Relationships

Race Matters: “As a White Woman, Can I Adopt a Black Child?”

Christine Pride

Welcome to the third Race Matters advice column, featuring the wonderful Christine Pride. Today, a reader is asking about adoption…


Dear Christine,

In college, I decided if I ever had kids, I would want to adopt, and thankfully I have a supportive partner who feels the same. Over the years, however, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the child welfare system and how a disproportionate amount of BIPOC children are removed from their homes. I’ve wondered if it’s right to adopt at all, and if we do adopt, if it is wrong to adopt a BIPOC child. We are both white, and I have been learning that BIPOC children who grow up in homes with white parents often experience racial trauma from their adoptive family. I know if we did adopt a child of a different race, we would need to be hyper-intentional about our community to make sure that they would grow up with friends, leaders, teachers and hairstylists who are their same race. They would need to see us have meaningful relationships with people who are not white. Still, despite all our efforts, I am not sure if it would still be appropriate. At the same time, there are higher rates of BIPOC children in foster care, so is it right to choose a white child over a BIPOC child? Is it right to not adopt because I know the system is flawed, even though there are still children stuck in the system who need a home? Should my goal be to fight to change the child welfare system so families have stronger protection — instead of adopting? I realize these are heavy questions without easy answers, but any insights would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
KB


Dear KB:

There are few more personal or profound questions than whether or not, and how, to have children, so I wanted to start by acknowledging that fact and that I’m, subsequently, approaching your thoughtful question with a lot of humility. There’s also no decision that invites more judgement or scrutiny, particularly when you deviate from the “traditional” path. I speak as someone who is “childfree by choice,” a phrase I don’t particularly love but gets the job done.

Though I don’t approach your question as a mother myself, I do have some relevant perspective in that my parents decided to become foster parents when I was in middle school and officially adopted my younger sister out of foster care when I was in college. From my personal experience, I understand foster care and adoption to be noble, complicated, challenging endeavors. And, as with everything, adding race to the mix magnifies the complexities involved.

Even though, theoretically, it should be simple, right? If a child needs a home, what does race really matter?

If a white parent offers a Black or brown child all the safety, nurturing and attention of a loving parent, isn’t that enough, especially imagining terrible alternatives that could await the child? But of course, in practice, it’s far from that straightforward, as you acknowledge in your letter.

You already recognize the most dangerous pitfall — believing that a colorblind, “love is enough” approach is enough and naively assuming the child will have no different experience in a white home as a black home. Granted this mindset often grows from the best of intentions, but nonetheless, it can be confusing — and damaging — to a child to grow up in a world where the color of their skin will have concrete (and sometimes painful) implications but they aren’t given any of the tools or support, or even just the basic acknowledgment of that fact. The result is the sort of trauma and damage you reference in your letter, and which yes, a lot of children of cross-racial adoptions do experience.

One of the most important things my Black parents did for my siblings and me was to prepare us to navigate a world in which we may be deemed inferior, stereotyped or worse. In addition to the basic requirements of parenthood, they had the added burden of building our self-esteem despite relentless insidious messages that Black kids like us weren’t as beautiful, smart or capable. They had to maintain a steady vigilance as I went to school, on playdates, traveled etc., to make sure I was as emotionally and physically protected as possible from the ever present specter of racism. And they showed me through hard-won wisdom, their examples and a steady supply of family legacy and lore, what resistance, resilience and racial pride looks like.

All of this is an intense additional burden white parents have the luxury to avoid. You will not, if you have a Black child. You will also not have the benefit of personal experience or common perspective to draw upon to help your child deal with the unique challenges of being a Black person in America. You will have to find some way to effectively and credibly convey support and understanding without having the innate connection of a shared experience. That’s a tough chasm, but not an insurmountable one. You’re already a step ahead in that your very skepticism tells me you understand how serious and important and difficult this endeavor is, and how much intention and effort it will require. You’re aware that you’ll have to have Black people in your child’s life, and not as tokens or figureheads, but true and meaningful relationships.

It will also take enormous amounts of education, intention and accountability. But even more than that it will require an openness. It’s imperative that you acknowledge your own humility and give the child a platform to share their experiences without diminishing or downplaying them. You have to make a constant effort to step outside your own experience and see the world through a different perspective: your child’s — even when that perspective is uncomfortable or painful or unrelatable.

Ultimately, the very personal choice, of whether you, as a white woman, can and should be a mother to a Black child is a matter of soul searching. My goal was to raise some vital considerations as you go about that process, and I recommend you seek out personal stories, wisdom and additional advice directly from adoptive parents and their children, too.

While working at Simon and Schuster, I had the great privilege of acquiring and editing Surviving the White Gaze by journalist and cultural critic Rebecca Carroll, which hit shelves this month, and which the Boston Globe describes as “generous, intimate, searching, and formidable, her story excavated from her core and delivered with fervor and clarity.” In this searing memoir, Rebecca chronicles her experience as a Black child raised in an all-white family and community. And when I say “all white,” I’m not exaggerating — she didn’t see her first Black person until she was six years old.

Needless to say, Rebecca is well equipped to speak on this topic from deeply personal and hard won experience, so let’s hear from her, too.

Two-for-one advice special this month!

Thanks,
Christine


Hi KB,

The part of your question that stood out to me the most is this: “Should my goal be to fight to change the child welfare system so families have stronger protection — instead of adopting?”

Because here’s the thing, if these two ideas are mutually exclusive in your mind, then you’re maybe not ready to adopt a BIPOC child. Being a white parent to a Black child, or any child at all, should always include fighting to change a wildly unfair child welfare system. To be sure, the stakes are higher when your adopted child, or potential adopted child, is among the demographic that is most disproportionately affected.

The other thing, though, is that the framing of “a goal” to fight “instead of adopting” makes parenting feel like a parenthetical here. Parenting is not about setting goals, in my mind, although it is very much about fighting — for fairness, empathy, safety and clarity, in your own family and the world around us. Setting a goal in this context seems transactional, when what your child needs is a cohesive and fluid family narrative.

That transactional part I have found to be very common among white adoptive parents of Black children specifically — think Diversity & Inclusion programs applied to parenting: find a Black dance teacher or hair person (make a Black hire), check, find a Black doll (the token Black History Month project), check, hang a poster of Serena Williams (aspirational image of Our Greatest Black People), check.

As Christine said, if you adopt a Black child, “you will have to find some way to effectively and credibly convey support and understanding without having the innate connection of a shared experience.” Christine is perhaps more optimistic than I am that it is not an insurmountable chasm. Because given how long it has taken white America to even begin to fully grasp the deadly depths and relentless repercussions of systemic racism, and with the advantage of my own experience as the Black adopted child of two very loving and smart white adoptive parents who didn’t quite get it right, there doesn’t appear to be a viable blueprint for surmounting this chasm.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t create one — or work collaboratively with other adoptive parents and adoptees (mostly the latter) to figure out how to do this the right way. My advice would be to lead as much with your heart as with your brain. Love as much as you learn, and integrate that learning into how you love. Don’t read Sula by Toni Morrison because you “should” as the parent of a Black child, but because it’s brilliant and insightful and exists outside of the White Gaze. Don’t follow Black Twitter because you “should” as the parent of a Black child, but because it will make you more culturally conversant and racially aware. And so on. You can read all the “How To Be Anti-Racist” books, but the real information you need to effectively parent a Black child is and has been out there since we got here. We’ve been creating and sharing culture, telling stories, and making music and art for time immemorial. Don’t just observe or co-opt it, internalize it in a way that changes how you think… not just about race or parenting or Blackness, but about everything at its very core.

Rebecca


Thoughts? Please feel free to email Christine with any questions or feedback at racematters@cupofjo.com. Thank you!

Christine Pride is a writer, book editor and content consultant. Her debut novel, We Are Not Like Them, written with Jo Piazza, will be published by Atria in fall 2021. She lives in Harlem, New York. She also wrote the Cup of Jo post Five Things I Want to Tell My White Friends. Feel free to email her with your questions at racematters@cupofjo.com or connect with her on Instagram @cpride.

P.S. Christine tackles other race questions, and how to raise race-conscious children.

(Photo by Christine Han for Cup of Jo.)

  1. CS says...

    And now for a little break and on a light note…

    One thing ALL COJ readers can agree on (I am certain)….

    Please, please… a beauty uniform with Christine Pride! What is her beauty philosophy? How does she view ageing? Lifestyle hacks that keep her gorgeous?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Ooh great idea!

  2. As a white adoptive parent of a black son, I think these are just beautiful responses. We spend so much of our days striving to be this and provide this. This is an important description of much of a transracial adoptive parent’s role. We will never win at this. And yet. I have been profoundly changed by my son and this process. Adoption is in no way simple, but wow is it beautifully transformative, deeply painful, and absolutely profound for so many touched by it from all sides. It digs deep into all the personal and family shadows and requires so. much. healing. But even today I was brought to tears by the healing of my son. I stand exhausted and in awe, very much in the thick of love that requires so much action, for him and for our world. What a noble, broken, and beautiful cause.

    • Hannah says...

      Can I nominate this for the best comment ever? Thank you Amy for your words.

  3. Somebody's sister says...

    I’m late to the comments but this is still bothering me. The judgment in some of this thread is harsh and seems divorced from the reality that there are more kids that need homes than there are families willing to raise them. My (white) biological parents were (are) not 100% perfect, but I had a happy childhood and I’m a functional adult. I’m not a perfect parent to my biological children. No parent is. I have brother who is black who joined my family through the foster system when he was a teenager. Before our family, he was with a black foster family, but it was not a good fit for him (there was violence in that home). Going back to his family of origin was not an option unfortunately. His other option was a group home. My parents are not Christians, there was no savior complex, and no need to add to our family out of some “calling.” There was a kid who needed help, we had the space, resources, and love to offer him. We were raised to just share what you have and don’t overthink it. My parents were not 100% perfect for him, but they love him and they helped him get through college and grad school and the beginning of his career, and they still show up for him in all the ways that parents should now that he’s a adult. A lot of people here speak about the traumas of adoption, especially interracial adoption, and I can see that. I’m not saying my family didn’t cause him some trauma, I know there were microaggressions and ways in which we are still learning decades later. But the majority of my brother’s traumas happened before he ever got to our doorstep. I wish there was a perfect black family that swooped in to adopt him and care for him in all the ways he needed caring, but there simply wasn’t, and even that mythical family wouldn’t have erased the first 13 years of trauma he had. And I know that the group home – the other option he had instead of my family – certainly would not be helping him edit his resume and bringing him chicken soup and bleach wipes in his mid-30s like my mom does.

  4. Hi Christine,
    Nice article. I am a biracial adoptee, half Armenian/half white, born in 1962. Foster care for the first 4 and a half months of my life, adopted on my first birthday. Wonderful adopted family, caucasian, that encouraged me to think for myself and explore my own feelings. If you adopt a child that is not the same race as you, honor their feelings, let them express them and encourage them if they choose to learn about their birth culture. I found my birth family when I was an adult, caucasian mother rejected me after reunion, my extended Armenian family, including my father embraced me. Lots of emotional trauma on my part, but empathy from my adopted and birth family helped/helps me through. I wrote a book about this called We are all Human Beings/An Adoptee Ponders.

  5. LK says...

    This was WAY deeper than I thought and I was not prepared for it.

    Thank you for both Christine and Rebecca’s answers – this really opened a dialogue I had never thought about. I have so much to learn!

  6. Elizabeth says...

    Thank you for the discussion. This comment is not specific to the post.

    Please read the statistics about children in foster care and those who “age out.” The statistics are devastating. They have no voice.

    I would love to see a post on the topic.

  7. M says...

    I usually find the level of discourse in the CoJ comments section surprisingly nuanced for an internet comments section but I arrived here to find an overwhelming amount of defensive white women (which I guess shouldn’t surprise me). Particularly baffled by the people that think this is saying that interracial couples should not have children.

  8. Laura says...

    Hi. Adopted person here. (White person adopted into a white family.)

    I’m hearing a lot of defensiveness in this thread, from people thinking about adoption or who have adopted, mostly, but from other folks too. I’m hearing a lot of “love conquers all” rhetoric. And I’m here, as an adopted person to say, it does not. No thank you. It is not sufficient. Stop it. It’s offensive. It’s deeply upsetting.

    If reading this post made you at all defensive, that is proof that you are not ready to be an adoptive parent. To a child of any race. Period.

    It bothers me that so many of these kinds of conversations fail to center (or often even include) the voices of adoptees. We are the only ones truly qualified to speak to this. And yes, we are more qualified to speak on this than adoptive parents (many of whom lie to their children or adopt out of damaging Evangelical Christian impulses rooted in colonialism. If you’re someone who feels “called” to adopt, I’m looking at you right now. Do some soul searching.)

    I’m not saying that all adoption is bad and no one should ever adopt. I love my parents and am extremely grateful that I was adopted. But there’s also a ton of trauma. Even as a white person who was adopted into a white family, as someone who can pass as their genetic child, there were lots of mistakes that my parents made around handling my adoption that I’m still, as an adult, painfully sorting through. Now imagine how much more intense and fraught all of this is for BIPOC children adopted into white homes.

    I would be extremely grateful if, in the future, this blog could feature some content that centers adopted voices. It would be so refreshing.

    And I’m gonna go call my therapist now.

    • Christine Pride says...

      Hi Laura. Thanks for sharing your experience here. I agree it’s important to hear directly from adoptees, which is why I encouraged the letter writer to do so and why I asked Rebecca to share her thoughts. I’m so glad it opened the conversation so that adoptive parents AND adoptees (and others too) could weigh and contribute to a rich and diverse discussion here. I think all these perspectives are so valuable and underscore the complexity of the issue. Which in turn is all the more reason for folks to keep talking, listening, questioning, and soul searching. So thanks again for sharing.

    • W says...

      Thank you for sharing your extremely important thoughts Laura. This is exactly what so many need to hear. It is crazy that adoptees are so very rarely centered in conversations about adoption!! And that parents adopting are considered heroes and the children who get saved by them are so lucky and should always be grateful. Yikes. We have so much work to do regarding our society’s view on adoption. :-/

    • Laura says...

      Apologies Christine. The way I phrased my comment was not clear or fair to you. I should have lead with a huge thank you to for looping Rebecca into the discussion, and to Rebecca for her directly articulated and profoundly helpful insight. I was operating from a place of frustration after having read so many comments in this thread that seem to so totally disregard what Rebecca was saying, or to receive it with defensiveness. I was (an I still) frustrated that even when an adoptee gets centered, and even in a space like CoJ, which is usually incredible receptive and thoughtful, so many people still didn’t seem to be listening. My ask for adopted voices was rooted in the hope that maybe if more adopted stories were featured it help chip away at some of the reader’s defensivness.

