This week in New York, the Asia Society sponsored an event where the issue of international, transracial adoptions was discussed. This week also, People Magazineannounced that Academy Award Winning Actress, Sandra Bullock, was going ahead with adopting a 3 1/2 year old Black child from New Orleans, as a single parent (given that she’s also reportedly divorcing her husband, the cheater, Jesse James).
Question: is transracial adoption in the best interest of the child?
The event at the Asia Society featured, among others, two women who had much to say on the issue of international and transracial adoptions:
In her new book, The Life We Were Given, author Dana Sachs investigates the many questions that have arisen from Operation Babylift. Joining the discussion is one of the Babylift adoptees, who will give a uniquely personal perspective on this well-meaning but controversial mission and the experience of growing up as a Vietnamese adoptee in the US.
Documentary filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal will also discuss and screen an excerpt from her award-winning film, Wo Ai Ni Mommy, which explores the new subculture of Chinese-American adoptees through an honest and intimate look at the complicated gains and losses that accompany international transracial adoption.
Of course, most of the discussion involved children born outside the U.S. But at the core of the issue is the race card. And one thing that jumped out at me was, in the case of Dana Sachs, author of The Life We Were Given, when she commented about the “uniquely personal perspective on this well-meaning but controversial mission…” And then, I thought about it in the context of Sandra adopting this Black infant, and wondered whether her “well-meaning desires” for an transracial adoptee, is really going to be the best thing for the child in the long run. Sandra is not the only one. She joins a long list of celebs and non-celebs most of whom are White, for whom transracial adoptees seem to be hot commodities. Right now in Hollywood, Look, for example, at Brad and Angelina, Madonna and Katherine Hiegl, Tom Cruise among others. Nobody’s heard any horror stories. So maybe it works, who knows? But there hasn’t been a study and none of the children have given interviews about what it is really like. Arguably, these celebrities can give the children a life that is economically better than anything the child would have had had the child not been adopted by rich, famous parents. But is money enough? Is money the most important inquiry when one is thinking about what is “best for the children” or “in the children’s best interest?”
It would be interesting to see some ethnic celebrities adopt non-ethnic babies too, and see how that is perceived from the child’s perspective. For example, what if Will and Jada Smith adopted a Chinese child, or a Russian child? They have the money, but do they have what it takes to raise a transracial child who is well-adjusted? What about if, say Tyler Perry wanted to adopt a white child from New Orleans. Is that okay? Or is it somewhat controversial? What if, say, Sherry Shepard wanted to adopt a child from China. Can she pass scrutiny with Chinese officials as a Black woman wanting to adopt a Chinese child? Is it in the “best interest of the Chinese child” to be raised and mothered by a Black woman? Would it be business as usual? Or Controversy? Or would people simply dismiss her as crazy?
These questions are definitely uncomfortable to ask. But they beg being asked nonetheless. Is Sandra’s adoption of this little Black boy in the boy’s best interest? Should race matter with adoptions? I guess that is the question I am trying to get at. Should race matter? Does race matter whether the adoption is international or domestic?