A reader protests:
I hope you like the taste of worms, because you’ve opened a big ol’ can of them with excerpt of Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza’s piece on the adoption of African-American children overseas. There are several things in that article that I can see Dish readers vociferously debating – like the citation to an unnamed legal scholar who thinks Western Europe is a less racist place to raise a black child – but I want to focus on her implication that domestic adoptions in the United States ought to be colorblind.
While there is no doubt that the overwhelming number of African-American children in the foster care system is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed, I disagree with Buckwalter-Poza’s suggestion that we can help solve this problem by dismissing cultural competency concerns in transracial adoption applications.
Firstly, as a historical note, she doesn’t mention that a major reason for the mid-20th century backlash against transracial adoptions was because of programs like the Indian Adoption Project, where Native American children were taken from their communities and deliberately placed with white adoptive parents in order to mainstream them (and give them ostensibly “better” lives). This was widely perceived by Native American tribes as an effort to stamp out their language and culture, and when transracial adoption proponents turned to African American children in need of families, there was wariness that this was going to happen to the black community next.
Secondly, whether we like it or not, raising a minority child in a white-centered, prejudiced society today is still a complicated task – one that is made even more fraught if parents are ignorant of or unwilling to address the effects that a child’s race will have on how he or she is treated by society. Parenting a minority child is always going to be different in some regards from parenting a white child, so why shouldn’t the ability of prospective families (regardless of their race) to navigate those issues be considered as part of the adoption vetting process? Whether it’s having the skills to properly care for black hair, knowing where to find resources for your Chinese child who asks about his/her heritage, or knowing when and how to engage in “The Talk” with your African-American kid (something that I as an Asian person was completely ignorant about until Trayvon Martin), having cultural awareness is hugely important.
To be clear, I definitely do not think that any parents should be out of the running for adopting a child simply because they are of a different race, nor do I assume that cultural competency is automatically present so long as a prospective parent is the same race as the child. I am saying, however, that getting rid of that consideration entirely (as opposed to, say, beefing up cultural competency training and support for transracial adoptive parents) is a mistake.