    • Lynn says...

      This in particular is SO spot on, “adopt out of damaging Evangelical Christian impulses rooted in colonialism. “

    • Roxana says...

      I’d started to respond to this comment the other night, but then changed my mind. However, my mind has now been changed back for me. . .

      I’m not going to address Laura’s difficult childhood and the trauma she endured through no fault of her own, except to say that I am deeply sorry for what she (and many adoptees) have endured and are enduring. Adoption is fundamentally the result of profound brokenness; a brokenness on multiple levels, which leaves innocent children as the biggest victims.

      I will, however, address this: “damaging Evangelical Christian impulses rooted in colonialism.” This is a flat out lie and I am sick and tired of hearing it. Are Evangelical Christians perfect? We absolutely are not. Have colonialists (and racists and other evil people) dishonestly used the Bible to justify their despicable acts? Yes. But to attribute such despicable, unGodly motives to an entire religious group is not only dishonest, it’s cynical and judgmental to the core.

      As an Evangelical Christian and an advocate for vulnerable children (wherever they may be found), I can tell you that I, and thousands (if not millions) of Christians like me are motivated by multiple Biblical commandments such as:
      “care for the orphan and widow”
      “be a voice for the voiceless”
      “do justice and walk humbly with God”
      “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and of course
      “love your neighbor as yourself,” which comes second only to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. . .”

      This is all in addition to multiple statements that Christ made about children and His particular love for them.

      I would encourage anyone reading to check-out the Bible for themselves.

  9. Amy says...

    This: “It’s imperative that you acknowledge your own humility and give the child a platform to share their experiences without diminishing or downplaying them. You have to make a constant effort to step outside your own experience and see the world through a different perspective: your child’s — even when that perspective is uncomfortable or painful or unrelatable.” Wow! So important for EVERY parent to remember this–your child’s experiences matter and should be validated, whether they are your adopted child of a different race, your biological child coming out as transgender, or jeez, even your kid not following the path you think they should.

  10. Virginia says...

    All of this is incredibly insightful information. But it hurts my heart. Partially b/c of the racism that we contend with in our country and partially b/c there’s so, so many kids who need loving homes.

    Those who want to adopt are already faced with added pressures to show that they’ll be good, supportive, loving parents. The process of becoming a foster parent is rigorous, emotional and a HUGE commitment. I know people who have started that process and gave up because of the emotional toll.

    But this added pressure of “you are or may cause harm to the child you’re adopting b/c you aren’t the same color as them” is alarming. Of course adoptive parents should know about, learn from, and seek help/assistance on this subject if they plan on or seeking out a BIPOC child. However, it feels like it is being frowned upon if a white family adopts a BIPOC child? There are 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. What’s worse, a loving white family adopting a BIPOC child or them staying in the foster system?

    I’m asking, bc I’m having conversations with my husband to start the foster process. And I want to foster to adopt a child that needs a good home, regardless of race.

    • K says...

      with the best of intentions and willingness to adapt I think you can be an amazing parent

    • Olivia says...

      I think this is complicated because one reason there are so many kids in foster care is that the family court system is predatory, unjust, and racist, in a lot of the same ways that the criminal court system is. So many of the kids in foster care are the children of BIPOC parents who want more than anything else in the world to parent their children, but the state regularly deems poor BIPOC unfit to parent. Ruth Wilson Gilmore has written about this much better than I could, if you’re curious to learn more.

  11. V says...

    My brother married a bipoc woman. So their children are much darker than him. Does this line of thinking lead to the idea that mixed race couples are a problematic, too? I mean, my brother hasn’t experienced being bipoc himself, so how can he relate to his wife? Or his children? Well, I’ll tell you how. It is called empathy, and love. Now he has grown from the experience and learned, and he is a damn good father and husband to some of my favourite people In the world.

    That is how things improve in the world. By connecting, and loving, and beginning to understand each other and our experiences. Not by separating people on the basis of colour. Because when you strip it test all down, that is what is being suggested and I think it is awful.

    • K says...

      I agree!

    • Eileen says...

      Absolutely

    • Laura says...

      I’m a bit…bothered by all the folks in this comment section who are comparing interracial couples having genetic kids to cross-racial adoption. They are not comparable. A child born to parents of two different races retains access to both of those cultures, as well as access to their medical history. Adopted children (like me) don’t have that. It’s a big deal.

      I sense that some people are making this argument from a place of defensiveness and…yeah…it’s not sitting well with me.

    • M says...

      Laura – completely agree. The defensiveness – the first thing white people should be pushing down when listening to the lived experience of BIPOC – is alarming and disturbing.

    • NJ says...

      Empathy and love are the first step, but not everything; your brother has probably learned, through his empathy and love, that he will never experience what racial experience his kids do, and that he has to listen to people who do, and practice listening and validating his children’s experiences, and to help them deal with things through what he learns from other people. While biracial adoption parents have extra challenges on top of that, this is something they, too, will need to learn.
      My father is both white and a man, while I’m brown and a woman. I have so many basic, crucial life experiences that he doesn’t have. I’m lucky that he recognizes that and listens to me, and reads up and learns from other people’s experiences. And even so, sometimes it’s very hard. Please don’t disregard the work that needs to go into these processes. Love and empathy are the base of it, but not the end-all, and there’s a lot of work in the middle.

  12. Kate says...

    Oh gosh. I work as a child welfare attorney representing the social welfare agency in a major East Coast city. I appreciate all the thoughtfulness in this post. But I have so many kids on my caseload who need a loving home, who have bounced to place to place for years, who have no one to call their own. The goal of the system is first to reunify, then to place with kin or chosen family, and the law requires efforts be made toward both those things. If that’s not possible, I hate to discourage those who feel called to adoption because they may not be the perfect parent. There is truly such a need. I have some kids we recruit nationally for and still can’t find a forever home. I know there are huge structural issues in child welfare that stem from unequal access to drug treatment and mental health services, to name a few, but that doesn’t change that there are many many kids in need.

    • K says...

      <3

  13. Jamie says...

    As an Asian adoptee, I must say please do not enter into this decision with the mindset of “saving” or “rescuing” anyone. Children are not projects for you to show off your humanity or Christianity.

    • Aj says...

      YES! My child/18 y.o. is adopted from Asia and I get so sick of people acting like we are heroes, or that we saved her. You also are not anyone’s “China Doll” or other such non-sense. While we ( white) only have my daughter as our only child, many uber religious people seem to be competitively collecting children. We divorced our family from the adoption community pretty quickly after we came home with her just for the reason that it seems like dress-up to me, and not family building. Don’t get me started on how many kids named Jade/Jada, Asia, or Grace, faith, hope, and joy there are!

    • Hannah says...

      As white parents who adopted a white infant, we deal with this, too. So many people approached us with the assumption that we were saviors of this baby from a very unfortunate situation. Their assumptions about our motivations and the reasons why my son’s birth parents chose adoption were incredibly offensive. I can’t even count the number of times we had to explain that we felt fortunate to have him complete our family and that the birth parents did not have a sordid tale and were not abandoning him.

      I have to say that our adoption agency did a good job of educating us on this and equipping us with answers before our domestic adoption. I am sure that international adoptees are also dealing with the millenia-old image of “the orphan” as well. It is hard to change hearts and minds, but I hope that conversations like this will help in this regard.

  14. B says...

    Pact is a wonderful organization that supports adoptees of color and their families. http://www.pactadopt.org. I’d encourage anyone considering transracial adoption or transracial adoptees to take a look.

  15. Rue says...

    I feel like the US in particular but maybe the world in general has not adequately addressed the question, “how do we help children who need help?” I think transracial adoption is one facet of this, and that we need to look holistically at pieces like our school systems, financial resources to assist parents in parenting, work benefits and leave time for new parents, healthcare and mental health resources for parents who are struggling with their own health, and/or who have created an unhealthy home for a child.

    I don’t have any answers about how people approach adoption or foster care while we work on those things, but it does strike me as a limited approach if we consider only kids who undergo foster care or adoption.

    I say this as a white kid raised by her biological white parents, who to this day have never been questioned about their fitness to parent, and who created an environment where I developed PTSD at a young age, and ultimately put me in harms way as a young adult, when I was exposed to further abuse before being able to seek resources as an adult to begin healing. I do not share this to downplay the specific trauma of transracial adoptees, but to underscore that healthy and capable adults must ALL serve as allies for children growing up amid family trauma. (And yes, I know my access to healing resources as an adult, including multi-year trauma recovery therapy through my work’s insurance, is an enormous privilege many PTSD survivors do not benefit from, and my heart goes out to every one of us who has survived and is surviving.)

    • K says...

      i agree! biological or adoptive, all types of parents are liable to be neglectful and abusive, and all types of parents have the propensity to be loving and supportive

  16. AM says...

    My husband and I are in the process of adopting, we started 2017! To give you some context, we are the in the Bay Area. Yes, you can still choose age and race, we chose 0-3 and no race. I am mixed race with Mexican and my husband is adopted too, he is white but is Lebanese and wasn’t told that until he was older. This past summer we had safe surrender and the baby was days old and he was pacific islander. The laws are ALWAYS changing and even though his mother couldn’t take care of him, the father returned 5 days later and we had to give the baby back and it was heart wrenching to say the least. The law is 14 days for family to come back. We had him and took him to his first appointment and everything and had to give him back after a week. We were both raised in diverse communities and went to school that was diverse and taught about equity and inclusion. I’m talking full semesters reading and writing and trips and you name it, we studied it, in high school! We aren’t scared to to have a child that doesn’t look like us or a different race. I am prepared. But in this experience which is still going on, I find that the end game is to have the children be with their families especially if they are Black or BIPOC. We may have chance with a child who is Mexican or Latin because I am half. But it’s so disheartening this process. It hurts to know that these children are in the system for whatever reason and they are the ones that get hurt in the long run. Apologies if this seems like rant, I guess it hit a nerve. My husband was adopted so I can’t imagine what his mom went through or the mother of the little one we gave back. I don’t want to pass judgment. I see race, oh I do. It’s so important to know your history and where you come from, that’s power. I would never take that away, but my concern is the process overall. How and where they are placing children. I also work for Court Appointed Special Advocates so I am aware of the system at least here, and it is confusing and traumatizing. I already know, when we do adopt now matter what race they are, something will always be missing. That’s where we come in and try to understand and support that with them. Again, went off the rails and apologies if anyone got offended. I hope not, I am truly speaking from experience. Thanks for reading and sharing your stories!

    • olga says...

      Hi, Am! I’m also in the Bay Area and a CASA volunteer. We should connect!

    • K says...

      thank you for sharing your experience! i think it’s very valuable.

  17. Leslie says...

    These are very interesting ideas and an important conversation. However, sometimes I find that reversing a question sheds light on the answer…as I white woman, should I only want to adopt a white baby?

    Being a parent is always hard, but any path you choose that is fuled by love, compassion and willingness to ask fill in your gaps seems good to me.

    • K says...

      I agree!

  18. Elizabeth says...

    I am white; my daughter is Black. Another fabulous read about transracial adoption is the middle grade novel For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington, who is an adoptee herself. The part of the book that will stay with me forever is when Keda (the main character, a Black girl in a white family) wishes she could ask her birth mom about her personal experience with the n word. I don’t remember her questions exactly, but they are along the lines of “When was the first time someone called you that? How did it feel? How did you react? How many times has it happened to you? How did you deal with it?” When Christine wrote, “You will have to find some way to effectively and credibly convey support and understanding without having the innate connection of a shared experience,” it made me think of this part of the book again. I will not be able to answer these types of questions from my daughter. But I can surround her and our family with many, many loving people who can, and I can make our home a place where she can feel safe expressing these questions.

  19. rose says...

    I know! this is not the place for this but your response spoke exactly to what I had to deal with just as a girl in the world. Please bear with me while I attempt to process this, with hopefully not too much damage to the comment section. But these issues are related and leads me to wonder if the key lies within this connection? Thinking about it this way allows me to gain some insight into how to empathize a solution from a racial perspective simply because I’ve had to deal with it all from the perspective of sexism. Henry Weinstein and Bill Cosby and others like them would not have been able to abuse all of those women if this was not an issue. In the same spirit we should be able to see how to help BIPOC across racist boundaries.

    The crushing sexism woman and girls, and to be very clear: ESPECIALLY the privileged girls/women still deal with because, “how dare you, full of privilege, complain”. This is largely true for girls of ANY color.

    Reading your invocation of parental duties through the lens of sexist oppression, my parents did nothing “to prepare us {me} to navigate a world in which we may be deemed inferior, stereotyped or worse. In addition to the basic requirements of parenthood, they had the added burden of building our self-esteem despite relentless insidious messages that Black kids {girls} like us weren’t as beautiful, smart or capable. They had to maintain a steady vigilance as I went to school, on playdates, traveled etc., to make sure I was as emotionally and physically protected as possible from the ever present specter of racism {sexism}. And they showed me through hard-won wisdom, their examples and a steady supply of family legacy and lore, what resistance, resilience and {racial} female pride looks like.”

    Surely the obvious similarities can shed light on how to approach loving a child of any color in any racial environment. I don’t have the entire answer. My life as a white woman in the US has been devastatingly difficult since people are unable to see my struggle unless I risk belittlement for speaking up. I can only imagine how much worse it is for black people but at least they can find community of knowing support which isn’t enough but it is something I wish women had more of together. Obviously it is why this site is so popular – it is gestating much needed HEALTHY community of female support. It could probably only begin online, a colorblind safe space.

    I don’t even know how to correctly say that I am so interested to hear this topic on race even be publicly addressed by a Black woman. If parents are genuinely loving and caring and make every effort to ensure a child of another race has access to their original culture than surely that is better than the alternative. It doesn’t seem like too much of a project to me. That’s what love does. It offers, it provides, it creates the possible where it appears to be impossible. If a loving relationship with a child is a priority than it should be easy to know how they are feeling and adjust accordingly. Just ask!

    • K says...

      <3

    • W says...

      Rose… I see where you are coming from in your post (because I am a white woman in America too). I am concerned that you are very unaware that you are ONLY centering YOUR experience in life. That you have not taken the time to really deepen your understanding of racism and how it impacts people of color. To say that people of color can band together and women don’t have that is extremely ignorant and dismissive. To also think that you have it harder as a person with privilege because you think you aren’t allowed to speak out is another concerning statement.

      Sexism and misogyny are alive and well. You are absolutely correct about that. But I think you could try to find the intersection of sexism and racism and learn some things to deepen your knowledge. Your experience matters but it is not relevant to conversations about race. Please listen and learn. Push back the instinct to make it about you.

