The reader who sparked the debate on heritage writes:
Following up on all the hackles raised by the original post, I of course, instinctively feel the need to defend myself, however futile that may be. (While I appreciate this reader's perspective, they still imply that we are closet racists.)
I think it's fairly useless to debate personal bigotry with strangers - like beating your head against a wall, really. You say you aren't (look at all these great examples!) and someone else says you are (but what about X, Y, and Z?) and, well, that wall is not getting any less hard.
So I will just point your readers to one of the main sources of training our agency provided, namely the Struggle for Identity videos here. My examples, besides being easily caricatured (who knew "kim-chee example" would resonate?), were merely the tip of the iceberg for the individuals (transracial adoptees) who tell their stories in these videos, and I encourage your readers to give them their due. (I realize there's only a preview, summary, and comments without purchasing the DVD, but I think a number of adoption agencies offer training using this DVD; also see a few clips on YouTube.)
I also recently came across a very interesting Time article on trans-racial adoption from 2008. In it, some experts say we have really moved into an era where race doesn't matter, a post-racial world. I think it sounds great but is not actual reality in most places. From the article:
"All adopted children face challenges with being adopted," says R. Richard Banks, a Stanford Law professor and author of The Color of Desire: Fulfilling Adoptive Parents' Racial Preferences through Discriminatory State Action. "To some people, saying we want children to develop a positive identity means a positive racial identity. But it could be a good thing not to have a strong racial identity. The difference is a reflection of our beliefs about what black people should be and what white people should be."
Banks likens the debate over transracial adoption to the question of whether same-sex couples can be suitable parents. "It is true that [the children of gay couples are] more likely to experiment sexually when they're older, and they're less likely to be he-men or girly girls. But you could argue that that's a good thing to not have such starkly defined gender differences. It's a question of what counts as a good sexual identity." Treating parents differently because they want to adopt across racial lines would suggest "there's something abnormal about transracial adoption," says Banks, adding, "mostly these issues reflect our own anxieties about seeing mixed-race families."
I really don't agree with Banks, though. The fact that we don't feel prepared to parent transracially absolutely does not mean we think there's "something abnormal" about it. In fact, we are ourselves a mixed race couple and so, if we do adopt an Asian child, one of us will be a transracial parent. But since the other parent is Asian (half), however, we do feel equipped to connect the child with his or her Asian roots. It would not be different if we had close family or friends who were of a different race; we would feel equipped to connect a child of that race to his or her _____ roots as well. The article ends with something I do agree with:
Still, says Adam Pertman, executive director of the Donaldson Institute, we're doing a disservice to children if we try to ignore those racially based anxieties. "We just want to assess whether people are ready to parent a child who's going to face racism," he says. "Helping kids feel comfortable in their own skin leads to better outcomes." That can certainly be accomplished by finding the best parents for the children who need them regardless of race, but also by supporting adoptive families with consideration for their ethnic make-up. Says Pertman: "Nobody's saying black kids shouldn't have white parents, but does anybody really think we live in a fully color-blind society? It's a nice ideal but it's not reality."
In closing, I'd just say that our feelings on this are continuing to evolve. It's very possible that sometime in the near future we will open ourselves up to more races and thereby commit to connecting our future child to those cultures as best we can. But if you listen to the stories from the adult adoptees in the videos I linked above, according to them, we'd be doing a disservice to that child if we didn't already have strong connections to a community in that culture.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.