Black Kids in White Houses

On Race, Silence, and the Changing American Family

Black Kids in White Houses


  • comments (159)
  • Print

After all this time, there are still things we don't talk about. It’s a century and a half after Emancipation and a year before the election of America’s first black president. This is October 2007.

The door is closed. There is a black woman at the front of the room, near the blackboard. She is facing a black man who is sitting down and talking fast. He keeps talking for a long time, as if he has been waiting a while to say this to someone. The police, but not only the police, treated him like he was a criminal. His parents, who are white, didn't believe him when he told them this, or if they wanted to believe him, they still just didn't know what to say. Why would they? They were adopting a black child, they thought—not a black teenager, not a black man.

When he finishes, there is quiet in the room, as if everyone is giving him his due. A young Korean woman goes next. She says she has tried to find her birth mother, but the Korean authorities have stopped her. She says she is working to end all adoption from Korea.

There is a young Korean man. He is gay. He is also transgender. He grew up in a white Christian family in a white Christian town. He had to escape. For a long time, he didn't talk about it. He knows he should be grateful, but here, among like-minded peers, he feels like he can really talk about it for the first time.

This workshop is called "Race and Transracial Adoption Workshop with Lisa Marie Rollins." Rollins is the black woman at the front of the room. She says that a social worker labeled her Mexican, Filipino, and Caucasian because people didn't want black kids. But she looked more and more black as she grew older. Her parents still said she wasn't black. She was. Finally, they admitted it too. Then once, as an adult, visiting home, she found a mammy doll in her mother's kitchen, in among the other knickknacks. That's the end of the anecdote. She's still basically speechless about it.

She says it is time to watch a video called "Struggle for Identity." In the video, people tell their stories, stories like the ones in the room. A black woman who was adopted by white parents boils it down: "Don't think you can make black friends after you adopt a black child. If you don't already have black friends, you shouldn't be adopting a black child." Then the lights go up. There are several white people in the room who have said they have already adopted black or Asian or Guatemalan children, or that they are right now waiting to leave for Ethiopia to pick up their adopted children. All of those people—the white people—are crying.

They are crying because they have heard things they did not want to hear. But there is more to it than that. They are also crying because they do not know how else to respond to the great, big cultural silence that has been broken here.

I t would be easier for white people if race did not exist. Or if everyone could agree that race did not matter, that is. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "transracial" first appeared publicly in a 1971 Time magazine article. The article introduced transracial adoption, or adoption across racial boundaries—most often white parents adopting children of color—and reported a strange phenomenon. According to a study in Britain, some white parents "tended to 'deny their child's color, or to say he was growing lighter, or that other people thought he was suntanned and did not recognize him as colored. Sometimes the reality was fully accepted [by the parents] only after the very light child had grown noticeably darker after being exposed to bright sunlight on holiday.'"

It's such an outrageous finding that it sounds like a joke. Stephen Colbert's dimwitted white-guy alter ego has a joke like this, when he says on The Colbert Report, always in the most ridiculous of situations: "As you know, I don't see color." The joke is funny because in so many ways it's true. Plenty of white people don't see color. We refuse to look at it, prefer not to see too much difference, because difference almost always makes us feel bad by comparison.

Transracial adoption is awkward to discuss at first, because although it is designed to chart a radically integrated future, on the surface its structure repeats the segregated past. Just look at the basic structure of a family and apply race to the equation. The most crude way to put it: Whites are in charge, children of color are subordinate, and adults of color are out of the picture. And that's not even talking about class.

And yet there are more of these families now than ever. The exact number of transracial adoptees in this country is unknown, but the practice, which began in earnest in the 1970s, has been on the rise for at least 10 years. Twenty-six percent of black children adopted from foster care in 2004—about 4,200 kids—were adopted transracially, almost all by white parents, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect at Cornell University and the Department of Health and Human Services. That figure is up from 14 percent in 1998 and, according to adoption experts, it has continued to climb. The 2000 census, the first to collect information on adoptions, counted just over 16,000 white households with adopted black children. In the last 15 years, Americans have adopted more than 200,000 children from overseas, but that trend is cooling off, partly because international adoptions are so expensive.

In spite of all that, a person has to slog through layers of silence just to meet someone else at the surface for a conversation about the topic. When Mark Riding, a black father in Baltimore, burst out last November on an NPR blog with a long narrative he'd clearly been waiting to tell someone—about adopting a white daughter, getting glares on the street, and trying to censor his own family's talk about "white people" at home—he found himself in a debate with another commenter, who told him repeatedly to "rise above the race issue" and talked about "membership in the human race." There's a silencer in every conversation about race.

But anonymous commenters can be great sources of information, because they'll write what they'd never say. On The Stranger's blog, I wrote about the woman at the workshop who said you shouldn't adopt black children if you don't already have black friends. An adoptive parent named Teresa took serious offense. Biological parents don't even get screened, she wrote. "My husband and I are white, and we adopted a 9-year-old Hispanic boy four years ago. The amount of training and inspection that we went through was incredible.... You don't know the whole story. You can't possibly. You aren't part of those families."

"P.S.," she wrote at the end, "It isn't that hard to get a white person to cry."

Teresa's comment was long, and it built to a climax before the P.S. Her point: If you don't silence these disgruntled adopted adults, then adoption policy could become race-conscious, and if adoption policy becomes race-conscious but white people still mostly aren't, then white people could be denied the right to adopt, and if that happens, then children of color are going to go without good, permanent homes.

Don't talk is the idea—it can't lead to anything good. All it leads to is shouting, and suing, and then, finally, resilencing.

B arack Obama may as well have been a transracial adoptee.

He grew up with white grandparents, without black role models. His Kenyan father and his Kansas mother were not constant presences. As an upperclassman in high school, he realized what it meant to be black in a white world and became sick with the particular loneliness of a transracial adoptee. His grades dropped, he smoked pot, he snorted coke, he came close to trying heroin with an acquaintance in a meat locker: In short, he nearly destroyed himself. To his family, he simply fell silent. "I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant." So they didn't talk about it.

In the world of transracial adoption, you don't have to look very hard to figure out why no one talks about this stuff. Federal adoption laws mandate silence. Social workers aren't allowed to talk to families about whether they already have black friends. They aren't allowed to tell families they might want to get some. Any of that would be seen, according to federal law written in 1996, as a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The 1996 law prohibits the placement of an adoptee on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Race does not matter, the law says. The American domestic child-welfare system is officially colorblind—or, more to the point, colormute.

There's one exception: The law doesn't apply to Native American children. A separate 1978 law governs them and says the opposite: that in-race adoptions are preferred. Both laws were written by people who said they had the best interests of the children in mind. Yet today, as a report released this past May by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute shows, Native American and black kids—despite being governed by philosophically opposite laws—both on average stay in the child-welfare system longer than children of any other race. Why are these kids still stranded? If one way of helping minority foster children doesn't work, and the opposite way of helping minority foster children doesn't work either, why are we still pretending one is right and one is wrong?

A doption has never been simple for adoptees, and increasingly, adoptive parents are learning that making life easier for their children may make it more complicated for them. Today, many parents acknowledge absent birth parents—always present to the adoptee—as a presence in their families too. For a transracial adoptee, race is like another missing parent. In fact, transracial adoptees hunger for heritage at a younger age than their white counterparts, searching for their parents on average five years earlier (25.8 versus 31.2), and looking not just for parents but also for a racial identity.

We know this because of a study cited in the 2006 anthology Outsiders Within, which is the first book ever to be written entirely by transracial adoptees and to include academic research, scholarly papers, memoirs, and artworks. It's a landmark book representing a new voice, or an old voice finally speaking up. Why did it take so long? Gratefulness. Gratefulness is the most powerful silencer in the adoption world. Even if a transracial adoptee breaks the silence to make a criticism about his or her experience, the immediate response always is: Would it have been better if you'd never been adopted? It's a rhetorical cul-de-sac, a false runaround that continues to stifle conversations about more complicated subjects, like what's the difference between a family that's tolerant and one that's actively antiracist, or why are there so many children of color adopted in the first place?

That old stifling question is starting to die.

These are the voices that are coming out instead:

"I can't be alone in thinking that being transracially adopted, we have lost something: lost our languages, traditions, cultures, and most importantly the subtleties and nuances of those cultures. We have lost something we never had, which we may not have even valued had we had it, and yet we continue to mourn. Am I alone in this grief?"

That's M. Anderson, writing in Outsiders Within. Here's Rita Simon, a researcher at American University who has been studying transracial adoption since 1968 (she's talking on NPR):

"What we find consistently is that the white families cannot raise a black child as if it was its own birth child. They have to make changes in their lives. In other words, love is not enough."

And this from the Donaldson report this past May:

"Two principles provide a solid framework for meeting the needs of black children and youth in foster care: that adoption is a service for children, and that acknowledgement of race-related realities—not 'colorblindness'—must help to shape the development of sound adoption practices." (Emphasis mine.)

The Donaldson report, commissioned by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, calls for a change to federal adoption law.

P am Hansen, a Seattle pediatrician—her last name has been changed for privacy reasons—is in her kitchen making black-bean burritos for dinner. "My white friends don't really get it when I say this, but I basically have these kids because of poverty," she says.

Her willingness to talk openly is surprising; I find myself wanting to silence her for her own protection.

Pam and her husband, Bill, both white, adopted two black children, Theo and Simone, whose mother, Amanda, lives in Texas. Amanda had to give them up because she's poor and has been dealing with illness in her immediate family. The semi-open adoptions cost almost $20,000 each. "Some of my white friends think there's something wrong with the birth mother for giving up her kids. Okay, she could have used contraception, but not everyone I know is perfect in that way either. There's nothing wrong with her. It's important that my kids know that. I've thought before, what if I'd just given that money to her?"

In international adoptions, the poverty of the parents is usually blamed on corrupt governments or bad political situations, Pam says. "But when it's domestic, we blame the parents."

The Transracially Adopted Children's Bill of Rights, by adoptee Liza Steinberg Triggs, includes this rule: "Every child is entitled to parents who know that if they are white they experience the benefits of racism because the country's system is organized that way."

Pam is the sort of person—maybe all self-critical parents (people?) are this way out of necessity—who can't help but believe in opposing ideas. She and her husband, who studied black history in graduate school, were interested in adopting black children "from a social-justice point of view." Both because more black children than white children need homes, and because the Hansens believe in the civil-rights dream of an understanding and connection between different races of people.

A year ago, they moved from the lily-white Proctor neighborhood in Tacoma to the racial mix of Columbia City, and Theo, now in kindergarten, goes to a public school in Rainier Valley, where the Hansens are hoping to meet and befriend black families. (They want not only black peers but black role models for their kids.) Their adoption agency gave them a few tips about respecting black culture and sent them on their way. "It's not enough," she says. "Honestly, we could have gone and moved to a white gated community in northern Minnesota, and nobody would have done anything about it."

Some days, Pam does feel like moving to a white neighborhood, not that she would. Several months ago, on a bus in Columbia City, a young black man asked her whether her kids were adopted. She said yes. He chanted, "That's fucked up, that's fucked up." Then he told her that when her son got older, he'd get up in the middle of the night and kill her, so maybe the man would just kill her now, there on the bus. Another time, a black woman in a car yelled at Pam and the kids when they were walking on the street in Columbia City: "How does it feel to steal black babies, you white bitch?"

There are times when black parents or grandparents smile at her knowingly, or randomly hug her, or give her unsolicited help, but usually she feels nervous around black parents. "I feel that I need to do it right," she says. "I need to prove that I'm capable of parenting these children."

She gives herself only middling marks. Neither she nor Bill have close black friends yet. And they aren't Christians, so they can't join a black church. "It's complicated," she says. "It's only going to get harder as they get older. I think you have to be willing to talk about it constantly, and over and over."

I 'm a moderate racist.

My personal data "suggest a moderate automatic preference for European Americans compared to African Americans." This data came from something called the Implicit Association Test, which is hosted on the website of Harvard University. The test, developed in 1998, is intended to gauge unconscious bias. It measures how long you take to answer questions (by keyboard) that ask you to associate faces of different races with good (e.g., "joy") versus bad (e.g., "failure") words.

This is the test that King County employees of the state's Children's Administration department are going to be taking, because Washington has a problem. It's the same problem pretty much everywhere around the country, and not a new problem either: Too many kids of color are coming into foster care and staying in too long. In King County, the Children's Administration is writing a plan with five parts, one of which is "staff development, which begins with self-examination," says director Joel Odimba. "We're going to train in knowing who we are." The five-point plan includes—in addition to soul searching—a review of policies, the formation of an advisory committee, and a possible Cultural Competency Center.

Those are pretty quiet, bureaucracy-as-usual ideas compared to the idea that made Seattle famous on this issue. In 1999, Washington's Department of Social and Health Services launched a pilot project that four years later became the full-blown Office of African-American Children's Services (OAACS, pronounced "oasis"). It was staffed with people trained to handle the particular issues of black foster kids, and most of the county's black kids were routed through it—blatantly defying the colorblind mandates of federal adoption law. Quickly, it was the talk of the nation, a test of dealing with race head-on in public policy, as if it matters. And it was invented out of a sense of desperation not uncommon around the country: In 2004, while black children made up 7 percent of the population of King County's kids, they accounted for 30 percent of the kids in King County foster care.

It was a stab, an effort, a start. But it got complaints. Its management turned over often, and it was criticized by the rest of the department. Last spring, just as OACCS's approach was about to be validated by new research—two months later, the Donaldson report would call for an emphasis on race in the child-welfare system—OACCS was killed. The federal Office of Civil Rights declared it in violation, and the state decided to let it go. The state's foster-care administration would no longer deal with race in a direct way. Meanwhile, the OAACS building would be renamed the Martin Luther King Jr. office—an apt linguistic elision. Now it operates like all the others, taking cases on the basis of where the kids live. You'd never know that a major experiment on the role of race in families went on there, and whatever it might have been on its way to learning appears to have been lost.

T here are not that many movies about domestic transracial adoption. In one, the 1995 movie Losing Isaiah, Halle Berry stars as a crackhead named Khaila who leaves her baby, Isaiah, in a trash can while she goes to find some crack. He's discovered, taken to a hospital, and adopted by Jessica Lange's character, Margaret. When Khaila cleans up and discovers her son is still alive, she wants him back, and a judge orders his return. But it is too late—the toddler is attached to Margaret, and he doesn't respond to Khaila. Khaila is forced to admit that Margaret has become her son's mother. The last scene shows Margaret and Isaiah reunited over some toys, and Khaila playing alongside them. A title card flashes: "And a little child shall lead them, Isaiah 11:6."

A little child shall lead them.

That phrase hits me hard. One of the reasons I was at that October 2007 workshop (at Seattle University), and that I'd been looking into transracial adoption, was to teach racist family members of mine a lesson. I had other reasons too—I've been debating whether to become a parent for a while—but this one was the most embarrassing. In my fantasy, I hadn't considered how exactly I would protect my child. The child was a means to an end, a healing agent: Want to rid your parents of their overt racism? Give them black grandchildren and defy them not to love them! Need to atone for your own covert racism? Adopt a black child and let him teach you!

Part of the genuine appeal of transracial adoption, it's true, is its potential to transform our culture. "I often think about transracial adoption as a grand social experiment," writes John Raible, one of the first mixed-race children adopted to a white family in the 1960s and something of a spokesperson on the topic.

Even so, children shouldn't be the day laborers on the job, says Chad Goller-Sojourner. Would you want your children to be the test cases in a grand social experiment?

"What I'd ask parents is, are you willing to be the uncomfortable one?" Goller-Sojourner says. This is how he'd question a prospective parent if he were a social worker. "Because somebody's gonna be uncomfortable, and it seems the burden is on you. You have to be the uncomfortable one."

He means that if white parents of black children, for instance, don't live in black neighborhoods, join black churches, have black friends, and send their children to significantly mixed-race schools, then at least they should cross the thresholds into black barbershops even though it's awkward, or drive out of their way to shop at grocery stores in black neighborhoods. Parents should be careful to raise their children to live in this world, not the one they wish existed.

"If you're buying a house and you have a dog, don't you spend more time looking for a big old yard for your dog?" he says. "Love is but one of many components of parenting. You're raising children to live in a world that may not be your world. If you go to the pound, they won't just give you a dog. There are rules. They'll say, 'That dog's not good for your house, we'll get you another dog.' But when you ask that question about kids, people freak out."