      I recommend learning from these accounts on IG:
      https://www.instagram.com/rachel.cargle/
      https://www.instagram.com/nowhitesaviors/
      https://www.instagram.com/changingadoption/

  20. MS says...

    Responding with a different perspective than what CN replied with because, honestly Laura, I think it’s perfectly fine to say that “beautiful cinnamon color.” I have brown cinnamon skin and that’s how my mom would describe herself and us kids sometimes to me and my siblings and it was NEVER problematic – it’s just objectively descriptive of who we are! Similarly, I have cousins that have described themselves as having an “olive” skin tone or have a “honey almond” undertone in their complexion. Good grief, let’s choose to not take offense to every little thing. We’re so much more than our skin.

    • Laura J says...

      Thank you MS.

  21. Laura says...

    This is a really interesting and thoughtful post. Thank you! And can I just say that I am obsessed with Christine’s dress! So chic, bright and airy!

    One thought (and I didn’t read all the comments so others may have already raised this) is that these same arguments that some are making in opposition of transracial adoptions could be applied to biracial couples deciding to have children together. My husband and I are in a biracial marriage and have three mixed race kids. Like an earlier poster, I live in Atlanta where there is lots of diversity, but certainly there have been and will be some pitfalls that we will have to navigate as a family and there are times when I will not be able to fully identify with my children’s experiences or the injustices that they face in our highly flawed society. But despite these things, they are little lights in the world and I think in many ways their existence helps to challenge societal conceptions of race.

    • Christina says...

      I thought so too.

    • Oh Joo says...

      I would respectfully disagree that transracial adoption has any kind of significant similarity to being a biracial child. I’m speaking as a transracial adoptee with siblings who are biracial (and the biological children of my adoptive parents). Yes, we both experience racial trauma, in very different ways, but there is nothing else that can be compared in our experiences of the same upbringing. When my siblings experience racial trauma, they have siblings, parents, aunties, uncles and cousins who understand the experience exactly and can offer solidarity and support. As a transracial adoptee, I have no one. If I brought up my experience, it was frequently misunderstood or dismissed.

      Also, my issue with transracial adoption is mostly based in the problem of adoption itself. Being a transracial adoptee is just a bonus level of complication.

    • mado says...

      I also just want to chip in and disagree with this comparison which has been made multiple times. I am a mixed person who grew up mostly in an overwhelmingly white area of the country. There was definitely hurt caused by white people in the community I lived in who did not know how to interact with someone who looked differently than them. But I could always look at my dad and know that I wasn’t alone. Although maybe we didn’t talk about race as much as we could have, I knew that he also had experiences in the world as a racially different person. We were a family that was different, I wasn’t a person different than my family. I think that support made a world of difference.

  22. Hannah says...

    When we started looking around for an adoption agency 7 years ago, we were struck by the common practice of having a separate program for Black babies (not BIPOC as a whole, and I’m honestly perplexed about their classification scheme). The fees and the waiting times were all reduced for these programs, and the agencies often talked about it as a “supply and demand” issue. It was incredibly offensive and dehumanizing, and I’m so glad to see that it is no longer the practice. But it was only 7 years ago!!!!!!

    • Kate says...

      There are often waiting lists for white children, at least here in Canada. And when KB asked if they should instead seek to adopt a white child my heart hurt because I find it incredibly disturbing that some people would rather wait in line for a child that matches their skin colour than adopt a child sooner. This discussion is very interesting and important and I’m so grateful to be learning more about transracial, transnational adoptions and will definitely be doing my own further research on the experience of adoptees. I do agree we should focus more on abolishing the many societal and economic factors that separate children from their families while also taking a more nuanced look at adoption experiences. As someone who would choose adoption if I ever chose to have children, this topic is so important to delve deeper into.

  23. Sara says...

    Thank you for this important post and for opening up the discussion! As a birth, foster and adoptive parent I appreciate that this conversation is expanding to our broader community. I’d encourage CoJ to reach out to Angela Tucker for a follow-up interview. Angela is a transracial adoptee and a brilliant professional who works with children, adults and families around this very important issue. I believe she is one of the most valuable and accessible resources in the area of adoption and race.
    https://www.angelatucker.com/

    • Elizabeth says...

      Second this recommendation regarding Angela Tucker! I have had the pleasure of listening to her speak on a few of occasions. She is brilliant and insightful.

  24. Aleta Lynch says...

    COJ, Christine, Rebecca,
    THANK YOU for this thoughtful and beautiful conversation. As a white mom of two beautiful AA girls who were adopted through foster care, I appreciate this conversation more than you can imagine. My husband and I went back and forth for years before deciding to foster, knowing that in our state (AZ) the chances of getting placed with children that look like us would be slim. Ultimately we decided that BIOPIC children could potentially do better in our home than in a group home setting, but it’s never an easy decision to make knowing the very color of your skin will shape a child’s life forever once you bring them into your home.
    Thank you for addressing this topic with so much love, humility and wisdom.

  25. margaret says...

    THIS is one of the most important topics I’ve ever seen addressed on COJ (and I’ve been a reader for years!). Thank you so much to all who contributed

  26. Brittany says...

    Thank you for this. I want to point out that there are some really incredible women who are transracial adoptees who are doing incredible work on these issues. Hannah Matthews of HeyTRA, Jessenia Parmer of I Am Adopted, Torie at Wreckage and Wonder (I am sharing their instagram handles but each has learning resources, mentorship, etc. on their platforms and websites).

    I have learned how important it is to listen to adoptees and hear their voices and respect their viewpoints and sit with discomfort of the system and ourselves. As a white prospective adoptive parent, I am learning and uncomfortable and appreciative.

  27. Erin says...

    I’m curious though, isn’t this a racist way of thinking if we’re dividing people based on skin color and dictating who can do what based on appearance? It seems to me that people are people, across the board, and if a family is able to provide a home for a child, they should be able to do that regardless of skin color. How is this a problem? I’m also curious – would it be wrong for a black family to adopt a non-black child? Or an Asian family to adopt a non-Asian child? Or is this just a white/black issue? (Not trying to be provocative…just legitimately confused!)

    • JH says...

      Racialized isn’t the same as racist, and your question reveals your privileged to not have learned or experienced the difference. For BIPOC people, everything is racialized.

    • Christine Pride says...

      Hi Erin– I think that’s a fair question and I don’t think anyone is saying that it’s unilaterally “right” or “wrong”to adopt a child of a different race be that Black, white, Asian, etc. Certainly, that’s not what I was trying to say. But because of the insidious nature of racism in our country–and specifically black/white racism, it’s a factor to contend with in black/white adoptions. So it’s just a matter of acknowledging that there would be an additional layer of complexity for white parents raising black children (and different complexities for other racial groups). That’s not necessarily meant to be a road block but something to be mindful of. I really appreciate you being a reader. I told Joanna this morning I’m so stunned (and thrilled) by how thoughtful and engaged and informed the entire COJ audience is. I live for the thoughtful comments, reactions, questions, and conversations people have in the comments section. And the great resources shared too. Thanks to you…and everyone.

    • Whitney says...

      Hi Erin,
      I used to have the same thoughts as you when these kinds of topics would come up (I am white). I then spent a long time researching and learning and realized just how much race actually DOES matter. The color blind approach is one that only the privileged can take and it is actually incredibly harmful to people of color. You have a very reasonable question but I don’t think anyone could respond in a comment on this thread that would take your understanding to the next level (because it such a complex subject!) so I would really recommend doing some reading. I have learned so much about racism from Ibram X Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, Ijeoma Oluo – just to name a few. I know there are highly respected authors out there working hard to talk about transracial adoption that I would like to learn from as well.

      An IG account that really gives some great information on the exact subject of adoption is: https://www.instagram.com/changingadoption/

    • Alex says...

      I think Rebecca’s point is that transracial adoption cannot be a “project” a parent undertakes.
      Your question sounds a bit like what I’ve heard described as “colorblindness” to racial issues. It’s how I was raised: people are people and we should love and engage with them on equal footing. I still think this has a great deal of merit to offer, but I also think the greatest problem in race related conversations is a lack of humility. To assume you fully understand anyone regardless of their skin color without taking the time to actually know them is arrogant and impossible. People’s lives are a patchwork of joy and sorrow, beauty and ugliness, kindness and selfishness, dreams and nightmares. Our experiences (based on a collective memory heritage and, yes, skin color) play a huge role in how this patchwork is created.

      With regards to transracial adoptions I think the point both Rebecca and Christine are making is that all, but especially this kind of adoption necessitates humility and additional effort to pursue the kind of justice that sees people as people who are beautifully different and not uniform.

      I’d also like to add that you posing this question is a great way of revealing your humility. You don’t have all the answers (none of us does!) and you’re seeking conversation. Good on you.

    • Kristina says...

      I wonder – why are so many people in this thread focused on definition? We are talking about kids here, right? Kids who will grow up to change all these definitions as we progress and grow as a society. But foundering in the foster system – being sent in a cab to schools, staying in hotels at age 4, experiencing trauma after trauma while we all grapple with these definitions – is not the way we collectively can help this new generation. Help whoever you can help right now! The kids, their parents, the system – wherever your talents are best suited. How hideous to pause in the act of trying to help because you are afraid of how to define it all. I’m a high school teacher and a foster parent, with a mixed ethnicity blended family – and sometimes I think people are overthinking this. Help now! Whoever and however you can! Who are any of us to discourage a person from considering taking care of another human in need?

    • Roxana says...

      Kristina: PREACH!!!

  28. Sunny says...

    Hi, I was also adopted from South Korea as a baby and I grew up in Germany with white parents. My adopted siblings are from South Korea (no biological relation) and Germany (also adopted). Our parents never treated us differently because of our looks. We were and are all equally loved and cherished. Only people who didn’t know us had a problem that one child was white and the others were not. International Adoption may seem controversial, but for me, it was the best thing in my life. I grew up in a loving family and race or how we looked was never an issue, at least not for our Mom and Dad. Of course, you get picked upon at school, but our parents made sure to give us good self esteem, so we could deal with that. Besides, almost everyone gets picked upon, even for minor things like wearing glasses or having a bin nose. It is not only about your ethnicity. Love is the foundation for everything. And as long as you make your children feel loved and cared for, you should not worry about the ethnicity of your child, too much. Everything single human is unique, but we are all humans, in the end. And that is what connects us. I don‘t mean this in a spiritual way, that is not what I am, but this is just my own personal experience with International Adoption.

    • Anon says...

      Wow. This was amazing. Thank you tor sharing your perspective. Xo

    • Mollie says...

      Hi Sunny! That is amazing that you had such a positive experience with transracial adoption. I think anti-Blackness is a whole ‘nother can of worms, particularly in the U.S. where so much of our history centers around enslaving, and oppressing Black people. We’ve really never dealt with this history (and how it continues today), and our schools teach us lies and half-truths. Most white people (including myself) are just starting to reckon with our white privilege, our internalized racism and white superiority, etc. etc. I personally think a white person who is able and willing to adopt, and is willing to do the work to become anti-racist and raise their child in a community where their Blackness is celebrated, AND is working to change the system so that more Black children and other children of color can stay with their family of origin, is better than leaving a child in fostercare. BUT this is very complex and very hard to understand if you aren’t American, and probably if you haven’t done a lot of work on studying your own internalized anti-Blackness (which we all have all over the world).

  29. Agnès says...

    Midge, I guess we would say “a child of another colour”; there are many studies about that in adoptio agencies, and they mention colour; it is very interesting to read about adoptees in France and in the Us about that same topic, it is so different; the history is different.
    Kiana: are you mexican? (A friend’s daughter in Oaxaca is called Kiana and I thought it could be you!!)

  30. Savitha says...

    I am a South Asian (Indian) immigrant to the United States. My biracial husband was raised by a (biological) Latina mother and a Native American father; his biological father is Swiss-American, and my husband did not meet him until he was in his 30’s. Our (adopted) son is biracial (Black and Italian-American), and he has been part of our family since he was one day old. Our adoption is open. My husband and I are in contact with our son’s birth family on a regular basis. My son understands that he is adopted, he knows the circumstances around his adoption, and he knows the name of his birth parent. My husband and I adopted a child because we desperately wanted to have children but were not able to; because we are a mixed race couple that does not share any ethnicity, any adoption, by default, would have been a transracial one.

    I really appreciate the focus on this topic and the thoughtful sensitive responses from both Christine and Rebecca. That said, I find it problematics that in the discussions around adoption (and especially transracial adoption) families like mine with all our beautiful complexity become invisible. A friend recently gifted me the book Brown, White, and Black which is a portrait of “Nishta J. Mehra’s family: her wife, who is white; her adopted child, Shiv, who is black; and their experiences dealing with America’s rigid ideas of race, gender, and sexuality.” I highly recommend it to any one who’s looking for a nuanced, complicated take on transracial adoption that goes the binaries of White parents and adopted children of color.

    • S says...

      Thank you for this! We were also a mixed-race, -nationality & -cultural family before adoption! None of us share a racial identity. It’s more complex than black and white adoptive parents and children!

    • Christine Pride says...

      I agree with you Savitha that so much of these conversations including this letter and my response revolve around the black/white binary. I’m very sensitive to the fact that for the purposes of this column I focus a lot on that because I am a black woman and black/white racism is the prevalent issue in America. But that said, yes, of course it’s sadly true that there’s a lot of racism to go around against different groups and minorities. There’s also also a lot of different types of families and types of transracial adoptions, with myriad racial and ethnic configurations. I just can’t account for every dimension in the column, but it’s a great point to reinforce that every situation is very unique with its own particular dynamics and richness so I appreciate you and others bringing that up.

      It’s really great that so many people are commenting here from different races and backgrounds about their experience to widen and deepen the conversation.

  31. Tristen says...

    Thank you so much for this discussion. It’s so complicated and necessary.

    I just want to add that volunteering as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) can be a powerful way to advocate for a child and support family reunification. After training, you get matched with a child, and in many cases, you form meaningful relationships with them that last the rest of your lives. You go to their basketball games, pick them up when their mom needs to work late, help find a tutor, a therapist, a prom dress. Your job is to advocate for the best interests of the child, and secure them a safe and loving home. Overwhelmingly, this involves supporting BIPOC parents and keeping kids in their communities of origin.

    Processes vary by state and county, but I matched with a child when he was 9, and by that point, he had been separated from his birth parents for 3 years and freed for adoption. After years of infuriating placement changes, intense advocacy, and nearly equal parts heartache and joy, he is 14, and on track to move back home with his biological father this summer. I cry just typing it.

    It’s not adoption. But it is meaningful, and a real way to support BIPOC kids and families. It’s also the most meaningful work I’ve ever done (and I’m a teacher!) I recommend becoming a CASA with my whole heart.

    • Lo says...

      Tristen…I came on to share about the CASA program too. It is a meaningful way to serve foster youth locally.

