Monday, September 1, 2008

Marching Orders from The Opposed

I am often looking for succinct and clear statements of my goals.  Today, I found one from a surprising source.

Ebony Magazine has a monthly column called "Two Sides" in which two experts debate opposing sides of an issue. The September 2008 issue's topic is "Should Black children only be adopted by Black parents?" After a week of avoidance, I finally read it.  Gloria Batiste-Roberts, president of the National Association of Black Social Workers, spoke for the opposing side. Historically, the NABSW has been deeply opposed to transracial adoption. Thus, I was guarded as I began reading her essay, mostly feeling afraid that her argument would shake my own faith in my ability to parent my daughter.

Being ambivalent about the overall merits of transracial adoption, I found myself agreeing with her point of view.  Her concerns were carefully enumerated and clearly put, they echoed everything I've read and heard from adult adoptees.  About 3 paragraphs in, I found myself vigorously nodding in agreement with her.  

Partway through the essay, she quotes former NABSW president, Dr. Morris FX Jeff Jr.
Love is not enough to give a child a sense of belonging, to hold him safe against the experiences of isolation and alienation, of feeling adrift without a sense of anchor in the world.  Love is necessary, but it is not sufficient.  Children must be equipped, empowered with the arsenal of their cultural traditions and heritage to protect and shield them  so that the seeds of love will have a chance to survive and flourish in self-esteem, self-respect, racial identity and self-protection without denial of the gifts of race and color God has so purposefully bestowed upon them.
This a statement that is so powerful and clear for me, I'd like to hold it as my mission statement for my parenting.

Almost equally surprising to me was my response to the supportive argument for transracial adoption.  Written by Gordon Johnson, founder of a Florida based foster care agency, I found his essay unconvincing.  His main idea, that "above all else, a child needs a loving, permanent home" did not address the issues of transracial parenting or problems of bias and white privilege in the adoption/foster care system.  At some point, the essay seemed to veer from the topic at hand becoming a sales pitch for how successful his "One Church One Child" adoptive parent recruitment had become.

His essay that essentially supports the make-up of our family left me feeling concerned that once again, those who are supposed to be looking out for the welfare of our youngest ones, are so focused on creating well-known programs that they completely lose sight of the needs that must be met for true success to occur.  

Raising children is a perilous endeavor, with another being's sense of self and belonging hanging in the brink based on our choices as parents. Race adds an additional weight to the failure side of the scale for parents of color - how can those of us barely aware of the effects of race in our daily lives give our children the tools they need to navigate the day?  I find myself thanking outspoken critics such as Batiste-Roberts for being my greatest allies, helping me become the best I can be, with hope that their honest words and clear thinking point me in the direction of health and happiness for my child.

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