Goller-Sojourner is a performer. This summer, he put on a one-man show at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center called Sitting in Circles with Rich White Girls: Memoirs of a Bulimic Black Boy. As a big, gay, dark-skinned black adoptee of white parents living in white University Place outside Tacoma, he has had to explain himself many times, from many different perspectives, to many different kinds of people. He's developed multiple metaphors: the dog-adoption analogy, one involving a seven-foot child with five-foot parents ("It's not that one's better, it's just an acknowledgement of likeness or nonlikeness"), and one about lions and a gazelle.

"Let's say I was a gazelle adopted by lions," he says. "I pranced around happy until I got to first grade and all these lions tried to attack me; it's like they didn't get the memo. The other gazelles, they smelled the lion on me and didn't trust me, so I stood open."

He can also tell it literally: "The difference between when I got called nigger and when other black kids got called nigger is that they went home and got love, and I went home and got love from people who looked just like the people who called me nigger. As a child, you don't have the ability to bifurcate."

P hebe Jewell is gay. She and her partner, Dawn, adopted a boy named Isaac. He has the same mother as Bill and Pam Hansen's two children, the poor woman from Texas, Amanda, who for the most part finds it too painful to be in contact with the children she's let go. Isaac, Theo, and Simone all live in the same neighborhood, and Theo and Isaac go to the same school (Simone is too young). When friends from school come over, they are often confused about why Isaac, Theo, and Simone don't live together. But then somebody explains it, and that's that.

Isaac is 6 1/2, the oldest of the three, and he is not a quiet kid. You can hear him across the aisles at a store. Phebe worries that some people will see him as "dangerous, a thug," but she knows that if he were quiet, he'd probably get teased as an Oreo. At his school, many of the kids are black. He comes home talking black, calling her "girl." It makes her proud, that he's getting black culture, black cadence. Even though she's white, she knows it herself, having grown up partly in the South. She jokingly calls him "boy" in return, but she knows she'll eventually have to stop herself, because of that word's old association with power and slavery, something Isaac couldn't know about now.

Isaac does know about slavery. He learned about it a year ago. Eventually, he used it against his mother when she tried to tell him what to do. "White people don't own black people anymore, so you can't own me," he told her.

Ingenious, she thought. That's my son.

O ver at Theo and Simone's house, they have just finished eating their black-bean burritos, and it's time to put on swimsuits and get in the car to go for lessons. Lessons are at Medgar Evers Pool, a place named for a man who was intimidated from voting just 62 years ago, who was on his college debate team, who married a woman named Myrlie, who had a Molotov cocktail thrown into the carport at their home, who was nearly run down by a car, who was shot dead in his own driveway—in the back—by a Ku Klux Klan fertilizer salesman who was not convicted of murder until 30 years later. Everything good that happened to Medgar Evers was because of Medgar Evers. Everything bad that happened to him was because he was black and refused to apologize for it.

Theo and Simone are sitting in the backseat of the car. Pam is explaining how she dresses the children carefully. If they were white children, she might dress them as "little Goodwill hippies," but she doesn't want black or white people thinking of them as poor maltreated urchins, so she dresses them up. Theo is wearing a white button-up polo shirt and glasses. We are driving past Garfield High School, where on Halloween night, a black teenager was killed in what police think was a gang shooting. Since then, black teenagers have been walking around the Central District and riding city buses along Martin Luther King Jr. Way in sweatshirts that say "RIP Lil Q" for the kid who died.

Theo doesn't know any of this. He doesn't know that he's going to a pool named for Medgar Evers. He doesn't know that there was a shooting here at this same place, another shooting of a black man. He doesn't know that this is my neighborhood, where I live, where I'm learning about the meaning of race, the moderate racist in the front seat.

He does know about Obama, though. What does he know about Obama? I ask him. He puts his fingers to his chest and says, "Black." Then he says, "White House." That's all he says. recommended


Comments (159) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
They're not adopted, but...My brother's kids are bi-racial (black + white) My husband's brother's kid is bi-racial (white + korean)My husband's sister's kids have two moms. My sister's boy (just plain white) his first girlfriend was born in Mexico. These kids are growing up loved with families who try to help them through anything and I just hope the the rest of the country gets over itself. Oh wtf- People are messed up and kids grow up to be messed up or not no matter who or what their parents are.
Posted by beelzebufo on November 26, 2008 at 4:08 PM · Report this
Well Done Jen, well done
Posted by Chad Goller-Sojourner on November 26, 2008 at 4:10 PM · Report this
"It would be easier for white people if race did not exist." That's one of the most racist things I've EVER read in The Stranger. FYI "White" people are a race too.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on November 26, 2008 at 4:26 PM · Report this
Thank you Jen for this story that cracks the seal open on a difficult topic; another Stranger piece worthy of an award.

I was adopted as an infant by white parents and at age 30 I am just now beginning to understand that I am Hispanic, but I don't know how to be Hispanic. So for now, I guess that I'm still white.
Posted by Mrs Jarvie on November 26, 2008 at 4:29 PM · Report this
I did the test at the Harvard site and:

"Your data suggests a slight automatic preference for White people over Black people."

I like to think that I'm less racist than my neighbours, but this forces me to remember that I automatically make negative assumptions about people based on their dark skin.

"Your data suggests a strong automatic preference for Barack Obama over John McCain."

Posted by Mrs Jarvie on November 26, 2008 at 4:56 PM · Report this
The door is closed. There is a black woman at the front of the room, near the blackboard. She is facing a black man who is sitting down and talking fast....A young Korean woman goes next. She says she has tried to find her birth mother, but the Korean authorities have stopped her...There is a young Korean man. He is gay. He is also transgender. He grew up in a white Christian family in a white Christian town. He had to escape.

See Spot. See Spot run. See Jane. See Jane run...
Posted by Bobo on November 26, 2008 at 5:13 PM · Report this
This is one of the best articles I've ever read in the Stranger. I hope more like it come along. I wish an article like this could be printed in a national news source, it's really revealing and honest.
Posted by sef06 on November 26, 2008 at 5:58 PM · Report this
Jen, this is an brilliant article.

I am a white foster parent of a child of color. Your article gave voice to thoughts I have had, but have not been able to articulate. It has inspired me to look even more closely at my own privilege, and how much my foster child has lost: not just his birth family, but an easily accessible sense of cultural identity.

Our foster son lost his daily contact with his mother and siblings due to poverty, mental illness, domestic violence and racism. This is a tragedy. Yet the number one comment white people make when they learn he is living with us is that he is "so lucky." There is nothing "lucky" about his situation, and I never want him to feel obligated to be grateful to us.

I'm very inspired by this article and will share it far and wide with other foster parents and social workers. Thank you.

Posted by Christina on November 26, 2008 at 8:06 PM · Report this
Blah. I have a black foster kid. And I'm white. And I live in Columbia City. I feel so trendy. It makes me very uncomfortable...it feels like it's seen as some sort of status symbol. "Look how unracist I am!"

But the truth is, there's lots of kids of color in foster care. And if you don't specify that you want a white one (I'm not sure they ever asked), you'll probably get one that's not white. Especially if you live in a more diverse area. So, what do we do? I haven't changed my friendships, because that feels false. I don't want to seek out friends just because of their race. That's weird. But I feel guilty for not having many black friends.

This was a great article. I don't know the answer, but it seems like a first step is talking about it.
Posted by Amy on November 26, 2008 at 9:15 PM · Report this
This is a sticky wicket. I don't think this is as clear cut as either "side" would have the reader believe. Yes, kids are lucky to be in a loving home, and yes, transracially adopted kids have lost a piece of themselves and their culture in the process. Which situation is truly better: waiting for a family of your own race to adopt you which may never happen, or losing and hungering for that piece of your culture/identity if you are adopted by people not of your race? Who can say?
One other point: there are so many multiracial children now with more in every subsequent generation, will this debate be moot in 50 years? 100 years?
Posted by Vesalius on November 26, 2008 at 9:50 PM · Report this
Hmm. That feeling of loss that transracial adoptees feel for a missing cultural identity...Maybe part of this is due to the mismatch between their physical appearance and their culture, but I believe this feeling of loss is also a normal part of the mainstream "white" culture. For the most part, "white" in America isn't any particular ethnic group or culture--it's just the catch-all category for people who have assimilated and lost their ethnic ties, their peoplehood, their tribal identities. I know many white people who feel this loss acutely, particularly if their families more recently assimilated.
Posted by lady_cow on November 26, 2008 at 11:15 PM · Report this
Annnnd this where us liberals wimp out.

Seriously, people. Why there is even a debate over this is harmful!

I'm white. My daughter is Cambodian. Has she ever wondered "Why are my parents white"?


But then there's the fact that we love her just as much as we love our black son, and our white foster child.

Love is enough. Do I think that transracial might be better with parents of the same race? Oh, yes.

But that's not going to happen in America. Most adoptive parents are white. And I'd rather have my children in my home then being shuttled around in a faulty foster-care system.
Posted by KatieAnne on November 27, 2008 at 7:26 AM · Report this
I'd be interested in an article where instead of "black" and "white", we'd have "straight" and "gay," or "Christian" and "Jewish", and so forth.
Posted by Gloria on November 27, 2008 at 7:30 AM · Report this
I agree with the previous poster. These children are being raised in families that have lost their own cultures. I remember reading in my middle school history book about the glorious American melting pot. But we never received a satisfying replacement for what we lost.

Posted by Jen on November 27, 2008 at 8:26 AM · Report this
Nigga please...
Posted by oye vey on November 27, 2008 at 9:20 AM · Report this
I am a lesbian who grew up in a straight redneck household. Perhaps I should have been adopted by a nice gay family? I've got a good friend who had a biracial daughter, whose black father wanted nothing to do with her. Shit happens. This article is seriously annoying. Home is just a place where you grow up for a few years. Go out into the world and live your own life after that! Don't sit staring at your navel, feeling sorry for yourself about where you come from! People have children by accident all the time, with absolutely no screening, people grow up in all sorts of households with plenty of reasons to feel sorry for themselves, and we should all be so lucky to have been fed and given a place to sleep until we could do it on our own. Some people just have too much time and resources to spend looking for excuses for their problems.

Commenter number one is right: No one gets an ideal family. This doesn't deserve issue status.
Posted by Abby on November 27, 2008 at 10:52 AM · Report this
Black America and the N-word:

Posted by thescoop on November 27, 2008 at 11:40 AM · Report this
One more thing--none of the rest of us get to choose our families. We don't get to choose how sensitively they raise us, either, as long as our parents obey the bare minimum of laws.

This is such a non-issue. Dangerously sentimental. Should gay parents be allowed to adopt straight children?
Posted by Abby on November 27, 2008 at 11:47 AM · Report this
Wow! Go Abby Writer!
Posted by Maria Isabella on November 27, 2008 at 11:52 AM · Report this
I did not read this article as an argument to restrict white people from fostering or adopting kids of color. I read it as an argument to have this discussion, and to stop pretending this isn't an issue or problem.

As the article said, we have to deal with the discomfort rather than just denying it or making lame white-guilt liberal white guilt arguments about "love being enough." White defensiveness is part of the problem.

Comparing the experience of racism in America to white people "losing their culture" is offensive, lame and clueless. You don't get it.

And Abby, so you feel that your bad childhood negates other people's right to have their own experience of their childhood? Is it a contest? Get some therapy.
Posted by foster mom on November 27, 2008 at 9:06 PM · Report this

I'm not sure that you didn't mean this the other way around, but saying, "Should gay parents be allowed to adopt straight children?" doesn't fit. Straight children adopted by gay parents will never go to schools populated by solely gay teachers and gay students. It is nearly impossible to cut a child off from straight culture; it is nowhere near as difficult to totally immerse a child is white culture, even when the child is not white. Furthermore, gay people are generally raised by straight people among other straight family members, meaning gay parents can't be as ignorant about straight people as white people can be about black people. The analogy of your earlier post (I'm a lesbian; should I have been raised by homosexuals?) is more fitting. And maybe that’s what you meant.

Although, honestly, you might get a lot of people saying "yes" to your earlier question if homosexuality in a child was as evident as a child's race. But, like it or not, we aren't able to look at that three year old that Mr. and Mrs. Jones want to adopt and figure out if s/he is gay or straight. So it's rather a moot point.
Posted by Lor on November 27, 2008 at 9:18 PM · Report this
I connected with your article in many different ways. Great discussion piece. Well done.
Posted by Megan on November 27, 2008 at 9:54 PM · Report this
foster mom: I wasn't comparing racism to white people losing their culture, and I'm sorry you misread it that way. Certainly transracial adoptees experience racism, and this article mentions that, but the main issue this article is raising seems to be something slightly different: do white parents rob non-white children of their tribal affiliation/birthright/peoplehood by adopting them? Transracial adoptees feel this as a loss, but I was proposing that most white people feel some similar loss.
Posted by lady_cow on November 27, 2008 at 10:18 PM · Report this
Thank you, Stranger. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Posted by Sarah on November 27, 2008 at 10:56 PM · Report this
Jesus. Quit it with the white fucking guilt already. Big left wing babies. You make me ashamed to be called a liberal.
Posted by Headache on November 27, 2008 at 11:33 PM · Report this
I live in holland. I have friends of all races, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, etc. And i honestly dont see color. I mean... what makes black people, white people and asian people so different? honestly? It seems as if in america people try to get rid of racial prejudice so hard they only make it worse. Its as if they are trying to make all races equal. Why? All people are different, but everyone cares for same little things in life. Disregard of skin color. It doesnt make sense to equalize everyone or put everyone in little groups. What people should learn is how to live together and not be silly.
Posted by Ptitz on November 28, 2008 at 3:41 AM · Report this
Anyone who doesn't favor their race is fucked up. I'm not saying it's right, but it is absolutely human. I am continually amused at liberals trying to raise their children according to the child's color/national origin. It is hilarious and sad at the same time. Raise your children with love and respect, they'll become themselves eventually. Chicken and watermelon don't make black children feel more black, the misguided gesture does.
Posted by d on November 28, 2008 at 6:04 AM · Report this
Kids don't care about race or religion or orientation. Kids treasure love and caring above all else. As long as a parent can provide that, the child has a good chance of overcoming obstacles.

And don't group all white people together as a race. I do not consider myself to be of White heritage- I am a second-generation American of Italian descent. Grouping all white people together is as insulting as saying all black people listen to hip-hop and eat watermelon.
Posted by X. on November 28, 2008 at 8:31 AM · Report this
I'm always a little wary when it comes to talk of "loss of culture", especially when the implication is that only minorities ever have that. Presumably white people are somehow less "complex" or needy or something. Culture and cultural identity are not genetically coded - it's taught. You teach the child (or, rather, their peer group does) that they are missing something - that "hunger" is simply a fantasy that everyone else apparently gets for free. As if the life that the child has lived until adulthood has no substance because it doesn't have the official minority seal of approval (presumably assigned by whites).

Yeah, America is a long way away from being post-racial, and pretending issues don't exist when they do is absurd. But so is the idea that lifestyle is genetically determined, and no dark-skinned child could be whole without filling themselves with elements of a modern, transitive, temporary culture. You are what you've been up until now - letting yourself be that defined by social constructs and the opinions of people you will likely never interact with is a weakness, not a virtue.
Posted by Hans on November 28, 2008 at 8:53 AM · Report this
I think it was an excellent article. I am a white person with a Chinese adopted daughter. I have immersed us in the Chinese culture for her sake. My friends are now the parents of her friends and are Chinese. You don't have to give up your old friends, just make new ones. It doesn't have to be fake. But if your child is a child of color, they need to learn how to function as such. When you are not around, they will not have the umbrella of protection of "white privilege." You may not see it or believe it but it is there. Just do it. I joined a Chinese church, we go to Chinese school, and we choose a school because it has Chinese kids. Many of my friends are black for 20 years. Spending time with those friends taught me how important that race is to kids. Most people of color that I know have cautioned me how important it is to raise a child in her race. Most white people tell me it doesn't matter, "She's an American," they say. Most white people don't get it.
Posted by Marl on November 28, 2008 at 9:56 AM · Report this
Something about this topic bothers me.

Maybe it's the almost impossible decision white parents must make if they want their adopted black children to connect with their racial/ethnic background: which aspects of African-American culture do black children need to experience or feel a part of in order to feel "black enough"? How on earth is a white parent supposed to decide which parts of the American black experience are appropriate or "authentic" enough to make her transracially adopted child feel at ease in his own skin? Do biological children of black parents feel more at ease in their own skin, just because their parents are black? Who decides what it means to be African-American (beyond the mere fact of skin color), and who is to say that all African-American kids are comfortable with the way their African-American parents are modeling what this means for them? The black community is not one monolithic voice, and does not lay claim to one set of values.