      Advocacy + Mentoring

      The link to the CASA National Organization is below which can direct anyone interested to their local chapter.

      https://nationalcasagal.org/
      National CASA

    • Julie says...

      Thank you SO much for this. I did not know this was possible, but what an important community role. I have reached out to my local chapter.

    • Roxana says...

      Yes, CASA! Glad someone else brought this up!

  32. Oh Joo says...

    Thank you for posting about this side of the story. As a transracial adoptee (born in South Korea, raised in Australia), I had a wonderful childhood in a loving family and there are many positive things in my life now that I’m grateful for. However, as I’ve grown older and more aware of the adoption community, my beliefs about my own adoption have changed significantly and I no longer feel grateful to be adopted.

    KB says: “We are both white, and I have been learning that BIPOC children who grow up in homes with white parents often experience racial trauma from their adoptive family.”

    First of all, please understand that all children who are adopted suffer trauma from the separation from their mother and from the moment of separation develop coping mechanisms to protect themselves. This is even before they even get a chance to experience racism and abuse at the hands of their adoptive family (which many, many of us do). I’m still learning as an adult how this trauma has impacted my life and I’ve sought professional help to navigate my healing and recovery.

    As I said, my childhood was great but it was virtually impossible for my parents to shield me from racial trauma. I’ve not spoken to another transracial adoptee who hasn’t experienced racial trauma. Being separated from my cultural heritage, and others who share my cultural heritage, has been another huge obstacle in my life. I know now that many beliefs I’ve been taught as an adoptee growing up amidst a white, Christian community, were simply tools of colonisation and white supremacy.

    I’ve listened to the stories of many adoptees – including transracial BIPOC adoptees – who have suffered racism, prejudice and abuse that has compounded the initial trauma of maternal separation. I’ve learned that adoptees are four times more likely to commit suicide and PTSD is not uncommon in adoptees. I’ve learned that adoption is child trafficking in many countries. In most places, there is a price tag attached to each adoption and the practices involved in this financial decision are quite questionable. It may sound extreme but frankly, it isn’t.

    (Just last week, the Netherlands ended all international adoptions because of ethical concerns.)

    So, I don’t have many positive things to say in support of adoption these days, especially transracial adoption. I don’t look back on the past and wish to change it, but I do look to the future and hope that more prospective parents do their research and become educated about the trauma of adoption. I really hope that adoptee perspectives will be centred in this discussion and will be respected. Please listen to us.

    To prospective transracial adoptive parents, I would urge you to look to an alternative, such as donating your time and resources to organisations that work towards keeping families together, rather than seeking to separate a child from their family and culture. Of course, I’m referring here to those adoptive parents who are looking at a BIPOC child as a way of making a difference in the world. Even if a mother is unable to care for her child, there are frequently family members who could raise the child if they received the right kind of support. There are wonderful organisations out there who focus on this very work.

    If you are still interested in transracial adoption, then please learn about our issues with an open mind. There are so many wonderful resources available that provide really comprehensive information and eloquent adoptee voices. On Instagram, see @heytra, @therapyredeemed, @andie.ink, @karpoozy or search #adopteevoices.

    • Jimena says...

      This was very insightful, thank you for sharing your experience <3
      And as an adopted child myself I can relate to a lot of what you say, if not to the racial compoment.

    • Elise says...

      Thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry for the racial trauma you experienced and I hope you have all the support you need now. I think we can all learn so much from stories like yours, sending love x

    • S says...

      Hi, thanks for sharing your story Oh Joo. I’m sorry your experience has been traumatic. I just wanted to correct your statement about the Netherlands though… it is a recommendation to pause new applications for international adoptions based on a review of cases from the 1960s-1990s. The move is political and actually has nothing to do with current adoptions in the country. I share your view that international adoption can be problematic, but the Dutch situation is misrepresented in the media. The country actually has one of the strictest adoption systems in the world.

    • Agnes says...

      Oh Joo, thank you so much for sharing your story. I wonder if you’ve ever heard of the book ‘The Primal Wound’ by Nancy Verrier. It may speak to your heart. Wishing you all the best.

    • Oh Joo says...

      Thank you for your lovely replies, it is really appreciated.

      S, I’m sorry I got the thing about the Netherlands wrong. I am glad that they have taken the position to review adoption in any form. I hope it opens up a conversation that other countries can pay attention to.

      Agnes, I have read some of The Primal Wound and it is very insightful. It was just super heavy going and I didn’t make it through!

    • mado says...

      This is so insightful, as another said, thank you for sharing your experience and this information.
      I’d like to add that in Ecuador, where I currently live, adoption is extremely difficult, for multiple reasons. One of these reasons is a historical mistrust of white people coming to buy babies and children who sometimes were not even missing their parents. Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/300776610_International_adoption_and_child_trafficking_in_Ecuador
      Unfortunately, this selfishness on the part of foreigners has had lasting impacts on adoption policy in the country, meaning that many more children will grow up in institutions.

  33. Amanda says...

    I appreciate Christine’s thoughtful response, and I also very much appreciate the fact that she looped in an adoptee and her perspective as well. I’m also a transracial adoptee, and so often our voices get drowned out by well-meaning parents. Thankfully, these conversations are happening more often now (unlike in the ’80s and ’90s, when I was growing up) and I hope that more people sit and listen.

    And Rebecca’s right–adopting a kid and fighting to change the system aren’t mutually exclusive. You can and should do both.

  34. Becca says...

    This is a beautiful post and conversation between thoughtful, loving, curious women. Thank you all for sharing. Getting to read/listen to voices like these feels like a privilege. xo

  35. Dorothy DeMaria says...

    As if adoption isn’t a difficult enough decision and process throwing in race makes it like walking through fire. I won’t weigh in on wrong or right, good or bad but I will say some of the comments are infuriating. It’s almost like some people want to be angry at the original letter writer for daring to want to adopt a child of a different race. I would love to hear from a POC who aged out of the system instead of being adopted if they preferred staying in foster care as opposed to being adopted by a family of a different race. I just think if you have love in your heart that you want to share with a child who is not in the greatest situation then the race of the child should not enter into the equation

    • Anon says...

      I agree, Dorothy. And I will add that, sadly, a lot of those grown-ups who aged out of the system or who were one of the unadopted orphans world-wide are not able to weigh in on this topic because they are not part of the privileged demographic that reads COJ.

    • Roxana says...

      Yes to both Dorothy and Anon’s comments.

    • mado says...

      Perhaps you could listen to the transracial adoptees who are telling you about the trauma they experienced, instead of searching for someone who will tell them they are wrong.

    • Anu says...

      I agree with Dorothy and Anon as well. Mado, respectfully, we are listening to these transracial adoptees and I absolutely agree that they should be listened to fully. But why shouldn’t we also consider Black children who aged out of the adoption system, for example. Where are their stories? Do you not think there might be a lot of pain in their stories too?

    • M says...

      Anu, I understand the point you are trying to make. But this sounds defensive and, frankly, disturbing – to find Black people who have aged out of the adoption system in order to ask them if they would have rather been adopted by white parents instead? Can you imagine the trauma that would cause, and the immense, immense privilege of thinking it’s okay to ask that question, just to add “proof”, but disguising it as “I just want to hear what they think?” Groups of people are not monoliths – just as potentially not all transracial adoptees are speaking out against adoption, I would imagine not all BIPOC adults who have aged out of the system have the exact same opinions on this, either. Please don’t look for justification, but take the larger message of what Christine and Rebecca have shared to heart.

  36. Aj says...

    I’m a White parent to an Asian adoptee. I’m thankful every day that we live in a very diverse area of a very big city. I would never bring a child of one race into a setting of almost entirely another race. We live in Atlanta, and our experiences with small Southern ( mostly) towns is nothing short of exasperating – from correcting that she is Asian and NOT ORIENTAL, “yellow fever” comments from teenage boys, stares in restaurants – to the past year of Chinese Virus taunts. 16 years into this, with a now 18 year old daughter, I hope she feels free to embrace her heritage without her parents forcing it down her throat. She suffers from a huge case of Imposter syndrome around other Asians and uses Youtube, movies, books, etc to learn more about her culture. While she has a half dozen friends also adopted from China in her circle, she says they have never once discussed it! While we have always offered to include events and celebrations from her culture, she personally, just wants to be a young woman, viewed as an individual, not as a race. I fear many parents get it wrong and appear to be playing “dress-up” with their adopted kids and doing the things mentioned in the responses above, like hanging the Serena Williams poster type mentality. It’s not a box to be checked. It’s a very complex subject and each individual wants to receive and be acknowledged in different ways.

  37. Elizabeth says...

    So so so grateful for this post, this conversation, and the comments. THANK YOU!

  38. Jody says...

    My only life experience compelling me to comment on this thoughtful conversation is being a mom. It is utterly heartbreaking as a mother, to know there are mothers and children who are not together. The pain of that must never ever go away. It is also heartbreaking to think of a family who can love and give a loving home to a child who has so little, but who chooses not to because they’re not a perfect or ideal match? In my experience parenting is an unpredictable opening of our vulnerable hearts to love. Parenting isn’t a perfect experience, because we cannot be perfect parents. Parenting is a journey we embrace with love and faith. I pray anyone who can open their heart to love a child in need does so. Wholeheartedly and yes, with the humility, support, intention and profound effort that it must take to care for a child who has experienced terrible loss and whose life experiences/family origin/ancestry etc. are different from their adoptive parents. But I say first and foremost, choose yes to loving a child in need.

    • One Love, One life says...

      Thank you for this response. Frankly, I am saddened by this post.
      I know my view will not be popular, but I offer it respectfully.

      Love should not be restricted to people of our own race.

      Think about that carefully: Loving parents should reject to adopt a child because of race? Seriously, isn’t that going full circle back to a strange kind of racism?

      It is easy to criticize our parents… by birth or adopted. Being a parent is always challenging. And generations have always felt misunderstood by their parents. Yes, no doubt race differences can complicate things, but it can also enrich things.

      I say this as an immigrant, and as a person who has a very diverse extended family (bipoc to blonde… brothers, stepbrothers and adoptive sisters). I am the first to understand that racism is hurtful. But the racism experienced would sadly still exist, and the child would be unlikely to get more support or have a better experience growing up in an orphanage. Life is not perfect. Yes, fight racism. Yes, speak up.
      But love is key, and gratitude for the opportunities we are given is essential. Sadly, I am sure a very small percentage of unadopted orphans worldwide go on to higher education or to become well known authors.

      Is it better to leave a child unattended and unloved in an orphanage? This makes no sense to me.

      I hope and believe that some adoptive children are grateful for their adoptive parents, and they understand that circumstances can’t always be perfect. It is great to encourage adoptive parents to be aware and to be active in human rights. But to discourage loving people from adopting? I think there are some neglected orphans out there right now who would not agree with that thinking.

    • HK says...

      I don’t think anyone is saying that taking in children in need of a home is a bad impulse but to always follow that instinct without a critical awareness of the systemic issues that impact the child isn’t loving or responsible. I think the advise above encourages the prospective adoptive parent/s to educate themselves on these issues first, before intervening blindly and causing accidental further trauma.

  39. Michelle says...

    Just love your column Christine. Always so clear and so much humility.

  40. Kat v says...

    Thank you so much to all for clarifying! Didn’t put that together :)

  41. Heather says...

    KB, I would encourage you to put yourself in the position to learn from transracial adoptees–both as part of your decision-making process, and if you do decide to adopt transracially. One way to do this is through the Facebook group TAP 101 (Transracial Adoption Perspectives), a community of people involved in transracial adoption, that privileges the perspectives of transracial adoptees. https://www.facebook.com/groups/TRA101

  42. Carmen says...

    Hi KB, and any others who are considering adopting, and particularly adopting from foster care:

    I represent parents who are charged with child abuse or neglect and whose children are placed into foster care against their will. I think these are really important questions to be asking. One thing I’ve noticed in conversations about this issue is that the discussion rests on the fallacy that there are scores of children stuck in foster care who need homes. Many, many of these children have homes and parents who love them desperately and would do anything to have them back. These children have parents who are fighting day in and day out to get their children back home with them, but are struggling in a court system that assumes the worst of them, in an economy that deprives them of meaningful options, and against their own traumas. The issue is less that there are children without homes and more that there are children who are violently and discriminatorily ripped away from loving parents who would do anything to be able to have their kids home with them.

    The problem is absolutely structural. Before considering fostering or adopting from foster care I would urge you to read “Shattered Bonds” by Dorothy Roberts, who is a total luminary in this field. One of the issues as Professor Roberts describes it is that there is endless money to pay for foster care, and there are infinitely fewer resources being funneled to families so that they can remain safely together.

    If you do decide that you want to foster or adopt from foster care, it is absolutely crucial that you go in with your only goal being supporting reunification of the child and their parents. We know that children do best at home with their parents, and as a foster parent you could have an important role in making sure that happens. Make your job to fight like hell to get those children home to their parents.

    I would also encourage anyone who is moved by this to ask their lawmakers to repeal the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), which implements draconian and punitive timelines for parents with children in foster care. ASFA is the 1994 Crime bill of the child welfare field in terms of the immense harm it has caused to Black and brown communities.

    Every family deserves to be together.

    • MS says...

      Love this comment, thank you. Need to educate myself on this more and I appreciate the resources.

    • Alex says...

      Wow. Thank you for this perspective and the reading resources.

    • Anna says...

      Thank you so much Carmen!

    • Tristen says...

      Here, here!
      Support support support. Families belong together.

      Just an example of “the system” failing birth parents: foster parents receive money to care for a foster child. They use that money to buy food, clothes, and whatever else that child may need. But a birth parent cannot collect that money, even though they need the support and THE STATE WOULD PAY SOMEONE ELSE TO CARE FOR THAT SAME CHILD! It’s infuriating!

    • SA says...

      Hi Carmen, thanks for sharing your perspective. I’m curious about your claim that every family deserves to be together, as there seem to be obvious cases where this is not best for a child? In the country where I live, parental rights are not terminated and reunification is prioritized over stabilizing children’s family environments. I know that the US system is deeply problematic (I have family adopted through US foster care) but I also think that the system where I live protects parents at the expense of securing stable families for children. The context is very different here, as we have a strong social welfare state, so people are not losing their children because of poverty or a discriminatory penal system. I am instead referring to children coming from families with violence, neglect, and long-term serious mental illness and addiction (which also exist in the US, of course). In this system, if a parent is doing better after 10 years, they may begin reunification proceedings. To me this seems so destabilizing to a child – and their family (although I support connection with the parents, if healthy). It is very difficult to foster a child and love them as your own in these conditions and children deserve a family, even if it is not as we would wish. I am curious what you think of these tradeoffs.

    • AJ says...

