariah Johnson


  • Adamec, Christine and William L. Pierce, PhD. 2000. Adoption. 2nd Ed. New York, NY: Facts on File, Inc.
  • Coughlin, Amy and Caryn Abramowitz. 2004. Cross-Cultural Adoption. Washington, D.C.: Lifeline Press.
  • Voigt, Kevin and Sophie Brown. “International Adoptions in Decline as Number of Orphans Grows.” CNN. September 17, 2013. Accessed: September 22, 2013.