Completely anecdotally, all the white adoptive parents of black children I've known have exposed their kids to cherry-picked aspects of the "black experience" based - it would seem - on socio-economic status. The kids read about civil rights leaders and go to African American barbershops/salons to get their hair done, but they won't be going to school with any black kids because they are choosing to homeschool instead.
Posted by wondering on November 28, 2008 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Thank you X for bringing up another excellent point: "white" heritage is not the same for all of us. I identify strongly with my Eastern European, German, and French roots and celebrate them all. Those are the cultures I am from and the ones from which I draw my family traditions. Celtic, British, Scandinavian, Iberian, Italian, these are all as foreign to me as my roots are to them. I suppose it can also depend how strongly each family held onto their culture and how long ago they emigrated. We are all a sum of our parts, but no one part defines us.
Posted by Vesalius on November 28, 2008 at 10:34 AM · Report this
I appreciate this article deeply. As a Caucasian mom to an Asian daughter, I am hit in the face with the reality of racism on a very frequent basis, including my own. I also do not know what the answer is, but I do believe acknowleging the issues has to be the first step. As a mom to a child I love more than I can explain, it's hurtful and terrifying beyond words that I will likely cause her road to be harder because of what I do not understand in terms of her adoption, different race, and loss of her birth family and culture. It leaves me wanting answers as her mom, and a blueprint for how to get it right. I so wish one existed.
Posted by Laurie on November 28, 2008 at 12:22 PM · Report this
JUST to sum it all up -

Brown is the new black AND white.

Two more generations and all this is mostly moot. Sorry, but mother nature want the gene pools to mix, and, so they will.

Look around. Lingering on all the stuff from the last 200 years is basically useless - of course - many will cling.

I come from six national and ethnic strains - and who gives a fuck - not me, nor anyone I know.

Melting pot comes to fruition - indeed - and it is good biological stuff, sexual attractions, and breeding and new age families and BROWN is the new America.

By the way, in my family, going back a generation, ALL the white women married non white males, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and even the fags have partners that are not white.

Education wins too, ma nature's logical partner!!!
Posted by Bob on November 28, 2008 at 12:34 PM · Report this
This is an excellent article! It is very balanced and susses out a lot of the many issues in transracial adoption. Some may see it as biased against white adoptive parents--but this is only because of the very phenomenon the article is addressing--the silencing of race discussions in adoption.

Whether an African-American child has any same race role models/examples in his life is important, but not as important as the recognition by white parents that race still matters and will be a factor in their child's life.

Like Obama I was raised by white people in a primarily white environment, I experienced racism, angst and a search for identity, but my white mom never tried to feed me pap about how my struggle with the racial order wasn't "real" because of the unity of humanity. She never thought her love would be "enough" to make my experiences as a non-white person irrelevant, she thought her love would help me cope, and it did, but her recognition that race and racism is real helped even more. This is some of the same idea that children can get from an association with Black culture.

As an adoptive parent I have encountered too many other aparents who can't even make the basic step of accepting that race will matter for their child, and that it matters for them. (much less that it mattered before when they were just white people in the world) That is why articles like this are so needed.
Posted by Luisa on November 28, 2008 at 12:39 PM · Report this
I am a 23 year old Mexican born girl adopted by white parents at infancy. My parents also adopted my then 8 year old half brother five years later.

My birth mother, whom I have met, was poor, unmarried, bipolar. While I'm incredibly grateful she gave birth to me instead of having an abortion, I do not think of her as my mother.

My adoptive parents, who raised me, cared for me, will always be my parents. When people say that Wwite parents can't raise children of color, I take it as a personal affront to them. Before adopting me, my parents had lived in DC, Ethiopia, and the Navajo Reservation. They were broad minded, but did not have Mexican (though they do have Hispanic) friends. My childhood role models were Harrit Tubman and Teddy Roosevelt, a black woman and a white man.

I grew up with some white privlilege by proxy, and it's a double edged sword. Speaking english as a first language, getting a liberal arts education, has opened all sorts of doors for me. But I "talk white," and I grew up in New Mexico, where there is a much felt white/hispanic divide. At school, I felt like I never belonged with either the hispanic kids or the white kids. Whoever wrote that comment that "kids don't care about race or orientation" obviously has never set foot in an integrated junior high school. Sometimes I cried and wished I was white, sometimes I got offended when people didn't realize I was Mexican.

I can promise you, Abby, that this sure as hell was never a "non-issue" for me and my brother, who are both queer, by the way. There are lots of white gays and lesbians who like to play the homosexual card as though it is equal to the race card, and it isn't. I'm living in a very homophobic country in Eastern Europe right now (people shot water guns filled with acid at people in the last gay pride parade) and I am very careful about whom I out myself to. But I can't hide my skin color.

Last time I flew to the States, a customs officer started speaking to me in Spanish--after I handed him my U.S. passport. When I tried to get a CT driver's license at school, they asked me for a green card.

Yes, gays and lesbians are treated like second-class citizens, but as a Mexican born American, I'm often treated like I'm not a citizen at all. And there are lots of hardworking, law abiding, tax paying, undoccumented persons in this country who would give an arm and a leg to have the US passport it took me a mere 6 months of beaurocratic bullshit to get. And I feel guilty about that.

I've spent most of my life trying to come to terms with my identity. I've learned Spanish but I'll never speak it like a native. I have hispanic friends, but I don't kid myself and pretend I'm one of them. I sought out my birth mother because I wanted answers but realized I'm too confused and angry to have a relationship with her yet.

I've definately lost something, but it feels somehow imperialist to try to claim it back. I went on stike and protested for "Day Without a Mexican," and I felt like an impostor. There is an emptiness created (that, Lady_cow is right, I think many White people also feel) whenever people have lost their culture. But, as someone should tell white rastafarians everywhere, trying to emulate someone else's culture only shows you are arrogant enough to think its your right to take it as your own.

I will probably adopt children, if I have children. I will probably adopt children of color, because they're the ones who need homes. They will probably struggle, as I've struggled. I will endevour to love and support them and not feel guilty about it.
Posted by Borderline on November 28, 2008 at 1:21 PM · Report this
I think Jen is a great writer, but she is completely missing the point on this topic. Everyone is this story, including Jen, comes across as insufferable, self-centered assholes. Not one of you understands what it's like to be raised in extreme poverty to unfit parents, or to be in state foster care without parents and being old enough to understand the situation. Goller-Sojourner's search for an "identity" (which is a bullshit idea of someone of privilege in the first place) does not good public policy make. As someone who was not wanted or loved or adopted at an early age, let me assure you, you fucking are lucky to have parents that love you and adopted you. Any person who actually group up welfare-poor will tell you, it’s not some cultural badge of honor or a romantic good time. It’s depressing and it sucks and it kills your soul. People become happy and great in spite of being poverty-stricken not because of it. My point being, if you are being put up for adoption, 99% of the time it is for a better life. I’m not speaking for everyone, as this article so clumsily does, but having a safe environment to live in sure as hell trumps some near-mythical idea of a perfect “heritage”.
Posted by D.D. on November 28, 2008 at 1:23 PM · Report this
My partner and I are a white gay couple. Our 1-year-old son is biracial, black and Latino. His mother selected us out of a pool of adoptive parents, and we now have an open relationship with her (visits once every six weeks or so). We underwent extensive training on transracial parenting, based largely on studies of the reported experiences of now-adult transracial adoptees. The training was required both by our home-state agency and by our out-of-state placement agency.

From the training and extensive reading, I take away a couple guiding principles for my own transracial parenting:
* never, ever downplay the reality of race consciousness and racism in U.S. society;
* prepare your child in advance -- through age-appropriate discussion and role playing -- for bigotry (in our case, both racist and homophobic bigotry); and
* assure through whatever means necessary (personal friendships or otherwise) that your child has same-race (or, again in our case, same races) role models.
* Oh, and one more: never, ever let your kid go outside with bad hair!

Interestingly, I think the research and certainly the first-hand experiences I've read or heard are mixed about the value of bringing up black kids in black neighborhoods. Many adoptees think that this made it harder and made them feel more estranged, especially if there was a class divide between them and their black peers in addition to a family divide. Research also seems to be mixed about the degree to emphasize specific cultural heritage. Some is good, certainly. But I've heard adoptees complain that it was overkill or inappropriate (e.g. celebrating a Chinese identity when a child might actually have a very different Chinese-American identity).
Posted by Johnny on November 28, 2008 at 1:58 PM · Report this
93% of all blacks murdered in the USA every year are murdered by other blacks. Blacks make up only 12% of the USA, which means "crime-age" black males make up less than 6%, but somehow over 52% of all murders and over 34% of all rapes in our country are committed by that less-than-6%. Black men raped at least 37,460 white women in 2005, but in the sample survey of over 20,000 people, they found that white men raped between zero and ten black women that year. Blacks have committed the vast majority of murders in the Seattle area in the last year and most of the victims were black. Until those numbers and situations change drastically, blacks and guilty-white-liberals who whine about "white racism" can go eat shit.
Posted by Kris Kime on November 28, 2008 at 2:08 PM · Report this
Um, Kris, as one white man to another: go fuck yourself.
Posted by Johnny on November 28, 2008 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Thanks, Jen--and everyone, especially everyone who is skeptical, read Borderline's comment, above. It's eloquent.
Posted by OH! on November 28, 2008 at 2:35 PM · Report this
My response to Kris was rightly removed because of its tersely abusive nature. But it also served as an example of the kind of response that, in future conversations with my son, I will likely teach is appropriate when he encounters similar non sequiturs, designed merely to mask racial anxieties, racism, and racial fear. (Unless it's a cop he's dealing with, in which case I'll teach him to save his pride for those without sticks and tasers!)
Posted by Johnny on November 28, 2008 at 2:39 PM · Report this
@ D.D.

I would've liked to heard the point-of-view of non-white foster children who aged out of foster care without ever being adopted. Would they have agreed with the transracial adoptees or would they (like you seem to be saying) that any stable home would have been better than foster care.

@ Kris Kime

go fuck yourself.
Posted by yucca flower on November 28, 2008 at 2:41 PM · Report this
@yucca flower:

I know someone like that. She'd been in foster care for about 10 years and aged out. She was with her last family for something like 1.5 years and they would have adopted her, but she got better financial aid by being legally family-less. Most of her foster parents had been white, and she thought that white people should never adopt black kids.

Now she was 19 at the time, so maybe when she gets older she'll change her mind. I don't know. She's just one person.

She also had trouble with foster parents of color, and her longest and last placement was with a white couple she referred to as "her moms," she liked them a lot. She just felt entirely adrift as a black girl floating through the white world.
Posted by dwight moody on November 28, 2008 at 4:41 PM · Report this
@ Kris Kime

Die in a fire.
Posted by dwight moody on November 28, 2008 at 4:44 PM · Report this
Jen, thank you for this open-hearted and thought-provoking article. It (or some version of it) deserves a much wider audience. Utney Reader maybe? Hope it garners awards.
Posted by rob on November 28, 2008 at 4:50 PM · Report this
I think the idea that white people are culture-free is piffle. It's just more difficult to see because we float in it all the time. I would venture to guess that, in fact, there are many types of white culture based on class, local variations, and country of origin.

I can't say anything in particular about transracial adoption. I can say that my first father died when I was three and I was adopted by my Dad when he married Mom. (All three parents are white.) I felt, particularly in my teens and twenties that there was something missing because I never knew my first father. I suspect that it is a common phenomenon when your life changes radically as a child, that regrets and what-might-have-beens haunt you. I'd also guess that minority children need to know how to handle racism in ways that white cultures don't have the tools for, so they do need specific knowledge that may only be available from people of their own heritage.
Posted by SpookyCat on November 28, 2008 at 5:43 PM · Report this
Just for the record, there are NO white gated communities in Northern Minnesota. We may sound podunk to you coastal folk, but there are only about 3 gated communities in the whole state, and all are in the Twin Cities metro area. Additionally, MN has a non-profit organization committed to helping the adoptive parents of black children raise their kids with positive racial identity and black role models in their lives. Additionally, the kids interact with each other and are thus not alone in their experience with (at times) clueless parents. If the Seattle area doesn't have a similar organization, maybe you could at least refrain from generalizing about one that does.
Posted by erin on November 28, 2008 at 11:59 PM · Report this
Barack Obama may as well have been a transracial adoptee.

He grew up with white grandparents, without black role models. His Kenyan father and his Kansas mother were not constant presences. As an upperclassman in high school, he realized what it meant to be black in a white world and became sick with the particular loneliness of a transracial adoptee.

You're right, Jen ... no doubt it was Barack's white family that caused him to turn to drugs. And it was probably his white family that kept him from realizing his full potential before this. In fact, I don't recall a single African American I know who turned to drugs unless he was raised white. Had he been raised by an AA family, I have no doubt Barack would have avoided all contact with the drug culture, started college at Harvard, not lowly Occidental and become president at age 35, sparing the world 8 years of George W Bush.

It is common knowledge that our prisons are filled with African American men who grew up knowing the particular loneliness of transracial adoption. It's a lesser known fact, but gangster rap and some of the worst nihilistic impulses within the AA community are actually "white" culture that was forcefed to vulnerable transracially adopted AA's. The foolish focus on sports success versus academics ... ditto. When we compare the stunted success of transracial AAs (or blacks raised "white" like Barack) to the universally recognized success of black people raised black, we can only conclude that this is part of an isidious plan to drag the AA community down from it's lofty position.

Thank you, Jen. While others are celebrating Barack Obama of an example of African American achievement, only you have the strength of logic to point out the vicitimization he suffered at the hands of uncaring caucasians and the negative impact his allegedly "loving" family had on his development.
Posted by huskernubian70 on November 29, 2008 at 6:08 AM · Report this
Dear Jen,

You wrote, "Her point: If you don't silence these disgruntled adopted adults, then adoption policy could become race-conscious, and if adoption policy becomes race-conscious but white people still mostly aren't, then white people could be denied the right to adopt, and if that happens, then children of color are going to go without good, permanent homes.

"Don't talk is the idea—it can't lead to anything good. All it leads to is shouting, and suing, and then, finally, resilencing."

Jen, you are not being honest. That was NOT my point, but there must have been something in what I wrote - in my family's experience - that did not fit well with your argument, because instead of just ignoring what I wrote, you revised it.

Who is silencing whom?

Posted by Teresa on November 29, 2008 at 7:45 AM · Report this
Wow, a glimpse into the minds of naive liberal white Seattle people and the "uplifter" delusions from which they suffer. The obvious solution to everyone's complaints is for whites to stop adopting black children ... OR for blacks to adopt more white children. This article accidentally made one of the best arguments for voluntary segregation that I have ever seen.
Posted by Soul on Ice on November 29, 2008 at 9:24 AM · Report this
"In international adoptions, the poverty of the parents is usually blamed on corrupt governments or bad political situations, Pam says. "But when it's domestic, we blame the parents."

Could this be because we have a government that gives help to people in need in the form of welfare, and other countries do not?

Posted by Isis on November 29, 2008 at 10:41 AM · Report this
as someone jen interviewed for this article but ultimately did not include, i gotta say good on ya jen! whether or not you agree with anything in this article, she has had the courage to put this out there and for that she deserves commending. i hope to god this gets picked up nationally.

before you ask, no i'm not a transracial adoptee (my sister is) and my family is friends with pam and bill and their two beautiful children. i gave this article to my mom and sis to read, and i'm waiting to hear back from them, as they know far more about transracial adoption then i do, and far more than fuckbrains like soul on ice (eldridge cleaver, well aren't you one hip dude?).

jen, let's hope this starts a national dialogue. again, great job!
Posted by scary tyler moore on November 29, 2008 at 4:18 PM · Report this
So I'm curious how Columbia City's "young black man on a bus" and "black woman yelling from the car" would do on the Implicit Association Test.

Seriously all of humanity is messed up, shouldn't we try and find the least messed up families available a the moment to raise children in foster care or orphanages? Give them the best chance we can?

Just a question.
Posted by MummaK on November 29, 2008 at 7:11 PM · Report this
You know. I bet Kris Kime smokes Kool cigarettes. Get it? Ok if you dont KKK.

On a real note. Hey Kris! Did you know that the disproportionate amount of black on black crime can be traced to a legacy of racism and poverty enforced by whites. Oh and your fun little rape citation. You are talking about REPORTED and PROSECUTED cases of rape. Did you know that most cases of reported rape at the hands of a white man are never prosecuted but that almost all cases of reported rape at the hands of a black man are prosecuted? And of course that is just what is reported. Did you know that if you have sex with a drunk woman that she is unable to provide consent and that makes you a rapist? Do you think every time a drunk woman has sex that she reports that she was raped? Do you think that those things might skew your statistics.

Oh yeah, and ever if your argument were valid and your statistics sound: go fuck yourself.

