Color-blind Adoption

[Tim Lee]

A friend points out this post, which flags this depressing story on trans-racial adoption. The law sensibly prohibits adoption officials from taking race into account in placing children in adoptive families. Given that children in foster care are disproportionately black and adoptive parents are disproportionately white, this rule almost certainly works to the benefit of black kids. Yet inexplicably, a variety of adoption advocacy organizations, including the National Association of Black Social Workers, opposes color-blind adoption rules. Indeed, a 1972 statement by the NABSW took "a vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason," and stated:

We fully recognize the phenomenon of transracial adoption as an expedient for white folk, not as an altruistic humane concern for black children. The supply of white children for adoption has all but vanished and adoption agencies, having always catered to middle class whites developed an answer to their desire for parenthood by motivating them to consider black children. This has brought about a re-definition of some black children. Those born of black-white alliances are no longer black as decreed by immutable law and social custom for centuries. They are now black-white, inter-racial, bi-racial, emphasizing the whiteness as the adoptable quality; a further subtle, but vicious design to further diminish black and accentuate white. We resent this high-handed arrogance and are insulted by this further assignment of chattel status to black people

In 2005, the president of the NABSW declined to distance herself from the statement.

The language about "black as decreed by immutable law and social custom for centuries" is strikingly reminiscent of the language of Judge Leon Bazile in Loving v. Virginia, that "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents." If the prospect of black kids being raised by white parents is "high-handed arrogance" because it will "diminish black and accentuate white," couldn't the same be said of children born to inter-racial couples?

Race and culture are separate concepts. There's nothing remotely tragic about a black kid being raised with "white" cultural assumptions (or vice versa). If a black kid is raised by white parents from a young age, then the white parents' culture is the black kid's "cultural heritage." The black kid isn't missing "his" culture any more than I'm missing my culture because I speak English rather than Gaelic. This isn't to suggest that a black kids raised in white families won't encounter the occasional bigot who feels there's something wrong with white parents raising black children, but the problem there is the bigot, not the decision to allow the adoption.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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