With Amy Coney Barrett being nominated as the next supreme court justice to replace RBG, her views, actions and political leanings are being heavily scrutinized; as they should be. There’s many a thinkpiece, that has been written, on why her confirmation would be harmful, so I don’t feel the need to speak on that too.
I do, however, want to talk about something I noticed about Amy, and those in similar situations.
Amy has 7 children, two of whom, are adopted and Black. During the opening statement of her confirmation hearing, she spoke briefly about each child. She made loving remarks about her children, their unique personalities, bright futures and educational achievements and intelligence; well, all of them, besides her adopted children (and her son who has Downs Syndrome, but we’ll talk about that another day).
When she spoke about Vivian and JP, it was in terms of their physical abilities. Besides calling JP happy-go-lucky and alluding to how talkative Vivian is, the traits she assigned to her other kids; kind, loving, etc, weren’t mentioned. Amy also made it a point, to speak about their life in Haiti, before becoming a part of their family, how sick they were before and what they were liberated from. It all stood out to me immediately, and I won’t lie, I was heavy on the eye-roll.
If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re talking about transracial adoption. Specifically, when the adoptees are Black children or POC, and why it can be and often is harmful.
Let’s dig slightly deeper into Amy’s statement. It’s not by accident that she speaks of her white children in terms of their intelligence and her Black children in terms of their physical abilities. If you’re thinking “maybe her other kids are really smart and the adoptive kids aren’t,” ask yourself why that is. Might it, possibly, have something to do with the stereotypes Black people have to deal with?
Physically strong, but stupid, has been assigned to us since the days of slavery and persists today. My guess, is that this is an unconscious bias of Amy’s, and while she may not be aware of what she’s doing, Vivian and JP probably are.
Then there’s the fixation on their before life and how well they’re doing now. I need to highlight, that I’m only speaking about this, in the sense that Amy talks about it, as if it’s their entire personality. She doesn’t actually talk about them, does she? Not what they’re really into (sans Viv’s deadlifting), or what they want to do in life, or any of the ways she talks about her other children. No, she looks at them in relation to what she’s “given them.” This seems like the ultimate ” pat on the back,” she gives herself, whenever she looks at them; but hey, isn’t that the essence of white saviorism?
These types of things (and many more)are so prevalent in transracial adoptions, and according to a lot of transracial adoptees and data, contribute to significant impacts to their mental health and wellbeing. I need to specify that this is not a post against transracial adoption, but it IS a post against uniformed, unequipped and “unwilling to provide healthy homes by tackling your own biases,” transracial adoption.
*taps mic and puts on best commercial voice*
Are you or is anyone you know, considering adopting a child from a different race or ethnic background? Read these tips first:
- Research. You need to do thorough research about the culture. Not a few minutes watching Youtube videos – you need to spend hours, weeks, months even, fully dedicating yourself to getting this education. I HATE when people compare Black people and POC to dogs/animals, but framing it like this, seems to be one of the only ways to get through to some of ya🙄 – so, think about the level of knowledge you acquire when considering a dog breed to add to your family, do that x10. * Reminds me of that meme regarding clean water in Flint. Went a little something like, “has anyone tried telling white people that there are dogs is Flint, MI? That might get them to care” SIgh.*
- You need to have some kind of plan that allows them to learn about(if need be), be a part of (continue to be a part of) and celebrate their heritage/culture.
- Realize that your soon-to-be child, will be perceived as whatever race they are by society, and likely treated as such. You need to be fully prepared to equip them with the tools to handle this reality.
- Know that trying to raise them as a “white person” (yes, this is a thing that happens often) is not only a fruitless endeavor, but harmful. Doing so could enhance the identity crises, that so many adoptees have, possibly spur self-hate and put them in dangerous situations. This also means, that you need to reinforce the importance of their culture, in your home. Give them the space and freedom to express that, themselves.
- This seems so simple, but find out about the appropriate hair care. This especially applies to the parents of Black adoptees. Take them to a Black salon/barber. Yes, even if it’s on the Black side of town. The type of pride your child will have, when they see what their hair looks like, when well taken care of, is unmatched. If you did #1 right, then you’d know that the salon/barbershop, is often a right of passage and incredibly significant to their culture. If you care about #2, then you’d realize that this is a great way to help them hold on to their culture.
- You will have conversations about race. A lot of them, and some are probably going to be uncomfortable. Do not. Do. Not. DO NOT refuse to have tough conversations.
