My spouse and I are considering adoption, probably domestically. We are both white with professional degrees. We would welcome a child of any color and are disturbed by the clearly racist patterns in domestic adoption. But we also often sense something ethically ambiguous or even orientalist in certain adoptions by white people of children of color. I have also heard that these situations can be very difficult for the child. What’s the best thing to do?
This question has been the subject of newly feverish discussion since the deaths in late March of six black teenage children who’d apparently been abused and neglected (even deprived of food) by their white adoptive parents. Compounding the horror, the white couple had enjoyed a sickening degree of veneration from parts of their community for their supposed altruism. But the issue has a long history, Hopeful, most of it more nuanced and complex.
Before the middle of the previous century, transracial adoption was rare, but two things happened that made it more acceptable in the US: the widespread adoption of Korean orphans after the Korean War, and the civil-rights movement, which offered hope for an integrated society. But as more white families adopted black children, many people began to worry that the practice wasn’t in the children’s best interests. In 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers took what the organization described as a “vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason,” denouncing it as a form of cultural genocide and a perpetuation of black people’s “chattel status.” The NABSW questioned whether white parents could raise black children who were secure in their identity and adequately prepare them to deal with racism. This stance was influential at the time, sowing doubt that white parents could bring up well-adjusted black children.