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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Adoption: Divinely Inspired and Culturally Informed

To wrap up November, which is in National Adoption Month, we revisit Sherie Mungo's compelling testimony, exploring her experiences with adoption. This is the second of a two-part series (originally published 11/27/11).

In my previous post, I ended with the question of whether or not my parents' response to my first racist experience would have been different had they not been Black. Let me first respond to this by saying that I think that all adoption is a labor of love and has the ability to transcend race. Hence, I believe that anyone who finds a place in their hearts to love and cherish abandoned children as their own is fulfilling Jesus’s foremost command to “love your neighbor as your self.” In this context, it doesn’t matter whether the kid you adopt is white, black, pink or silver; what matters is that you show them Christ’s love.

However, adoption does not occur in a cultural vacuum, and adoptive parents cannot always protect their children from the sins of society, such as racism. No matter how much my parents loved me, they couldn’t stop the cruel name calling at the park, or the painful isolation from social events because I was the only “Black kid.” These harsh realizations left my parents feeling angry and helpless, as they would any parent.

Adoptive parents must also realize that despite their Christian intentions, they have internalized worldly biases themselves. While these biases may be unconscious, unawareness doesn’t make their manifestation any less hurtful; in fact, ignorance may make it worse. Yes, even my Black parents exhibited certain aspects of intra-racism that were influenced by their own experiences in the world. They could not escape society’s subliminal messages about race.

If my Black parents were not immune to racial deception that is in the world, I think that we must question how resistant White parents of Black (or any minority) children are to the same temptation. As previous authors have argued on this blog, White parents may succumb to the falsely complacent belief that race doesn’t matter. 

I believe they are partly correct in this argument; race shouldn’t matter. But it does. It matters within the recesses of your own heart, and it matters in society. For example, if your Black child tells you he or she is being excluded from social events, your response will illustrate what you internally believe about race, and how you perceive its manifestation in the external world. White parents must be made fully aware of both these reactions before they can hope to raise a well-rounded minority child. As in my situation, the way that parents react to racist situations will influence how a child will view race for the rest of their lives.

White reactions to minority difficulties is not the only aspect of race and adoption I wish to speak on. As stated in my first post, there was another event that made me ponder race and adoption. I was giving my adoption testimony to a White friend when she asked me “So, are your parents black?” “Of course they are! What else would they be?” was my indignant reply. Her sheepish response has stuck with me since: “Well, you know, a lot of Black kids are adopted by White parents.” 

As I pondered her statement, I begin to think about what this means for minority adoption. Do White people adopt more than minorities? This is a complex question that requires a complex answer. I think we must first understand that the answer is located in cultural norms and values. Minorities (please know that I speak from a Black point of view) tend to do familial and communal adoptions. In other words, they take in children from their own families and communities. This may not be “official” adoption, but the function is often the same.

Yet White parents get magnified as the givers of grace to minority children because of the societal emphasis on a formal procedure. I think it’s safe to say that this preference is rooted in notions of White patriarchy and superiority. To combat this, we need to legitimize these variant forms of adoption.

I do want to close by saying that Black children would greatly benefit from formalized adoption by Black parents. Giving a Black child not only your cultural perspective but official name and place in society is priceless. While there is nothing wrong with taking in kids unofficially, there is something special about officially adopting a child; I should know.

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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