Yes, White People Who Adopt Black Children Can Be Racist

Amy Coney Barrett Having Black Children Doesn’t Make Her A Good Person — WTF

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Scary Mommy and Erin Schaff/Getty and Ibram X. Kendi/Twitter

Amy Coney Barrett is a mother of seven, including two Black children that she and her husband adopted from Haiti, and she’s President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Her nomination has earned praise from some Republicans, while Democrats are appalled. If Barrett becomes the next Supreme Court justice, many Americans fear what this appointment means for marriage equality, women’s reproductive rights, and healthcare.

Candace Owens recently tweeted, stating the Democrats can’t say a peep about Barrett being racist, because how can someone be racist and mother Black children?

Professor, author, and anti-racist activist Ibram X. Kendi swiftly clapped back with, “It is a belief too many White people have: if they have or adopt a child of color, then they can’t be racist.” Owen’s and Kendi’s tweets have surfaced an interesting conversation. Can a white person who parents a Black child be racist?

I’ll cut to the chase: the answer is absolutely yes.

Kendi’s work consistently shares that a person is either racist or anti-racist. He lays out his argument beautifully in his bestselling book How to be Antiracist. Like Amy Coney Barrett, I’m a white mother of Black children, and I’m completely on board with Kendi. There’s no gray area or middle ground when it comes to racism. Either a person is actively pursuing anti-racist education, becoming a white ally, and participating in activism to create systemic change where they can, or they are not. You can’t be lukewarm about tackling white supremacy.

Adopting a Black child isn’t a white person’s golden ticket out of racism. The same goes for having one Black friend, ex-partner, neighbor, extended family member, or any other contact. One relationship doesn’t magically undo white privilege (which has been around for four hundred plus years). Racial bias doesn’t dissipate into the air, a pumpkin doesn’t turn into a coach, and there’s no glass slipper. This isn’t a fairy tale, and white people need to stop using their “one” to try to convince others that “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.”

Leah Millis/Getty

Trying to remain racially neutral means, as Desmond Tutu said, choosing to be an ally to the oppressor. The whole “colorblind” mentality is detrimental, not helpful. There’s no progress in willful ignorance. I can’t stand when people say, “There’s just one race, the human race,” as they use this to dismiss the pain, violence, and inequities that Black people have experienced for over four hundred years in this country.

We might put our hands over our hearts and proclaim “liberty and justice for all,” but the second someone calls us on our racism, we get all kinds of fragile. I’ve heard so many excuses from adoptive parents. They have the right to vote for whomever they want. This is America. Well, okay. But that person you’re voting for is working really hard to make sure your child isn’t protected or respected.

Unfortunately, I know transracial adoptive families that are absolutely headed by blindly racist parents. They openly support the President, even though he claimed that white supremacists were “very fine people,” threw paper towels in the faces of Puerto Rican hurricane victims, separated families at the border and put humans in cages, and told the Proud Boys to “stand by” when asked if he would denounce white supremacy at the presidential debate. Oh, and he’s ditching the racial sensitivity training in exchange for patriotism.

The pandemic has killed over 200,000 Americans, and we know that the coronavirus disproportionately harms communities of color. The CDC (you know, a governmental organization) shared, “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” Yes, they used the words “systemic” and “inequities,” two things Pence believes don’t exist according to his own words at the vice presidential debate.

Let’s not forget that the President also warned us “suburban housewives” that low-income people (code-not-code for people of color) are going to “invade” the suburbs. How can we prevent this atrocity? We can secure our homes and neighborhoods by voting for him. He will be our white knight in shining armor. (That guy really knows how to burn my Bundt cake.)

What bothers me about Amy Coney Barrett, besides her participation in a cult-like organization and her extremely privileged and suppressive political views, is that she has Black children, yet she’s okay accepting a nomination from someone who openly, without apology, refuses to denounce white supremacy? Who speaks out against the Black Lives Matter movement? What does that say to every Black American, including my own four kids and her own two? What does this teach her biological children, who are white, about their own siblings?

The thing is, when adopting a child of color, love isn’t enough, it doesn’t conquer all, and it certainly it doesn’t heal the wounds created by losing one’s home country and culture and forcibly being placed with a new family. Parents who work hard to be colorblind and to excuse racists are not doing their kid any favors, and instead, just causing them trauma, confusion, and pain. If you’re a child who was adopted, and your own chosen family can’t see you, accept you, and celebrate you for who you are, what does that mean for the child in the short and long term? What does it convey when you just can’t bring yourself to call racism what it is: racism?

Choosing to pretend a child’s Blackness is irrelevant or a minor detail is racist. It’s not as glaringly obvious as carrying tiki torches through Charlottesville or throwing around the N-word, but it is still racist. Opting to build one’s family by adopting, and intentionally adopting transracially, is a sacred responsibility. Unfortunately, it’s not one that all families take seriously, are well prepared for, or care to understand. This also means that some transracial adoptees are treated like accessories or gifts, good for photo ops and feel-good stories, rather than people with a right to embrace and practice who they are.

When we adopted our four children, we stood before a judge and swore to not only love and provide for our kids forever, but also to meet their needs. We were (rightfully) grilled about how we planned to affirm our children’s racial identity. The reason? Because it’s important to make sure our kids are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy, but also culturally healthy. We promised to be the parents that our kids’ birth families knew us to be when they chose us as our kids’ parents. (In domestic infant adoption, oftentimes the birth family selects the adoptive family.)

Too many white people express to me that I am a superhero for saving a “child in need” and giving them a “good and loving home.” They also state that our children are “so lucky” to have us as their parents. I am swift to correct them. We are the lucky ones, our kids aren’t charity cases, and we are not saviors. In all of these comments, the whiteness is glaringly obvious and can spiral out of control if left unchecked.

We work, every day, to affirm our children in every way that is important in their racial culture. It’s an honor and a sacred, chosen duty, one we are thankful for and take seriously. This includes teaching our children the importance of voting for racial equity, not white supremacy, and always acknowledging and celebrating race. All transracial adoptive parents should do this. Otherwise, if we’re condoning supremacy in any form, either outright or silently tolerating or sugar-coating it, we are absolutely racist.

I certainly am not here to rant about Barrett as a mother or judge (pun intended) her. That’s not my place. But I want you to know that adopting and parenting a Black child doesn’t mean a person is anti-racist.