Transracial Adoption: Love does not conquer all

BlogHer Original Post

Prompted by a reader, Rachel at Rachel’s Tavern responds to a British ad that is marketed towards potential black parents who are interested in adopting black children. By looking at statistics that were published in 2005, she surmises in comparison to the African-American population, black children are over-represented in the foster care / adoption system.

To many of us, this is not a surprise. Nor is ithe belief (I'm assuming because I don't have the stats) that there are more transracial adoptions (people adopting children from a different ethnic background other than their own) than there is people who are adopting interculturally in the United States. Some reasons, as pointed out by Rachel's commenters are because of availability and for financial reasons, some because people want to adopt transracially, wanting to give a child from an impoverished country a better life. But according to the findings from Rachel’s posts, she surmises that there is a very, very small percentage (She estimates via the outdated statistics that only 1%) of internationally adopted children are black.

So with the British ad, I am assuming that the reader felt that perhaps it was wrong or even ‘reverse racism’ that prompted an ad that promoted black adoption. After all, non-black parents adopt black children (obviously not a lot) but they do. Asian, Hispanic and Eastern European adoptions are more popular, based, (in my opinion and experience) on prevailing racial stereotypes, especially about genetic inferiority. Some people want kids that have physical similar traits so they can like to the kid all their life and pass them off as their biological brood. Some think that Asian kids are naturally more intelligent and more obedient, more prone to doing well academically than getting into trouble with the law.

Last week the Central District Forum in Seattle, WA put on a talk entitled, Transracial Adoption of Black Children.” Lisa Marie from A Birth Project and a transracial adoptee, spoke on the panel. Much to her chagrin, Jerry Large, a columnist from the Seattle times wrote an article which did not adequately report on what the discussion was about, claiming that ‘it’s about love, not race,’ willfully ignoring the discussion from the panelists on recognizing and embracing the adopted child’s ethnicity:

Over and over, research, conferences, memoirs, articles, blogs, rants, emails, by professionals, AP’s and AD’s have said out loud that colorblindness is exactly that. Blindness. Talking about race, racism and culture is essential to making sure your child grow up a healthy, connect whole person.

In Large's article, he mentions the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) infamous report that was initially published in the ‘70’s which first brought up the problem of black families not being encouraged to adopt black children, therefore a number of children not being raised in an envionment in which their cultural heritage would be properly acknowledged. What many people, including other social workers did with this report was to use it to paint the NABSW with racism, accusing them of purposefully blocking children from being placed in ‘good’ homes. One (misguided) commenter on Rachel’s blog believes that the ‘cultual genocide’ that the NABSW alledgely puported actually hindered the progress of race relations for black adoptees:

Our nation could have experienced multiplied thousands more intergrated families which by now in 2007 could have made race relations much improved for transracially adopted children.
Instead the growing trend of transracial adoption was restricted by Black separatist.
Instead of being rased by families and reciving all the inheritance which they bring the too many African American kids are were stuck in foster care partially because not enough African American families were availabe.

A couple of years ago when my niece was a senior in high school, she wanted to write one of her final assignments on transcultural adoption, as both her mother and her aunt (me) were adoptees. My father requested that I travel home for the weekend to help her. So my parents, my niece and myself sat in a room for what seemed like eternity and hashed it out. Not to get into specifics, but it was probably one of the most difficult days of my life. One of the most challenging topics was about cultural identity and how important it was for children to be in an environment where there cultural identity was recognized, respected and that there was an awareness of some of the challenges their cultural differences would cause them, things that their parents would never experience, but would have to learn how to support. Love, while important, is not enough, and sometimes I wonder when people who adopt children relish in the thought that ‘love will conquer all’ what planet they are living on.

Sume from Ethnically Incorrect Daughter disusses a popular image that compares transracial adoption to natural birth by using a sonogram merged with a map of China:

It strikes me as odd that while many Aps(adoptive parents) claim to see no difference between genetically related children and adopted ones, some continually attempt to equate the two. The problem is there is a difference and in trying to make adoption more like birth, it’s like saying, “I’m going to pretend you were born from me, because that is better.”
In the case of TRAs/TNAs, what may be intended to signify appreciation for a child’s race and birth culture may unintentionally demean or misappropriate them them instead. The red thread quote that’s so popular among APs of Chinese adoptees is good example of cultural misappropriation.

While there is a need for adoption, the residual affects of adopting transracially need to be addressed, which is what I believe the NABSW was trying to do. I think that some parents are so concerned about acquiring a child that they don’t take the time to consider the environment that their child will be raised in, and how their friends and family will accept the child and how they will deal with the racism that their child will most likely experience. So while there is a need for black children to be adopted, the urging of the agency behind the British ads was recognition that despite well-meaning adoptive parents, black children would be better suited to be raised in black homes in order to cultivate their cultural identity.

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