And to all the folks who post on here about how lame seattle liberals are: why arent you reading your own local paper? Dont you have anything better to do than dog on Seattle and the sympathetics who post on these discussion boards? Do you think that maybe because you spend your free time in your mothers basement in Macon Georgia parusing left leaning internet discussion boards just to make biased not well thought out 'liberals are stupid, get over the past 200 years already (btw columbus got to this hemisphere and began the still relevant racist cultural apocalypse over 500 years ago)' then maybe you are the whiny pasty dumbass?

Yeah I know I could have a better more coherent post, but I am too busy engaging myself in the region in which I live.
Posted by chillaxpeople on November 29, 2008 at 7:23 PM · Report this
"And to all the folks who post on here about how lame seattle liberals are: why arent you reading your own local paper? Dont you have anything better to do than dog on Seattle and the sympathetics who post on these discussion boards?"


No, because it is so fucking hilarious to make lameass naive Seattle liberals get their panties all in a wad. Go live in a teepee.
Posted by Poo Poo Pee Pee Doo Doo on November 29, 2008 at 10:46 PM · Report this
Great article! Well done. This topic is still a very hot one in the foster care/adoption area and needs to be addressed. Transracial adoptive parents need to be aware of these things and be prepared to embrace all of their child(ren). It's a journey...God bless.
Posted by adoptionluv on November 30, 2008 at 1:38 PM · Report this
How much of these feelings of loss and disconnectedness are attributable to being human in a hard world? Speaking honestly now, my immediate reaction is to diminish (not dismiss, mind you) adoptees' expressions of loss and disconnectedness b/c it sounds so much like what my bio brother would say about his own life. My brother and I (neither adopted) turned out so completely differently. He is a lost soul, detached from his family, who doesn't "fit in," and who gets no comfort from our best efforts. Same genes, same family though. So when I read articles like this, I always wonder about this. Any thoughts?
Posted by T Owens on November 30, 2008 at 5:49 PM · Report this
I'm curious what the sincerity to attention whore ratio is throughout the article. I have no problem with trans-racial adoption, but more often than not I feel that people will adopt a child of another race in an effort to "keep up with the Jones'".... I'm not saying that people don't have good intentions. I'm just questioning the people that will adopt a child of another race in an effort to make themselves look like saint's.
Posted by Lola on November 30, 2008 at 6:36 PM · Report this
This is probably the best article I've ever read in The Stranger and the comments here exemplify its necessity: the article forces readers to break out of the colorblind mirage, situate themselves in the reality and ambiguity of this very powerful historical construct we call race, and actually articulate themselves.

For example, while I think KK_ just copied and pasted some bullshit statistics off of a convenient website (unless we get footnotes!), his comment also illustrates how frighteningly dismissive we can be of dialogue. It's vogue to rattle off statistics in a "so there!" fashion without acknowledging the issue at hand. I also <3 the person who called this article racist and said "FYI: White is a race too," along with the person who denies that they are white, instead preferring second-generation Italian. All of these points indicate a severe miseducation of what exactly race is, how firmly implicated each of us are in it as a social construction, how it perpetuates itself, and how conditioned we are to the way it warps our lives. But none of these things can happen without conversation! So thanks, Jen. Now if only we could get more POCs writing for the Stranger...
Posted by wong-weezy on December 1, 2008 at 2:14 AM · Report this
It seems to me that this article is way too one-sided. It looks at the bad side of transracial adoption without acknowledging that there is a good side. In an article from PBS titled "Precious Cargo: Transracial Adoption", the following study was cited:

A 1995 study also found that transracial adoption was not detrimental for the adoptee in terms of adjustment, self-esteem, academic achievement, peer relationships, parental and adult relationships (Sharma, McGue, Benson, 1996).

Sharma, A.R., McGue, M.K. and Benson, P.L. (1996). The emotional and behavioral adjustment of United States adopted adolescents: part 1. An overview. Children & Youth Services Review, 18, 83-100.
Posted by Sandra on December 1, 2008 at 7:50 AM · Report this
Thank you for this Erica! I think it is important that adoptive parents understand the challenges any adoptee faces with their perception of identity, obviously potentially more so in transracial adoptions. I am an adoptee, but when my husband mentions the possibility of us becoming adoptive parents, I can't say that I would do it.
Posted by Jill on December 1, 2008 at 8:30 AM · Report this
My husband and i are waiting for our referral to adopt our first child together. We have two sons from his first marriage. We don't know what race our child will be, but found this article to be amazing, informative, enlightening and at last, hopeful. There are things we can do beyond just lavishing love that can help our potential child of a different race feel at home in his/her world. We just can't pretend that the differences don't exist. Thank you, thank you, for writing this piece.
Posted by Nia on December 1, 2008 at 9:56 AM · Report this
Great article. My brother and I are both adopted - I'm white, he's a mix of various Indian subcontinent/middle eastern heritage (they ran out of white babies after me) - and our parents were white. Whether by design or because that's the advice they were given, they consistently denied he was anything other than white (despite his dark complexion) and he's now essentially a basket case - a regular visitor to the local jail, has no ability to hold down a job, etc. While I doubt his life would have otherwise been trouble-free, the constant denial that his heritage was different (or even special) certainly contributed to his overall psychological mess.

Oh, and he was cheaper to adopt - same agency as me, but a discount for his color. No joke. At least this sort of dialogue can contribute to addressing such issues before they torpedo a kid's chances.
Posted by anon on December 1, 2008 at 11:30 AM · Report this
T Owens... I'm with you. I'm sure things are much much harder in a transracial adoption but I know many people who feel this way. Some are white American mutts who feel out of synch with the politics or religion of their family. Some are gay children of straight parents. Some are first generation Americans who don't feel quite Indian/Chinese/etc. but also not quite American.

For example, there is nowhere a "a young Korean man. He is gay. He is also transgender." would have felt comfortable. Growing up in Korea or with Korean parents might potentially have been even harder.

I think being adopted by loving parents will always be better than living with foster parents or cycling through the system. I believe we as human beings are more similar than we are different. I believe there are better answers than segregation.
Posted by Dawgson on December 1, 2008 at 11:54 AM · Report this

You are way off the mark when you say whites adopt children of other races to keep up with the Jones. After struggling with infertility for 12 years, my greatest miracle and joy was to adopt my AA daughter. Though she does not look like me, she is as much mine as a biological child would be. This is not the first I heard this bias however (and it as biased and prejudicial a statement as anything KK has said). A black member of our church came and told me how she defended my husband and I against this charge with a friend of hers in California. She had told him that if he ever saw how we interacted with our daughter, he also would have no doubts. Do you even know any families who have raised a child of a different race?
Posted by Sandra on December 1, 2008 at 12:28 PM · Report this
I think it's really interesting and telling how vocal the reaction is from your readers, which hits on the fact that this was a much needed article.

As a white person who has struggled with coming to terms with my own inherent racism, I think the first reaction of many liberal whites is to ignore racism and then get incredibly defensive when it is discussed.

I don't think the goal of this article was to prevent white parents from adopting children of color. I think no one disagrees that there are already too many children in foster care or awaiting adoption.

The aim of this article is to perhaps let white adoptive parents really confront their own internal racism that their adopted children are bound to realize even if their parents do not. I know it's something I try to be conscious of as much as possible.

As a white, gay male with a mixed race (half white/half black) niece, I worry about what preconceived notions I bring to the table when dealing with her. Her father has never been part of the picture, so her main upbringing has been our doting white, lesbian grandparents and her single, white mother who has been struggling to raise her while finishing school and working to support a family.

I can assure you, there is not a single moment that my niece doesn't feel loved and cherished, but I'm still concerned that our entire support circle isn't fully equipped to prepare her for the world as it is today (and was yesterday and will still be tomorrow).

I can only hope that she turns out as amazing as other children of color raised by white parents, such as Chad Goller-Sojourner (an amazingly eloquent writer and speaker) and of course, that new guy in the White House who you know, might just save the world.
Posted by BombasticMo on December 1, 2008 at 12:30 PM · Report this
Thats great when anyone adopt a child, I just think if the child race is different then yours. then you should help them understand their culture, along with another culture. I hate when I see a white person who adopt a black child and the child hair is not groom right. little do you know this does affect ones self esteem. please to all people who adopt a black child learn how to do their HAIR.or get someone that knows how too.
Posted by teresah on December 1, 2008 at 2:17 PM · Report this
I read Barack Obama's book - Dream's From My Father - and I have found myself pondering his journey for a couple of weeks now. He is half white and I have wondered if his struggle for identity would have been as deep had he been raised by his African half of the family. Wondering all the time about his white heritage. He'll (we'll) never know. But as the mother of an adopted child who is now 34 years old and of the same race as his adoptive family...his longing to fill the big empty hole that he always talked about and his journey to do just that was no less and maybe no more painful than Barack's. We all long to find our significance and our belonging. Our journeys can break us or strengthen us to become better because of it. My intention is not to minimize anyone's story - just to add my thoughts.
Nurturing Connection, Morning View, Ky
Posted by Nurturing Connection on December 1, 2008 at 3:13 PM · Report this
Have you heard the expression "A bird can love a fish but where would they make their home?" That was a ridiculous reason given against interracial marriage. It was thought that the resulting children (myself included) would struggle with identity and non-acceptance in either culture.

Tell me, who's fault is that really?

These adopted children have parents who love them and that will hopefully help them through any identity crises they may have as they grow and learn.

Besides, would we rather they were raised in the foster care system?
Posted by Rachel on December 1, 2008 at 6:44 PM · Report this

I'm not trying to rip on people who adopt out of their race. I think it is a very compassionate thing to do, however, I am very suspicious about people who go out and adopt children in the Angelina Jolie sense and treat them as is they are a good PR photo opportunity. I'm really being cynical here and I'm sorry if it might have rubbed you the wrong way.
Posted by Lola on December 1, 2008 at 6:54 PM · Report this
uh, jill, it was jen graves who wrote this, not erica c. barnett.

lola, angelina jolie does not adopt children because they are a good PR photo opportunity. that's madonna's job.
Posted by scary tyler moore on December 1, 2008 at 7:11 PM · Report this
A quote from Dr. Joel Odimba regarding disproportionallity carries no weight for any of us associated with the child welfare community. OAACS was a huge failure by the standards of all of us that were connected with it. Imagine being told that because I am African American, I can't use the services at my local DSHS office (like every other race of people with the exception of American Indians). Dr. Odimba was one of the many administrators charged with the responsibility for making it work. He left this position and state service after less than a year. He eventually returned as the director of DCFS in King County (Region 4). OAACS failed not only because of its lack of leadership but also because it was illegal (separate but equal) and failed to recognize the needs of mixed race families. The other lawsuits that led to the downfall of this office illustrate the problem with this discussion. A child with one African American parent and one parent of another race were by the State's standards considered African American. I don't need to give you a list of anecdotal problems with this definition. On a related note, the fact that President-elect Obama was raised by his grandmother does not equate to a trans-racial adoption. To gain an understanding of the institutionalized racism within the system, talk to the people who know the system, the families and social workers. The director will always provide the institution's perspective.
Posted by civilservice on December 1, 2008 at 7:54 PM · Report this
Interesting article. For a blog post from Psychology Today magazine on this issue of colorblindness and White Americans (specifically, White parents), see: http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/sc…
Posted by srs on December 1, 2008 at 8:03 PM · Report this
Here is a joke that approximates my feelings about growing up multi-racial.

A baboon walks up to a zebra and asks, “Are you a white horse with black stripes, or a black horse with white stripes?”
After a moment the zebra replied: “No. I’m a fucking zebra.”

Reading through the comments you can see that most people have complicated ways of looking at their self and simple ways of looking at others. We live in a society with many cultures and a huge number of assumptions.

Everyone of us, regardless of where or how, needs to construct our identity. Don't put on blinders about the real issue, parenting. Chad sums it up very well:
"What I'd ask parents is, are you willing to be the uncomfortable one?"

When you raise a child you need to accept that they are going to have issues and needs that you don't directly understand, but you still need to help them.
Posted by Carlos on December 1, 2008 at 10:08 PM · Report this

The article is long but I can't help but think that you did this to quell some white guilt that you have over your reasoning for considering a transracial adoption. Your reasoning for wanting a child of color is quite flawed and steeped in privilege. I would hate to lump all white people who adopt a child of color and live in a community of largely white people in this same group though.

The real question to ask is to consider why kids are up for adoption in the first place, which is not addressed at all. You can blame yourself for that too. But there are many couples out there that who can't have children, and who aren't the same race as their potential adoptees. Should they restructure their social lives to feel "comfortable" or less guilty? I would argue that a well adjusted home, regardless of how those homes relate to all races at all places is a better home than no home at all. In fact, it's better than a dysfunctional home.

This is a great article for introspection on reasons for adopting but when it comes down to providing a good home, love really does factor in quite a bit.
Posted by adam k on December 2, 2008 at 2:33 AM · Report this
So, what is the mechanism for helping these kids (excluding foster kids who have been removed from their families) stay with their families? I am thinking of adopting a child with parents, who was abandoned because his parents were too poor to keep him. I am white, he is African. If I don't choose this road, what are my other options for giving this back his parents? I can donate to charity, but he will still sit in an orphanage. Maybe the solution is that orphanages should be rearranged to accept sponsorship from families for families, instead of the adoption option. Maybe the whole system needs to be overhauled to help support families in need, who risk not being able to keep their kids? But - what happens today to the waiting kids? Right now, what happens? This is what I struggle with. I understand all of the reasons why it is NOT the solution but I don't know how to fix things today, right now. Is losing their culture a fair exchange for having a family? What a terrible question to have to answer! And yet, I have not figured out the mechanism for eliminating the need for adoption. What is it? If there was a way to eliminate the need and keep famlies together we should pursue it. Can it be done? How quickly?
Posted by swandive7 on December 2, 2008 at 6:28 AM · Report this
swandive7: You have to focus on the now. Changing the situation you describe involves education, access to birth control, structural inequality in the global economy, and cultural constructs around gender, child bearing, and child rearing.

None of these will be corrected anytime soon. Why not, give a child a home now while also working on the bigger picture?

I think the biggest curse of the (white) liberal (elite) is that we overthink things well into the time when we should be taking action. Is this situation complicated? Yes. But navel-gazing and hand-wringing can only go on for so long before it's time to do something.
Posted by Dawgson on December 2, 2008 at 8:34 AM · Report this
This was a great article. Another question I'd like us to see ourselves asking is, why is it that families of color are less often in a position to adopt? The beginning of the answer is of course the intricate ties of race and class, but as with the rest of this subject, it's got to be much deeper than that. As a mixed-race person whose birth mom (who raised me) is white and has missed a few of the finer points of race and racism in our small Bible Belt town, I can relate to a lot of what is being said, even not being adopted, and sure, like these folks, I was lucky to grow up with a loving mom either way, but let's stop silencing transracial adoptees when they try to tell us about their experiences.
Posted by jbo on December 2, 2008 at 9:35 AM · Report this
Apparently I have a moderate preference for blacks and a strong preference for jews. Does that mean I should adopt an Ethopian Jew?

Yeah, some people had difficult childhoods. Does that mean that social policy and family structures need to be revamped to address those difficulties?

Who knows? This article is just a collection of engaging personal annecdotes and a pointer to an amusing internet distraction. There is no data in this article that might for the basis for any conclusions.
Posted by David Wright on December 2, 2008 at 1:28 PM · Report this
I'm a little disappointed that the author labeled herself a "moderate racist" because Harvard's Implicit Association Test suggested that she has, "a moderate automatic preference for European Americans compared to African Americans." The test itself explains the results as follows:

"How implicit associations affect our judgments and behaviors is not well understood and may be influenced by a number of variables. As such, the score should serve as an opportunity for self-reflection, not as a definitive assessment of your implicit thoughts or feelings. This and future research will clarify the way in which implicit thinking and feelings affects our perception, judgment, and action."

Nowhere does it indicate that an automatic preference equals racism. This is an important point because so much of the current race discussion relies on the necessity of admission of white racism. It's supposed to be cathartic, self healing, and so on, but I don't think it does much to get at the roots of the problem. It doesn't ask why we feel the way we do, which of our feelings are legitimate, or how we can change those that are not. It's almost too easy.

In the case of inter-racial adoptions, I don't think the problem stems from subconscious racism in white adoptive parents, but the failure of adoptive parents to understand that race matters, and that unless they make conscious, consistent and concerted efforts to maintain and act upon awareness of race, they are going to hurt the children they love.

