My “Sea-Change” on White couples adopting Black children
A neighbor recently introduced me to his new foster child, a beautiful, exuberant 16-month-old curly haired boy who literally jumped in my arms with a smile that will one day break women’s (and maybe some men’s) hearts.
Seeing the young couple playing with the child melted my heart. And the fact that they are White and the child is African American only heightened my appreciation.
The young couple said they had fallen in love with the child, and hoped to adopt him if the court took the infant’s parent’s parental rights away. The boy’s parents are drug addicts and have had their other children taken away for a myriad of abuses that defy logic and even the supposed omnipotence of maternal instincts.
Unfortunately, that’s an all too common story in today’s society, one that is wreaking havoc on our community. Sad is an understatement for the harm that drugs have inflicted on so many Black lives and doomed so many innocent lives.
Thus, after watching the couple with the child on several occasions and foretelling the alternative, I wished the legal bonds of parenthood would be severed so that a couple truly interested in the child’s welfare could assume a role that isn’t only defined by sperm and egg, but love, nurturing and commitment.
Twenty years ago, my vision was cloudier, and there is no way I would have endorsed an interracial adoption—under most circumstances.
Back then, I could only see in black and white.
In fact, some may recall that my name, image and Black Nationalistic philosophy were introduced to the larger community during a televised debate about this subject.
In a celebrated case that divided the Black and White communities, a well-to-do Waukesha couple (I guess I don’t have to identify their ethnicity since I noted they were from Waukesha and had enough petty cash to hire an expensive attorney), sought to adopt two adolescent Black girls whose troubled and impoverished mother had died.
The aunt of the girls, also impoverished and trying to raise several children by her lonesome, sought against hope to secure custody of her nieces.
It was a classic case of rich versus poor, opportunity and access versus exclusion, Africentric vs. Eurocentric cultures.
The adoption process became an ideological and political chess game played on a Black and White board.
From my perspective, the child should have been awarded to the aunt, her poverty and familiar structure notwithstanding.
Black children belong with Black families, I offered, and a sincere Black caregiver should not be discriminated against because she was poor and forced to live in an environment that imposed a myriad of obstacles that are not easily overcome.
Moreover—and more importantly—I declared on the televised debate, a Black child raised in a White environment could lose their cultural identity, not to mention the psychological impact of knowing their family had abandoned them.
At one point, I angrily blurted out that the white couple wouldn’t even know how to comb a Black girl’s hair.
And, in the heat of the moment I opined that the children were not “toys” and once in their teens would have to face the all but guaranteed onslaught of racism in Waukesha County.
One of the White conservatives on the panel countered by noting the many advantages and opportunities the girls would have, including access to better schools, social engagements and economic stability.
He added that the only remedy for racism was through miscegenation and the acceptance of diversity.
Wow! I didn’t know if he was being condescending or honestly believed what he was espousing. Miscegenation? Integration? Or a new form of paternalism?
I agreed that we must move beyond race if this country was to fulfill the visions of “some” of the founding fathers. But I also recognized that many of those who talked about freedom and equality in 1776 were slaveholders, atheists and racists.
My philosophy centered around Africentric values and mores, of empowerment and equality. The Black nuclear family was key to what we were, and must become again if were to prosper and grow as a community.
Thus, I held firm. I declared racial harmony was an illusion, that I was raised to be distrustful of the supposed good will of people who lived in White segregated neighborhoods and viewed us as inferior and surely didn’t trust the system that would ultimately make a decision in favor of White folks over Black.
Myopic? Probably, but ingrained in my mind were images planted in 1967 of posters held by White teenagers on the other side of the Groppi bridge telling the “niggers to go back to Africa,” and advocating racial purity.
Time has only solidified most of my Black Nationalistic beliefs, although I have matured and gained wisdom over the years. I don’t see the world through the same lens.
But you don’t need glasses to crystalize the reality that racial polarization and bigotry are as prevalent today as it was then. A new generation offers hope, but the old guard is still among us.
In fact, if anything, the racist roaches are no longer hiding under the sofa as they did at the turn of the century. They have become so bold I figure they were appearing on the 2018 election presidential ballot under the Confederate Party ticket.
That said, the resistance to hatred by the grandchildren of racists heartens me. And my seemingly myopic position back in the day was before significant historical events reshaped—or at least expanded the waistline of America’s trousers.
My reluctance for Whites to adopt Black children was before gay marriages, interracial couples became the new television advertising fad and White liberals gave themselves the “right” to use the “n” word as they became self-appointed conductors of the Freedom Train.
It was before Barack Obama’s election initiated a discussion about making “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the new national anthem.
It was before White America learned the difference between tabasco and hot sauce and being a THOT became an accepted norm.
More importantly, it was prior to several of my relatives crossing the racial aisles and my culturally attuned son presenting me with my first bi-racial grandson.
And let’s not ignore the fact that it was before crack devastated the Black community, dysfunctional Black families became the rule instead of the exception and we lost a generation of Black children to foster care systems that shuffle them around like profanities in a rap song, putting many on auction blocks to be used by poverty pimps and insincere individuals who viewed them as income.
More than 500,000 children are in the U.S. foster care system, and African-American kids make up nearly 40% of that number.
There are over 100,000 Black children on the adoption list, and not enough Black families around to provide them with loving homes.
When I was growing up, relatives would immediately step in to rescue and provide for children. Big Mama was there, and she wasn’t 10 years older than her youngest child.
The church was our social service provider, and the extended family was a reality.
I was privy and indoctrinated in a moral code grounded in religious tenets. Most of the Black men in Milwaukee headed their households and their daughters didn’t define their lives by the number of children they had while chasing sperm donors.
We got spankings back then (actually whoppings) by every adult who witnessed us doing wrong, because we lived in a village communal paradigm that didn’t include the words foster care or adoption.
In a perfect world, every Black Milwaukeean would be cognizant of their true African centered identity and the last five letters of the word community would be our foundation.
Despite the re-emergence of bigotry, things have changed for the better in two short decades. Accordingly, I have reassessed ideologies of the past, and opened my eyes to the goodness of fellow human beings—or at least those of good will and humanity.
Time and circumstance have taught me that not only do some White people have rhythm, but also many can raise Black children better than some Black folks can.
A far greater number of them today see beyond melanin and are inspired to do what politicians, clerics and social scientists cannot—bring true racial harmony to society.
Love is indeed blind, and I actually pray my neighbor’s dream of adoption of a child—not a Black child—will be rewarded.
The child will benefit, and so will society.