Features Nov 27, 2008 at 4:00 am

On Race, Silence, and the Changing American Family



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."
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.
"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.

"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.
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.
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.
." 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This article is a great (if accidental) argument for voluntary separatism/segregation.
"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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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"!
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.
This article justifies my not giving a shit about blacks or their problems. Thanks!
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.
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.
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."

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. . .
"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.
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'.
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.
"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.
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.
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.

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.
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.
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.
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?

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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
"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.
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."
Fantastic article. Thank you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Whew. This is tough stuff. My wife and I (white) adopted an African American baby 9 months ago. We have three older biological children. It's hard for people to understand why we would add a 4th child in our 40's with three healthy and well functioning older kids. Especially a black kid.

Over the last 5 years or so we have been going to church at an inner city church with 60/40 white/black congregation. Our mission is to spread the gospel crossing racial and economic lines. This is not easy. The only way to do this is not to be colorblind. That is impossible. We have to embrace the differences in our cultures and appreciate them. Different is not evil. It's just different. We have a black pastor and a white pastor. Those of us that are white have to take the step into discomfort first but I see it happen both ways. We are in the top 2% but choose to live in the part of town that is diverse. White people don't move to our neighborhood and we don't care. We could live in a secluded club but don't. We spend time with lower income children (mostly black)though our church. We became moved to help these young boys that have no fathers and very young mothers. I began to feel guilt in my good fortune of being born to two loving professional white parents with means. I had nice cars and clothes and started my life on third base.

The more we got involved and put our children into that world with us, we just felt a calling. When we found our birth mother it just made sense. Our son was her 9th pregnancy and 8th child. The last two have been adopted by white families. She was 36 with a 20 year old daughter that already had a four year old and 2 year old. The cycle is continuing.

We spent time with the birth mother before the adoption and continue have a text and phone relationship with her. She has asked for money because she gets evicted a lot but we try and minimize that but we do because we can. I'm sure some folks will call that something like slavery or spin it in an ugly way but we think it's right.

Our families and some friends think we are nuts. Our bio kids think he is incredible. I think it helps that I have lots of black friends. I played golf the other day with 3 foursomes and was the only white guy. I love it. I played college football and loved my teammates, black and white. I grew up in a school system that is over 50% black and I was accepted by many of them. I still prefer Old School Hip Hop and R&B but love Grunge too (just no country). I don't know if that will help but our son will see many people that look like him and we know we have to prepare him for overt and covert discrimination.

My other kids will never have to worry about the color of their skin affecting how they are perceived but I've already starting working on my Furious Styles speeches to my son. I know it won't be quite the same coming from a big white man, but we will do the best we can teach him to be conscious of his surroundings and to understand the challenges he will face in life that I never had to. But in the end, if he regrets us adopting him, that will be something he has to figure out because we can only love and nurture him to love all people and to see differences as nothing more than that.

    Please wait...

    Comments are closed.

    Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

    Add a comment

    By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.