Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

"Being Raised by White People": Navigating Racial Difference among Adopted Multiracial Adults

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

"Being Raised by White People": Navigating Racial Difference among Adopted Multiracial Adults

Article excerpt

There are increasing numbers of multiracial families created through marriage, adoption, birth, and a growing population of multiracial persons. Multiracials are a hidden but dominant group of transracially adopted children in both the United Kingdom and the United States. This paper introduces findings from an interpretive study of 25 transracially adopted multiracials regarding a set of experiences participants called "being raised by White people." Three aspects of this experience are explored: (1) the centrality yet absence of racial resemblance, (2) navigating discordant parent-child racial experiences, and (3) managing societal perceptions of transracial adoption. Whereas research suggests some parents believe race is less salient for multiracial children than for Black children, this study finds participants experienced highly racialized worlds into adulthood.

Key Words: adoption, family diversity, family processes, kinship, multiracial, qualitative research.

The realities of adoption and adoption seeking in America lie at the nexus of this country's constructions of race, family, and socio-political power (Quiroz, 2007). Often at odds are the desires and economic resources of adopters to create famUies, the access to famUy preservation services for biological parents, and the needs of children who, once removed, require timely and holistically nurturing permanent placements. The most publicly debated and emotionally contentious issues in adoption policy and practice are those related to race. These debates typicaUy reduce the child welfare problem for children of color (primarily African American) to a conflict between those who advocate for their cultural needs and rights and those who advocate for their needs and rights to timely adoption. Timely adoption for children of color has become synonymous with their "transracial" placement into White families. These battles occur not only in adoption policy and practice, but they also are pubücly showcased on talk shows, in special-feature articles, and in movies (e.g., Losing Isaiah; Trenka, Oparah, & Shin, 2006). Only 2.5% of aU households include adopted chUdren and less than 24% of these adoptions are reported as transracial (Kreider, 2003). Still, powerful emotions are evoked by the mere mention of transracial adoption. There continues to be little "middle ground" regarding this family type (Courtney, 1997).

Indeed, transracial adoption policy, practice, and research often miss opportunities to illluminate the complexity of transracial adoptive family systems and the developmental needs of children within these families that are shared, as well as those that are distinct (Frasch & Brooks, 2003). Moreover, this author is unaware of any study that directly examines the effects of decades-long wars between "camps" of researchers, parents, and racial-ethnic communities on one's developing sense of self as transracially adopted-a contested family identity (Miranda, 2004). As noted by Trenka et al. (2006) in their anthology on transracial adoption, "transracial adoptees swim in the murky waters between these conflicting accounts.... [W]e live within this constant paradox, aware that our very lives are acts of transgression" (pp. 4 - 5). This study sought to examine how one group of multiracial adults navigated these "murky waters" of race and adoption and to expose where thiese murky waters exist. The analysis uses adoption research and multiracial literature to illustrate shared and distinct experiences facing persons who are both transracially adopted and multiracial. This analysis is then used to challenge parental assumptions about racial salience for multiracial children and to extend theories of racial socialization to this group by placing the constructions of mixed race and transracial adoption as central to the developmental context in which White adoptive parents must help their multiracial children to navigate their feelings of perceived racial difference in contexts within and external to their White family systems. …

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