Article Response – Its Not Just about White Parents
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
South End Press
South End Press Announces
Transracial Adoption: It’s Not Just About White Parents
Cambridge, MA – Aug 17, 2006 In today’s New York Times the frontpage headline “Breaking Through Adoption’s Racial Barriers” introduces an in-depth article about white
Americans who have–or are looking to–adopt children of color. But in the inches devoted to the “growing number of white couples pushing past longtime cultural resistance to adopt black children,” we find a series of unasked questions: Why are the so many children of color available for adoption in the first place, both in the US and abroad? How does transracial adoption affect adopted children of color–and their communities? Here and elsewhere, the voices of transracially adopted individuals fall to the margins, voices that are essential to a genuine understanding of this complex issue.
Jeni Wright paints some of the missing picture with her words: “I lean over the sink so my nose is almost touching the glass and mouth to the ugly girl staring back, you look like an ugly African bush girl, over and over until my breath clouds over my face. I start to write ‘jungle bunny’ in the steam but I am crying too hard to finish. Why hadn’t anyone told me I was so ugly? I don’t even look like a real girl” (Outsiders Within, 27).The difficulties of transracial adoption go far beyond self-esteem, far beyond cultural literacy, infinitely deeper than individual discomfort. As Kim Diehl writes in Outsiders Within, transracial adoption is inextricable from long-standing power imbalances that extend from the personal to the institutional. “I did not have any power in the decision to seal my records; I did not have any power in the decision to take federal money away from social service programs that might have prevented family breakup; I did not have any power in the decision to make it a child placement agency policy to ignore race; I did not have any power to keep from being the physical embodiment of a political process that stamped its approval on transracial adoptions in a country founded on the enslavement and oppression of people of color” (32). Also entirely overlooked is the harm incurred before each transracial adoption ever took place. As Shannon Gibney, a biracial black adult adoptee, puts it, “Once again, the focus is all on the white adoptive parents, and their pain. Once again, adoptees are presented as objects, as children who apparently never grow up, and therefore do not have the capacity to analyze the geopolitical issues that have shaped their identities. Once again, we don’t hear the voices of birth parents or adult adoptees.” Gibney goes on, “As this article presents it, the only people who are really affected by adoption are white adoptive parents and agencies.
“Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption tells a different story. Where the Times reports “More than 45,000 black children were waiting to be adopted from foster care in 2004,” contributor Dorothy Roberts explains that the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, passed to “break through adoption’s racial barriers” has resulted in more black children being permanently severed from their families, adding to the growing list of waiting children. Sure, more white families have access to black children. But at what cost? People are led to believe that because more white families can adopt, that means more black children will have families. The opposite is true. In reality, there are now more black children than ever who will never have a family, stuck permanently in foster care limbo. As the Times reports “in 2004 … about 4,200 [black children from foster care] were adopted transracially … up from roughly 14 percent, or 2,200 in 1998.” In other words, of the 45,000 black children then needing homes because, under federal mandate, the state permanently severed them from them their families of origin (often including grandparents willing and able to care for them),white people adopted 9 percent. The Times quotes Rita Simons, a leading advocate of white adoption of children of color, as saying that this “is a significant increase,” even though what has increased most significantly is the private adoption of black infants placed immediately for adoption, not the adoption of children who have been removed from their former homes for legitimate reasons, let alone the legions removed for the number one reason black, Latino, and Native American children are removed–poverty. Writes Roberts, “the number of white families adopting older children of color, those most ‘in need’ of adoptive homes, remains very low. These children are most likely to be adopted by single Black women” (Outsiders Within, 53). Advocates of transracial adoption frame the debate as one that is about the rights of black children to homes, and making it possible for white parents to provide them. As Outsiders Within reveals, the issue is far more complex. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
About Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
Healthy white infants have become hard to locate and expensive to adopt. So people from around the world turn to interracial and intercountry adoption, often with the idea that while growing their families, they’re saving children from destitution. But as Outsiders Within reveals, while transracial adoption is a practice traditionally considered benevolent, it often exacts a heavy emotional, cultural, and even economic toll. Through compelling essays, fiction, poetry, and art, the contributors to this landmark publication carefully explore this most intimate aspect of globalization. Finally, in the unmediated voices of the adults who have matured within it, we find a rarely-considered view of adoption, an institution that pulls apart old families and identities and grafts new ones.Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption
Jane Jeong Trenka, Julia Chinyere Oparah, and Sun Yung Shin, editors
(South End Press, 2006) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
About South End Press: South End Press is a nonprofit, collectively run book publisher with more than 250 titles in print. Since our founding in 1977, we have tried to meet the needs of readers who are exploring, or are already committed to, the politics of radical social change. Website: http://www.southendpress.org
Available for interviews:
Shannon Gibney, Sun Ying Shin, Julia Chinyere Oparah (contributors to Outsiders Within and transracial adoptees) and Asha Tall (publisher at South End Press and a transracial adoptee) are all available for comments and interviews.
South End Press