Philadelphia Inquirer: “For Adoptees, Racial Divide Still Wide”

My thanks to Ethnically Incorrect Daughter for the tip to this Philadelphia Inquirer article, For Adoptees, Racial Divide Still Wide.

I thought the article accurately described the difficulties
transracial adoptees face growing up as a person of color in a white
family and community. It’s not that we are all angry, bitter adoptees
as it’s often portrayed by adoptive parents and the media; but there
are things we adoptees face that adoptive parents, as much as they want
to understand or try to protect us from, just can’t because
they are not in our shoes. So the most helpful things that adoptive
parents can do is understand that it is difficult; that we may have feelings of split loyalty and what W.E.B. DuBois termed double consciousness. For those who are unfamiliar with "double consciousness," DuBois wrote:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness,
this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others,
of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused
contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,–an American, a Negro;
two warring souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two
warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it
from being torn asunder.

This does not mean that we don’t love our adoptive parents.

Again, I found the article interesting and validating. But what
really made me angry were the comments that followed the article. They
were racist, invalidating and demeaning. Comments like the ones after
this article villify adoptees who speak about the dark side of the
rainbow, those of us who suggest that adoption, especially when it
crosses cultural and racial divides, is more complex than "love is
enough." And it made me so frustrated that the common perception is
that adoptees should just shut up and be grateful.

Again, it is thrown into our faces that:
1) we’re better off than dying in a sqalid, awful orphanage or foster home,
2) we are so ungrateful when there are thousands of other children who would love to be in a loving adoptive home and
3) if only our people
would step up to the plate and adopt (like all of us great white people
do) then there wouldn’t be a need for transracial adoption.

The racism was incredible. Here’s what some of the commenters said:
From KD:

So is Phil B. saying he would rather grow up with out
parents at all than to have white parents? What is the system to do if
only aa [African American] people can adopt aa [African American]
children? Would it not be viewed as descrimination if we had hundreds
of orphanages for all the aa [African American] children we couldn’t
find aa [African American] homes for? . . . I think if it is such huge
issue the aa [African American] community needs to step. Adopt the kids
themselves, then they won’t be available for white families. How many
of these people who have an issue with interacial adoptions actualy
have stepped up to the plate and adopted? Very few I am sure.

And from Annan Emaus:

As an adoptive parent, I’m going to throw down the
gauntlet per se: If more African American adults were willing and able
to adopt, then there wouldn’t be a surplus of AA children going to
white homes.

And from MAH:

I think what this article neglects to say is that they do not have enough black couples to take these kids.

MAH, KD and Annan clearly have not done their homework. If they had,
they would have learned that , a 1984 survey conducted by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services found that, when adjusted for income, age and family composition, African Americans adopted at 4.5 times the rate of Caucasians (McRoy et. al, 1977). 

Additionally, a National Urban League – African American Pulse survey revealed that of 800 African American families that had applied for adoption between 1981 and 1993 only two were accepted.
Thus, the bias of adoption workers towards prospective African American
families may be a reason for a smaller pool of African American
adoptive parents.

According to McRoy, Olgesby and Grape (1997), “the failure of many traditional agencies to find African American adoptive families is being considered acceptable practice”
in order to move children quickly into permanency placements, of which
the majority are Caucasian families (these excerpts are from Considering
culture in placement decisions:Conflicting best practices for the
Indian Child Welfare Act and the Multiethnic Placement Act
, a paper I wrote in graduate school).

And here are all the ways people shame transracial adoptees for speaking about our negative experiences:

Again, from Annan Emaus (who obviously thinks s/he knows everything):

Perhaps more people need to focus on the positive- you
had parents who loved you. You had a home, and access to a great
education. You were loved, wanted, and given the last name of someone
who committed to you for your entire life, knowing full well you didn’t
"look like them". Tch tch tch. For shame always presenting the negatives so strongly.

And Sarah Jane sure was empathetic too:

Basically I’d say get over it. Stop your belly-aching. If a few snobby, elitist whites don’t accept you, find some that do. If a few uneducated, ghetto-fabulous blacks don’t accept you, find some that do.

I think this only proves we have a long, long way to go.

Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

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