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Truth about Transracial Adoptions (in re: NYT Article)

South End Press Announces

Transracial Adoption: It's Not Just About White Parents
Cambridge, MA - Aug 17, 2006

In today's New York Times the frontpage headline "Breaking Through Adoption's Racial Barriers" introduces an in-depth article about white Americans who have--or are looking to--adopt children of color. But in the inches devoted to the "growing number of white couples pushing past longtime cultural resistance to adopt black
children," we find a series of unasked questions: Why are the so many children of color available for adoption in the first place, both in the US and abroad? How does transracial adoption affect adopted children of color--and their communities? Here and elsewhere, the voices of transracially adopted individuals fall to the margins, voices that are essential to a genuine understanding of this complex issue.

What's missing?

Jeni Wright paints some of the missing picture with her words: "I lean over the sink so my nose is almost touching the glass and mouth to the ugly girl staring back, you look like an ugly African bush girl, over and over until my breath clouds over my face. I start to write 'jungle bunny' in the steam but I am crying too hard to finish. Why hadn't anyone told me I was so ugly? I don't even look like a real girl" (Outsiders Within, 27).

The difficulties of transracial adoption go far beyond self-esteem, far beyond cultural literacy, infinitely deeper than individual discomfort. As Kim Diehl writes in Outsiders Within, transracial adoption is inextricable from long-standing power imbalances that extend from the personal to the institutional. "I did not have any power in the decision to seal my records; I did not have any power in the decision to take federal money away from social service programs that might have prevented family breakup; I did not have any power in the decision to make it a child placement agency policy to ignore race; I did not have any power to keep from being the physical embodiment of a political process that stamped its approval on transracial adoptions in a country founded on the enslavement and oppression of people of color" (32).

Also entirely overlooked is the harm incurred before each transracial adoption ever took place. As Shannon Gibney, a biracial black adult adoptee, puts it, "Once again, the focus is all on the white adoptive parents, and their pain. Once again, adoptees are presented as objects, as children who apparently never grow up, and therefore do not have the capacity to analyze the geopolitical issues that have shaped their identities. Once again, we don't hear the voices of birth parents or adult adoptees." Gibney goes on, "As this article presents it, the only people who are really affected by adoption are white adoptive parents and agencies."...

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