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:
Hi M,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.
I 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, after all.
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.
The 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 white people.
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.
And you 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.
Here's some of my past writing on the topic:
Feel free to continue the discussion. I'm super glad you asked. Because keeping it all hush-hush is not good for my family.