Colorblind Idealism

There seems to have been an evolution among some citizens in the United States to realize that racially colorblindness isn’t really the answer to racism. In the evolution of adoption and in an attempt to get some children in foster care placed in stable homes, transracial adoption was seen as the answer. As some of these adoptees have reached adulthood, they are increasingly speaking out about why growing up black in a predominantly white community and school has proven challenging, even difficult for them.

Recently The Washington Post had an article by Rachel Hatzipanagos that focuses on transracial adoptees – I know my parents love me, but they don’t love my people. A few years ago, there was a Medium piece – The Myth of Colorblindness by Rosa Perez-Isiah.

For adoptees, their adoptive parents couldn’t see and rarely talked about the racism they experienced. Classmates’ racist comments about their hair and eyes were dismissed as harmless curiosity. America’s racial dynamics were explained in the language of “colorblind” idealism. 

In her Medium piece, Perez-Isiah says – Colorblindness is the belief that we don’t see color or race, that we see people and that we are all the same. These beliefs are widely held by well intentioned people, including educators and school leaders. These are idealistic beliefs and there are a number of issues with this ideology. Colorblindness negates our diversity, race and culture because we all see color and we all have biases. When we identify as colorblind, we are suppressing our authentic views and in the process, perpetuating systemic racism. Race matters and it has impacts on opportunities, education and actual income (as well as its future potential). Colorblindness oppresses people of color. When you fail to see color, you fail to acknowledge the current narrative, a system of injustice for many non-white people.

Cross-cultural adoptions have been debated for decades. In 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers took a strong stand against the adoption of Black children by White parents. Several years later, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to address the wave of Native American children being separated from their tribes and placed with White families.

The growth in transracial adoptions from foster care in recent years has far outpaced the growth in same-race adoptions and transracial adoption is now 28% of all domestic adoptions in the United States. More recently, the national conversation about systemic racism (driven by George Floyd’s death in 2020) has cast a new light on interracial adoption and prompted transracial families to confront the unspoken cultural divides in their own homes.

For adoptees, there is a transracial adoption paradox. Growing up, they experience many of the privileges that come with Whiteness because of their adoptive parents. When they then enter the school system or move out of the family home to live independently as adults later in life, they’re confronted with the reality of being perceived and treated as a racial minority. Not so subtle is the experience of white students putting their pencils in the hair of a Black student and marveling at the way the texture makes them stay in place.

When adoption agencies take on a color-evasive approach with hopeful prospective adoptive parents, they signal to these white parents that race does not need to be a significant factor in their decision-making. Then, by extension, it is no surprise that these adoptive parents might not think that the race of their adoptees is a significant factor in raising their child. Often these parents naively hope their support will make up for racial difference, even when they acknowledge there are challenges in raising a child of a different race.

From a transracial adoptee – “I believe that a lot of people think that adoption is this beautiful, magical, straightforward process. And also when they think of adoption, that they are centering around this “White savior” image and focusing on adoptive parents more than adoptees. And/or birth, biological parents — those two seem to get left out of the narrative a lot. I also believe that adoption from a birth mother, birth parent perspective can be very intense, very complex, very emotional. And I believe that we need to lean in and listen to adoptees and birth parents more.”

Today, many adoptees have their DNA tested, either at Ancestry or 23 and Me. For an adoptee that was raised white, it can be an amazing experience to discover their father is Black and see somebody that looks like them, finally a true racial mirror. One mixed race adoptee notes – “I think a lot of White people think that they have a good handle on race … and have what they would call a ‘colorblind’ kind of mentality. But I don’t think they understand that when you say the word ‘colorblind,’ what I hear is ‘I see you as White’.”

Another transracial adoptee suggests – “I think first acknowledging that your child is not White is, like, a huge step for a lot of White adoptive parents is to, like, see outside. Because a lot of parents see their child as, this is just your kid. They don’t see them in racialized terms. But in seeing them in that colorblind way, you are not protecting them. You are not preparing them to grow up and be an adult.”

Adoption is a trauma. Every adoptee has a different response to their trauma. Often it takes therapy to understand what was experienced as a pre-verbal infant and more importantly, how it continues affecting the adult adoptee. Therapy can help an adoptee get over feeling defective simply because they were given up for adoption. It can require learning that babies are placed for adoption for a number of reasons and that none of those reasons have to do with the baby or the value of that baby regardless of their skin color. The adoptee, not the adoptive parents, needs to be the center of their own life and story. Much of the narrative around adoption centers on the adoptive parents and frames their actions as selflessness and saving a child.

One Black adoptee admits –  I longed, and continue to long, to understand why I needed to be adopted, why I needed to be shipped across the country, why I couldn’t stay in the South, why I couldn’t stay with Black families, why I couldn’t have stayed with at least my biological extended family.” And though I am white and my mother was white too, this is a universal need in adoptees. My mom’s genetic, biological family was in the rural South and she was taken by train from Memphis to Nogales Arizona by her adoptive mother. For a long time, my mother believed she had been born in Memphis, a belief her adoptive mother was also led to believe by Georgia Tann, until birth certificate alterations made clear my mom had been born in Virginia which just made my mom believe she must have been stolen from her mother because things like that happened with Georgia Tann’s adoption practices.

Sadly, the saviorism of white adoptive parents is just so prevalent. Unfortunately, there is a deep-seated belief that white people can take care of Black people better. I have been learning a lot about this in overall society by reading White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad.

I end today’s blog back where I started with the issue of colorblindness – Why is the colorblind narrative popular? The Medium piece notes – it is easier to identify as colorblind than acknowledge differences that make us uncomfortable. This is easier for people to handle, especially in schools where we may lack the information and guidance to have difficult conversations about race. Another reason is simply not knowing…you don’t know what you don’t know. Many people also repeat what they’ve been taught and fail to reflect or question those beliefs. In the end, we don’t realize how harmful the myth of colorblindness can be.

