Racial Motivations

The Washington Post of December 24 ran an op-ed by David Nicholson, Why Doesn't White Adopt Black? In the article, Nicholson wonders if the adoption of Asian children by white adoptive parents might be construed as a racist attitude. He asks, with so many African American children in need of permanent families, would prospective adoptive parents choose to adopt from other countries. And although he acknowledges a number of pragmatic reasons why this is the case, he raises the racial attitudes of adoptive parents as one possible reason.

The article, in my opinion, was a simplistic view of a complicated subject, and Nicholson is clearly no expert. However, his perspective on the role of race in intercountry adoption deserves consideration. Soul-searching, serious consideration.

Yet here are just a few of the comments I read from white adoptive parents in the comments to the article and a letter to the editor:

From the adoptive father of a little girl from China:

In the domestic arena, there is a dominant trend toward open adoption, in which birth parents have continued access to adopted children. Merits (or lack thereof) notwithstanding, we viewed this arrangement as 18 years of potential extortion, especially given court cases in which the adoption was reversed after the birth parents changed their minds and sued for reestablishment of parental rights. Foreign adoptions have no such worry.

From a non-adoptive parent:

If I were in a position to adopt and wanted to do so, I would go out of the country pronto. There is far less stress, baggage and angst involved. People will not be coming out of the woodwork a year later, looking to reclaim their little cherub.

These comments are are an example of much that's wrong with intercountry adoption - the entitled attitude toward another country's children, incredible disrespect toward first parents, and disregard for first parent rights. The expressed fear of first parents is used to rationalize the racial considerations altogether. And the sense that the children are simply pawns, there to fulfill adoptive parent dreams, is pervasive.

It disappoints me that the Washington Post, which certainly has the resources to do some serious journalism on adoption, chose to run this article instead. It disappoints me even more that some adoptive parents so totally missed the point and responded as they did.

We have a long way to go.

I'll be posting my thoughts on the racial perspective on AntiRacist Parent soon.


Mom2One said…
Oh my.

Well, I am a Caucasian (as is my husband) who is parenting an Asian child. I stand accused, I guess. Our reasons aren't those that Mr. Nicholson pointed out, nor are they those that the respondent indicated. It's disheartening, though, to read yet another international adoptive parent use that reason. GAH!! Oh yes, there's a long ways to go.

I was directed to your truly wonderful site by kim. And glad to read such wonderful words. :)

I have an Asian sister-in-law and two 1/2 Asian nieces. My son is in very good company in his extended family. Only a few of the reasons we chose Asia. :)

- Judy
Jenna said…
Yep. That's why I chose J&D. So I could spend 18 years extorting.

mia said…
Oh it makes me so sad. I lived with my head in the sand that this sort of mentality even existed. That is until I had an adoptive parent tell me they went for international adoption so as to avoid having ANY ties to their child's origin. As though flying over the ocean magically erases that fact. So so sad.
Hoo boy those comments are really something. (On the Post article, I mean, not on your blog.) So defensive! You hit the nail on the head when you said: "the entitled attitude toward another country's children, incredible disrespect toward first parents, and disregard for first parent rights. The expressed fear of first parents is used to rationalize the racial considerations altogether. And the sense that the children are simply pawns, there to fulfill adoptive parent dreams, is pervasive." Racism aside, the egocentric, fearful, distrustful attitude of the first parents is blaring.

I really didn't find domestic adoption of my two black (infant) sons tremendously difficult, compared to the stories I hear about how hard it is and what a long, agonizing process. It wasn't easy and it is/was painful, but not excessively so much that one should avoid it at all costs. I am perplexed as to how other adoptive parents can say it is so impossible. I am not rich or married or particularly talented. It worked out OK for us. Granted they are not teenagers yet, but I have lived through one teenage boy's emergence and I think with God's help we can do two more. Am I so uniquely blessed?
When I said "Racism aside, the egocentric, fearful, distrustful attitude of the first parents is blaring. " I meant to say the distrustful attitide of the adoptive parents toward first parents...
MomEtc. said…
You know, I would have though the author was spot on regarding racist attitudes toward African Americans being the reason adoptive parents frequently choose to adopt from China, Korea, etc. However, like you say it is way more complicated. I know that with China changing its rules regarding who may adopt, many prospective adoptive parents have started inquiring about programs in Ethiopia.