- You need to be ready, willing and open, in the likely event, that your child experiences racism. Be ready to make some mf’n noise, cause waves and go to bat for them. Also, be ready to take a more behind the scenes role, if that’s what’s asked of you. Make sure they know that they can talk to and come to you. Try not to take it personally, if they instead, would like to talk to someone who can relate.
- Although embracing differences is necessary, it cannot be the only thing you focus on. There’s a fine line between embracing and othering.
- Even if you do all the “right ” things, they may still distance themselves from their culture for varying reasons. All you can do, is try to support them and help them work through any issues, that may be contributing factors.
- You might want to think about moving into a diverse neighborhood and making sure your children attend diverse schools. Being the only Black or POC at school, can have far-reaching consequences; including intense race-related bullying.
- Get them into therapy, with someone who specializes in adoptions, children/adolescents and issues involving self-identity and race.
- Check your own biases. Throw away the notion that you’re “one of the good ones.” Instead, reaffirm the fact that you are someone who is aware of the racist society, in which we all live. Acknowledge that you probably have biases and actively work to dismantle them.
- Take your white savior mentality, ball it up, pour a little liquor on it, light it and throw it in the trash. You hear me? This perpetuates the “white is right” trope and the “Black people and POC NEED white people to save them trope.
- Don’t treat your child as a prop to show off or as a way to to gain cookies for your “selfless act of rescuing them from savagery.” Don’t parade them or their stories around, as some type of trauma porn.
- Talk to your friends, family, neighbors and anyone in your circle, who will be in your child’s life. Make sure they know, that snide comments, passive or overt racism and discrimination will NOT be tolerated. They need to do the work too, and if not, they should not be in your child’s life.
- Don’t tell your child, or any Black person or POC, for that matter, that you don’t see race or that you’re color-blind. This also goes for that saying, you know, “I don’t care if you’re Black, white or purple with polka dots.” It’s dismissive and just ain’t true. Keep that in the drafts.
- Understand that adoptions can be challenging and transracial adoptions even more so. If you are not committed to tackling this head-on, in a healthy way, you need not go forward with the adoption.
I’m not entirely certain, but I imagine this is similar when the adoptee is a POC; but whenever a Black child is placed with an adoptive/foster family that is white, our community raises an eyebrow. Because it is SO prevalent for them to cause significant damage to the adoptees’ wellbeing. In addition, there’s a pretty popular opinion that white people should not adopt children of other races/ethnicities. Yes, you read that right. This isn’t on some prejudice(notice I said prejudice, not racism, because of power structures) type of stuff, but on a self-preservation, survival tip. This is echoed and cosigned by a lot of (here’s my semi-frequent reminder not to say “not all,” it is implied) transracial adoptees and people who have been involved in the process.
For reference, adoptees, in general, are about 4x more likely to commit suicide. Transracial adoptees, while I haven’t been able to find an exact number, are said to be even more likely.
Depression and low self-esteem, have a high probability in adoptees. Transracial and transethnic adoptees, have been found to have an increased risk; suffering from issues related to ethnic identity development.
In-family racism is prevalent in transracial adoptions, resulting in expansive needs for mental health-related care, and affecting their quality of life.
Before it’s said, I do have to address this commonly stated comment:
“White people wouldn’t need to adopt kids of other backgrounds, if their communities would do a better job of taking care of them.”
Let me stop you right there. In Black communities, we may not have formal adoptions as much, but most of us have a cousin, close family friend, or just someone from the neighborhood, that our mamas, grandmas or aunties took in and raised. We adopt kids all the time, we just do it communally. I know that Latinx, Hispanic and Indigenous communities, do this often as well. Acting as though we don’t take care of our own, is just not what we finna do
Now, there are people/orgs, that say there is not an increased risk of anything, in transracial adoptions. Which is contrary to everything I’m saying, the studies say and the lived experiences of quite a few adoptees.
I have to wonder if those people, have any knowledge of race, systemic oppression and societal structures in America; cause they’re either willfully obtuse or plain ‘ole full of shit, if they believe that kids are coming outa this society, unimpacted. Immersion in whiteness, due to transracial adoptions, isn’t the cure-all for that.
Raising a child that is not biologically yours, is often an incredible act of love and selflessness – but I need people to remember, that when you take on a child of another background, you are taking on a whole human, with specific needs, identities and inherent challenges due to the society, in which we all live in. You have to approach this with a level of sensitivity, care and genuine concern, that is, unfortunately, far too often not examined. We’re simply gonna need y’all to do better.
When JanayB isn’t posting memes, scrolling through “wokebook” posts, ordering food and otherwise being your typical millennial, you can find her here destroying white tears and basking in her unapologetic blackness. Get in touch with her at JanayBsays@gmail.com.