This paper critiques the case law, federal statutes, and secondary commentaries related to transracial adoption in the United States. The abstractness of the phrase “transracial adoption” obscures a crucial feature of almost all adoptions in which the adoptive parents and adoptees are of different races, namely, the adoptive parents are white and the adoptees are members of minority groups. Given the way whites remain the nation’s dominant racial group and have the greatest political and socioeconomic power, adoptions of this sort rankle some as still another example of racial “haves” getting what they want from racial “have-nots.” The paper explores the ways this concern has manifested itself in the legal discourse, stressing the adoption by whites of, first, Native Americans and, second, African Americans. How do the laws related to these varieties of transracial adoption compare? What do adoption and adoption law controversies tell us about systems of racial dominance in the United States?
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