The Case for Transracial Adoption

There isn’t one. (Hadja going for a second there, didn’t I?)

Someone recently brought the existence of Dr. Rita Simon and her book (title above) to my attention. Dr. Simon claims to be an expert on the history of women’s rights. How on earth can one study the history of women’s rights and think adoption is OK? Women’s rights to raise their children were (and are being) taken away from them. At least half of all adopted people are women, and many of us have no legal right to our own identities. How can you know this and be a supporter of adoption? At least I don’t see her calling herself a feminist.

Needless to say, I won’t be reading Dr. Simon’s (“and her collaborators'”) book. I don’t have to! My spike-ic powers allow me to sum up the entire 150 pages in four (*five?) sentences:

1) I want a kid and I don’t care what color it is.

2) Children will die if I or someone like me doesn’t get them.

3) Race is not a problem for white people, so it won’t be a problem for my child.

4) Those People don’t adopt their own kind anyway.

Scott Simon was sure, until corrected, that Chinese people are not allowed to adopt other Chinese people. People who want to adopt African American children are forever pointing out that African Americans don’t adopt. They do adopt, and they adopt the children of people outside their families, just not in the numbers white people do. In the first place, they’re a minority. In the second pace, they live in a white world. Perhaps they don’t feel as entitled to the kids. Perhaps it’s tougher for them to pass home studies. Imagine the average person’s reaction to a white single mother versus a black one, for example.

I read an article awhile back (can’t find it) about what happens when African Americans adopt white children. It said what happens is that white adults are constantly sidling up to these kids in public and quietly asking “Are you OK?” or “Can I help you?”–fearing the kids have been abducted. (…They’re your what?)

I mean, I know the white parents of kids of other races get a lot of stupid questions, but how often are they suspected of kidnapping?

Until we really do treat everyone equally, less-privileged races will adopt in smaller numbers simply because adoption is for the privileged. Glomming up all those rainbow kids for yourself is not enlightened and it’s not the answer; it’s a Band-Aid, and oh look! you get to benefit from it! Ergo, it is Good…not.

*The author (“and collaborators”) may also pause to point out that any child of any other race would benefit from growing up in a white USAian household, but most people seem to think that part goes without saying.

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8 responses to “The Case for Transracial Adoption

  1. The largest demographic group adopting from foster care is single black women, whom I’d also expect to be disproportionately represented among kinship caregivers. There are not as many black families as white ones waiting for infants, at least in part because many of them are grossed out by the racist pricing structures that explicitly devalue black babies.

    I’m obviously going to argue from my own position, but the case for transracial adopting/fostering in families like mine (where my partner is black and I’m white) is that there’s no alternative, that any sort of parenting is going to be transracial on at least one front. We’re listed with the state as having a preference for black or black/multiracial kids because I think they’re so desperately underserved in a lot of the local homes they end up in, but we fostered two white kids for five months and that was fine. (In fact, the last time we saw them, their mom reported that the five-year-old had just been telling her “Thorn says it’s okay to talk about skin color!” so

    My partner definitely got some strange looks when she was out with a little blond boy and the comments to each of us when we’re out solo with our adopted black daughter Mara differ vastly because of our race. Parenting transracially, which I think I do relatively well and I’m the one in charge of hair care and attending a black church and managing the time we spend with Mara’s family, has made me even more skeptical of transracial parenting than I had been going into adoption/fostering. I do think I’ve done a lot for Mara’s self-image and happiness and cultural competence, but the thing that initially mattered most (when she came to us from an all-white and I’d like to think unintentionally racist foster home) was that she was able to hold my partner’s hand between her own and stroke it gently, looking at the two shades of brown against each other.

  2. I feel like such an ass for forgetting to mention the price structures. I may edit the post to reflect this (and will give you credit if/when I do).

    I didn’t know that statistic about African American single women, and am very glad to know of it.

    It seems to me that a different race couple is uniquely suited to raise transracial adoptees. The parents I’m on about are the white people who adopt African/African American children and minimize or deny the problems this will inevitably cause. Most of the racism in the USA is, I believe, the unconscious kind you mentioned. I also believe it is as least as damaging as the sheet-wearing kind.

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful and informative comment!

    • Yeah, Mara came to us from a home where there was one Dora toy and absolutely nothing else relating to people of color anywhere in the home and the kids weren’t supposed to talk about race but assumed every black person was a member of Mara’s family, despite their never having met any of Mara’s family. (And then the foster mom told her own adopted kids that we took Mara not because they were closing their home but because my partner Lee was Mara’s mom and had been sick but was now better and came back to get Mara, because obviously that will be more reassuring to kids who’ve been adopted than the truth, what the fuck????) Mara was almost 3, her hair was wrecked, and she wouldn’t look at herself in a mirror. Now she’s 4.5 and self-describes as beautiful, which she absolutely is, along with strong, smart, loving, kind, gentle, resilient….

      Like I said, I’m deeply skeptical of the experience many (most?) kids get in transracial adoption. Before parenting Mara, I would have said that I’d have thought I could do a good enough job as a transracial parent, but I now think that it would be only just barely good enough without my partner’s involvement. I know way too many transracial foster/adoptive parents who don’t mention race, say their kids don’t notice it when I see how they stare longingly at Lee and Mara together, say that they’ll address it or meet more black people when their kids are old enough to realize. I stand up to this every time I hear it, just like I make the case for the benefits of openness, but I don’t think anyone ever really hears.

  3. Great post on a book that appears to spout more nonsense. Thorn’s input is so useful to know and describes exactly the sort of placements that should be sought, encouraged and supported.No child should ever be placed with people with extreme views and no-one like the good Dr should any longer be taken seriously!

  4. Oh I have been so busy! I am catching up here and must dedicate a song to you:

    I feel like I need to confess to everyone when I read your blog: “I see sane people” Because it so rare.

  5. Pingback: Make a New Plan, Stan « The Life Of Von

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