Interracial Adoption: Recipes For Success…And Failure
by Miss Blurbette
When I was a senior in high school, I took a class about writing research papers. I was taught to write what you know and go from there, so being a child with a black mom and a white step dad and a black dad and white step mom, and their bi-racial children, I wrote about interracial families and the identity crisis that children of color go through when raised in white homes.
Being the only black child in two blended families with both white and black parents, I felt I had a unique vantage point. I still do in that when I started my own family, I gave birth to bi-racial children.
Two stories recently made headlines ( or at least the Oprah Winfrey show…which counts as news to me on certain days) about inter-racial adoption; one being the case of Sandra Bullock, now a single mother who adopted an infant from New Orleans and the other a missionary couple, Scott and Debbie, who adopted a little girl named Claire from Haiti. I reacted vastly differently to both cases.
In Sandra Bullock’s case, she adopted a black child without parents that needed a home from a devastated region of the country. In order to honor him and his culture, she even moved to New Orleans to raise him amongst “his people” as we say in the South. However, in the Haitian adoption, while the child was taken from a devastated region after the Haiti earthquakes, this was a child with a family. She had a mother, father and siblings and her adoption was facilitated because her parents (or others) didn’t feel they could provide the best life “Financially” for her.
While I will always applaud adoptive parents, I am torn because of my reaction to Claire’s adoption. This is a child that had a family. She had a home with people she loved who loved her in return. What Scott and Debbie did is no different than the articles and some movies I refuse to watch that highlight “White rescue”; movies like Dangerous Minds where Michelle Pfeiffer comes in to rescue the poor brown youth or the Soloist where a kind hearted white man portrayed by Matthew Perry jumps in to save a genius cellist with schizophrenia. Stories like these make people feel all warm and fuzzy as if we have achieved Martin Luther King’s dream because some white people happen to give a damn about some people of color. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. They provide sympathy to those doing the rescuing but never ask the question of why it is those people of color “need” rescuing in the first place.
Is it that the parents are displaced workers, forced to work 3 jobs to earn 50 cents to the dollar of their white counterparts? Is it that providing a livelihood costs a great deal more in “the hood” where there are 3 liquor stores on every other block, and no supermarkets, just corner stores with a much high markup on goods sold than in neighborhoods where there is less melanin? If there is racism in people, then one must admit there is racism in real estate, city planning, social services and education. It’s difficult to pull one’s self up by their bootstraps when they are on lay-a-way at Big Lots and cost a great deal more just because one happens to be black or brown.
I’m happy for Sandra Bullock and her new son. I’m happy that a child who needed a home and someone to love was able to find one. My issue with Scott and Debbie is that I find their willingness to “do their part for humanity” disingenuous. If they wanted to truly help in Haiti, help the family of that child provide for her. Help them keep their family intact. Donate money or hightail it down to Haiti to do what can be done to rebuild and create a new infrastructure that aids the people already living there. Taking Claire out of Haiti and putting her in a nice big mini-McMansion with a pink and purple bedroom that is almost every little girl’s dream may provide joy for her in the short term, but someday she will long to know people that look like her, people that aren’t in Scott and Debbie’s circle. They are setting that child up for an unnecessary identity crisis. Keeping her in touch with her roots requires more than just the 5×7 framed photo of her biological family they have on a bookshelf in her bedroom.
While it was refreshing to see Debbie on the Oprah show segment combing and parting Claire’s hair, something that I will admit as a black woman drives me to volatility when I see black children with white parents that have no knowledge of black hair care in public. To me that says the parents live in some “color-blind” Wisteria lane imaginary land where they ignore the fact that although we are more alike than we are different, we are indeed different and those differences need to be accepted and embraced, not just merely tolerated.
I am a proponent of Inter-racial adoption. Children need homes and I don’t care your ethnicity, sexual orientation or relationship status, if you have love in your heart then by all means please help a child in need. My issue is that Clairie’s need was financial and if Scott and Debbie and others like them really wanted to help Haitian children they would do so by helping Haitian families stay intact.
My other issue is that I believe strongly that a child’s heritage and culture should never be ignored. Growing up, I came into contact with many, many, many children of color who were raised with no contact at all with other people of color. They had no knowledge of the history of people of color. They had no knowledge of any culture but dare I say it, white culture.
Parents who adopt children of color have a huge responsibility as do parents of bi-racial children. While it would be convenient for me to raise my children with only my version of tradition as a black woman, I also have to include traditions, books, events and cultural awareness of their white side. They are Mayflower descendants as well as slave descendants and I refuse to ignore that. Doing so fails to acknowledge who THEY are, so while we celebrate Juneteenth, we also acknowledge the 4th of July, a celebration of independence that didn’t include people that looked like me. I make sure they have positive role models who are every shade of the rainbow and plenty that are blends.
It’s vital to a child’s identity that they see and are surrounded by people they can relate to so they can find in themselves a roadmap for success and security.
For the record, I received an A on my research paper.