      There’s something about this comment that I find painful – I think it’s the way it’s presented as being an absolute. What you are saying is so, so important and it is awful, just awful, that a system exists that causes families to experience these things and be treated this way unjustly, especially when better support could keep them together, and especially when demographic factors/prejudice is such a part of it. But something about the overall wording feels triggering, as it also implies a denial of the fact that cases of major abuse within families – to the extent that the child is most certainly in need of protection and removal from that abuse – does not exist. I just feel it’s incredibly important to be sensitive to that, as denial/not being believed can be a huge issue for victims of abuse, especially when family members are involved. And sometimes it does need to be somebody else’s job to protect those children.

      I appreciate nobody here is probably actually trying to say that abuse does not exist, but if this felt triggering for me, chances are I am not the only one – so I felt compelled to say this.

    • mado says...

      Thanks you so much for this action item. Saving for a call to my legislators.

    • CS says...

      I can’t help but think that sometimes (possibly very often) the accusations of abuse or neglect are based on real abuse. And victims will often not admit that it is happening.

      I am truly curious: On what verifiable evidence/basis do you claim that most of these allegations of abuse are false? I agree that far more help is needed to support parents who love their children but have dysfunctional and abusive patterns, more social supports are also needed to prevent poverty and support fair education for all. Still, children are not always better off at their birth home. Not if it is truly an abusive environment.

      I recommend you read “Educated”, by Tara Westover. It is hard for children in abusive homes to have perspective on how unhealthy the situation is.

      Truthfully, fostering is an imperfect solution to problems in an imperfect society in an imperfect world. I ask this sincerely: how can it be better to leave a child in a home is truly abusive?

  43. Please, please, please read the book All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung before considering transracial adoption! Not only is it one of the best memoirs of the 21st century, it speaks on this topic with such grace and nuance.

  44. L says...

    Oh man thanks for tackling this important and fraught topic. It’s so great to read informed perspectives on this. I’m a white woman who doesn’t have kids and the possibility of adopting is lurking in my mind. I know that my husband and I would be loving parents who have a lot to offer a child and I know that there are so many kids out there that need safe and loving homes. I also know that it’s rarely simple or easy to say the least no matter how “woke” you think you are or try to be. Thank you to Christine and Rebecca and all commenters – I will check out these great resources to further my thinking. (Really loving this series, btw!)

  45. Katie says...

    Thank you so much for posting this! My husband and I are foster parents in our community and of the 10 children we’ve had come through our home in a little more than a year, the majority have been non-white, which is an inaccurate representation of our city’s demographics.

    Last spring, we were asked to take the two youngest boys from a large, black family. It was an agonizing decision to make because we heavily questioned whether it was right for our white family to raise black children. Our first step was to ask the person who places children to please look for black foster parents before we say yes. None were to be found (although I have met in my foster community black foster parents raising white children) and we said yes. Ultimately the children went to a relative and we were asked to wait and see if that worked out. After a certain length of time it felt yucky to wait for the relative to fail and we ended up taking in a different child into our home.

    I approached foster care with the hope to adopt, however after fostering children who returned successfully to their mothers and maintaining relationships with those moms (one mom especially has become a dear friend), I realized that for me personally I could no longer have the attitude that I was fostering to adopt. I wanted to be able to support parents as much as I could and not be conflicted wanting to keep their kid. If the child ended up staying, I wanted to be able to honestly say that I did my best to support their family of origin, which I fail at constantly and still have so much work to do with my own self and my mindset. The result of that was becoming pregnant myself and now we have a little guy who’s almost 9 months old (who may end up staying in our family!) and I’m 38 weeks pregnant.

    One of my greatest joys as a foster mom is supporting families and loving the children that come into my home. I try to remember how unfair the system can be in the first place. I strive to honor the stories of the children who come to my home. Foster care hurts and it sucks, however I see it as a beautiful way to support my community.

    • Jo says...

      You seem like an amazing person, Katie.

    • Amy says...

      Loved reading your comment, Katie.

  46. Chrissie says...

    This is a really important topic but one thing that I think is missing in the conversation is- what does the child want? Perhaps the assumption is that the writer is looking to adopt a baby or young child? I have worked with teens in foster care for about 20 Years and children over 12 and children with disabilities are the kids most in need of adoptive parents. For some of the teens I work with having parents who share their identity is really important (racial, cultural, gender identity etc) but for others it’s less so. They may have relatives they are in contact with who share their identity that they are able to connect with and they are willing to consider parents outside of their racial or culture group. I don’t think adults should be discounting permanency options without discussing it with the child first. Every day a child is in foster care it is traumatizing. Not having a parent at the time a youth “ages out” of foster care is the number one predictor of poor life outcomes. The number one priority of the child welfare system is to keep Kids with birth parents and if that is not possible then with relatives. Only if those things have been very vigorously explored and are not possible should outside of the family be considered. My advice to the writer is to consider a teen!!!

    • Anu says...

      Thanks for adding this comment Chrissie! Great point, in all this theoretical discussion we shouldn’t lose sight of what the child wants.

  47. K says...

    i think adoption is an imperfect solution to an imperfect problem. the best you can do is go in full-heartedly with conviction and integrity. accept that you may never exactly understand what your child is going through, but it is another human, you may get close enough with genuine empathy and an open mind. you will have different hurdles and perhaps more than with biological children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re insurmountable.

  48. Laura J says...

    My husband & I adopted a baby from Guatemala. We are white and my daughter is a beautiful cinnamon color with gorgeous, wavy black hair. I worked so hard to help her when she was growing up. I learned to make corn tortillas, we had artwork in our home of people of color, had brown angels on our Christmas paper & tree and tons of other things. I also worked to find her doctors that were women of color and we would have serious talks as she got older when things would come up at school. “Yes, that sounds like racism to me too.” When you have a child of color in your heart & life, you see how prevalent racism really is. Many times she wasn’t interested in the things I tried to include in our life and I learned to be ok with that. You need to follow their cues. We had some really terrible years where she was so very angry and nothing we did helped. It was horrible to see her so angry & miserable. She just couldn’t feel our love. Adoption is loss. But she is in a much better place this last year and we are carefully finding our way back to a relationship. I’m loving watching her finding her way and being happier in her life and being part of our life again.

    • CN says...

      Thank you for sharing your story. Just a quick note – please don’t call your daughter “cinnamon colored” – I’ve heard many, many people of color describe how demeaning it feels to be compared to food when talking about skin color.

    • Roxana says...

      Laura, kudos to you for how you are mothering your precious daughter!

      CN, seriously? This COJ community is downright exasperating sometimes. No one can do anything without someone self-righteously swooping in and “correcting.”

      My daughter takes after my husband’s very Irish/Anglo heritage and we often call her “peaches and cream” and describe her hair as “ginger.” Is this offensive, too?? I have Mediterranean heritage and have been described as having “olive” skin. I haven’t shed any tears over this.

      How about instead congratulating Laura for becoming a parent in an unconventional way and for so obviously doing an excellent job of loving her daughter?

    • elle says...

      here to emphasize CN’s comment – comparing people’s skin color to food is a hard no, please do not continue doing this. I have brown skin and would feel really uncomfortable if someone told me I was a “beautiful cinnamon color.” I can’t even tell you the amount of times I have been standing in line at a cafe and a complete stranger points to me when the barista asks them how much milk they want in their coffee.

    • Laura J says...

      I appreciate hearing people’s thoughts about skin color descriptions and will open that dialogue with her. To be honest, I had and have bigger concerns about my beloved daughter. She takes public transportation and this past summer, she worked right near violent antifa protests and buses were stopped and Ubers wouldn’t come there. She said, “Mom, I can’t walk three blocks to catch an Uber, I’m a brown girl.” Luckily, she was able to catch a ride with a coworker and they ran to the car. It happened more than once. These feel like bigger worries to me as her mom. Is she safe.

  49. Flora says...

    I am fortunate to own the dress! It’s Loft/Lou & Grey, but an old season (summer 2020).
    But this was a really wonderful, thought-provoking post, and I loved how Christine brought Rebecca in.

  50. Calla says...

    Thanks so much for this thoughtful discussion! I’m curious to hear from anyone who grew up in the foster system and was never adopted.

    It seems very clear from Christine and Rebecca’s responses that it takes a lot of intention and humility and work to raise a Black child as a white parent and probably can’t be done perfectly. And it’s awful that so many BIPOC children end up in the foster system as a result of systemic racism.

    But I guess I’m wondering if choosing not to adopt those children once they are already there is better for them on the whole? I generally think of the foster care system as being pretty difficult on kids but maybe I’m wrong and it’s better than parents who bungle your upbringing. Or maybe kids get reunited with their families more often than I assume and adopting them is actually breaking up lots of families.

    • Chrissie says...

      Hi Calla, former adoption social worker/ current social worker with teens in foster care. Choosing to adopt is never breaking up a family. By the time a child is eligible to be adopted it’s because the courts have determined that the child cannot go home. So the choice is between a child staying in foster care or the child welfare system finding permanency for them. (Either thru finding someone from their natural network or finding a parent outside of it thru a potential adoptive parent).

  51. Amanda says...

    This is such a good question and important topic! I recently attended and HIGHLY recommend taking a class on Transracial adoption. The excellent class I took is through an adoption agency in CA called Vista Del Mar and due to covid they are doing their normally in-person course over Zoom so you don’t have to live nearby. This course was invaluable for my husband and I in making this complex decision. It was literally life-changing for us, and wonderful to learn from Transracial adoptees, parents of Adoptees, Adoption research experts, and other people attending the course who are hoping to adopt.

  52. K says...

    There’s a Red Table Talk episode on the topic (featuring the actress Kristin Davis, who adopted two Black children) that I found really enlightening and interesting. Worth watching if anyone wants to explore the topic further!

  53. Anna says...

    I am a white adoptive parent of a Black daughter, and I’ve read this post three times already. I loved it when Rebecca said: “Because here’s the thing, if these two ideas are mutually exclusive in your mind, then you’re maybe not ready to adopt a BIPOC child. Being a white parent to a Black child, or any child at all, should always include fighting to change a wildly unfair child welfare system.” Adoption and fostering are wonderful, but first we should always be working towards preventing the need for adoptions/foster in the first place. Adoption is not a final solution. Walking through the adoption process taught me this first-hand. We must fight for families to stay unified.

    And, on an even more personal note, this jumped out at me: “You will also not have the benefit of personal experience or common perspective to draw upon to help your child deal with the unique challenges of being a Black person in America.” I think about this daily. Which has lead me to read more, learn more, diversity our social networks, and get outside my comfort zone more than parenting my other two (white) children. My perspective on the world has completely changed because of raising a BIPOC. In a way that I believe is not checking off boxes, but getting under my skin and being internalized, as Rebecca suggested. But I still know that I won’t be able to completely fill that chasm on my own. It’s a constant worry as I parent my daughter; that I won’t be able to fill that insurmountable void. I love my daughter so incredibly I can’t imagine life and our family without her. She is the delight of my heart. I hope I can do well by her. Thanks COJ for this wonderful post. I can’t wait to pick up Rebecca’s book.

  54. anna says...

    I struggle to understand why, in english, “Race” is still a normal Term to use, when speaking about Humans. Maby, as i am from Germany, i dont get the correct meaning of the Word, but as there are no races within mankind, i dont think its helpfull to overly use this Term. It implies, in my understanding, that there are real significant differences between people of different skin colors or geological backgrounds, that would justify a further splitting of our biological Kind in to different races. As we are very well aware ist not the case. In Germany as a Person who is mindfull about these problems you would, from my experience, not want to use “Rasse” in this context. Also because in the past, the madeup relevant differences between people from certain “backgrounds” and making people belief that there are in fact different human races, where an important part to “justify” racism. Maby someone here can take some of there precious time to explain this to me. :)

    • Allie says...

      I believe it’s a language/translation gap!

      For example, I was living in Ukraine for several years and learning Russian (I’m a native English speaker). I thought I was being so enlightened calling Black people “chornie,” (the Russian word for the color black). Because that’s the accepted word in English.

      Turns out I was being HIGHLY offensive (basically the equivalent of using the n-word) in my attempt at a straight-across vocabulary translation.

      I think something similar here is going on between the word “race” in American English and the straight-across translation (“Rasse”). I think we use “race” to acknowledge different ethnicities and their accompanying cultures (which are important to not sweep under the rug – see the term “racial color blindness” for more info). But I’m sure someone with more knowledge in this arena can jump in and provide more info! :)

    • Calla says...

      I’m sure someone more educated on the matter can explain this better than me, but my general feeling about this is it’s easier to talk about something that you can name. Even though there is no biological basis to “race” it impacts how people are treated and therefore shouldn’t be ignored just because the word has such an unpalatable history.

    • K says...

      i tend to agree…and i think some other commenters have commented on this also. i think there is a balance between being proud of your unique background, and making it your whole identity. yes it’s true that people (including me) have experienced disgust simply for my ethnicity, and i think it is helpful to embrace the heritage i inherited from my ancestors. but on the other hand, i think we should also focus on our common humanity. there is nothing lesser than about any “race”, but also nothing more special and impossible to understand about any “race”, either.

      if you’d like some other Black perspectives on this, Chloe Valdary and Coleman Hughes (among many others) discuss some of the benefits of colorblindness. i don’t agree with every opinion they have, but who agrees with everyone?

    • j says...

      Hi Anna! Lots of people who think about these things frequently and study them will remind you that “race is a construct,” – it’s something that’s constructed of where we’re from, what we look like, and there aren’t clean divisions and categories. With that said, it effects people’s lives tremendously. Segregation in America isn’t long dead – Ruby Bridges, who was one of the first children to help integrate schools in Alabama is only 66! For any Black child today in the US, their experience growing up will be effected by racism, and it is hard for a white parent to understand that in the same way. While we can acknowledge that race is something that has been constructed, it has real effects, and that’s something that a parent of a child of color needs to be especially equipped to help them deal with.

    • Kiana says...

      Anna, I think this is a self-fulfilling thing. Because in the old days (and some would argue, even today) people actually believed that “race” was real and that certain races did X and other races couldn’t or didn’t, they treated people of different races differently. So now, even though most of society agrees that race is a social construct and we are all just humans, there are racial differences. Not because of someone’s race. But because of how their race was, historically, used to define them.
      Does that make sense?

    • CandiceZ says...

      The Rijkmuseum right now has an art exhibition, I believe, which shows how Black individuals were treated/depicted/perceived before and after slavery expanded. Imagine living that metamorphosis every day. Try to imagine how that would feel? Try to imagine parenting a child that you know will experience watching him or herself go through that metamorphosis in his/her own and in other peoples’ eyes. Trying to find a way to deal with that and end that and improve societal conditions reinforcing the cycle. It’s complicated.

      Maybe one way to think about it.

    • Erin says...