Adoption is a challenging situation regardless – add in racial differences and it becomes doubly so. It takes courage and practice to shift from a colorblind to a color BRAVE ideology.

What Foster Care Creates

Ma’Khia Bryant

Because police are so quick to shoot first and ask questions later, we will probably never know the whole story of why this 16 yr old black girl in foster care became so distraught or if she had grabbed a knife to threaten others around her or why she would have felt that threatened. The question remains – was there not a better way to subdue her – than to simply shoot her dead ?, even as a jury was rendering a guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin for the malicious killing of George Floyd. There is something not right about how policing is done in these United States.

I can have compassion for this young woman, acting out in hate, as it bubbles up from within her. No doubt she has not had an opportunity to do any true inner spiritual work nor for that matter have the law enforcement officers that encountered her. They become identified with their sense of grievance or their work. I sorrow that this young woman will now never have a chance to find her true self, not the wounded damaged self she was at the time of her death.

The continued killing of people that didn’t pose a threat at the time they were killed is something we need to ferret out of human consciousness. These families are grieving – all of them affected by gun violence, including that delivered by law enforcement.

According to Bryant’s family, it was the 16 yr old victim who called the police for help when a group of “older kids” threatened her with assault. It is never clear that she was actually holding the knife that was later seen on the ground near her. What is clear is that Bryant is fighting with another girl when the officers arrived.  She then approaches a second girl and throws her against a car parked on the driveway. The officer shouts “Get down!” three times, pulls out his gun and shoots in Bryant’s direction at least four times and she falls to the ground.

An investigation is going to be held into the exact nature of these events. It was the officer who shot her that claimed she had the knife. Maybe she had taken it away from one of the other girls during the altercation. Hopefully, the truth will win out. Only an edited version of the body cam footage has been shared. The complete video is expected to be released today, which is Wednesday.

Bryant was in foster care under the custody of the Franklin County Children’s Services. The home is located on Legion Lane where she got into an altercation with someone else also living at the home and where she was ultimately shot dead by police.

Why Would She Say This ?

Though Abby Johnson is best known for her anti-abortion activism, I am mystified by what I learned.  How could she say this ?  Not entirely leaving aside the problematic situation of this white woman raising a Black son born to a Black mother or father (however that came to pass).  So okay, he isn’t 100% Black, he’s biracial but a lot of white people lump them together equally.

The speaker at the current RNC convention said that the police are “smart” to target her ADOPTED Black son because he is “statistically” more likely to commit a violent offense.No wonder Black people are more likely to die during encounters with law enforcement, if this is the prevailing point of   view.

Admittedly, Abby Johnson is a controversial figure. She has a long history of making racist remarks on Twitter and in video blogs. How can it be the most beneficial placement for this Black young man ?

Johnson once said in a video posted as recently as last June (after the killing of George Floyd) that, “I recognize that I’m gonna have to have a different conversation with Jude than I do with my brown-haired little Irish, very, very pale-skinned, white sons, as they grow up.” She certainly has no problem viewing “her” boys from different racially based perspectives. What is in this woman’s heart ?

Her husband blogged in 2015 about the couple adopting the boy at birth. She is quoted as saying, ““Right now, Jude is an adorable, perpetually tan-looking little brown boy. But one day, he’s going to grow up and he’s going to be a tall, probably sort of large, intimidating-looking-maybe brown man — and my other boys are probably gonna look like nerdy white guys.”

So let me get this straight, she is projecting this boy into becoming an “intimidating” man ? Why do they have him at all ? I don’t understand this.

In explaining her comment about police profiling her son, she adds, “Statistically, I look at our prison population and I see that there is a disproportionately high number of African-American males in our prison population for crimes, particularly for violent crimes. When a police officer sees a brown man like my Jude walking down the road — as opposed to my white nerdy kids, my white nerdy men walking down the road — because of the statistics that he knows in his head, that these police officers know in their head, they’re going to know that statistically my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons.”

I can’t help but call racial bias on this woman and I am sad that sweet little boy is being raised by her.  She had had some ignorant and factually incorrect things to say about Black fathers.  She says that Black fathers have not taken their place in the home. According to her, 70% of Black homes do not have a father present.

I don’t know, it is not something I have researched; but of course, if more Black men are incarcerated than their percentage of the population would represent, that may be true. She makes a statement about activists in the Black community trying to redefine what Black fatherhood is.  I was also aware of such initiatives but from a more positive perspective than she goes on to assert. She claims that Black fatherhood looks like a Black man coming in and out of the home. I am white also and I would never attempt as a white person to define anything about the Black community and I believe that is where she also oversteps her bounds.

And wow, she really steps into it saying that “culturally, it is accepted for Black men to be with multiple women.” I had to stop listening to her youtube rant at that point. There are just as many white and men of other races out there messing around with multiple women – our current president included.  We would not even have a MeToo movement if men had not gotten lost in their sexual values along the way. And of course, not all men, but just saying what is obvious to me. So I am done with Abby Johnson.

I remember my family watching If Beale Street Could Talk. I believe this gives an honest portrayal of the close knit nature of Black families, even when the father is incarcerated. The movie was adapted from a James Baldwin novel about 1970s Harlem. I trust Baldwin’s perspectives on Black issues more than I trust this woman’s perspective.  In the movie, the young man is arrested for a crime he did not commit. The social indictment of our institutionally racist justice system is a thread in the plot.

I could go on and on but I do recommend this movie to anyone who believes Abby Johnson is justified in her opinion of Black families and especially Black fathers.  It may just change your opinion enough to open your mind a little bit.