Because, regardless of other issues, children of inter-racial adoptions are surely loved. At the end of the day, that love may be worth a lot more than any argument against such adoptions. That love may transcends racism, and it is out of love that many wonderful adoptive parents leave their personal comfort zones behind for the sake of their children. And I don't believe the parents who live up to the bulk of the challenges presented by inter-racial adoption are free of subconscious racial preferences, but I don't believe that they are racists either.
Posted by olympia2008 on December 2, 2008 at 3:36 PM · Report this
"White Culture"... meaning what? study hard, go to college, and get a good job instead of selling crack and having three out-of-wedlock babies you can't support?
Posted by Rod on December 3, 2008 at 12:30 AM · Report this
"At his school, many of the kids are black. He comes home talking black, calling her "girl." It makes her proud, that he's getting black culture, black cadence." Talking Black? You must be kidding me. Pretty sure our President-elect doesn't talk this way, pretty sure he is black...what exactly does that mean anyway "talking black"? This one statement opens the discussion for how exactly does one define black culture? As white parents of black children we must be very careful not to fall into this trap of blindly accepting that "true" black culture includes poor grammar or that the use of the "N" word is OK for our adolescent children to sling at one another because their skin is the right color. While we must acknowledge that we have no right to define exactly what the black culture is, we can at least be sure to teach them that there is a deeper beauty and richness to it than they see in todays popular culture.
Posted by Domestic Diva on December 3, 2008 at 7:51 AM · Report this
My mixed race biological daughter told me to read this article because she is aware how being a transracial adoptee has affected me.

What stood out the most for me was Jen's admission that part of her interest in adopting was to 'teach a lesson" to her racist family - which is inherently also a racist thing to do. To use a child in such a way clearly shows yet one more reason why many people are not thinking about a child's best interest when they choose to adopt. Moderate racist is still a racist, even if you assuage the guilt by admitting it.

People who adopt are often well-meaning, liberal-minded people. Well-meaning people are often misguided people who adopt for their own self interests, to fill a hole in their live, or because they savior complexes or all of the above. Liberal-minded people are often the culture appropriating people who adopt to prove how evolved and racially tolerant they are to themselves and the world.

One of the most damaging parts about growing up as a transracial adoptee is encountering the racism of your own parents towards the only people who look like you. Your liberal parents don't realize when they are sending you racist messages. You are too young and unsophisticated to realize they are sending you racist messages. It's a gross understatement to say this can mess a person up.

To correct other previous comments, I would like to interject here that being raised in mixed race families is nothing like being raised in a transracial family. There are zero cultural cues we get from our parents. The cultural information we do get from them is ALL ACADEMIC.

As stated well in the article, but not strong enough, as an experiment in social engineering transracial adoption imposes its message of racial harmony at the expense of the child. It is the child who must suffer the consequences of the adoptive parent's rainbow family dreams.

As a child of color, part of you longs to be accepted fully by those who look like you, but because you are raised without a thorough grounding in their culture, they don't fully accept you. As a child of color, you quickly learn that society views your race as second class, so you are conflicted and ashamed, instead of proud or your race. This is called internalized racism. It is not a fun place to grow up. As a child of color with white parents who are white culture and who have the most influence over your life, of course you are going to identify with their culture more. But society will see your skin and identify you with your race. And your race will see your lack of culture and see you as white. It is not having the best of both worlds. It is having no place in the world to belong to. There has been practically zero research into the alienation transracial adoptees feel, but there was a study in Sweden which compared intercountry (transracial) adoptees against immigrant children and non-adopted children, and the intercountry adoptees had a suicide rate five times higher than the non-adopted children.

Racial matching in adoption should be facilitated whenever possible. It is the best way for a child of color to be spared unnecessary emotional hardship on top of their already difficult beginnings.

As to the disproportionate amount of children of color in our domestic foster care and group homes, and the disparaging comments by other posters about black crack ho's, etc. It should be understood that African Americans already exceed whites proportionally with the amount of inter-family adoptions they step up to the plate for, many of these being unofficial.

Adoption exists and "orphans" are created (term in quotes because very few children up for adoption are there because they have no living parents) primarily because all us saviors choose to do nothing about our larger domestic social problems. Each child we save is merely a symptom of this pathology, a siphoning off from a continuous flow of tragedy. We should work to reduce and eliminate the creation of "orphans" in the first place. Reducing the amount of minority children being put up for adoption has everything to do with respecting women and providing hope and dignity to EVERYONE in our country.
Posted by suki on December 3, 2008 at 10:00 AM · Report this
I'm a "transracial" adoptee. I don't feel like I lost anything. My culture is American. I celebrate the 4rth of July,Thanksgiving, eat hot dogs and pizza.
Posted by Orchid on December 3, 2008 at 11:30 AM · Report this
Don't know if you all know this but thousands of black children are exported for adoption each year to white families in Canada and Germany each year because black and white Americans are unwilling to adopt them. Just like the girls from China coming to America, where they lose their country and racial identities. Why? For black families it is a case of too few middle-class families and too many foster/adoptive kids perhaps? For whites is it their own racism or the racism they will face as a family that stops them?

We have an adopted AA child. We are two white lesbians with lots of foster and adopted kids. Still we are talked about in our child's hearing at the store about what ho's we are by whites and blacks (they assume one of us is straight and slept with a black man). To which we sweetly reply, it is so much worse than you imagine, we chose to adopt her together...Our child is always better hairdo'd and dressed than any white child, but is the first to blame in any scuffle at the park, the last to be chosen by the librarian to sit on her lap, the first one that relatives that "forget" her birthday, the one that black and white women turn their children away when they see us playing with her at the park, she gets it all. And then the gay family stuff. She is very bright and beautiful, tall and strong; perhaps they are all jealous, I say to her.

But what was her personal choice as a baby, really? Dozens of family members came forward to claim her for fostering/adoption and all were rejected due to drug use, poverty and violent criminal records. Black girls and boys are the last to be fostered, the last to be adopted in America.

There is no Pow-Wow where she can meet with her culture like the Native peoples or Chinese classes for Chinese adoptees, precious few MLK, Kwanza and Juneteenth events locally. With the increase in interracial families locally, we hope that folks will get over themselves, especially all those folks with Obama stickers, eventually, but my daughter needs to grow up safe and happy with her preschool, sports, church now.

We do as much as we know how with black culture and talk about racism and just keep paying into the therapy fund. We are in contact with her birth family but they are active drug users, and so much of what they say is angry and hateful, which she would not understand right now, so she only sees pictures and notes until they are better or she is older and can understand.

Please direct your justifiable racial rage about economic in-equalities else-where towards education, home mortgage equity and drug and domestic abuse prevention funding, we are on your side. We do the best we know how with love. As the kids on the playground know, love someone black and your family is black too. After all, she will get our money for college and inheritance and that is the start of a kind of wealth redistribution. Just like the Obamas and the adopted girls from China, our adopted Black kids will have to grow-up and work to redefine our culture again as more interracial than we know.
Posted by loveallmybabies on December 3, 2008 at 12:46 PM · Report this
All this coming from someone born into a well to do family who thinks she knows the answers. Complete c**t. When you maybe experience a little bit more from life other than sipping your merlot and being then new hipster yuppie who invades the CD and wonders what new makeover they can do on their house, maybe then you will take a good look in the mirror and realize what a complete douche you are.
Posted by tiredOfHipsterYuppies on December 3, 2008 at 2:18 PM · Report this
All this coming from someone born into a well to do family who thinks she knows the answers. When you maybe experience a little bit more from life other than sipping your merlot and remaking your home in the CD, then maybe you can take a good look at yourself and realize what a ridiculous moron you are.
Posted by retardedhipster on December 3, 2008 at 2:47 PM · Report this
Too many children of color are being removed from their homes. Peer-outreach social services work especially well and need to be greatly expanded to provide 1st class counseling to birth parents needing mental health, substance abuse and vocational counseling. Peer counseling works. People who have "been there" and prevailed helping others to keep their kids. Also support for extended families -- the funds which go to foster families need to be allowed to go to extended natural families to allow them to take more responsibilities. We can profoundly change the picture described by this article.
Posted by oldlady on December 3, 2008 at 5:40 PM · Report this
I would like to say, as someone who is adopted and black and have white parents...this is bull shit! I have a black identity. My parents never tried to see me as anything but what I am. This article is disgusting. Black children are the MOST likely to live out their lives in foster care or group homes. I think it is totally iresponsible of the Stranger to put ANYTHING into print that would prevent a child from taking a child into their home. Shame. SHAME!
Posted by Kadee on December 3, 2008 at 8:25 PM · Report this
In response to retardedhipster: 1) the author of this article does not portend to know the answers; 2) although we do not know the specifics of the author's background, it is ridiculous to criticize someone who is actually trying to raise awareness of an important social issue merely because she comes from a privileged background; 3) you are just plain mean.
Posted by olympia2008 on December 3, 2008 at 8:54 PM · Report this
VERY interesting article.

I have 10 bio. (white) children, and 3 adopted (black) children from Africa. While we live in a very white community, our children do know and see other adopted black children. But, we do not want our white children or our black children to choose their friends on the basis of the color of their skin.

I, as a lowly white child, attended elementary school on the hilltop of Tacoma, when Stanley Elementary was 98% black. I loved my black friends. I didn't care that my skin was a different color. I hope the same for my black children.
Posted by laurel on December 3, 2008 at 11:12 PM · Report this
The article made the mistake of stating certain opinions or perspectives as fact.
We are in the midst of adopting a black girl and I can assure you the social workers DO discuss race quite a bit. They DO want to know who we hang out with and even want to know what ethnic restaurants we like. We had to take a class concerning this issue and unlike the one described by one person in this article, ours was very thorough and did not shy away from any topic.
There was also inherent prejudice displayed in this article because it made the assumption that all children react to their situations the same way, or they have the same level of angst concerning their situation. Not all black children need the same kind of treatment. It is the same with children in adoption in genera: Not ALL of them are obsessed with connecting with their birthparents. It is important to LISTEN to the child and be attentive to possible issues and have a tool box of possible remedies. It is not a good idea to be and overly self critical white liberal who moves to a black community and fakes it if that is not where they want to live. I can't stand the city and that is where 95% of the black people in this state live. This article appears to be advocating I move there and pretend I like it. That is living a lie and your kid will eventually figure that out.
Be who you are and respect who your child is. Respect their need to connect with other black people and help them find role models, but don't let this overwhelm your lives. We all grow up with "issues" we have to deal with.
Posted by Cedartree on December 4, 2008 at 1:09 AM · Report this
At some point all of us feel like we're in the "wrong" family. Many of us feel a hole inside, disconnected from the culture and people we grew up with. For adopted kids it's easy to look at the fact of adoption and say "that's why", but plenty of non-adopted people raised in single color families also wrestle with these questions of identity. Looking like your family can be as much of a trap as a comfort. If a non-adopted white person suffers from feelings of suffocating worthlessness, of alienation, etc. they're told "Get therapy, try some drugs." Adoptees are told "go find your roots!" Must be nice to have an external target for the whole situation.
If there's a choice between leaving a child in poverty and violence, but in a place where every one has the same color skin, or giving them a better life but in a place where they're "different"? Let the safe, educated adult be pissed off. And for those who say "Why not subsidize a poor family?" Part of the deal is that adoptive parents want to be parents, not private charities. (Not to mention that "natural" families have kids for all kinds of reasons, some of them horribly self-serving)
To all those who say "But I don't fit in anywhere!" Lots of us don't fit in. Be glad you live in a time and place where you can make your life more than your background.
Posted by not adopted, still confused on December 4, 2008 at 10:11 AM · Report this
I found the article fascinating. Thanks, Jen. I'm surprised that the issue of skin tone hasn't come up in the comments. 40 years ago in Seattle I gave birth to a mixed-race child whom I was absolutely incapable of raising. There were three months of anguish as the agency tried to find parents; my baby was rejected by a middle class black couple because she was not dark enough. What I found abhorrent was that the social worker thought this was somehow amusing. My child was raised by incredibly capable white parents and thrived despite whatever identity issues she might have had.

The black people who shouted on a bus or from a car at the white adoptive mother were not raised by competent parents. That behavior, so oblivious of its effect on the children, is cruel and unacceptable.

I'm surprised at the anger towards "Kris Kime" in the comments toward the end of this list. That moniker is the name of the young white man killed by a young black man in the Mardi Gras brawl in 2001.
Posted by anon on December 4, 2008 at 10:42 AM · Report this
I spent the first 7 years of my life in fostercare before being adopted. The first 5 years were spent living with a white family. I was removed from the home because when I was 5 because Social Services felt that I needed to be in a setting that would adequately reflect my African American culture.I was adopted by an African American family from another state. Although I am an adult now there are still some lasting effects. I feel like an outsider in both the Caucasian and African American settings.
Posted by Laraiha on December 4, 2008 at 9:06 PM · Report this
I am a white woman with a bi-racial child, half black and half white.
I live in a predominantly white neighborhood and wondered whether my 10 year old felt different than the other kids. His answer was PROFOUND. Do you know what he said to me? "I don't feel different at all. Not from black people or white people. I am BOTH." From the mouths of babes.

So my own personal complaint? Why is it if a child is mixed that we discount the caucasian part of them and only recognize the black, hispanic, korean portion? Barack Obama is not JUST a black man - he is a white man as well. He is an american of mixed race. My son is very like skinned with nappy hair. White people call him black. Black people call him white. I call him my son. He is not a *whatever box you want him in to suit yourself*.

This is not about race, unless of course we are talking about the self poverty of the human race.

I think that people have such a poverty of soul that they are unable to be grateful, to recognize the opportunities that they had in this world.

For every individual who was adopted and loved by white parents and feels they got ripped off, I am sure there are 10 children from a variety of races that would have given anything to be in a home where they were wanted and loved - being loved would have been enough.
Posted by Dazygrrl on December 6, 2008 at 4:52 PM · Report this
I am also a black who grew up in a trans-racial adopted home with white parents. I agree with Kadee. I think this article is very one sided.
- I would much rather have my college educated privileged life than one spent in the foster care system or even worse with seriously impaired bith parents.
- Transracial adoptees who are always whining about "not knowing who they are...", "something is missing...", and assorted bullshit should get a life. No one can fix your life for you. It's lovely to have someone else to blame. Therapy, Oprah, and the Jerry Springer show wouldn't exist if white america was all peaches and cream. It's true, adopted white parents can be insensitive to race. But most people in the white western industrial world (let's throw in China and Japan too) are insensitive to race, adoptee parents at least are trying.
- And lastly I have to say the people in this article that enraged me the most are the women with the black son who were proud of his "speaking black". I have many accomplished black friends, and they just speak like well educated people. Guess what?! There are many white people who speak in an uneducated manner too. Somehow, I bet these white women aren't striving to emulate thier manner of speech. What's the point of taking the boy out of the Ghetto if they're destined to put him back in it. tsk tsk
Posted by iguanahouse on December 7, 2008 at 9:23 AM · Report this
It's hard to say there should be a race-awareness test to adopt, but it's hard to say that white people should just be issued Black babies without any knowledge of what race really means in the U.S.

I think rather than transracial adoption-specific information, would-be white adopters of Black children should take African American studies courses and get a long-view of the impact of race on this country (and individuals within it) over time.

I'm pretty torn about it, as a PhD who specializes in Black and white race relations and as a white adoptive mom of Black children.

But I also think that the attention on domestic Black/white adoption is disproportionate to the number of those adoptions and I worry a bit more about Chinese American (for example) children growing up, yes, in white gated Minnesota communities because their white parents think Asian doesn't really count as "race" the way African American does. There is not nearly as much scrutiny on other transracial adoptions as on white/Black ones.

And there is a kind of possibility in domestic transracial adoptions that is sadly, just not there in most international, transracial adoptions--that's the possibility of children growing up to know their birth culture well because it's easily accessible to their adoptive families--as long as their adoptive families have the guts to access it. My kids are growing up with plenty of Black people around them including their birth families and that is as good as it gets as far as transracial adoption goes, I think.
Posted by Complicated Mom on December 8, 2008 at 1:40 PM · Report this
I could say much about the racial discussion but I want to point out the numerous inaccurracies about adoption. Most adoptions are domestic (as opposed to international although there are roughly 20,000 international adoptions a year in America.) Blacks percentage wise adopt more than Whites and more often through the state child welfare system than private agencies. While Black children do leave this country for Canada and Germany and other countries, it is not in the thousands each year, more like 300 or less. There is no way to trace it becuase until recent Hague legislation noone was paying much attention but as an adoption attorney with many German and Canadian clients, there is no way it is in the thousands. And there are Black people who live in Canada and Germany who have not been imported. Which goes to the confusion of race, ethnicity , and nationality which is often used interchangably but generally are actually seperate concepts. Also many of the transracial adoptees are being adopted as babies by parents making voluntary decisions as opposed to child welfare children who the States removed from their biological parents' care. Too many parents in addressing this issue, whatever "side" you may be on always start talking about the poor crack head mom that would be horrible for the child. Well, not every woman who makes this difficult life altering decision (and father if involved) is a poor crackhead. Sometimes she is but most are not. While I think poverty plays a huge role in adoption both domestically and internationally, it is not the sole role and/or reason that a child becomes available for adoption. And finally many adoption agencies ( so obviously this excludes the child welfare adoptions) charge different prices for their services based on the race of the baby. Thus, bluntly some children are less expensive to obtain, and the restrictions imposed on adopting parents like "age" as one example is waived. Simple point: race matters in adoption.

