I can tell now when white people are treating me different from [her
son] Rashad—better. I want him to be aware of that, and I don’t
want to use my being white to get things, because he won’t be able
to when he grows up. I have to be real careful about it. It’s made me
much more aware of racism than I ever was before.
— TRANSRACIAL ADOPTER, 2002
Institutional and attitudinal forms of race, class, and gender discrimination have shaped adoption in numerous ways: in the necessity for adoption in the first place, in the state’s regulation of adoption and fosterage, in the categorization of children and parents, and in matching children with parents. Most researchers concur on these points, but few have put all these factors together into a comprehensive analysis of adoption and race. Even in a thoughtful study such as Sandra Patton’s examination of race and class in transracial adoption (2000), gender is often overlooked or submerged.
In this chapter, the politics and practices of interracial adoption take center stage. I focus on white adoptions of black children rather than whiteAsian or Anglo-Latino adoptions because ideologies and hierarchies of race in the United States have developed within the context of black-white relations. Other groups may be racialized in a certain region, such as Samoans and Tongans in Hawai’i, or racialized during a particular period, as Karen Brodkin argues through her examination of Jews in America (1998). Only Native Americans have experienced as consistent and continuous an oppression as blacks in the United States. Native Americans also suffered slavery and genocidal conditions, but blacks, in contrast, are unable to argue for the disposition of children on the basis of sovereignty. In recent years, sovereignty claims have made white-Native American adoption a unique case, exempting recognized tribes as sovereign in foster care and adoption matters (see Strong, 2002).