by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Margie Perscheid
Whenever I see a white couple with an Asian or Hispanic child, I can’t help wondering whether adoption — like the personal ads — is one of the last areas of American life where naked expressions of racial preference are acceptable.
In Why Doesn’t White Adopt Black? , an op ed that ran in the Washington Post on December 24th, David Nicholson explored the racial dynamics of transracial and intercountry adoption. Although Nicholson’s question seems simple enough, getting my head around the answer was rather like trying to follow the surface of a Möbius strip, where you always end up on the other side of where you started.
In the article, Nicholson wonders if the preference of white parents to adopt Asian and Hispanic children rather than black children could be construed as racist behavior. Why, he asks, with so many African American children in need of permanent families, would prospective adoptive parents choose to adopt from other countries?
It’s a question that absolutely deserves consideration, but in my opinion there’s another he missed altogether: Is it acceptable for white parents to raise children of other races in the first place?
As the white adoptive parent of two Korean children, I can’t answer this question objectively. My adoption experience has been entirely positive – I have a close family and two confident children with strong Korean identities. But do my children feel as positive about their experience as they appear to? Or do they keep the negatives to themselves for fear of hurting my husband and me?
And what about their first mothers or fathers, how would they answer? Or adoptees who have experienced racism in their communities, their schools, and even in their families?
Critical mass and the internet have given adoptees and their first parents voice. There are so many forums, lists, and blogs sharing different transracial and intercountry adoptee points of view that adoptive parents really have no excuse anymore to plead ignorance of their points of view. And although communication with first parents is far less common, it is beginning – perhaps not online, but in other ways: at conferences, for example, and in film and print.
What many of them are saying is what we adoptive parents should have known all along: That being a part of our families doesn’t make them white. That they’ve experienced all kinds of racist attitudes and behaviors. And that being different from the rest of their families, the only one of their race in the place that’s supposed to be their haven, is hard.
This is what’s missing in David Nicholson’s article. For although he asks a question that makes perfect sense in the context of race relations in the U.S., it misses the point in the context of adoption.
So is it appropriate for white parents to raise children of other races? I don’t know, and honestly don’t believe I’m qualified to answer. But I do know that it’s time for adoptive parents like David Nicholson and me to stand aside and let the first parents and adoptees do the talking. They’re the experts.
What are your opinions on transracial and intercountry adoption? Do you think it should continue? Stop entirely? Be overhauled to better serve the needs of first parents and children? I’m interested in what you have to say.
Margie Perscheid is the adoptive mother of two Korean teens. She is a co-founder of Korean Focus, an organization for families with children from Korea with chapters across the country. Margie is on the Board of Directors of the Korean American Coalition DC Chapter, a former board member of KAAN, the Korean YMCA of Greater Washington (now KAYA), and ASIA (Adoption Service Information Agency). Margie writes about her intercountry adoption experiences at Third Mom. She, her husband Ralf, and their two children live in Alexandria, Virginia.