Monday, August 15, 2011

"I changed my mind about transracial adoption. . . I think"

That's the title of a piece at the Stir, by a black woman:
I’ve never really believed that interracial adoption was a good thing, specifically when it comes to black children. It’s always been, to me, one of those situations born of necessity — but because there are so many black kids who need stability, and there are so many white folks prepared to adopt, it seemed sinister to begrudge the babies a home, even if the parents at the head of it don’t look anything like them.

My concern has been that these children will grow up not identifying with their heritage. They’ll know what sports they like and what hobbies they enjoy and what cereal they love, but they won’t see themselves through the lens of the black experience. That can be dangerous, especially for boys who need to prepare themselves for life as black men in America.

No matter who their parents are, they’re still subject to the same discriminations and dangers as the ones growing up with their biological moms and dads.

After all, black is black is black in a tense situation with the police or in a job interview.

Teaching kids about themselves from a racial and ethnic standpoint is a parent’s responsibility. I wrote about how mothers and fathers embarking on the journey to adopt a child from another culture should be required to take classes about that child’s heritage, and folks tried to rip me a new one (hey, what else is new?)
Then after a white friend, Michelle, tells her she's adopting, and might adopt transracially, the author changes her mind:
What I like about Michelle is that she asks questions. I wish more white folks did. If she doesn’t understand something about us, she doesn’t assume. She breaks out in the most random inquiries. “How does Kwanzaa work?” she blurted the other day. “I always wanted to know.” So I explained, she nodded, and we moved on. I usually hate playing the Ambassador to Blackness. I did it when I was in high school and I’ve done it at some jobs. But for some reason, I don’t mind breaking it down to her because she means well.

I think that curiosity and willingness to learn will empower her to be a mother to a black child, if that’s how the good Lord wills it. My hope is that there are more Michelles out there who will take an active interest in making sure their son or daughter’s every need is met, including knowing their heritage.


Louise Again said...

I don't get that she changes her mind. I read that she has reservations about the self-image and societal pressures as a result of tranracial adoption.

I laughed when I read her comment about being the Ambassador to Blackness, even though I am not black I totally get her point. My husband was just telling me tonight a story about a colleague at his work asking a black co-worker to clarify the mass mob situation on the East Coast. What, he's supposed to know because he is black?

Anonymous said...

I think it's key that once the writer met a particular adoptive mom, she changed her mind. When we think of people in large groups, whatever the category, we miss the details that make each of us individuals.

Anonymous said...

Sure, heritage is important. But IMO, FIRST comes being raised in a stable environment, SECOND comes being raised with love, and then THIRD comes being raised with cultural awareness. There are a LOT of children being raised within their own culture who are living in broken homes, with fathers who rarely (if ever) see them. If you were to ask THAT child, or even if you were to ask that child after he was an adult, Id bet he would say he would have traded his cultural awareness for the stability of his lifestyle.
Im not black, Im white, but my son grew up with an absentee father after my son turned 5, and he still has a lot of wounds from that. We've had this very same conversation about what is most important and what he wishes he had more than anything else.