Finally 2 race points. First, while many transracial adoptees grow up to be healthy human beings, as one told me this afternoon- many of her transracial adoptee peers have engaged in therapy. ( And most of the therapists are clueless about adoption). It is not that there is anything wrong with therapy, but some transracial adoptees have to look outside their families ( many who have very loving families) to help navigate finding a healthy racial identity, adoptee identity, self identity, and /or dealing with a race conscious society. A parents' job, one of many, is to help their child navigate this world. That includes navigating a race conscious society that often treats people of color as less than fully American. If a child does get this help from his or her parents they will get it from someone else, hopefully someone good, or they develop self hate. Have you ever met a transracial adoptee who hates people of their race? I have. Talk about self hate. And watching them be scared of people who look like them is sad. And equally devestating is if they choose to have contact with their birth parents. How do they have contact when they hate people of their parents race?

Second, the assumption that becuase some Biracial kids consider themselves as "both" that the world will be all peachy keen and that they see the world in a post racial society is a false assumption. First young kids understand race differently than adults. Second, even when they see each themselves as both does not mean the rest of America sees them as both. And third Biracial adults who identify as Biracial are keenly aware that the choice to identify as Biracial is not always easy. Worth it but not always easy. And just becuase a Biracial person does not chooose to identify as Biracial but as a single race is a personal decision that is not usually made to offend Whites and or to reject Whites. But the choice has personal, political, ans social implications. For many it is just easier when people percieve them as a person of color to identify with the minority race.See www.mixedheritagecenter

P.S. The movie Losing Isaiah would NEVER happen in real life as it did in the theatres. It is based on faulty legal theories. They could have made a movie that addressed the issue with a possible fact scenario but they choose not too.
Posted by Michelle Hughes on December 9, 2008 at 6:06 PM · Report this
I found this article extremely interesting. I wish to make several points though:

1. The author is not proposing a solution. She merely wants to start a dialogue on the topic. Unfortuantely, race is often either not discussed or discussed in small ways (the N word debate for example).

2. To those who say that transracial adoption is better than foster care, you are correct in most cases but that doesn't end the issue. I don't read this article or most of the people in it as advocating the abolition of transracial adoption. They are trying to get people to realise and deal with the extremely touchy issue of race. It is imperative to deal with it when you have a transracial adoption. Saying that it is better than no adoption is an insulting answer that completely misses the point.

3. I agree with the Michelle Hughes on the perception of biracial individuals. Society classifies itself by race, among other things. Those that choose to defy this caterogisation face huge hurdles. One only has to look at the debate over Tiger Woods ethnicity to get a taste of how people look at it. Many AAs find it shameful that Tiger Woods does not identify as black. However, to do so would be, as he said, denying his Thai mother's heritage. There needs to be greater discussion on these issues.

4. I was appalled by the mother in the article who was happy about her child "talking black." This idea panders to the worst possible perceptions about black people. Sadly, many blacks likewise criticise other blacks who do not talk/dress/act like the "sterotypical urban black youth."
Posted by Elliott on December 10, 2008 at 9:54 AM · Report this
White isnt a race,Sargon Bighorn.Its an idea,and a way to state power, you cant be racist towrds a a white persone only predjudist.
Posted by sMCcarland on December 10, 2008 at 7:47 PM · Report this
"It would be easier for white people if race did not exist. Or if everyone could agree that race did not matter, that is."

That's the crux of it. Most White people believe it's GOOD to be colorblind, they equate being colorblind with not being racist.

I once heard an African-American woman say to people in an anti-racist workshop, "When you say you don't see color, what that means is, you don't see ME. What that means is, you see me through your White filter, you see what's convenient for you to see, but you don't see me."

I'm a White mother of (biological) African-American kids, now young adults. I was very ignorant and "colorblind" when I married their father (now divorced), and would do things a lot differently in hindsight. To all you White folks out there who are resistant to the message in this article, please for your children's sake, reconsider. It's easier to deny when they're little, but you will cost them with that kind of "love", and it WILL come out.

You can not protect them from institutional racism with love. You may wish we were "all the same", but that's not reality in this country.

If you've already adopted or had kids of color, get with the program and consciously address your inherent privilege and racism. Educate yourself, and make changes. It will be uncomfortable, but guess what, you're the parent, suck it up. Your children need you to be on their side, not the side of White denial. If that sounds divisive, well, that's reality. You decided to cross the transracial line, that means YOU need to be in the world of people of color, not expect your children to live as though they are White because that's what you know and feel comfortable with.

If this article makes you uncomfortable, or angry, please ask yourself why.

Your children will need you as an advocate, you will have to stretch yourself to do that even if you don't really understand at first. You will have to commit yourself to the work of addressing institutional racism every day, because that's reality for people of color, which is your children.

If you're thinking about transracial adoption, or even interracial marriage ... please educate yourself before you make a decision that will affect others far more than it affects you.

Posted by still learning on December 11, 2008 at 10:17 AM · Report this
"If you're thinking about transracial adoption, or even interracial marriage ... please educate yourself before you make a decision that will affect others far more than it affects you."

Wow. That statement is really upsetting. It sounds like your experience was a really negative one.
Posted by Jigae on December 12, 2008 at 1:48 PM · Report this
Nice article. Now, could you write one about African-Americans adopting Caucasian kids? I would love to see my family protrayed in a news article to educate me.
Posted by Sohmakun on December 12, 2008 at 9:04 PM · Report this
We are white, our son Asian. We have no intention of ever 'making' him white, or denying his ethnicity. We never want or expect him to feel 'grateful' for us adopting him- and if he ever feels that way, then WE have done something very wrong, not him. We will support him in whatever decision he may (or may not) make in regard to researching his beginnings.

This article has some good points but overall is just another 'adoption sucks' rant. How about we focus on making it easier for people of color to adopt children of color? The reason there are so many black children being adopted by white families comes down to numbers! There are more black children staying in foster care because there aren't enough black families to adopt them! This is not rocket science. We are in the middle of adopting a black child and the process we have gone through is quite rigorous- as was the process to adopt our son. And surprise! We were chosen by her black mother based on the fact that she believes we will be good parents, not our race. We have had many honest and difficult conversations about the fact that we are white and our daughter is black (not yet born) with her mother, but the bottom line is that she is choosing PARENTS not a color.
Posted by bella on December 13, 2008 at 3:07 AM · Report this
." Talking Black? You must be kidding me. Pretty sure our President-elect doesn't talk this way, pretty sure he is black...what exactly does that mean anyway "talking black"? This one statement opens the discussion for how exactly does one define black culture?

I know this post is old,but best be sure that when black folk are around other black folk,we are able to be ourselves. Even Oprah has said that when her and her friend Gail get together they call each other "Negro".
Whatever you don't have to be PC around people who look like you. Its safe and comfortable.

"Talking black" just means slang

We don't know what happens in their private lives,but best be sure,Barack and Michelle will close the doors to their private quarters and be as black as they want to be.

Ive seen it from people who are well distinguished in the community whom you would never think talk "black",but they do when they are around people who are black in a social setting.

Obviously I have to school you on this one.
Posted by Mae on December 14, 2008 at 3:07 PM · Report this
I was appalled by the mother in the article who was happy about her child "talking black." This idea panders to the worst possible perceptions about black people. Sadly, many blacks likewise criticise other blacks who do not talk/dress/act like the "sterotypical urban black youth."

I just have to say this one thing here about this current statement.

I disagree here. I too don't like a lot of slang and or ebonics,but consider this viewpoint. Maybe she was happy,because she knew he could "switch on and off the slang"

As a black person living in mostly white Seattle,that is what Ive had to do. Yes,I can speak with you using correct English and I can kick it with my friends,change my dialect and also be accepted. You don't know how many times that people have insulted me telling me," you speak really well. WTF is that? I was born here. I am constantly congratulated for speaking English without the use of ebonics. When I speak to someone on the phone they are shocked to know I am black when they meet me. Some people have actually come out and told me this. What world are we living in here?

Thats what we have to do. We have to fit into your culture,you don't need to fit into ours. We have to adapt and change. You don't need to.

I'm happy that this woman has chosen to live in a diverse community with her son. And honesty "talking black" is part of our culture.
Posted by Mae on December 14, 2008 at 3:18 PM · Report this
I could not agree more to the statement "If you do not have any black friends, don't adopt black children." My black friends were and are instrumental in preparing me to adopt our Ethiopian children. We chose the city we live in for diversity. We chose our neighborhood for diversity, we chose our school system for diversity. As a result my children seem to be completely comfortable in the company of white and black people.
Posted by j on December 14, 2008 at 4:36 PM · Report this
I am a white woman who was adopted by a white family and I, too, mourn for what I imagine to be the uncomplicated feeling of belonging that biological families have (notice I use the word "imagine"). I am also the mother of a son adopted from Ethiopia. I have learned, through my own process and from that of my son, that it is possible to be joyous and grieving at the same time. It is possible to concurrently experience both love and longing.

This article saddens me and I believe it is overly simplistic and dripping with an agenda. There are so many ways to create a family. I know many transracial families that are thoughtful and conscious and truly blessed. Families all have their challenges- certainly those faced by transracial families are not insurmountable, as this article suggests.
Posted by jillian on December 14, 2008 at 7:49 PM · Report this
Parents should be able to raise their kids as they choose without any outside interference whatsoever.

There's nothing wrong with assimilation; plenty of blacks move to the eastern suburbs of seattle when their kids are small and years later, an young assimilated black (we have several derogatory nicknames, too) emerges into the real world.

Stay out the way and let those white people raise those black babies; a couple words of advice to the parents:

If you ever want your black child to ever go to the hood (or even a large city) later in life, please make sure that child has some black friends!!!! (Please trust me in taking it from an 'assimilated' black male)
Posted by Todd on December 15, 2008 at 11:32 AM · Report this
Race and culture are not the same thing. I'm racially Chinese, and I have to acknowledge that because we as a society recognize race and race matters, but culturally, I'm pretty white. I'm culturally very different from my cousins who grew up in China because I grew up in Canada and the US. My parents tried to instill more Chinese culture in me and eventually gave up. I don't go to Chinese New Years festivals but I eat a lot of Chinese food. I can speak Chinese but can't write it. I have more black friends and gay friends than Chinese friends. I don't think parents who are adopting Chinese kids need to make their kids more culturally Chinese than I would my own children. I think it's okay to cherry-pick culture as long as you acknowledge that there are aspects of culture you practice differently.
Race is a different matter. We live in a society where people are judged based on race, so you can't ignore it.
Posted by sf gal on December 15, 2008 at 11:36 AM · Report this
To continue in the vein begun by sf gal: It's incredibly naive to assume that culture and race are equivalent. I'm white, but was not raised an American "Christian" -- have I neglected my culture? My girlfriend is black, but her hippie mother raised her very differently from her cousins back in central Ohio. Was it neglecting her culture? My father is the child of a German - Irish marriage. Which one of his parents neglected their culture in order to raise him right?

It is one of the goals of parenthood to raise your children to celebrate YOUR culture. If you choose to incorporate other cultures, more power to you, we should all expand our celebrations to include what resonates with us, no matter the origin. But don't force a cultural experience where it isn't needed.
Posted by Arboreality on December 15, 2008 at 4:43 PM · Report this
I am planning to go to Africa to adopt a kid. Who wouldn't want to give a child a home, reguardless of color? It's a life, a person. Not a just a race or skin color. I expect that my family will embrace and celebrate the culture along with that child or children.

What's more racist? Knowing of orphans and letting them stay there and die because they don't match my skin color? Saving one or two lives and helping them grow up knowing who they are?
How is multiracial adoption wrong if they were loved and accepted in every aspect?

I don't look like my mom either. I was always asked if I was adopted. I felt different, very different in in many ways! I was not fun but I got through it, I was loved not more and not less....simply loved. I works out.
This article isn't going to stop me or my plans, but thanks for the ugly side perspective.
I certainly hope I can guard my kids from judgemental folks like you've mentioned.

On the Obama comments: When I was young person, I remember very clearly standing in a meat locker and deciding whether or not I was going to do the drugs I had just bought from some guy. I had a choice, self destruct or not. Guess what? I am white, Christian and grew up in a primarily white Christian town. I don't think blaming people for a lack of maturity is anything new, nor is particular to a race or religion. My point is, we all look at how imperfect life is and get angry at some point in life. We all stand up and choose.. life or destruction- fight or give up--- in spite of what holds us back. That's human, not white, black or whatever. Those are the moments that define us, not our parent's skin color.
Posted by Lain on December 15, 2008 at 11:16 PM · Report this
I also took the test and I got...

"Your data suggests a slight automatic preference for Black people over White people."

I was a little surprised at that seeing as how I'm white, but I figured I would get something neutral and this is close to it I suppose. I live in the most multicultural city in the world and because of that (among other reasons too I hope) it's not exactly a haven for racism so I'm sure growing up here has affected me too.

As far as this article goes I'm not sure how much I can comment on it as I'm not from the United States but it was very interesting. One of my little cousins is bi-racial and the subject has crossed my mind before, although I don't think he will face as many problems as children in the United States do.
Posted by Jen on December 15, 2008 at 11:54 PM · Report this
Very thought provoking article. I am white, my husband is black, my son is bi-racial. Some folks in this article might also suggest that my husband and I should not have been allowed to marry...perhaps not allowed to have children. And, I guess, not allowed to adopt children of ANY race. We all have to do our part to understand institutional racism, acknowledge that whites haved benefited from the system and then do what we can to change the system.
Posted by Juli Bunting on December 16, 2008 at 10:00 AM · Report this
For quite a few reasons, I've been thinking about this issue a lot over the last few years. I've come to the conclusion that in case of transracial adoptions, it's essential for the parents to be visibly unorthodox in some way, and for the family (and ideally, the community) as a whole to be different in a number of ways, not just that adopted kid.

I see white, straight, suburban McFamilies joyously taking a Chinese baby back to a home and community where that kid will forever be the what in "what's wrong with this picture", and feel deep apprehension for her future.

And IMO, the (potential) parents who get off on the goodness of their own hearts in adopting need to be called on that attitude by those around them, not enabled the way they so often are.
Posted by wintersmith on December 17, 2008 at 10:07 AM · Report this
oh dear...to those who said that we shouldn't categorize by race or that white isn't a race but several heritage groups, please, let me clue you in on a bit of your history: whites made up the whole race thing! have we forgotten....it's a social construct manufactured for the sole purpose of making everyone non white into an inferior. and it peeves me to no end when whites are like, "but i'm 15th generation italian..." lol do you not realize that at the turn of the (last) century if you were of any background that wasn't specifically english you weren't even considered white? you were, in fact, considered one step above blacks. lol then your ancestors changed their names from carelli to carrell in an effort to be appear english and they dropped their accents and were able to blend in with the dominant english/white culture. guess they don't teach that in schools else you'd have a slightly different opinion.
i don't think the intention of this article was to bash adoption...it's a beautiful thing when someone adopts a child. the point was to voice the thoughts that people already have. and i believe that it needed to be written.
Posted by shanka on December 17, 2008 at 3:33 PM · Report this
This article is a great (if accidental) argument for voluntary separatism/segregation.
Posted by Accidental Segregationist on December 17, 2008 at 4:28 PM · Report this
"let me clue you in on a bit of your history: whites made up the whole race thing! ....it's a social construct manufactured for the sole purpose of making everyone non white into an inferior."

That must be why there are so many medical problems like Tay Sachs or Sickle Cell which affect certain "social constructs" almost exclusively.
Posted by Social Construct Power Now on December 17, 2008 at 4:34 PM · Report this
So seriously, answer the question: if white families were not fostering and adopting children of color, where would they be? If you only change that one thing - not our overall social system, where would those kids go? Don't you think it makes more sense to do a better job of educating adoptive families about racial identity, than to prevent kids from having loving homes because of the color of their skin?
Posted by Jane on December 17, 2008 at 7:06 PM · Report this
As a white adoptive mom of a black four-year-old girl, I'd like to throw this out there:

There is a dominant culture in the U.S. and because for the greater part of its history the majority of its citizens (also those primarily in power) have been of European descent, this can fairly be defined as white culture. From my experience, the major difference between white and black culture (at least here in Texas) has to do with the difference between individualism and community. Here's one example:

In white culture (and U.S. history), individualism has been prized and rewarded. We don't tend to back each other up, help each other or treat each other with much respect. I've gotten into elevators with white folks who don't even glance over at or make eye contact with me, much less acknowledge me with a greeting. In the dominant culture, to make oneself vulnerable in any way is to relinquish the power that is prized. Since there are so many more of us, we can afford to do that. We tend to act like we don't really need each other.

