Imperatives for Whites Who Adopt Black Children

It is imperative that Whites adopting Black Children:

  • Have Black friends, adults as well as children. Also other interracial adoptive families.
  • Realize that in matters of race and culture you will learn the most about parenting your child from Black parents and other cultural guides.
  • Attend integrated schools. Volunteer in your child’s classroom. Become known throughout the school. Your family becomes “normalized” the more people are used to you.
  • Live in an integrated community. Stay in one community so that your child and you don’t have to keep starting over. Important: Be prepared to move if it means a more affirming environment for your child.
  • Use Black professional and other services. Find Black baby sitters and other family helpers.
  • Learn how to take good care of your child’s skin and hair.
  • Have Black literature, children’s books, periodicals, toys, games, artwork in your home. Learn and share with your children Black history and important current and cultural events.
  • Participate in Black activities in your community (church, community centers, fairs, celebrations). Visit big cities with large African-American populations, museums, theater.
  • Be clear with yourself and your child as to her/his racial identity. Your child is Black or African-American whether or not s/he has one white parent or relative. (“Biracial” is a notion of importance to adoptive parents and social workers more than anyone else, and ambivalence–yours or your child’s–will not foster positive self-esteem.) You and your child are minorities. You are forever a minority family.
  • Be active in social change groups/issues, e.g. affirmative action (teachers, police, firefighters, etc.). Be prepared to–and do–intervene or speak up when wrongs occur.
  • Remember, your advocacy is not only for your own child but also for all children and people of color as well as other oppressed groups. What happens to any Black kid in your school or community happens to your kid.
  • Be an anti-racist racist. Understand why we are racists as long as we benefit from a racist system. Talk about racism. Let your child know through your words and your actions that you are part of the struggle.
  • Ask for help, and keep learning! Read, talk to people, and be alert to anything that will help you better affirm your child, support her/his development, and become a better anti-racist. Teach what you learn, by example and by sharing what you know with others.
  • Find ways for your child to learn and understand that s/he is part of the Black community. Accept and understand that not all of her/his activities will–or ought to–include you.
  • Always know whose side you’re on. Do not tolerate racist acts or statements. The hurt and damage are just as great even if the acts or statements are based on ignorance or were not done maliciously.
  • Learn how to choose your battles. You can’t do everything.

A point that is not emphasized in studies and articles on transracial adoption is the issue of self-esteem as compared to group-esteem. As whites we can help our children to grow up feeling good about themselves, but the bigger, more difficult challenge is to help them to grow up feeling good about Blacks generally and about themselves as part of that group. Will our children not only self-identify as Blacks but also group-identify? Will they grow up caring about what happens to Blacks as a group and feel part of the struggle on behalf of all Blacks?

The lack of group identity is a major fear among Black social workers concerning transracially adopted children in white families–the siphoning off of Black kids who then identify with whites and don’t feel any sense of responsibility for dealing with what’s happening to the group of Blacks–Black kids who don’t know they are, or don’t feel like, a “brother” or “sister” and don’t care about it anyway.

Supporting positive group identity is a major part of our job as white parents of Black kids. Failure to do that is a legitimate and appropriate concern for Blacks, including those who oppose transracial adoption.

Source: Judith Ashton,  former Executive Director of the New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children

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