Been here. Done this. But it is unending work. This morning, I got an email from an acquaintance (who is African American) asking me to talk a bit about how I feel about the doubts of Black people about Black-white transracial adoption. The usual questions: should white people adopt Black children? Can white people adequately address race in America as they raise children of color? What should white people have to do (if anything) before being allowed to parent Black children? –are suddenly in play again.
I am bizybizybizy, so I am going to post my response to my friend here, for you to read over my shoulder, complete with links to some of my past writing on the issue.
But if you read no further, take this away: Everyone is asking the WRONG questions. The question we should be asking is: How did so many children of color come to be in the child welfare system in the first place?
We need to tackle that before we get sidetracked worrying about the still tiny minority of adoptions that are white-parents/Black children. Because in spite of media attention, they are still the tiny minority.
Without further ado, my response to my friend:
This is a question that comes up frequently. (And I
am totally not offended or uncomfortable or whatever. Ask away.) I can
definitely point you at some scholarship that has been of great import
to me in thinking through the question. But meanwhile, I'll summarize
it by saying that Black/white adoptions are still QUITE rare in the
U.S., in spite of media attention that over represents them and makes
them seem like a "trend" or a "fad."
In fact, Black
children–even healthy newborns (like my children)–are still at the
very bottom of the adoption hierarchy (healthy, white, newborn girls
being at the top, African American boys of any age or health status
being at the bottom).
That doesn't mean that when Black/white
transracial adoption happens, issues of race aren't important, and I for
one think the "training" sometimes given to prospective white parents
of Black children is not just woefully inadequate, but sometimes even
counter-productive. A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
have a post at my blog that lays out what I'd like to see prospective
white parents read and learn about African American history before
adopting Black children. And dare I say, the same goes for parents
adopting children from Africa, who will grow up to be African American,
But anyway, I like both Dorothy Roberts (esp.
"Shattered Bonds: the Color of Child Welfare") and Randall Kennedy,
"Interracial Intimacies" (which is a different angle from Roberts but
also excellent) as introductions to the real meat of this issue.
question is not "Should white people raise Black children?" (frankly
Black and white people have been family for…ever) but "why are Black
children over represented in child welfare systems in the first place?"
(Short answer: white supremacy, duh.)
And finally, yes, the
media is HORRIBLE on this issue. White people heroically saving
children from their blackness, yadda yadda. It's just appalling. The
flipside of the all-loving mammy who sacrifices herself inscrutably for
I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the
Blindside, much as I know it's my responsibility as an anti-ractist
white intellectual to do so and tear it to shreds as publicly as
possible. Will get to that as soon as I can stomach it.
are tripping my guilt at abandoning a plan I had to implement a reading
group for the white parents of Black children this year. I got side
tracked writing my novels. But I will have to get back to it, because I
do feel it's something I am uniquely equipped to offer.
some of my past writing on the topic:
free to continue the discussion. I'm super glad you asked. Because
keeping it all hush-hush is not good for my family.