Cross-Racial Adoption—Tough Issues

Like it or not—race still matters in America. If it did not matter there would be no reference to the Seahawks’ black quarterback. If it did not matter President Obama, whose mother was white, would not be called America’s first “black” president. February is Black History Month–a month in which all of America is supposed to acknowledge the contributions of Africans Americans to American History. Today’s New York Times tackles yet another “race” issue—that of cross racial adoption– in series of articles entitled, “Adoption—Does Race Matter?”

The series of articles point out some not too surprising information, including the fact that most whites who are looking to adopt prefer to adopt white children. The Times story also features Mitt Romney surrounded by his brood of grandchildren with him holding a recently adopted black grandchild. One contributor asked this question, “What if it was the other way around—a whole family reunion of black folks and a recently adopted white child.” The question being asked is how do people react to a black couple adopting a white child? Are the issues the same as a white family adopting a black child?

Some of the issues raised about cross racial adoption—namely, white families adopting white children go to “the black experience” and how any white person can adequately or “legitimately” prepare a black child to grow up “black in America.” Specifically, how would a white family of an adopted black boy prepare him for what one contributor quoted as “DWB”, “driving while black?” The real issue is preparing a black male for the historically document fact that almost half of all young black men will have some type of “encounter” with the criminal justice system by the time they are 25.

There are white families adopting or becoming foster parents to black children all across America, even here in Amarillo. I have personally heard the concerns of black relatives of these children express, not only anxiety, but downright anger over things such as white adoptive parents cutting off all a black girl’s hair so she can wash it every day in the shower. I’ve also heard other concerns of the extended black families of these black children placed in the system as a direct result of the local criminal justice system. These concerns range from these black children being isolated in white families where they are the minority of one or two in an entire school where they are bullied and harassed with no one to turn to—or the black children being the only ones “of color” at the Thanksgiving day table. I’ve heard the concerns of extended black families who wonder what will happen to these black children who are totally cut off from their “black roots.”

One cross-racial question that seems to come up often is this: “Is Love Enough?” Is it enough for white parents of black adopted children to provide them with loving homes that institutions cannot provide? Why is this not enough? Then flip the script—is a loving black family sufficient to satisfy concerns about them adopting a white child—or do a whole series of other concerns enter the picture? What if you saw a young black woman carrying a blond-eyed baby in the grocery store—would you stop and stare? What about a white woman carrying a black child the same way? Last year there was a legal show on television that had a storyline about a black couple that adopted an Asian child. The parents of the child found out that the child had been illegally placed for adoption and went to court to get her back when she was around 5. The story added a series of “cultural elements” to the story—including a scene where the little Asian girl was singing “This Little Light of Mine” in a black choir. There she was, singing and swaying and having a “good time in the Lord.” The Asian mother let out a wail that could be heard all the way to China when the judge ordered that the adoption stand. What do you think the Asian mother foresaw as a future for her child to justify her shock and horror at not getting her child back. Now flip the script and make the child black, sitting with white parents at the local symphony, and a black mother bemoaning the loss of her child. Any differences in what you factor in to approve one adoption over the other?

The New York Times articles pointed to the increasing amount of interracial dating as proof that cross-racial adoptions should not be a big issue anymore. Case in point, the Cheerios commercial about the little biracial girl with the black father laying on the sofa—and now a new baby coming from the white mother. The first commercial created a firestorm of hate, much of which had a lot to do with why the father was laying on the sofa in the first place. Cheerios could have scripted the commercial a lot better instead of portraying the father as a lazy, couch-potato who needed to have his butt on a job to support his family. Still, some say that the number of white women having children with black men shows that America has “loosened up” a bit on “race-mixing.” Maybe-maybe not. The New York Times articles are worth the read for anyone who already has adopted cross-racially or is thinking about it. After all, America is still a “black and white” country—and it will be that way for a long time to come.

Copyright 2014 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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