I have mixed feelings on transracial adoption. A lot of people might say that all women should be able to mother children of any race, but I wouldn’t be so quick to agree. Why not? I could point to any number of racial issues in the United States right now, and most all of them can serve as proof that white America doesn’t understand or even care to learn about the issues within the black community. Seeing as black boys and girls are part of the black community whether raised by white parents or not, it’s concerning to imagine these children entering into society as adults after spending the first eighteen years of their lives being raised by people with no knowledge of black history, or people who perhaps never took the time to learn how to do their daughter’s hair.
The first problem I see with transracial adoption is the kind of inherent, subconscious racism that a lot of white folks harbor toward blacks. When I say this, I am not referring to any kind of mean-spirited, purposeful racism amongst whites. Nor do I think that unconscious racism will result in white parents treating their black adopted children poorly. I simply believe that this kind of racism comes from a lack of exposure to the black community, and is therefore rooted in ignorance, not hatefulness. Your average white couple has not spent any time living in a neighborhood in which whites were not the majority of residents, nor do they plan to start their family in an environment where people don’t look like them. If anything, white couples get most of their information on blacks from movies and popular media. And we all know how inaccurate these depictions are.
This presents a serious problem. For one, their child is going to have to grow up in a place where he or she always stands out, is always labeled with otherness. To make matters worse, the parents, who are often children’s number one source of information, will be totally incompetent when their children ask for help in understanding race. Some white parents may even see this as unnecessary. And it’s not that the white parents mean any harm, they simply do not think about race because the systems of power in the society we live in do not oppress whiteness. Meanwhile, black parents have long undergone the difficult task of preparing their children to survive in a racist society.
While the white parents may not view their own adopted black children differently because of their race, the same cannot be said for how these parents view other blacks. Unconscious racism and ignorance make it very likely that white couples will maintain racist stereotypes against blacks whether they are aware of it or not. This means that just because they have a black daughter, does not mean that they no longer look at black women around them and see Mammies, Jezebels, and Sapphires. It should be obvious how problematic it is for a white couple to raise their baby girl into a young black woman while they still impose these stereotypes on other black women.
Lastly, transracial adoption is never okay when it takes the form of the white savior (e.g. the Madonnas and the Angelina Jolies of the world). I really don’t feel that I need to explain why this is a problem. We all get enough of the white savior complex in popular media and our everyday interactions.
The bottom line is that we do not live in a society in which all lives are treated equally. Perhaps if we did, then transracial adoption would be no problem. But when black lives continue to be treated as less important, and whites continue to deny it (aka “All Lives Matter”), how can white couples be fit to raise black children? The answer is that most cannot. I would never argue that transracial adoption should not happen at all, I only mean to say that a lot of people misunderstand the issue. White couples who have some experience living in multicultural environments or who have extensive knowledge of cultural histories may be very fit to raise nonwhite children. But the problem is that most whites do not have these things, and it is therefore a mistake to assume that all whites are capable of raising nonwhite children.