From what has been described to me, in non-dominant cultures, its important to stick together and go through it together. Alone, a brown person could easily get swallowed. So, respect for one another is highly valued, and reflected in ways that whites may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. Generally, black folks will acknowledge each other in passing public situations, even if they don't know one another (leading to the strange assumption by whites that all black people know each other!). Attention to personal appearance and proper behavior in children is more highly valued in general across class than in the dominant culture, because brown folks know that they are being noticed (if there are fewer of you, you do stand out), and held to a different standard. Anything that could be perceived as "bad" by the dominant culture reflects poorly on the entire community and family. The group is a less important need within the dominant culture than within non-dominant cultures.

I learned these things by talking to and being open to being told by people who have direct experience. There is just tons of stuff that we as white people don't even know is there to know. No one tells us because we may get defensive or think it doesn't apply to us.

I need to know this so that I can teach my daughter by raising her with some of those same values. In addition, of course, to making sure that I am the minority (at church, as the store, at school) as much as possible. And by actively trying to step out of my comfort zone to make new friends and point out appropriate role models. Its a long shot, but I hope that she ends up being bi-cultural instead of not fitting in either place.
Posted by opie on December 17, 2008 at 8:05 PM · Report this
I'm white and have 4 year old black twins. We live in a very diverse neighborhood and neither of them have any white kids in their pre k classes. The older teens that we fostered are all still in our lives and are of all races. Half of the kids in their YMCA gymnastics and basketball classes are black. We don't have many black adult friends, but our best friends also have black children. Is it enough? dunno. I guess it is a social experiment.

I have to say that I've never heard negative remarks from white or black people when I have my kids in public, although my partner has. Maybe, its because the twins look healthy, happy and well adjusted, or because I have a wide nose and big lips, people think they could be mine. I've had women stop me in the grocery store to offer advice on my daughter's hair, before we learned to do it right. The one semi-negative experience happened with a grandmother of twins a year older than mine. She didn't say anything, but was outright glaring at us in the grocery store. I stopped and asked how she got her granddaughter's hair to twist so well. She looked at me for a minute, then showed me on my kid's hair. I thanked her and she smiled back and walked on.
Posted by cebii on December 18, 2008 at 7:21 AM · Report this
Sargorn, that is not a racist statement. I think you need to read and learn a lot nore. It is a profound statement. Best Wishes.
Posted by laura on December 18, 2008 at 7:58 AM · Report this
this is a great article! thanks! white people do need to think a lot more about the motivation behind their adopting black kids. they need to do it for the right reasons and make the best decisions for their kids and not their theories of race & society.
Posted by laura on December 18, 2008 at 8:00 AM · Report this
i am still thinking about this thought provoking article. I think some people have missed some points I can tell as I read the comments.
It seems to me the point is we have to talk more about all these things and not silence people because someone might cry. No one is saying these adoptions should end-cut & dry but everyone needs to talk and examine their motivations and over time changes will be made in adoption from this. Good questions are being asked.
Posted by laura on December 18, 2008 at 8:05 AM · Report this
"We live in a very diverse neighborhood and neither of them have any white kids in their pre k classes"


No whites, how amazingly "diverse"!
Posted by "Diversity" = "no whites" on December 18, 2008 at 8:54 AM · Report this
Bravo! Amazing article -- so honest, so willing to confront what we've refused to talk about for years. It is so refreshing to read an article about transracial adoption written by someone other than an adoptee that points out not just the familiar racism, but the racism inherent in using our black children to carry what should be our burdens.
Posted by julie on December 18, 2008 at 10:00 AM · Report this
This article justifies my not giving a shit about blacks or their problems. Thanks!
Posted by Don't give a shit about blacks & dey problems on December 18, 2008 at 11:56 AM · Report this
The need for this article is obvious. I am a black man adopted by white parents. My parents are my heroes for doing that. All adoptive parents are heroes for taking another person's child as their own. That obvious observation does not negate the point of this article, which I take to be dialogue. Or is dialogue too liberal or pansy of a desire? My own anecdotal evidence is that we never talked about race in my family but I never saw other black people in the suburb I grew up in until high school-only on the news for a crime-related story. Consequentially, I hated being black and really wanted to be white until I became more mature. Did my parents do me wrong by not moving me closer to the city: no, the school system I went to was much better. But did I suffer emotionally for it: yes. Is there a quick fix to this: hell no. Did my parents do a great job: yes. Could it have been better: yes. How could it have been better: more info like this article. That's it people, no need to make speeches about how everyone has it hard, we know that already. Only a fool would purposely silence pertinent info that might mitigate whatever challenge that fool faced.
Posted by g on December 18, 2008 at 1:13 PM · Report this
OK, let's talk about race. Black men make up less than 6% of the US population but commit over 52% of all murders and over 34% of all rapes in our country. In the year 2005 alone, black men raped at least 37,640 white women. The same year, white men raped less than ten (10) black women. All stats from the FBI & USDOJ.
Posted by Facts about Race on December 18, 2008 at 3:37 PM · Report this
To Facts about Race - grow up. What do crime statistics have to do with this discussion at all? What are you even trying to say? You posting a comment like that is the real "Fact about Race."

I thought this article was quite interesting. Transracial adoption (and biracialism) is certainly a reality now that was probably seen as being quite rare only a few decades ago.

Cultural identity, regardless of the fact that it is imagined, offers us a sense of community and belonging. Not just in an interactive way, but I believe in a much more deep-rooted emotional way as well. I think many Americans (particularly white Americans) feel that they lack this form of identity, hence a lot of these backlash European heritage pride movements you see a lot of in Seattle (which is sometimes really cool and exciting, othertimes some people scare me with how far they can take it).

One thing that has always been strange to me about Seattle is how incredibly awkward race is here. How oddly segregated the city is. And how incredibly comfortable white people seem about it. My experience living in Seattle and attending university there consisted of meeting countless white people holding countless conversations on racism and the politics of race - mostly amongst white people only.

Of course, those conversations usually consist of some form of intellectual masochism, in which these white people discuss how they, and all of their ancestors before them, have made such a horrible place out of the world. And many seem to think that these discussions or a study abroad trip to South Africa will solve many of these problems.

But I know one thing for sure. I have lived in many different parts of the United States. And Seattle has been by far the most segregated city I've been to with the most (white) people complaining about segregation. Segregation, it happens.

Seattle is not just segregated by housing costs and income levels. It is very culturally segregated - intentionally. The neighborhoods up north are fashioned for and by young, fairly successful, "progressive," white people. The environment is not welcoming or comfortable for anyone that doesn't fit that description(although it feels like non-whites are invited for a round of fetishization). Only when people are willing to throw away this intellecutal elitism and actually face humans as other humans, Seattle is always going be a city of self-flagellating white people.

Perhaps if Seattle weren't so much the way it was, these white parents adopting black children wouldn't have to move to these "diverse (non-white) neighborhoods." Maybe they wouldn't have to drive into these "ethnic neighborhoods" searching for "ethnic friends" to educate their "ethnic children."

Posted by maemaech on December 18, 2008 at 6:40 PM · Report this
I am a light skinned black woman adopted by white parents with two sons of their own, in 1970 . My parents had never had or never did get any black friends. I met my first other black person when I was 18 - it was terrifying b/c I felt like a huge fraud! When I asked my parents when I was 21 why they always chose to live in all-white communities vs. integrated communities they said "We had your brothers to think about!" As it is, one of my brothers is a racist and he often called me a nigger when no one was around. He & a neighbor sexually molested me when I was 7. My parents refuse to talk about race and actually think their adoption of me is one big favor they did for me, that I should be grateful. I was adopted as part of a "study" on inter-racial adoption in Chicago and my parents and I were surveyed every year until I turned 16 on what our lives were like. When I finally received a copy of the study results report, it claimed that inter-racial adoption was nearly completely without complications and should be encouraged - it sickened and enraged me so much I never actually finished reading the damn thing. When black people meet me they tell me I act white, and white people tell me they "forget" I am black. I am also bi-sexual and often feel isolated and misunderstood, even by my loving wife who is white. For my part, I do not have a lot of black friends - I think because there is an assumption of what "black culture" is and it has nothing to do with who I am or where I came from or where I was raised, which is rural Oregon. There is no place for a person like me within the black community - that much is clear. My lightness, my un-coolness, my queerness all put me far in the fringes of any black community I have ever attempted to join. The homophobia within the black community is sickening and intolerable to me. This article was good to read but I am also left feeling sad for all the other inter-racially adopted kids. Well meaning, clueless white people should try harder to integrate their OWN LIVES for the benefit of themselves and their children. If my parents had even made an effort in this department it would have made a differance. . . Good to know I am not alone, but still sad. . .
Posted by Gurla on December 18, 2008 at 11:21 PM · Report this
"Seattle is not just segregated by housing costs and income levels. It is very culturally segregated - intentionally."

Oh those awful white people. They can't possibly have any good reason for wanting to live away from blacks, can they?? :

Black men make up less than 6% of the US population but commit over 52% of all murders and over 34% of all rapes in our country. In the year 2005 alone, black men raped at least 37,640 white women. The same year, white men raped less than ten (10) black women. All stats from the FBI & USDOJ.
Posted by It Must Be "Racism" because they are evil - no other reason on December 19, 2008 at 6:42 AM · Report this
Just more proof that we're not over race. I'm sick of the 'get over it' and dismissal of their experiences. And it WOULD be easier if whites did not have to think of other races. Are you kidding me? As an African-American woman, I see how it's easier for the dominant culture to TELL us how we should feel, that what we feel as people is 'wrong', etc. I love that these people finally feel free to explore who they are without feeling guilty that they aren't 'grateful' and that they aren't ignoring their own feelings to keep their adopters 'happy'.
Posted by Lula on December 19, 2008 at 5:59 PM · Report this
Life is confusing isn't it and adoption and parenting is definitely that. I am a white African as I am white but was born and raised in africa I then immigrated to North America. Surprising how few people will allow me to claim my status as being African... they always qualify... you are from Africa..

My daughter will grow to be North American but as she is black she will always be referred to as African which she is only racially and not culturally. Who in this house is more African? I would claim that it is me.

My personal experience is that people who are actually from Africa; first generation; people that have seen the hunger and have seen babies dying because of lack of water and medical care are usually less critical of the finer nuances of deprivation. You have to be alive to feel these other emotions. Off course adopted parents have to try and deal with the cultural aspects of adoption but I also say.. life is tough everywhere... suck it up...your parents probably did the best they could.
Posted by merangue on December 19, 2008 at 8:11 PM · Report this
"I can't be alone in thinking that being transracially adopted, we have lost something: lost our languages, traditions, cultures, and most importantly the subtleties and nuances of those cultures...Am I alone in this

In the midst of this quote there is mention of mourning. I think people who are adopted whether transracial (like my grandchildren) or not (like myself) all have some angst, but so does every other human on the planet. My grandchildren would literally have starved to death if their Ethiopian family had kept them. Of course, it is important for parents in biracial families to have their eyes wide open to the nuances of race and how their children are affected, but I think those who (unlike Barack Obama) don't come to terms with their past remain bitter and bitterness is an ugly balm. It is never too late to embrace your heritage.
Posted by D.C. on December 20, 2008 at 5:40 PM · Report this
As a white adoptive single mother of a bi-racial boy, I moved from a largely white community to a diverse area, into a traditionally (though gentrification has been happening for a long time) black neighborhood, I have black friends, and I attend a diverse, though primarily African American church. I also work with incarcerated youth who are absolutely disproportionately African American and Latino. It is complex and deep, and I am at times uncomfortable, and many times moved. I was in the juvenile hall when Barack Obama won the presidency and I worried that those who saw me crying would think I was crying because John McCain lost. However, I asked if I could come in the staff room and watch the TV anyway--and was tolerated or welcomed--probably some of both. I was already an outsider since I wasn't regular staff, and I was used to being this outsider--preferred it actually as it allowed me to have less velcro in the politics et al of the place, and let me focus on my relationships to the youth I worked with. I soon raced home to see Barack's acceptance speech where my eight year old son watched with the sitter. He'd been keeping track of every electoral vote that came in. "What if he was my father?" he asked me many times in the days before the election.
It was one of the reasons I wept sometimes during his commercials, and worked on his campaign. In some ways he is. My son has to gather role models, not being presented with one consistent source. There's his black music teacher, Sonny who teaches him r&b and gospel piano and drums, and his white music teacher Tom, who teaches him the Beatles and Lion King. My son loves them both.
And he's learning to play music-not just piano, or drums, but music-pulling from all its complex and tragic and beautiful origins a voice of his own.
I hang myself out there and sometimes suffer for it, the only white person at a party, the white woman whose bi-racial child has wild hair and is acting out...etc. However, I'd suffer more not walking this unclaimed and challenging path--it's one of the most interesting existences i could dream of. My son was left at the hospital at his birth by his previously set-up adoptive parents who lived in the South, when they found out he is bi-racial. I thank God they realized they cannot walk this path, and I thank God for all the elements of my life. It remains to be seen how my son will fare, how he will hold his loss, and how my parenting will influence the arch of his life. I do know this community is better for him (and me) than where we used to live.
Posted by Kim on December 20, 2008 at 11:54 PM · Report this
I am adoptive mother of 11 children, soon to be 12, from several cultural backgrounds. We discuss, discover, research, celebrate . . . multiculturalness. We love and appreciate Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and other civil rights activists just under Jesus - we are Christians - because without them we could not be a family. We all love being in this family.

A few years ago for Christmas my children found an adoption site and picked out new siblings for Christmas.

This year, I found out that one of my employees was abandoned by her birth parents when she was two - the "Child Welfare System" (what an oxymoron that word is) has told her that she's unadoptable and is trying to exit her early by putting her through an "Independent Living Program". She is 16 and in 11th grade and is expected to exit the system in 3 months.

She is not unadoptable!! She certainly was not unadoptable when she was 2 or 3 or 4 or . . . and moving from one foster home to another. My children have gotten to know "Cindy" (not her real name) at one of our daycares. On the way home, after finding out that Cindy needed a forever family, my children who were in the car voted unanimously to invite her to come into our forever family. Their 16-year-0ld brother who met Cindy during a previous trip to this daycare center (several hours from our home) agreed over the phone that he wanted to adopt her too.

Aunt Polly who lives in the same city as the daycare and Cindy, took her out to dinner to let her know the following evening - Cindy called and talked to her "new" family who are all busy figuring out how to move bedrooms around to give Cindy a room of her own - since she's a teen ager and probably will want some privacy.

Cindy is not African American, four of the children now at home are African American/Latino, one is white like Cindy. Cindy knows this make up and is thrilled to be wanted and to finally have a place where she is not ever going to have to leave. She has a forever family, a forever home. She told me that for the first time that she can remember she can go to bed without having to worry about where she is going to move next or where she is going to live when "they exit me from the system".

Race is a very important part of the transracial issue. It cannot be ignored. Please understand however that it is NOT the only issue and not even the most important one. Like any other difference, need, issue - if it is ignored, it will become a problem, even a crisis. It is worthy of discussion, empathy and empathic addressing - if need be in therapy and counseling.

There are a huge portion of children missing from this study however - those who must move from home to home to home - those children are not represented in this study and they ought to be; they must be if we are to really understand the whole big picture. Do the adopted children in transracial adoptions have added issues that they must deal with? Absolutely. The difference is that they have families who are loving them and willing to help them through the struggles. When my children agonize over the fact that they saw their bith mother and she looks terrible from the drugs and the diseases - I cry with them, we talk about the losses; how that once amazing woman gave them life and now they can pray for her and make sure she has warm clothes or a blanket and some yummy cookies that they made for her - they can bring joy, they have value, they are important, they can make a difference.

Yes, this is a burden for them, but giving to her, praying for her, loving her are ways they learn to accept their past and their present and make the world a better place because of what their mother and they have suffered. We talk alot about beauty for ashes.

Children are capable of being contributing members of society and when they are, they feel very good about themselves and are less likely to bottom out and be hurt like their parents. When they can turn something painful into something positive and good - they can exchange beauty for ashes; they are successful people. That's a good thing no matter your roots - which had to be good, just look at how wonderful the children are.

