Wednesday, March 28, 2007

White Parents, Black Kids


Awhile ago I read a post on the Mayhem and Magic blog (click here for that blog) regarding the question of whether or not white parents can raise black children successfully in the U.S. (click here for that post). I've thought a lot about that question over the years -- and especially over the past 2-3 years. I've also thought a lot about why it is that white parents so rarely adopt black children. It is hard to not notice it... it is hard to not notice how few families do adopt, and of them, how few of them adopt transracially, and of them, how really very very few white parents adopt black children. This seems especially blatant, of course, when you are a white parent who has adopted a black child. Indeed, it is glaring once you are that person. Adoption is on the rise, but white-black adoption rates are dismal. It is ridiculously rare to see examples in real life of white-black adoptive families. Look around. I notice the non-presence of it all the time, every day. I can't possibly pretend it isn't reality. And I'm guessing that soon enough my boys will be fully cognizant of this too, that is if they aren't already. So, it begs the question: why don't more white parents adopt black children?


In case you missed it (many of us probably did, since it was in the Christmas Eve edition of the Washington Post), click here for David Nicholson's article: "Why Doesn't White Adopt Black?" This article has caused quite a stir in the adoption-blogging-community. And here's a post about this topic by an adoption writer: "Being Open To Race, Or Not". Some good literature exists on the subject of white-black adoption. Just do a quick search and you'll find it. One of my all-time favorites is the autobiography Black Baby White Hands: A View from the Crib, by Jaiya John (click here for amazon.com link). In the academic literature some has been written on the topics of adoption and transracial adoption, but very little has been published on the subject of black-white adoption (or lack thereof). However, two recent books have made a huge contribution. The first is by the well-respected sociologist Barbara Katz Rothman. In my opinion it is the best scholarly thing out there on the topic to-date: Weaving a Family: Untangling Race and Adoption (click here for amazon.com link). The second is by Rothman's student, Heather Dalmage. Dalmage interviewed members of black-white families, and her book provides an insight to their lived experiences. While the focus is heavily on bi-racial children, it is still completely relevant (and inclusive of) adoptive families: Tripping on the Color Line: Black-white Multiracial Families in a Racially Divided World (click here for amazon.com link). Then of course there's the Angelina Jolie and Madonna adoption media - plenty of discussion on that in print out there.

Braydon and I have had countless conversations about this subject. I (and we) really do not think that any adult should adopt any kid if they don't believe their heart is fully open to the miracle of adoption; if one isn't open to adopting a child into their home, arms, and heart -- for whatever reason -- then they really, really, really should not adopt. And if one is open, but not to a child of a different skin tone than their own, then they should only adopt within-race. And, I suppose, that if one is open to transracial adoption, but not open to a black child, then they shouldn't adopt a black child. But those words are hard for me to even type. It is hard to accept that this (that you'd be open to adoption, open to transracial adoption, but not open to adopting a black child) can be true. Yet, it is. Isn't it? While white parents wait on long waiting lists for white and Asian children, of the 1.5 million orphans in -- for example -- Haiti right now, on average less than 200 are adopted into the U.S. each year. And then of course there's the situation with domestic adoption of black children... and then there's Jamaica... and Ethiopia... and Uganda... and Sierra Leone... and South Africa... and all of Africa for that matter. Millions of infants and children are waiting in the U.S. and the world -- and disproportionately few of the black children will ever be adopted. That's not just a weird fluke. That's not just an adoption-pragmatics-paperwork-legalities-thing. That's gotta be at least partly a race thing. Sadly, unfortunately, and infuriatingly it is at least partly a race thing. And that's putting it mildly. The more we're up front about that, the more potential to begin conversations with ourselves and others that might -- just might -- push us forward.

4 comments:

Bek said...

As always you have expressed so well what I often think. I am also a big believer in the logic that if you don't think you can love an adopted child the same... then DON"T do it. If you don't think you could handle a transracial family, don't.

That being said, after lots of discussion and careful consideration, my family decided that had no opinion about what shade our child was and that whatever we got, that is what our family would be. We have an AA domestic adoption and a domestic baby who is Bahamian for generatations (so I kind of have that Carribean vibe thing going too....). We are now a black family.

Did you see the discussion about this on ARP? Also, many of the African countries aren't really open to adoption.... even South Africa isn't open for Americans any more (unless I am mistaken and the few agencies that DID them--like Amandas-- and have since stopped placing w/ Americans have opened again...). I know some who are trying to do independant adoptions from Ghana, Zambia and Kenya right now...... but it is a tough road. Foster Care in the US opens a whole new set of things to think about..... so even us, who feel that we had no issues w/ the racial thing, felt ill prepared to deal with some of the attachment and behaviour issues that often come with older child fost / adopt... so we go back to being part of the problem....

cloudscome said...

I think about this a lot. I read that book Black Baby, White Hands, and blogged about it. It really had a big impact on me. I am now going to look for some of the other books you mentioned. Thanks for spreading the word and bringing up this topic. I find it is hard to discuss with many/most people, unless they have some black folks in their family too.

stephanie garcia said...

This is my first time visiting your blog, and I just wanted to say hello and lend my support! That, and also say what a beautiful family you have - we too have a handsome little guy named Owen (of Sudanese heritage) and two beautiful girls through domestic, transracial adoption. God bless!

J & A said...

well, for that matter, where are all the American black families in this whole adoption thing? why aren't they adopting black children? why aren't they adopting white children domestically? why is it that there is so much white guilt over adoption and no one seems to call out the black community (or the hispanic community or the asian community) for their lack of adoption, especially children of their own heritages from third world countries??? put that in your sociological pipe and smoke it...! (joke...) :-)