      Hi Anna! Thanks for your comment. You’re correct that race is a social construct, without a biological basis, although race as a social construct has biological effects, if that makes sense. So yes, in the U.S. folks commonly talk about race, but often aren’t careful to clarify that they mean that race is a social construct, and has no biological underpinnings. But our unequal social structure based on perceived racial differences does cause biological effects, such as adverse health outcomes for BIPOC when compared to white people in the U.S.

      I’d really recommend that folks read Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century for an excellent discussion of this topic. And thank you to Cup of Jo for hiring Christine Pride to write these Race Matters posts!

      https://thenewpress.com/books/fatal-invention

    • Lia says...

      I can only speak to this question in a limited way, as my German is a bit out of practice, but I will try. I understand that “Rasse” has heavy connotations in German which it does not in English. In English, it can simply refer to someone’s ethnic background — the word is used on government forms or the census to indicate demographics. Obviously, the idea of race is fraught and is inextricably connected to the insidious ideas that you refer to (that people of certain backgrounds are biologically inferior, for example), but in English the word itself does not imply that so heavily as in German. It’s considerably more neutral — in that its use doesn’t subscribe the speaker to that worldview.

    • M says...

      Hi Anna,

      My husband is from Germany and he cringes when people use the word here too. I think you’re right, it’s the wrong word and it also further enhances the narrative that there is some sort of innate difference when we are all the human race (everything else is socially constructed to keep power or make sure others don’t get it).

      As to why we continue to use it… I don’t know why and we should do better.

      Best,
      M

    • Alex says...

      Hi Anna, from my understanding, while we may agree (and not everyone does, due in large part to racism) that there is one race – human – the fact is that socially, politically, economically, basically in every way people of different skin colours, classed as different races, have been treated differently.

      You wrote “It implies, in my understanding, that there are real significant differences between people of different skin colors or geological backgrounds, that would justify a further splitting of our biological Kind in to different races. As we are very well aware ist not the case.” Biologically, sure, that’s not the case, but in reality, people 100% do experience life differently due to the colour of their skin, not because of biology, but because we as humans have treated each other differently – and let’s be specific and say that it is white people historically and presently who use this categorization to marginalize people of colour.

      Using the term “race” is not about further solidifying a biological idea that is inaccurate, but rather it’s about recognizing that because of how we have viewed race historically and to this day, it has a HUGE impact on people’s lives, whether it is a True Biological Fact or not. Not talking about race wouldn’t make the very real issue of racism go away, it would just remove our language to be able to talk about the injustice people face, and why. I hope that helps!

    • Diana K. says...

      Using the term “race” and therefore “racism” gives us a language to describe the inequality in our world. This inequality would exist if we had a word for it or not. I would argue that the problem would be worse if we didn’t talk about it often. The origin of the word is not harmful, it was used in Shakespearean time to mean a group or type in general terms (ie: a race of bishops). From what I know about German history the term “rasse” is very tied to Nazi ideology about racial hierarchy, so I understand that you find issues using this word to describe a group of people. There are a lot of people of color that have a strong identity rooted in their race that they are proud of, and this collective experience is at risk of being discounted by saying “we are all one human race.”

    • Anne Elliot says...

      I’m no authority on this topic because I am a white girl from an overwhelmingly white American state, but I believe that one reason it is so problematic to deny “race” as a construct, is because that very denial comes from a place of privilege. Frankly, only a white person would ever be permitted in our society to live a life asserting that race doesn’t matter; people of color know better. They know it matters because it runs through their lived experiences, every day, in ways both positive (a rich cultural heritage) and negative (racism and bias, conscious and unconscious). So “there’s only one race: mankind!” Is really just a variant of “I don’t see people’s color!” Both are problematic both because they erase the lived experiences of BIPOC and because they are grounded in the naive assumption that just because YOU as a white person, are allowed to live a life where race doesn’t matter, other people could do the same if they wanted. Hope this makes sense.

    • D says...

      One definition of “race” that I’ve seen used recently is that race is the social interpretation of our skin color and other physical features. I find this really helpful, because it both acknowledges that race is an invented thing and not a biological fact, while also not denying the impact of race on our lived experience.

    • Michelle says...

      I grew up not in the US and was confronted by this when I first moved here Anna. But I’ve come to see that the US is light years ahead of where I grew up precisely because we do talk about race, and with that we acknowledge that deeply it informs our lived experience. Whiteness has been the status quo in the US and in Germany for a long time, too long. When we own up to the fact that there are deep and unequal differences precisely because of our race, we can begin to dismantle this but not before.

    • E says...

      Hello! Race, like gender, is a social construct but especially in America (and other colonized places), race has been directly tied to oppression. Black people were enslaved and are still held back by things that are leftover from the past (lack of generational wealth due to not being able to own property, etc) and more recent developments like redlining and not having access to mortgages, higher levels police brutality (a remnant of the slave trade), and lack of access to loans, quality food, and education. Since the effects of a racialized system still run rampant, I think it’s important to keep talking about race. While it would be great if skin color and facial features didn’t matter, they are still deeply affecting many people’s quality of life. Scientifically speaking race isn’t real, but unfortunately it is still at play. This explanation is very simplified but I hope it helps!

    • Vero says...

      Hi! In this context it’s good to research the difference between ‘race’ and ‘racialization’.
      This might be helpful :

      The process of social construction of race is called racialization: “the process by which societies construct races as real, different and unequal in ways that matter to economic, political and social life.”

    • H says...

      As a fellow German, I thought the same thing! I think, in Germany we would never ever use that word because of the way it is connected to the Nazis and the Holocaust. Maybe it isn‘t the same in other countries/part of the world?

    • Jane says...

      Anna, this is a really interesting point (and fascinating to hear a German perspective).

      First, some context about my perspective: I have formal training as a biologist with competence on genetics, as well as in the history of race in America including the evolving concept of race and the historical practices we put into place (example: forced sterilization of Black women in California when eugenics was considered the height of advanced scientific practice). I’m also second generation Asian American, which means that my parents are immigrants and I was born an American, but I do not experience the world as a white American.

      All this to say …

      It’s true that “race” is not a scientifically meaningful concept, nor is it a biologically defensible one. Race, from a scientific perspective, doesn’t exist. Companies like 23andme purport to tell you ethnicity/race but actually what they’re doing is a little statistical game that compares genetic markers you have with genetic markers that other people have, put you into a group, link that group to a part of the world, and apply that label to all of you as a fraction (13% northern european). Here’s an article that helps explain: https://www.popsci.com/story/science/dna-tests-myth-ancestry-race/

      But you knew already that. And you’re right that a lot of bad science has been done to justify race and create differences between races (read about the IQ test) that are really aimed at justifying eugenic policies.

      So why is race important to acknowledge? In the U.S. almost every aspect of our lived experience is shaped by the perception of race. And in that sense, race is a social construction that is very, very real in ways that can determine whether one lives or dies, as we have seen. So having language to diagnose and talk about race as a social construct is also very important if we ever want to solve these problems.

      Maybe we’d be better served by using a different term, since it’s common now to think that “race” has biological/genetic/scientific roots. But it’s the word everyone knows. Interesting food for thought there.

    • Jane says...

      I wish I could edit my comment. Spent too much time thinking about the science part.

      I wanted to add that race is a social construct but it’s super REAL in the sense that it be the factor that determines whether a police person decides to shoot you without questions, or ask you if you’d please desist; whether you get a bank loan or not; whether a home appraiser decides your home is worth $900k or $1.4M; whether someone decides if your opinion in a meeting matters or not.

      So in my opinion that’s why it’s important to talk about race, even if it divides us. Because we are divided.

    • M says...

      Race is, indeed, a social construct, but that does not mean it is “made up” or otherwise not “real,” or that eradicating discussion of race would somehow eradicate racism. I recommend looking into articles and literature on why and how being “colorblind” is often counterproductive to being antiracist. This Atlantic article by Aida Harvey Wingfield is a great starting point: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/color-blindness-is-counterproductive/405037/

      Wingfield writes, “Everyone wants to be treated as an individual and recognized for their personal traits and characteristics. But the colorblindness that sociologists critique doesn’t allow for this. Instead, it encourages those who endorse this perspective to ignore the ongoing processes that maintain racial stratification in schools, neighborhoods, health care, and other social institutions. Can color consciousness draw attention to these issues? The research demonstrates that it can lead to more understanding of our racially stratified society and can give rise to a willingness to work for change.”

      An adopted BIPOC child will, unfortunately, experience “racial stratification in schools, neighborhoods, health care, and other social institutions” (i.e., systemic racism) regardless of whether their adoptive parents acknowledge their race or not. That’s why the mindfulness advised by Christine and Rebecca is key.

    • Chloe says...

      Hi, recommend Alice Hasters book “Was weiße Menschen nicht über Rassismus hören wollen aber wissen sollten” to learn more about race in Germany.

    • Claire G says...

      Coming from overseas as well (NZ) I can only speak from what I have learned about USA culture and politics. Although we are all humans, different ‘races’ have different cultures which should be valued, and BIPOC experiences in the past and today, differ from non indigenous people, and some ‘races’ I.e. white people, have had societal privileges that others have not, and don’t get discriminated against when others do. Not noticing this privilege and discrimination because you are treating everyone the same can feel like you are erasing it., and I think it’s better to acknowledge this history, celebrate all cultures and the differences, and allow children to grow up with a genuine community that reflects their culture, positive role models etc.

    • Caucus says...

      Anna it depends – there has been a debate about this in Berlin but it is also caught up in Nazi history and the literal translation of race into German which means “breed” – understandably more offensive. However, a lot of German organisations working on anti racism strongly argued for the word to be included because otherwise they are unseen, unaddressed, and discrimination continues unabated without recourse to protection under law.

    • Agnès says...

      Anna, as a french reader I have the same difficulty; I fully understand that the word is used with a different meaning (a social construction), but it would be so much healthier to use a different words, because races don’t exist in humans and so the persistance of the word makes it ambiguous. Race has a clear meaning for animals, let’s not use it with a different meaning for us. Let’s just not use it. Unless we use it so we have to explain it every time? why not, but racism is so real, the word is an opportunity to fuel it.

    • Jennifer says...

      German here who used to live in the US: As Allie said below, the word “Rasse” holds very different connotation from “race”. I would not use the German word but definitely use the English one. In my opinion, there is not really a German word yet which has the same complex meaning as “race” in the U.S. – partly because Germany used to be less racially diverse than the U.S. and partly because we have a huge blind spot in German society concerning race relations. (We tend to equate racism with anti-migrant attitudes, even though obviously not every Person of Color is a migrant.) Most younger, German people of color I know tend to actually use the English term “PoC” to describe themselves.

    • tracy says...

      @Allie: I’m wondering why you went to Ukraine to learn Russian, a language and country that oppressess Ukraine culture and language completely. My husband is Ukrainian and it aches how his life, soviet and post-soviet, was under awful Russian rule. It’s a bit disrespectful to go to a country and learn the language that was forced upon them to learn… As It hurts others and has decimated the culture in turn

    • M says...

      I’m from Argentina, where we have a lot of racism problems, a lot of people have ancestors of different nationalities, so most of us can’t say we are a specific “race” and there is a clear favoritism to white blond people. But nothing like in the US, where your race is asked in medical forms or college applications. WHY do you need to know that? Do you need dna test before applying? It is really weird.

    • Allie says...

      @Traci. I absolutely understand where you’re coming from, as I lived in Ukraine for years. There are many nuances with the situation, and you’re making a few assumptions: First, I did not choose to go to Ukraine to learn Russian. I was recruited by a Ukrainian organization and they assigned me to learn Russian. I did not earn money, if that’s a concern, it was a philanthropic position. Learning Russian was not my goal, it was a necessary skill I had to pour myself into in order to survive independently in a foreign country.

      Also, the SPOKEN language varies from area to area in the country. If I tried to speak Ukrainian to most people in Donetsk or in Sevastopol, people would have asked me to speak Russian to them instead.

      When I was in more western parts of Ukraine, I switched to Ukrainian, which is the more commonly accepted spoken language.

      Hopefully that sheds some light, but ultimately I shouldn’t need to explain or justify my life to a stranger on the internet, especially when it’s not the crux of the issue at hand (transracial adoptions).

    • Cheryl says...

      To answer M’s question – the need to push back on favoritism for white people in the US is exactly why race is asked on medical forms & college applications. There’s certainly no DNA test, but hospitals & colleges are legally required by federal mandate to track this demographic information (which respondents are always legally able to decline – responses can only be volunteered when asked) so that there IS data to review if claims are made that favoritism has been made in medical care or college acceptance, job hiring, etc (racism in these things is illegal, but still very much happens). How is systemic racism in favor of white people in Argentina quantifed and addressed?

    • Anna says...

      As a fellow European I agree that I find the American use of the word of “race” disturbing. I get that the word in modern american language is moore equivalent with etnicity, but a still wish there was another word to use because of the historical use. As a swede I would never use the word race (in Swedish “ras”) when reffering to skin color. The word race probably sounds strange to most Europeans.

  55. Roxana says...

    Wow! This is an excellent post. It’s a touchy subject that has been handled very well.

    I work in adoption advocacy and although I’m not a social worker (maybe some day!), I have read a lot about the issues (and taken courses), I work with several organizations and, of course, I know many families who are navigating these issues. I would not say that the issues are insurmountable! Are they difficult? Yes. But I would argue that parenting is difficult; sometimes it can be extremely difficult. Choosing to love someone from a hard place (like the foster care system) is often very difficult and is rife with “risks” (the heart-breaking kind) and layers (like race).

    For context, while my husband and I have not (yet?!) adopted, I do have a child who was born with disabilities. And while there is obviously a difference between a person having disabilities and a person being of a minority race (I mean, duh!), there are issues in parenting that you can never adequately prepare for and that you just have to handle as you go. You learn as you go. And no, it won’t be perfect, but it can and will be good and beautiful. If there is anything I’ve learned in parenting my three very unique biological children, it’s this: you do not and cannot choose who your children are. I believe that God does. I think it’s really important to remember this when opening your heart and home to a child from a hard place (like the foster care system or an institution). Also, read your brains out. Read about trauma and it’s different iterations. Read about racial and social issues (duh). Read about how the brain works and develops and how abuse and neglect affect development. Read about different kinds of therapy. You would do all of this for a biological child (believe me), so you should do it for any child you are parenting. There is a lot to learn, but there is so, so much to be gained for everyone involved!

    Thank you for this post!