Let's be honest. All children have struggles!! It's part of growing up. Parents, especially adopteive parents who are parents by choice, need to put our children first before our own comfort. We need to do whatever it takes to make their lives rich and full and healthy.

In my humble opinion, race is an issue to be addressed but it is not the only issue and it is not typically even the most important one. My children have mental illnesses they have inherited, they have learning disabilities and they have amazing personalities and capabilities that, if developed will enable to become all God created them to be - my goal as their mother.

Before we eliminate transracial adoptions, it is essential that we look at the bigger picture. A forever family is a great thing - but don't trust my opinion - ask my children - especially Cindy.

Posted by Shari on December 21, 2008 at 10:03 AM · Report this
I found this article to be particularly negative, although I do agree with many of the basic issues presented. One of my three children is a true orphan from Congo (DRC.) Obviously we are not racists, but do agree that we cannot be insensitive to race and issues associated therewith. Each of my three children is unique. Each has specific needs that are different from the others. There is no one way to raise kids. If you haven't considered race in transracial adoption, you are not prepared. Having said this is not an indictment to transracial adoption any more than it would be an indictment to parenting in general. Some people should not adopt, regardless of race. Some people should not parent. I join in the objection of adopting children from parented homes, but not true orphans. Having adopted not only transracially, but also trans culturally, requires planning, education and thoughtfulness. If you are looking for a reason to criticize, you will undoubtedly find one in transracial adoption. If you are looking for a way to help solve problems and improve the lives of children, you will have to act. In acting, you may or may not succeed. In not taking any action, you will never know what impact you might have had, or the blessing you might have received in the process. The real criticism belongs to the man in the mirror who turns a blind eye to poverty, not only in our local communities, but globally. I suggest you speak to that man (or woman) as soon as possible.
Posted by William K on December 22, 2008 at 2:11 PM · Report this
We adopted a two and a half year old boy from the Cape Verde Islands and he will soon be twenty-one. He says that having white parents or being adopted has never been an issue for him. I worked diligently at at teaching him about life and people. The differences in color and cultures were always acknowledged and embraced. We talked about his feelings and day-to-day experiences continually as he grew up. I didn't wait for him to bring it up, I asked. I beleive that we got very lucky that the right people, found the right child, at the right time, and he has grown to be a well mannered and well respected young man.
Posted by nurse on December 23, 2008 at 10:26 PM · Report this
We are a nation of lost culture. I grew up in a home where I was told by my father I was welsh, my mother that we were german. My dad always made fun of my mothers family speaking some weird form of german dialect. Well the language is Yiddish you dumb ass!!
As an adult I know I am Scottish on my fathers side and Jewish on my mothers side with a bit of everything else tossed in for good measure. The Jewish side was covered up because of some little incident back in the 40's, hmm nothing too important, especially considering the Brits are about to wipe it from their history books because some folks in Britain find the HOLOCAUST inappropriate to talk about. My culture, my language on both sides was stripped from me by my biological parents and the rest of our society. Please press 3 for Gaelic, 4 for Yiddish/Hebrew/Aramaic, etc. People have been raped from their cultures since this country began. My family's last name isn't what we use on a daily basis. Oh it was to hard to pronounce or doesn't fit with the locals, so this is your last name, or the name of your Landholder in England (SLAVEOWNER). Wasn't PC back then either.
I grew up in predominantly black neighborhoods, hell in Americus, Georgia there were 8 white kids in our school, I have 4 sisters. Don't remember who the other white kids were, they weren't my friends.

As for the test, give me a break "You have a slight prference for John McCain" WTF!!! I didn't miss any K's or D's, time was not an issue. John McCain is a traitor to this country and the only reason the test would have said John McCain is that I said I voted for a different candidate then the 2 other options, obviously a white guy (DUH!).

These children will find their culture, we all do, eventually. As a Jewish man I have found my culture despite having it beaten out of me (literally). My Black father, Jewish mother, Native American Brother-in-law, Indian Brother-in-law (Black guy with a spanish last name from Gao living in Minnesota), Jewish sisters, Italian brother-in-law are all in touch with our cultures.
Posted by Bulworth on December 27, 2008 at 12:09 PM · Report this
I'll refrain from calling you the nasty names I reserve for ignorant people who have so obviously been educated far beyond their ability to intellectually deal with the world in which they live. I have extreme compassion for the little lives your subjects have purposefully taken into their confused realm of influence and the explicit and implicit racism to which they are being subjected. Articles like this will serve to stain the entire foster-adopt system which, while not perfect, deals with broken young lives in subjective caring ways. Mind you, this is a business not suited for any government, but one that should be handled by benevolent private organizations that are able to hold people accountable to a program. Government is the problem, not the solution. Your trite treatment and pervasive preference of perverted lifestyles in your article portray you as being as confused as your subject couple. When we treat people like people and realize that cultural differences are based on people, not skin color, we'll get closer to celebrating our diverse humanity and loving the unloved among our society in a healthy way. Your perspective is neither enlightened nor healthy for yourself or anyone you have portrayed. May I suggest you get out of academia and hang out with some kids for a while. The breaking of silence you decry is easily described as biting the hand that feeds. Why the strong desire to absolve birth parents of responsibilities? Why the strong self-loathing for your whiteness? Can't we, as white parents, give an authentic upbringing to our racially diverse kids? How can your subject allow her black child to identify with a bi-racial president-elect? Is that fair? How proud should a parent be of a child berating them? Is that worth celebrating - or repeating in some appreciative light? Would it be more productive for my kids to learn Snoop Dog's dialect than proper English? Should we speak Swahili in our home to make sure they're grounded in your idea of their ancestral "world"? What if they get their skin pigment from New Guinea? Will you print a retraction and apology to them, or just go on color-coding kids? I can't express here the revolting senses I get from reading your confusion. This could go on and on and pick your idiocy apart point-by-point; but I have an appointment in the next room, reading the Bible, Elijah of Buxton, The Lord of The Rings and Uncle Remus Tales to my kids. You failed miserably to pronounce yourself as being clueless about your chosen subject. What gives you the right to pre-suppose I am a racist just because my skin is different from someone else's?

Posted by Old Salt on January 1, 2009 at 6:40 PM · Report this
There are no perfect answers but lessers of evils. Get over it. The article is one sided with a one sided agenda. Not revealing but more whining but naysayers which offer no solutions themselves.
Posted by serenevalley on January 5, 2009 at 8:44 PM · Report this
I is a white kid that was braught up in a good black family in a racially diverse community. It was the community that showed me that I is better than white folk that live in the places they live in. I now I white but I anm not ashamed to be black background to. Its not a bit like it is not bad here in D.C. but it is a right bit better than all the places white folk live! I for sure recommend adopion of white kids by black moms and dads. I wud not be who I am today if itwas not for them!
Posted by MarcusCorey on January 13, 2009 at 6:55 PM · Report this
I have to disagree with many of the points made in this article. As the multiracial daughter of a black father and white mother my parents never thought about how they would raise me. I grew up without any positive black role models, but plenty of role models I identified with. I'm a senior in high school now, the only black student in a school of almost 700, but I don't feel the need for sympathy. I disagree that black children need any special accomadations, or that white parents need special training. I was raised by my white mother, while my father left on nine month long deployments. Still, I'm not lost, I'm not confused or unhappy. I may not be connected with "black" culture or speak with a black cadence but it doesn't matter.I know who I am. All a child needs to thrive is love.
Posted by justhope on January 23, 2009 at 1:24 PM · Report this
The USA is a cultural blending that identifies and unifies us. My father would tell us that we were part English, Irish, French, Norwegian, and even Black, etc. Racism arises from people seeking cultural purity and preservation. It's cultural segregation that makes people uncomfortable, more so than the color of their skin. We need to be proud of this blending of cultures and focus more on our similarities than on our differences.
Posted by nlg on February 17, 2009 at 4:33 PM · Report this
The younger generation has been raised to be "color blind" And now that we are and race doesn't matter, suddenly their needs to be a separation? Make up your damn minds.
I've adopted a biracial baby...not because I'm part of the trend or trying to prove that I'm color blind, but because he is a Child of God in need of a good home. He came from the same place I did. I couldn't bare children from my womb and feel by adopting both my children they and I have been both given an amazing experience.
Don't criticize me until you've walked in mine and my children's shoes. How dare you!
Posted by Taska on April 28, 2009 at 8:24 PM · Report this
I appreciate your referencing my story in your post. You are exactly right, when I wrote in to NPR I was indeed bursting to bring my story to a broader audience. Since then there's been a Newsweek piece written about us and I'm now in talks with publishers about writing about my family's experiences.

I'm no media darling I assure you. My goal has always been to broaden the conversation about race. This is particularly important given the media attention to "post-racial America". I appreciate that you are adding to the dialogue.
Posted by MarkRiding on May 15, 2009 at 12:05 PM · Report this
I am also a white person who adopted a black child; she was born in the US but is the child of African immigrants. What is her cultural history? Will everyone look at her in school when they talk about slavery because she's black, even though that's not her history. Did everyone look at me when talking about the Irish potato famines in history class? No, and as it turns out, as an adoptee myself, I didn't even know I'm half Irish until I was 37 years old and met my birth mother.

I am confused about identity and culture myself, and haven't a clue as to how to 'teach' my child about such things, other than to point out on a map where her birth parents are from, at least at this point. It's not as much about raising my child to know about culture as it is about how to protect herself from racism and stereotypes. She's already had a little white boy point at her and say "ewww" because of her skin color.

She's four years old and is sad because no one else in our family is the same color as her, except a cousin who's about 15 years older and lives in another state. We can have all the black friends and acquaintances, though I admit that where we live in Idaho, in the world, but it still doesn't make up for her needing to identify with others who look like her.

I did not go into adopting my child thinking that love conquers all, though I had naive friends say such things to me, and I just look at them and say 'you don't get it.' My role is go out of my way to help my daughter find what I can't give her, even at age 4. I lived in Seattle for 10 years before I moved out here, and am considering a move back or to some other more racially diverse city, as I've talked with friends of color who grew up out here and hated being the only black kid in their class.

So while I am not as naive as some who I talk to in the transracial family support group we belong to, I feel somewhat helpless and powerless and cry over what I can't give to my child, and angry at a society that sets up so many barriers and is so divided.

I can at least help my daughter with my own experiences as an adoptee, and feeling different, alienated and fragmented by my made- up family history (that of my adoptive family) and my own bio history, but I still can't teach my child from my own experience of how to handle the fact that 90 percent (or more) of movie and tv characters don't look like her, and the ones that do often are usually a sidekick at best.

No one needed to tell my child that in our society, white people dominate in power -- the fact that they are the ones giving us the news, and starring in tv and movies, and dominate in story books, etc--and most of the other students and teachers at her daycare are white--she's got two eyes and can see the deal.

I have no conclusion for this comment, except that I agree that it is up to me to be uncomfortable and make any inconvenient changes in our lives that need to be made for her.
Posted by bigsun63 on August 28, 2009 at 2:09 PM · Report this
"Every child is entitled to parents who know that if they are white they experience the benefits of racism because the country's system is organized that way."

Apparently this is supposed to be a right of transracially-adopted children? (Yes, I know Jen was quoting someone else.) This statement just seems incredibly racist. No one in their right mind would dispute that white people have been privileged because of their race, but at the same time only someone blinded by racism could believe that white people never face adversity because of their skin color. To say that "the country's system is organized that way" is an oversimplification. Just because non-white people have historically faced horrendous oppression doesn't mean that white people never face oppression today. It doesn't denigrate the suffering of non-whites to recognize that whites are sometimes also subjected to racism.
Posted by Patrick234576 on December 23, 2009 at 10:56 PM · Report this
As the director/founder of earlyminority.org, I found this article to be very provocative yet powerfully written for this era in cross-cultural relations.

I am still thinking about this comment "There's one exception: The law doesn't apply to Native American children. A separate 1978 law governs them and says the opposite: that in-race adoptions are preferred."
Posted by Kimberly EM on November 16, 2011 at 1:43 AM · Report this
Fantastic article. Thank you.
Posted by secretchord on November 19, 2011 at 6:58 PM · Report this
Thank you for your voicing your perspective on the subject. I am a black grandparent of a biracial grandson. Because the DSS of Buncombe County in NC deemed my son and his girlfriend unfit, my grandson was awarded to a foster family who is white. They had plans to adopt even though my family passed all of the requirements and are willing and able to take care of my grandson. The case worker recomended that he be placed with her friends. The NC laws seem to be different from all other states. I live in Texas and I'm in a battle to get him back.
Posted by specialk-1 on September 9, 2012 at 4:26 PM · Report this
I want to adopt a mixed race baby. I don't know where to start. Everyone should watch the movie "the journey of man" that will take the stress out of this discussion.
Posted by ihl on December 12, 2012 at 8:49 PM · Report this
I find the tone and attitude in this article counterproductive, condescending and even racist in some ways. My husband and I are fostering to adopt. He was born in Mexico, I'm lily white and neither of us care what color child we end up being blessed with. We aren't going to go out of our way to "shop in black grocery stores" to prove to our child (or the world) some asinine point about racial differences that ought not exist. We won't encourage them to pick up special dialects to prove a point either; it's not racist to encourage respectful and correct usage of the English language but it sounds racist to me to allow and encourage the opposite JUST because your child is black. We will love our adopted child like our two biological children, be candid and open with them, provide what they need as valuable human beings and let them know that souls don't come in different colors.
Posted by ThePinkGeologist on March 5, 2013 at 10:01 PM · Report this
I wanted to say I'm not adopted, I'm the white biological child of two white parents, but my parents both had serious mental health issues. i grew up in poverty, even though my parents tried to do the best that they could, it was very damaging. My father tried to murder my mother several times, and at one point raped my mother in front of her children. I knew from a young age that my father was dangerous, and not a "real" father. My mother also detached from her children after she finally escaped from my father. I had to run away from home to get away from the non-stop abuse. I often wish my father wasn't related to me, but he is. Sometimes when I hear about all the pain adopted children go through, I can't help but think that being a biological child of same-race parents doesn't mean your life is free from grief and loss. Having uninvolved parents who are alive, but often feeling like they are essentially dead because of their severe limitations, is also painful. There are not great support groups for adults who were severely abused by their biological parents, and therefore have struggled with various issues throughout their lives. Being in therapy has been very healing for me, but it took decades of therapy to heal myself, and even after decades of therapy, my husband and I deal with the impact of abuse all the time. I am mentioning this because although being of a different race than your adopted parents must be incredibly complex, being of the same race as your biological parents is not a ticket to happiness. I would like to have parents who didn't abuse me and terrorize their children for 20 years. That is the real social experiment.
Posted by Same Race Not a Ticket on August 10, 2013 at 11:33 AM · Report this
As someone of mixed race, which is our future whether you like it or not, I don't have sympathy for any of this. Mixed race families can find harmony in 2 or more different cultures, can overcome diversity, hateful words & actions, prejudice from families and friends, unwelcome questions from strangers (what ARE you? are you their nanny? what race are you most attracted to?), hurtful stares, and then go on to have interracial children (because they will have to be mixed too) who have to navigate a single race world and continue this way of life. So, my question is- why is this different for transracial families? Why can't it be treated the same- a blending of two different cultures, of 2 different worlds into one beautiful unique identity? Why does it have to be one or the other? My kids will be 1/4 Bangladeshi, 1/4 white, 1/4 Nigerian, 1/4 Kenyan- Will we allow our children to identify with each one of these races and cultures? Of course, because that's who they will be. I understand adoption presents a different element- they aren't your "real" parents, but they are your family, that is your life. Why can't we learn to BLEND the two, to create a cohesive "new" culture and identity rather than constantly apologizing for being white and having kids that are not? Yes it's complicated. But that's the reality. As a multiracial human being raised in two different countries who is married to a black British man, I just feel lucky to be able to identify and have so many different cultures be a part of my life. If I had to pick one, it would just feel wrong. And really boring. We have discussed adopting, as it's something I've always felt drawn to. I have never considered the race of the child or of us to be an issue. If they're black, white, Bangladeshi, Hispanic, or mixed like me, they'll just be another member of the family and another story we can incorporate into ours. Why can't it be like this for adopted children of different races as well?
Posted by jmbriggs on July 9, 2014 at 11:18 AM · Report this
The current young generation is headed forward a post-racial society, and will succeed, as long as us cantankerous, bitter old fogeys don't fuck it up for them.

Of course, that assumes any of us actually WANTS a post-racial society. And I'm starting to think an awful lot of us don't. And boy, does that suck.

So much for one man's dream. We could have it, if we'd quit bickering.
Posted by K on July 9, 2014 at 6:12 PM · Report this

Add a comment