Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adoption: The "Race" Issue


One of the saddest things about adoption that hits me in the heart... is that different values are placed on a child of one race vs. another. With domestic adoption, the highest value is placed on a healthy Caucasian newborn. This contributes to a disproportionate number of children of other races left without a permanent family (not to mention the huge problem with older kids or kids with special needs not getting adopted... that's a whole different story).

In theory, race shouldn't matter. I've always believed that. Deep in my core I know that I am no better than anyone else because I'm white... and equally I believe my husband is no less of a human being (or deserving of any less in life) because he's black. That's been engrained in me for a long time and it amazes me when I think of the racism still rampant in the South and among older generations. And don't get me started on immigration laws and racism against Latinos either. (That's a hot topic for me. We're all equal and we all deserve to be here in America. You wouldn't say that black people need to go "back to Africa"... but SO often I hear how all Latinos should go "back to Mexico". How about we just make it easier to become a citizen?? Grrrrr!)

So, when it came to adopting a child... it should have been a piece of cake to simply check the box next to "willing to accept a child of any race," right? There are tons of "preferences" that you can fill out as part of the paperwork to adopt a child. You can get pretty specific regarding certain health issues or past drug use of the birthparents or whatever. A race checklist is included. You can mark exactly which races you are willing to accept, including mixed races (e.g., I'll accept a half-Asian, but not a full-Asian child, etc.).

When we were filling out this paperwork, Zay just kind of let me take over and mark whatever I wanted. He didn't have too many preferences other than specific health issues and special needs situations that he didn't think we could handle. Other than that, he let me get as specific as I wanted on all the checklists.

So I got picky. I specifically wanted a child of either gender who was full-African American or half-black mixed with any other race. I didn't question myself as to why I put that. I just marked it and moved on. I think I didn't anticipate full-white birthparents wanting to place their child with us (a black-white interracial couple) anyway, so I guess I didn't think it would matter.

Supposedly, these preferences are used to automatically match us with birthparents whose situation and child fit what we want. So if the system worked the way it was supposed to, we'd never get contacted by someone who didn't match with us. The problem is that this only works if the birthparents are registered with the agency's website. But if they sign in as a guest just to browse through the profiles, they can see every profile. And that's how (I'm assuming) we were contacted by the first girl who was considering adoption and wanted to meet us.

When I realized that there was an opportunity in front of us where we could quite possibly adopt a full-Caucasian child... I was disappointed. Only for a split second! But that split second haunted me and I was SO mad at myself for hesitating. Hello! Since when did I ever care about race? And would I honestly turn a child down because of the color of their skin?? Immediately after I found out the race of the baby and thought "this changes things," I was disgusted with myself. I had to have a heart-to-heart with myself about why I was racist (against my own race)!

I cried. I went out to eat with Zay and talked it over with him. He kind of chuckled at me for getting so upset about it. But this was serious! I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. He just told me that of course I would be more drawn to a black child. When we were trying to have kids, we obviously imagined biracial babies. And for the majority of my life, I identified with black people and black Southern culture. That's who I married, that's who I went to school with, that's who my neighbors were, that's who my friends were... so, of course I'd envision my family and children in a certain way. On the other hand, he never had a problem with it and I was kind of surprised that I was the one that was thrown off by the child's race. I asked him, "How would it feel if a white girl was calling you 'daddy'?" He just joked and made a reference to me, "I kind of already do!" LOL! Oh my gosh, I couldn't stop laughing.

I called my mom. She told me the same sort of thing... that I've always liked black people and that's who I've attached myself to. And that there was nothing wrong with that. A friend told me that the problem wasn't that I marked certain preferences... but that the preferences were even there at all. Agencies shouldn't have little check boxes for things like that. None of these answers helped me completely. I was worried that if this was supposed to be my daughter, I didn't want anything holding me back from loving her and bonding with her. I didn't want to think less of her because she wasn't what I envisioned.

The moment that changed my heart and made me realize I really was over-worrying... was when I was helping my brother and sister-in-law move. I told my sister-in-law how I was feeling about the whole issue. She asked, "Well - were you not gonna tell her that she was adopted?" I laughed and was like, "No... of course I want my child to know about their adoption." I felt silly again because I didn't have a reason for my disappointed feeling. It wasn't like I wanted a mixed child so that they could "fit right in" and then not tell them they were adopted. Then my nephew was getting in the way and playing and being oh so cute and I thought, "I have never loved a child as much as I love that boy right there." And Evander is a little mini-me version of my brother. My white brother. Lol. How could I have forgotten? For whatever reason I was worrying and was ashamed and embarrassed of a split second feeling I had, it all changed when I looked at him and realized race really didn't matter. I started crying (again...ha ha) and tried to keep it together while I moved boxes around.

I'm such a mess! I knew when things didn't work out with this particular girl that there was a reason I needed to learn about myself and work through whatever issue I was having about race. If nothing else came of it, I learned a great deal about myself and my capacity for love... and how I really, really, really wanted to do adoption the right way. I gained a lot of insight into Zay's point of view on the matter. I learned to laugh at myself and realize I'm an idiot... and that's okay. I'm human.


  1. thanks for sharing your full spectrum of thoughts and emotions on this. I've thought about this same thing a lot recently. I love your insight and willingness to share :)

  2. Melanie!!! Your comments always make me happy! Thanks. :)

  3. Haha!! Love Zay's reply to you!!! Still going!

    1. He can be SO SILLY sometimes, girl! Yep... STILL GOING!


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