  56. AE says...

    I think the only appropriate answer here is to use your privilege as a white couple, who believes they are on their way to allyship, to change the systems in place that account for over-policing and over prosecuting black parents (which leads to displacement of children), the systems that make it financially difficult for black families to thrive in America and therefore adequately support growing families (redlining, high rates of student loans, etc), the systems that make restorative justice (vs punitive) possible, including hose systems that allow white patents to abuse their kids/ drugs but go to rehab versus what most BIPOC parents receive in turn for the same behaviors. I know you think you’ve explained why you would adopt a BIPOC child over a white child but truly, nothing you’ve said justifies the inherent racial trauma. It’s just not fair to the kid— foster care isn’t either, but at least there kids have a certain expectation there. You rob a BIPOC kid of being whole by playing into systems of oppression and supremacy even further. You are also waiving your white savior flag- instead of choosing to do something helpful and not simply virtue signaling. You rob black adopters of the chance to unite with black adoptees. Black families have developed complicated, thoughtful, generational, love filled ways of raising their black children in the face of systemic racism— what makes you think that you are even remotely equipped to handle this? To understand the nuances, to have the love and empathy, to develop the language to explain to your kid why you get to do XYZ while they are not allowed to? I think the question, in itself, fails communities of colors and actually shows that you are not prepared/able/should not transracially adopt. Why not offer services or money to families who have lost kids— in order to help reunite them? I’m sure you know or kind find attorneys, etc. that you can organize (not much harder than writing in to ask about your adoption plans). No amount of white-liberal-justification here makes this okay. I hope you take some of the other poster’s suggestions and contribute, meaningfully, to organizations that actually affect systemic change instead of focusing, poorly, on the individual.

    • AE says...

      You can also donate to organizations that make it easier for BIPOC to adopt BIPOC kids. The financial burden of adoption fees is what often keeps people away (see again: system racism that affects jobs, finances, generational wealth, disposable income, etc). I think too, you should ask yourself why you’ve never seen BIPOC parents having adopted a white child. Question the power dynamics, etc that are there.

    • Roxana says...

      “It’s just not fair to the kid— foster care isn’t either, but at least there kids have a certain expectation there.”

      Respectfully, this statement sounds downright heartless. A generous reading is that this perspective is based on profound ignorance. Never mind how judgmental and cynical the other statements made in this comment are.

      Are you at all familiar with the experiences of children in foster care? Do you know the statistics surrounding children who grow-up in the foster care system? Do you know about the emotional trauma they endure? Do you know how profoundly it effects their futures. Please read more about this issue before telling someone that they are not equipped or qualified to become a foster or adoptive parent to a child who is BIPOC. I think your mind will be changed.

    • Allie says...

      What about “think globally, act locally”? As Rebecca pointed out, there should not be a mutual exclusion between the options of “Should my goal be to fight to change the child welfare system so families have stronger protection — instead of adopting?”.

      At the end of the day, there are still going to be more kids that need homes than there are people (of any color) willing to adopt. Maybe getting BIPOC kids adopted by BIPOC parents is preferable to white parents adopting BIPOC kids, but isn’t a thoughtful transracial (and KB does seem like they’re on the right path) adoption better than being left to the wolves of the foster care system?

      Yeah? Nah? Maybe?

    • I never comment but this comment is so hurtful I had to says...

      Your response is so hurtfully ignorant. I have no words.

    • Anne Elliot says...

      It seems reasonable to point out that any prospective parent who is considering that journey is likely doing so because that is the experience they want – to love and nurture a child, grow a family, and contribute productive and kind people to society. That’s not the experience you get from working for systemic socio-economic-political change, no matter how necessary that work may be. So I wonder if your answer would be different if you considered the choice to be not “adopt a child of another race OR work for change” but rather “adopt a child of another race OR adopt a white child.”

    • Bonnie says...

      Kids have a certain expectation in foster care? WTH? Really… what the hell? There always seem to be a few doozies in COJ comments the past few months and other statements you made fall into that category…but this one is just ignorant and more to the point, cruel.

    • R says...

      “ I hope you take some of the other poster’s suggestions and contribute, meaningfully, to organizations that actually affect systemic change instead of focusing, poorly, on the individual.”

      This comment… I am just shocked. Why is it either/or and not both/and? How is it okay to ignore a child in need of a home because it would be “focusing on the individual”….? As the older sister of an adopted sibling from China, I cannot believe the callousness of this statement.

      It should be BOTH AND.

    • Laurel says...

      It’s also worth pointing out — even once we are successful making all the of the changes that desperately need to be made to the child welfare system, and black and non-white children are no longer removed from their parents at disproportionate rates, there will still be a need for adoption.

      Some of the kids who need adoptive homes are given to the system voluntarily at birth, abandoned (and their birth parents cannot be found), or orphaned. Of course, the deep inequalities in our culture may make these things more happen to black and non-white families, and that too needs to be addressed. But it’s just to say, even at our best, their will always be some children in need of a new home.

    • Chris says...

      The problems you are pointing out are a reality, and a change is very much needed, but to me, your comment sounds very contemptuous.

      “You are also waiving your white savior flag- instead of choosing to do something helpful and not simply virtue signaling.”

      Seriously – would you accept somebody talking to you like that?

      To use your own words – what makes you think you are remotely in a place to judge other people’s intentions that?
      Asking why somebody with the desire to raise a child and having a family doesn’t just offer services or money instead implies that this person is acting merely because of a savior complex.

  57. nandini says...

    Love the conversation and both answers. Thank you for introducing us to Rebecca Carroll. I’m putting both books in my to order list.
    On the same topic, if anyone one is interested, just last weekend I finished reading the book “Do Right by Me, Learning to Raise Black Children in White Spaces ” by Valerie I. Harrison and Kathryn Peach D’Angelo http://tupress.temple.edu/book/20000000010359
    I’m biracial and I grew up in Italy where I was the only one that looked like me (besides my sister). We were raised by my mom alone who is white and while she has given us a wonderful family, education and support, she didn’t really realize the challenges we had, facing racism and discrimination. Identity is a subject that interests me a lot and even if I don’t have children right now, I still find that those conversations helps me understand my experience and myself. Thank you!

  58. Laurel says...

    My parents, my brother, and myself, are all white, and my younger sister is black. She was adopted when she was about one year old. One thing that was a really important factor: at the time my parents were looking to adopt (about 30 years ago now), they were asked to check off which types of children they were willing to take. Would you take a white child? A black one? Other races? An autistic child? Blind? An older child? Just a baby? I don’t know if this procedure is the same today, though I somewhat understand why they asked those questions. You obviously don’t want to place a child with a family who blatantly doesn’t want them. My parents said they would be willing to take any child, and as a result were matched with a child labeled “hard to place.” My sister is both black and has a developmental disability. I think, to my parents, it felt distinctly wrong (not to mention racist) to say they were flat out unwilling to take a black or non-white child.

    I think all of the considerations and concerns discussed by Rebecca and Christine are really important. But a potential word of caution to any parents looking to adopt: it might not just be a matter of deciding whether or not you will specifically seek out a black child to adopt. It’s possible you will be asked, who are you willing to take? If you’re willing to take any child who needs a home, there’s a high likelihood you will end up with a non-white child, because of the inequities and over-representation of non-white children in the child welfare system mentioned by KB.

    • Laura Ivey says...

      I agree. I appreciate the vulnerability of KB’s question and also the thoughtfulness of the responses from Rebecca and Christine. However, the question DOES read as if adopting in the USA is something like shopping, where parents get to choose who they adopt. My understanding is like yours, it more likely who are you willing to take. Not adopting a child because the child is not one’s own ethnicity, race, sexuality, or ability seems to be what would be horrible!
      As the daughter of a father who grew up in an abusive orphanage until he was on his own (on the streets) at 12, I can assure you that a loving home regardless of the race would have been preferred, not just for his own self, but because these wounds are transferred to children and their children.
      While I am in no way intending to minimize racial trauma, but I do believe that families can celebrate cultural identity, find role models, cultural communities for their child of a different race. But, racial trauma verses a childhood of physical trauma, abuse, neglect, which is the reason children are removed from homes, may be the lesser evil.
      I also want to say as someone who works in the field of child protection, while I’m sure that there are exceptions, most children are removed from homes as a last resort. Child abuse is a terrible reality and no child deserves to suffer.

  59. Camille says...

    I am a young black woman who was adopted by white parents. They also have two biological children and two more adopted children, one from China and one from Mexico. I could not disagree more with anyone who says love is not enough. I don’t even like to think about the life I would have lived had I not been welcomed into the home and hearts of such a loving family. I feel that all seven of us are better, kinder, more thoughtful people than we ever could have been without each other. We laugh about our differences, we support each other. We’re family. Do we always understand each other? No. Can anyone else in the family relate to my past? Not entirely, no. But who can relate to anyone else entirely? Or understand another person completely? Why should we have to? I never felt “less than” in any way growing up and I don’t now, at 26. To discourage anyone who can and wants to adopt a child of any race or background is just sad. Would you tell someone not to adopt a kid in a wheel chair because you aren’t in a wheel chair and can’t relate? NO, of course not. No family is perfect, but a family built on purpose–on a solid foundation of love, acceptance and commitment–is better than growing up with parents who didn’t want you in the first place, or a mom who got pregnant at 14 and couldn’t take care of you. How can you tell any kid they’re better off with no parents than parents who don’t match their skin color? LOVE IS ENOUGH.

    • Roxana says...

      I love this: “No family is perfect, but a family built on purpose–on a solid foundation of love, acceptance and commitment–is better than growing up with parents who didn’t want you in the first place, or a mom who got pregnant at 14 and couldn’t take care of you. How can you tell any kid they’re better off with no parents than parents who don’t match their skin color? LOVE IS ENOUGH.”

      God bless you, Camille! Thank you for sharing some of your story!

    • AG says...

      To discourage anyone who can and wants to adopt a child of any race or background is just sad – I don’t think anyone (in this scenario) is being discouraged but more of giving a heads up of what one might encounter.

      I understand what you mean – love is enough in the sense that with LOVE a family finds a way to figure things out.

    • Doris says...

      This is exactly what needed to be said. I wish I was able to articulate everything you said. LOVE IS ENOUGH. Bravo Camille. Your response should be in the article. Thank you!

    • K says...

      true love is enough <3

      thank you for your voice!

    • Maywyn says...

      Bless you, Camille
      Your wise words touches my heart deeply.

    • Charlotte says...

      I really appreciate your thoughtful words and first-hand perspective Camille, thank you for sharing :)

    • Ashley P says...

      Yes!! This!!

    • Christina says...

      So grateful for your comment, Camille!
      Thank you for sharing your lived experience and for providing a much needed other-side to this discussion.

    • IJ says...

      Well said, Camille. It saddens me to think that many children will not get adopted because prospective adoptive parents out there are being told that “love is not enough”. In my very humble opinion, instilling this type of fear calls for furthering racial division and is not in the children’s best interest. Although I agree that in an ideal world children should stay closer to their roots, the reality is that people of all races are genuinely interested in providing a loving home for these kids. The way I see it, while we discourage prospective parents on the basis of race, real children are not getting adopted and forced to stay in the foster care system until they turn 18. I do not think this alternative is pretty for them.

    • Jackie says...

      Camille – thank you. This really touched me. Your family sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing your personal experience.

    • Dana says...

      Thank you SO much for this, Camille. As a white mother of a biological child who is having trouble conceiving a second, and actively pursuing adoption that will likely be transracial, it meant so much to me to hear your perspective that aligns with the hope in my heart! Your family sounds awesome.

    • Elle says...

      Camille, yes. Thank you for your positive take on this. And as another commenter said, the much needed other perspective here. My two Black cousins were adopted by my white Aunt and Uncle and are now in their twenties and doing incredible. They have solid jobs, significant others, and are as well adjusted as any other twenty-something I know. They are doing far better than most of our other white cousins. They are best friends with my aunt in a way I wish I was best friends with my white mom (I’m white, our family is white). Yes, of course there is nuance and endless complexity, but on the whole I know my cousins feel happy they were adopted into exactly the family they were adopted into. Our family. Keep it simple. Love is enough.

    • Vero says...

      Camille, I appreciate your comment and also the words of the Christine and Rebecca above. I think as white people we often want to look to the Black community and get the “One Right Answer”. It’s so tempting to want one unified perspective but having these three perspectives is a really clear reminder that Blackness is not a monolith. We can’t expect Black people to all have the same opinion about an issue. I think we are being invited to develop a capacity within us that where we can begin to hold more than one thing to be true at the same time and be supportive nonetheless.

    • D says...

      Thank you Camille for your perspective. I was hoping someone would be able to provide this perspective from a first-hand experience. I thought KB’s post showed how thoughtfully they were considering their potential adoption – thinking about it from many angles, seeking out more knowledge, etc. While Christine’s response suggested caution, Rebecca’s sounded very negative to me, suggesting that there was likely no way to bridge the gap correctly.

    • Sabrina says...

      Thank you, Camille. I am a white mother of a black child and I am pretty sure she would write these exact same words. Has it been perfect? No, but it’s been pretty close.

    • Anna says...

      YES YES YES

    • MJ says...

      Camille, your response is the wisest one I have read here. Thank you so very much for sharing your words of grace, wisdom and encouragement!!! There is a lot of work to be done in order to understand and fight against racialization and racism, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is responsible for doing the work EVERY DAY, in whatever way(s) we can. We’ll know we have achieved Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream when we all start thinking like Camille and expect love to win. At the end of the day, love is all there is.

  60. Kayla says...

    This post is so so so important! I have so many thoughts, but I will try to keep it short and just from my perspective as an adopted person, without going too too deep. Also if this seems like it is going back and forth it’s because that is how my brain goes about my experience and perspective on adoption and all the related topics as I grow, change, and learn more.

    I am adopted and it has always been a huge part of my story. I am biracial, and my parents (adoptive) are a biracial couple, who also adopted three of my siblings, who are black, and then I have a sister, who is their biological daughter as well. We grew up in an extremely white and very conservative area in central, Pennsylvania. Attachment, race, parenting styles, parental loss, rejection, etc, etc, etc are all on the list of things related to my own traumas. (But really I am doing well – self-healer, wife, mom, teacher, adventurer, living in the Philly suburbs!)

    As an adopted person my perspective on it has shifted drastically, changed, reverted, and shifted more throughout my life. Right now my belief is that it is a beautiful and very complex solution to an even more complex array of circumstances. It is not something that I think I will be able to do in my life, because even though I grew up in a home with nice parents, there is so much healing I have to do, before I personally would be able to. Yet, there are so many, many children out there waiting and hoping for forever homes and I would encourage anyone that may be interested in exploring adoption to do so. I also applaud anyone who is thinking this deeply and questioning so much as they make a decision about whether to adopt. Don’t come for me, but, “Putting food on the table and a roof over a child’s head”, for a child that may not have those things can very easily create the savior complex and exacerbate struggles that already exist for all involved, but that is the very bare minimum to parenting at all and especially adopted children. So this whole conversation is JUST PURE GOLD. It honestly is a truly wonderful and very special way to build a family, but just try to remember that adoption often comes from broken beginnings, which involve great loss and heartbreak. It has been such a struggle to reconcile the broken beginning factor of my story along with all the elements that went along with my placement and the home I grew up in. It is so wonderful to see people having this conversation about those elements. I hope that whatever journey building a family takes readers allows for finding and giving belonging, healing, and joy, because all children do deserve the love and security of family.