I think fear of a birthparent coming at a later date to recalim there child is probably the greatest fear that internaitonal adoptive parents have, as is highlighted so well by the quotes you present. I can speak personally that when I considered all of my options, I knew that I could not emotionally handle the way the American system is set up.

For example we thought about foster-adopting, but I heard so many stories from friends about social workers arbitrarily removing a child from a home where he/she is very happy and the parents wished to adopt the child. If we were going to choose domestic adoption, I would feel morally compelled to choose an open adoption. And, I've heard of cases where it works wonderfully. But, I've also heard of cases from friends involved in open adoption where the situation is not working out (for any of a number of reasons). And, yes, I admit that I'd be deathly afraid that I would have the child in my home for an extended period of time, come to love the child as my own and then have someone step in at a later date and take the child back. I'm human, I have emotions. If a woman thought for one second that she may want to reclaim her child at a later date, I'd do everything possible to dissuade her from placing the child in the first place. I feel that many American adoptions really don't have to happen at all.

If not for international adoption, I probably would have simply remained childless.
Mama Nabi said…
This phenomenon breaks my heart... even during my teenage years, volunteering at a Korean orphanage, I was always aware of the babies/toddlers being someone else's biological love. I think the word "motivations" is one of the key words to this... what motivates someone to adopt. Is it to fulfill one's own void or to fulfill a void in a child's life?
Perhaps I am speaking out of turn, since I do have a biological daughter, but whenever I consider the possibility of adopting some day, I do it with an awareness that my adopted child will have that one void - a natural/biological longing for his/her birth parents - that I would never be able to fill, no matter what.
In that sense, in the best interest of that child, an open adoption IS the ideal route... as long as the birth parents are also willing to be in the child's life. Isn't that what we, as parents, want for our children? For them to have the best of both worlds, for them to feel connected to their biological roots as well, to know where they came from?
Anonymous said…
I think we haven't even touched on where a person might truly feel "called" to in terms of where they adopt from.. which is just another piece of the puzzle. I feel somewhat offended by comments that I am racist for not adopting an African American child in the US (if anyone saw Paula Zahn on CNN a week ago). I was married to a Chinese man and we were 3 months from referral... the center of my life became our future family. Now, as a single, I am just completing that dream. To be honest, I've wanted to adopt from China since high school... and I feel intimately tied to the loss my child will suffer, never knowing her biological parents, which is another reason I feel so compelled to adopt from there- what better parent than one that can be truly present in their child's own grief? My hope is that China will one day change this and allow children adopted from there to find their biological parents. And, just to note, I am by no means closed to the possibility of adopting in this country, though for whatever reason, you do hear stories that it is far more difficult to adopt a baby in the US, especially if you are single.
Anonymous said…
Gosh this is complex. Sure, some of it is racism. Is there anything in our society that isn't touched by racism? or sexism? He is being simplistic. And somewhat egotistical. The situation in the US of kids waiting for adoption is devastating - horrifying - tragic. There are many, many older children, babies with health problems, sibling groups etc. etc. Many of us Aps just want a baby. I did. So did all my AP friends. Infertility, secondary infertility, health risks lead us to make or add to our family through adoption. But we wanted a (healthy) baby and the US system doesn't easily allow for that.

The fears that AP's have about 1st parents in the US coming back to take back their child...well I read somewhere that something like 50% or 60% of domestic adoptions are disrupted this way. AGH! The fact is, the powers that be DON'T WANT THIS KNOWN. Who can handle THAT risk?? Not me.

There is also the notion that East Asians are "the other white meat." Many APs don't seem to understand how VERY distictly differently an East Asian will be perceived by others AND themselves from their white family, even if the adoptee is "almost white."

I'm Korean. Dh is White. We adopted a Korean child because I wanted a baby who looked like me. (I'll admit I didn't want a black child, but I didn't want a white child either!) Is that racist?? Isn't it...um...natural? primal? I believe an adopted child raised in a family that looks like him/her CAN reduce ONE source of anxiety for that child. Am I off base here??

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