If You’re Thinking of Being my Mother it Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White

Professor Gina Samuels, PhD, of the University of Chicago, contends that white foster parents of minority children who claim that their goal is to build a ‘colorblind’ family may not necessarily taking the best approach to adoption. In her interpretive study “Being Raised by White People: Navigating Racial Difference Among Adopted Multicultural Adults,” published in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Family and Marriage, Dr. Samuels argues that raising foster children in a “colorblind” way might actually be harmful to them because it creates “discordance” between the child and the parent.

The John McCain Family

Senator John McCain has an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.

Dr. Samuels, who is part black and has a white adoptive mother, interviewed 25 transracially adopted multiracials on their experiences “growing up with white people.” Her report finds that these children are left unprepared when they discover the importance of race and racial identity in the world outside their local community. She writes: “Taken together, participants’ dual status as multiracial and transracially adopted seemed to mutually reinforce a sense of one’s self as highly racialized andincessantly unique—‘’to always feel different.’'”

Race has been considered as a factor in the upbringing of children before. In the 1984 case of Palmore v. Sidoti, a Florida trial court deprived a divorced white mother of custody of her young daughter after the mother invited her black boyfriend to live with her, on the grounds that the mother’s lifestyle of having a sexual relationship with a man that she wasn’t married to would subject the child to peer pressure and social stigmatization.

The Supreme Court saw right through the trial court’s verbal gymnastics and reversed the order: “The [trial] court correctly stated that the child’s welfare was the controlling factor. But that court was entirely candid, and made no effort to place its holding on any ground other than race. Taking the [trial] court’s findings and rationale at face value, it is clear that the outcome would have been different had petitioner married a Caucasian male of similar respectability.”