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    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Transracial Adoption

    I was excited to see this article in NYT about "transracial adoptions," specifically, white couples adopting black children.

    Prometheus 6 responds here:

    You have to wonder what made them say they specifically want a Black child. 'What do these people think they are doing?' is exactly the question that occurs to me, but it's an honest inquiry...not a challenge. (There's more, by the way, and it goes in different directions, so ...)

    Now, this probably won't make me popular, but, if I were going to adopt a child, I would specifically look for a black or Latino child to adopt. Not because I think I am particularly equipped to negotiate the incredible challenges of raising a black child as a white person, but because I know how, in this racist culture, many of these children will never be adopted and will spend their lives in foster care, whereas white children are snapped up as embryos. So, yeah, I'd walk in the door and say, "I want to adopt a child, preferably black or Latino."

    What I would not say is, "love makes a family, so I won't notice the color of my child's skin." That's stupid. I would not say, "This child will never feel alienated or isolated because I'll love them so much that race won't matter." That's stupid too. Nor would I say, "Gee, maybe I'll take the child out so that they can experience playing the dozens like 'real black people' do."* That's just so stupid.

    (Robert O’Connor, 39, who was raised by a white family in Rush City, Minn., recalled his struggles growing up in a small town with few other blacks. Throughout his youth, he said, he felt awkward around other blacks. He did not understand black trends in fashion or music or little things like playing the dozens, the oral tradition of dueling insults.)

    My fear would not be that the child would not be exposed to enough 'black culture'. I'd say at least half the music I listen to and books I read are by black artists. And, as the saying goes, some of my best friends are black. ;) My workplace is far more black than white. My neighborhood is racially diverse, plus I live in NYC, so it's not like you have to search around to see a black face in really just about any neighborhood (Staten Island notwithstanding). The films I like are often fairly (though probably not enough) racially diverse and blah, blah, blah. And, let's get real: people growing up now can't not be exposed to 'black culture', even if some of it is the worst mainstreamed crap (just like all the white worst mainstream crap) in the world.

    My concern would not be exposure to black culture, but that I wouldn't really feel like I could prepare someone for being the object of racial prejudice, having never experienced it myself. But I hardly think that changing foster homes every six months is any better.

    Also, it seems like more and more programs are sprouting up for adopted children of races other than their parents wherein they can build relationships with people of their own race. Obviously, this can't replace parents, but ... we're not dealing with ideal scenarios here.

    Families never work. Even the ones that do don't. I think accepting that racial difference will be an issue is fundamental to the process. If I were selecting white families or individuals to adopt black children, I would definitely be freaked by people who said, "It will be no different from raising a white child," and other such things.

    I would be very wary of trying to force some kind of 'authenticity' on my child, as I would be wary of trying to force 'assimilation'. If my kid didn't like Spike Lee films, I'd be really disappointed, but I'd be disappointed because I love Spike Lee and am always disappointed when others don't share that preference. But I wouldn't be forcing it down her/his throat like, "But you're black, honey! You have to like this or I'm failing as a parent to a black child!" I think it's important that white adoptive parents not bring stereotypes to bear on their child of what it will mean for that individual child to be black.

    I think that, at the same time, I'd become more conscious of what the mix was of influences to which they were exposed via my own tastes and what that communicated to him/her.

    Anyway, I think it's frankly tragic that so many black children go without permanent families because white people either prefer white children or are afraid to participate in some kind of "genocide".** If, and this is a big if, I were to overcome my immaturity and selfishness enough to have a child (I mean this only in my own case, not that everyone who chooses not to have kids is immature or selfish), this is how I would like to do it.

    * Robert O’Connor, 39, who was raised by a white family in Rush City, Minn., recalled his struggles growing up in a small town with few other blacks. Throughout his youth, he said, he felt awkward around other blacks. He did not understand black trends in fashion or music or little things like playing the dozens, the oral tradition of dueling insults.

    ** Rhetoric around the issue has softened considerably since the National Association of Black Social Workers, in 1972, likened whites adopting black children to “cultural genocide.”


    Blogger CrackerLilo said...

    Oh. My. Gods.

    This reminds me of something one of my co-workers said today! She thinks the Fresh Air Fund is racist because it sends city kids out to the country, either in peoples' homes (like an intranational exchange program) or camp for part of the summer. Notice that I did not bring up color. While it is true that it's mostly black and Hispanic kids around white adults, that's not the purpose. The idea is simply to show them new things and keep them out of trouble.

    I'd probably adopt a black baby, too, if I did adopt. It's just that they don't get taken. I think that's an awful injustice. I'm glad some people are trying to right it.

    7:50 PM  
    Blogger Elizabeth McClung said...

    Oddly, in Canada, the colour of the child coming from the US pretty much determines the cost (since it is hard to get children for adoption anywhere in the western world EXCEPT the US). White children are the most expensive and black children are the least.

    The whole US adoption policy is really strange, because I can understand wanting to make sure children have a good home, etc but when you compare for instance the 3000 children available for adoption in the UK to the 500,000+ in the US, I have to wonder why the US is making things harder?

    I would probably adopt a black child because I always root for the disadvantaged and I would know that while there are tons of families out there just waiting for a white child to love, there are going to be a lot of black children who won't have that. And I know what that's like.

    8:30 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It's nice that you want to adopt a black or Latino child. The important thing is to love the child and also not have a SAVIOR complex. No child needs to feel that his parents did her a favor for adopting her or that she is a trophy to show how open-minded her parents are.

    4:38 PM  
    Blogger EL said...

    Couldn't agree with you more, anonymous.

    10:19 PM  
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    11:56 PM  
    Blogger Bella Sultane said...

    I'm with you. For years I've thought seriously about adopting. I think there are concerns to be had about white people adopting black kids, but mostly re: people "overlooking" color. But, I'm much more concerned about the large #s of kids of color that aren't adopted at all.

    12:45 PM  

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