    • Christine Pride says...

      Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience, Kayla. It’s really nice to hear from you and Camille and others who can share their own first hand perspectives and we can see the range of those experiences. Every family and every child, adopted or not, are going to have different dynamics, setbacks, challenges, and outcomes. And reading and sharing these stories reinforces that richness and gives us a lot to think about. That we’re sharing and talking and questioning when it comes to all of these issues in this community is a gift we’re all enriched by. Thank you again.

  61. Agnès says...

    It’s probably a french thing, or something I don’t fully get from the english language but it’s almost unbearable for me that the word race is used so much by the reader. What I suppose is that you (in us english) now understand “race” as a a cultural group? but if it is so, wouldn’t it be time to use another word? You couldn’t use it in french it is totally offensive and wrong and you could even be punished by the law. We have different histories and as for racism and anti-racism we go through different processes; our different histories help us understand concepts much better. Anyway, can’t wait to read more comments.

    • Kiana says...

      I don’t think it has the same meaning as the literal translation in French. I don’t speak French, but I do speak Spanish and it’s true that “raza” sounds weird and impolite to talk about our differences. But the word race doesn’t sound offensive to American ears.

    • Midge says...

      Multiple European commenters have noticed this, and I think it’s so interesting. I’m curious to know how you would say this sentence in France: “I know if we did adopt a child of a different race, we would need to be hyper-intentional about our community to make sure that they would grow up with friends, leaders, teachers and hairstylists who are their same race. ”
      What words/sentence construction would be an acceptable alternative?

    • Kiana says...

      Midge, in Spanish we’d say etnicidad. Ethnicity.

    • Hoiho says...

      Even in English, in New Zealand we would always say “ethnicity” and never “race.”

    • Agnès says...

      Midge, I guess we would say “a child of another colour”; there are many studies about that in adoptio agencies, and they mention colour; it is very interesting to read about adoptees in France and in the Us about that same topic, it is so different; the history is different.
      Kiana: are you mexican? (A friend’s daughter in Oaxaca is called Kiana and I thought it could be you!!)

    • Christina says...

      @Midge – In Swedish we would say “same or similar colour of skin (hudfärg)” and / or “same cultural background”. The word “etnicity” might also work. But not “race”, no. Only hard-core racists use that word.

    • Midge says...

      Thank you, everyone!

    • mado says...

      I think the words to talk about race are definitely different in different places. That said, European countries (most of my experience is with France but I know it’s not the only one) have a huge problem with refusing to acknowledge the history of colonialism and the racial issues within their countries today. Rokhaya Diallo is a journalist who writes a lot about issues of race in France, The book Feminist Trouble is open access and is a very academic look at racism in French (and Quebec) feminist movements. In particular in France, the idea of “universalism” can cause many emotional and physical hurts when actually some people are excluded from that universal. It is true that our countries have different trajectories on race, but in my view, France still seems to be in the “sweep under the rug” phase, whereas in the US it is so so refreshing to see conversations like this where many white people are choosing to really grapple with the racial history of our country.

  62. AJ says...

    Thank you so much for this, Christine and Rebecca. I am (very slowly) researching adoption with the hope to adopt in the future, and found reading this really helpful.

  63. Ell says...

    I have no personal experience to offer and don’t want this to sound trite so please ignore if it’s not helpful, but what about foster care, with possible adoption from there? An acquaintance of mine who fosters is pro re-unification, but would love to adopt the kid if that’s not possible and is trying to provide a good home meanwhile.

  64. C says...

    https://upendmovement.org/

    I highly recommend this website.

    “The work of the upEND Movement isn’t about modest reform; it is about ending the current child welfare system and creating in its place new, anti-racist structures and practices to keep children safe and protected in their homes. upEND is about changing our nation’s approaches to family poverty and instability so that we work collectively to tackle the core societal stressors that make children vulnerable to unnecessary family separation.”

    • Anna C says...

      Tha k you so much for sharing C. I have been looking for a movement just like this. I am taking a look into upEND this evening.

  65. Maria says...

    Gosh, such a hard, nuanced topic! Thank you for engaging in it. My heart breaks for the parents trying to do the right thing, and for the children who stand to lose their identity/language/ethnicity.

  66. Drea says...

    I appreciated both the question and the answers in this post so much. Even though I don’t have children (and likely won’t ever adopt), it gave me a lot to think about. That said, there was one thing that puzzled me a bit. What about Black children who are raised by a white (biological) parent? There seems to be an assumption in both the question and responses that a Black child’s only two options are to be raised either by white adoptive parents or Black biological parents. What is it like for a white parent who is raising their biological child who is Black? What is it like for the child? And how do these experience relate to (and differ from) the experiences of Black children with white adoptive parents? Obviously I’m thinking out loud here and would love to hear from people (perhaps in the comments) who can speak to these experiences too because I imagine there might be some similarities?

    • Beel says...

      Yes! I am mixed race! Please do an article on this. The damage I see makes my heart hurt.

    • Hannah says...

      There is a book by Georgina Lawton on this very topic. It’s called ‘Raceless’. The author is mixed race, born after her mum had an affair, but raised by two white parents. I would really recommend it.

    • Sarah says...

      Yes, this country has a huge number of mixed race people, and we are often ignored (see “check the race box” situations). I’m not implying that happened here, since the reponses were to a specific question from white parents, but it happens a lot, even though we will be the majority in several decades. My daughter is Black (like my Jamaican husband) and white/Jewish and Native (like me). Nearly our entire friend group is Black or mixed, but I worry about raising her in Oregon, where it’s majority white/Christian.

      I take it as my life’s work, as her non-Black mother, to help celebrate every part of my Black daughter’s heritage and race, and to teach her to survive and thrive in a white-supramacist country/world. While I have my husband to help, it’s also my responsibility to learn about every mundane way I can help her (right not that means hours on youtube watching hair tutorials). In any case, it’s not always easy, and I am always trying to learn more, especially from adult Black children raised by non-Black parents.

    • Christine Pride says...

      Hi Drea– you raise a very a good point. For purposes of answering the letter, I was thinking solely in the context of adoption but certainly there could be similar considerations with an interracial couple who have a Black child and it’s helpful to see other people, parents and bi-racial children, comment here about that perspective.

    • Fiona says...

      Another concept you may be interested in would be “Third Culture Kids” – like myself. My mother is Scottish, my father is Mexican and I grew up in other contexts that neither of them shared with me or eachother. There is a lot of overlap between Mixed communities/families/individuals and TCKs, and the conversations surrounding identity and belonging, and forging your own path. Lots of interesting reading and nuances!

  67. HK says...

    I appreciate the acknowledgement by all parties that the reason there are more BIPOC children in foster care programs is because of long existing racism and systemic oppression and prejudice. I am a master of social work student and I work in child welfare and a huge part of my job is providing counseling and resources for families at risk so that they can stay together and avoid the trauma of being separated. The truth is that families can often safely heal together when they have everything they need and are not facing scarcity.
    The Families First Prevention Services Act of 2018 provides organizations with compensation for providing evidenced based interventions for families before children are removed.

    • Em says...

      What are the organizations like you are describing here? I would love to donate!!!

    • HK says...

      The Act I mentioned above is a federal act so it applies to a lot of organizations nationally! I work at KVC Kentucky as an intern shadowing in behavioral health (therapy). But the idea is to federally fund organizations who are trying to keep families of origin together because the evidence base has shifted to reflect that this helps keep everyone safer, healthier, and avoids trauma and other adverse experiences for some families.

  68. Julie says...

    What a great post, two thoughtful responses and I’m just ordering Rebecca’s book now. BTW fabulous dress in your photo Christine!

  69. Kat v says...

    This is such a wonderful post. I’m confused though – who is Rebecca? She writes incredibly articulately and persuasively, but does not have a tag or a bio in this article.
    Thanks!

    • Charlotte says...

      Hi Kat, I wondered the same for a moment and then realized it was Rebecca Carroll, the author of Surviving the White Gaze, who Christine references in her response!

    • S says...

      “While working at Simon and Schuster, I had the great privilege of acquiring and editing Surviving the White Gaze by journalist and cultural critic Rebecca Carroll”

      Rebecca is the journalist.

    • Julie says...

      Her bio and tag are in the first letter:

      While working at Simon and Schuster, I had the great privilege of acquiring and editing Surviving the White Gaze by journalist and cultural critic Rebecca Carroll, which hit shelves this month, and which the Boston Globe describes as “generous, intimate, searching, and formidable, her story excavated from her core and delivered with fervor and clarity.” In this searing memoir, Rebecca chronicles her experience as a Black child raised in an all-white family and community. And when I say “all white,” I’m not exaggerating — she didn’t see her first Black person until she was six years old.

      Needless to say, Rebecca is well equipped to speak on this topic from deeply personal and hard won experience, so let’s hear from her, too.

  70. Dana says...

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us Christine and Rebecca. I really appreciate the nuance you bring to such a complex set of intertwined issues.

    As I was reading, I was paying attention to the capitalization/or non-capitalization of the words Black, White, and Brown. There seemed to be a mixture throughout, Black capitalized (except for once), White not capitalized, and Brown not capitalized. This is something that I have been doing some thinking on lately as I write, and have found that the preferences on capitalization seem to be quite varied, there isn’t necessarily a consensus on this. Initially, I was taking the approach of capitalizing all words describing race, for consistency. However, I know some news sources, in particular, are taking the approach of capitalizing Black, but not White, with little discussion of Brown. In the past, I believe I would generally see all races written in lowercase. Can anyone share their insight on this?

  71. ks says...

    don’t mind as I cry my way through this article. this question has been at the tip of my tongue as we sit at the same impasse and decision. I considered the weight of adopting a child of another race before heavily, but to say I wouldn’t have sat on the the immensity of the decision for this long with no certainty in either path is new. Christina’s response is kinder, but Rebecca’s directness and the uncomfortable place she asks I sit in with her response is raw honesty. it also leaves me feeling less than optimistic that I would that person that figures out how to conquer this “insurmountable chasm”.

    one question for the community – are there organizations that we can support & champion that are bettering the lives of bipoc children in foster care or groups that are working to keep families together? if the decision is ultimately not to adopt outside of our race, that won’t stop my desire to help. i volunteer at “grandparents plaza” (their words, not mine) in DC where grandparents are raising their grandchildren in a community group housing setting. what other avenues – what other groups or national platforms can I get involved in?

    • Emily says...

      I know CFC (Center for Family Representation) is one organization that does that work.

    • Fiona says...

      I’m in a similar boat, also in DC. I’m a Mexican/British immigrant to the US (came as a teen) and feel my background would be helpful to bridge divides with Latinx children in the foster system. I’m also a white lady, and am incredibly aware of the difference between my experience and an Indigenous or other more visible ethnic minority even if I speak the language and eat the food and listen to the music etc.

      I’ve been spending a lot of time researching birth parent activists and adoptees, with a strong focus on trans-racial adoptees, primarily on instagram to start working on my “I don’t know what I don’t know” process.

      A great account with lots of information I found was @fromanothamotha on FB who is a white birth mother, and @homesweethomestead who is a white foster parent, both of who provide a lot of “behind the scenes” perspectives to discuss what the high complexity of the child welfare system (understanding that these two examples also exemplify white privilege). I also follow the trans-racial adoptee hashtag broadly, and am following lots of accounts on that front too. If you would want to chat to share information resources, feel free to reach out fionitarita@gmail.com.

    • Roxana says...

      Safe Families is an EXCELLENT organization that is doing that – working to support children and to keep families together. It was started in Chicago by a man who kept seeing a gap between families who were struggling and the foster care system. I.e. parents were not yet at the point of losing custody, but they were struggling. It is faith-based and operates as a para-church organization. However, one is not required to identify as a Christian or attend a church to become a “safe family,” you need only be “connected” to a church’s support network (I serve as the leader of a support network). As a Safe Families volunteer you go through training that addresses multiple issues including race and culture. You can also volunteer in different capacities. You can be a “safe family” and temporarily open your home to a child or children, or you can be a support volunteer (e.g. bring a meal to a host family; mentor mom while she is trying to get back on her feet, etc.) – there are many opportunities. I cannot say enough good things about Safe Families.

      Check them out when you have a moment! https://safe-families.org/

    • NC says...

      We volunteered with Safe Families and hosted a 2 year old for a few months because her mom was kicked out of her parents’ home. She had no family to turn to and risked losing her child. Within those few months, she was able to secure housing and a job and never lost custody of her daughter. We still keep in touch today and I’m happy to say she is thriving and a wonderful mother.

    • ks says...

      thank you everyone for your responses and suggestions – ks xx

  72. AMK says...

    Wow, Christine and Rebecca! What a profound post. I felt this with my whole heart.

    “All of this is an intense additional burden white parents have the luxury to avoid. You will not, if you have a Black child. You will also not have the benefit of personal experience or common perspective to draw upon to help your child deal with the unique challenges of being a Black person in America. You will have to find some way to effectively and credibly convey support and understanding without having the innate connection of a shared experience. That’s a tough chasm, but not an insurmountable one.”

    “My advice would be to lead as much with your heart as with your brain. Love as much as you learn, and integrate that learning into how you love. Don’t read Sula by Toni Morrison because you “should” as the parent of a Black child, but because it’s brilliant and insightful and exists outside of the White Gaze. Don’t follow Black Twitter because you “should” as the parent of a Black child, but because it will make you more culturally conversant and racially aware. And so on. You can read all the “How To Be Anti-Racist” books, but the real information you need to effectively parent a Black child is and has been out there since we got here. We’ve been creating and sharing culture, telling stories, and making music and art for time immemorial. Don’t just observe or co-opt it, internalize it in a way that changes how you think… not just about race or parenting or Blackness, but about everything at its very core.“

    OOOOH. POWERFUL!!!! Thank you!!

    Unrelated topic:
    OMG CHRISTINE’S DRESS!!!! I want to buy seven for each day of the week. If anyone has details, please share. Thank you!!

    • Kat says...

      I absolutely do not want to take away from the topic at hand but I second that request for details re: the incredible dress!

    • AMK says...

      Ahhh ok! Thank you for sending the link, Kay!!

  73. Anni says...

    This is really important, thank you.

  74. English Major says...

    Whoops! There is a typo- four paragraphs up from the bottom of the first answer there is a paragraph fragment that needs to be deleted. Otherwise- what a great post.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!