October 14, 2013

"Raising kids of color by white parents... requires a racial consciousness that is common in families of color, but rarely developed in white families."

Writes Frank Ligtvoet, the founder of Adoptive Families With Children of African Heritage and Their Friends. He's white, with 2 black children.
The National Association of Black Social Workers declared in a resolution in 1972 that transracial adoption was cultural genocide. The wording was, and is, cruel, but it is hard not to see its deeper truth: a Korean or black kid raised in a white world has lost his or her culture.

Black (or Guatemalan or Chinese) kids in transracial families belong to that family and also to the black (or Guatemalan or Chinese) community. Even if the white parents don’t like that idea — and there are too many who don’t — they will be confronted with it anyway.

Our daughter once threw a tantrum on a crowded street on the way to school, and the only way to move forward involved dragging. It was not a pretty sight, and a black woman who had witnessed the scene came up and, bypassing my partner, who was doing the dragging, addressed our child: “Is this your father? Is this your father?” She was claiming our daughter as part of the black community.
(None of my existing tags fit the race theme of this article. Racial politics, racial profiling, racial humor, racists, race and law, race and education, race and intelligence, race and pop culture. I resist creating new tags, but I had to do it here.)


TosaGuy said...

He sounds quite impressed with himself.

MadisonMan said...

Sure, when you raise a kid born to a different culture, the kid loses that culture (but gains the one in your own house). So?

My kids haven't been raised in a Pennsylvanian culture like I was, but in a Wisconsonian one. Is this something to be mourned?

I think not.

St. George said...

Ah, child dragging.

Lyssa said...

Amazing to me that someone can parent two children, live with them day and night for years, and still see them as nothing more than their race. Sad that they can't just be individuals.

C R Krieger said...

Sometimes parts of cultures need to be left behind.


How about female circumcision?  How about an overly macho component?  How about antisemitism?  How about Kimchee?

And, I am with Madison Man re Penna vs Wisconsin.  The culture in Lowell (Mass) is different from the culture in Johnstown (PA).

Regards  —  Cliff

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

a Korean or black kid raised in a white world has lost his or her culture.

Culture being a learned, shared experience, an unformed child doesn't have one until there are a few years with its biological parents under its belt.

Strangely enough, being raised outside of its biological purlieu, the child will have some kind of culture on maturity, and that will depend largely on its 'new' parents.

Our President seems not to have suffered too much under those circumstances.

C R Krieger said...


Or Broccoli!

Regards  —  Cliff

PB Reader said...

Can you say "separate but equal"?

The diversity game is nothing more that voluntary apartheid, and it is responsible for cultural and racial destruction.

tmitsss said...

Software is more important than hardware

tmitsss said...

How does this affect our President?

Larry J said...

C R Krieger said...

How about Kimchee?

Hey, your other examples stand but fresh kimchee is terrific. Be warned, however, that as it ages, the smell can be overwhelming.

I guess some people believe it's better to leave a child in an orphanage than allow it to be adopted by someone of another race.

Kirby Olson said...

Our president should be dragged off to Kenya where he belongs?

MnMark said...

a Korean or black kid raised in a white world has lost his or her culture...

OK, so this white man raising black children believes that one's race automatically makes you part of the "culture" of that race, whether you were ever part of that culture or not. Simply being black means you are part of black culture.

So clearly, to this (presumably liberal) man, race is very important. Race is a real thing, not an imaginary construct, and our race automatically gives us real and important connections to something called "culture", which he sees is an important thing to value and protect.

So where is his regard for white culture? Why is a white man raising black children instead of white children, whom he would presumably be qualified to transmit white culture to as a white person?

Typical white liberal mindset - they fall over themselves to express reverence for and acknowledge the validity of non-white race and non-white culture, while viciously attacking any white person who expresses the exact same sentiments about his own race and culture.

BarrySanders20 said...


My older brother and I are POW's (plain old whiteys), but my younger sister, adopted in 1971, is bi-racial black/white and we adopted my younger brother from Korea in 1975. Our family experience is a bit different from the one the author describes.

I don't know what culture my adopted siblings would have enjoyed, or what their lives would have been like had no adoption occurred, but I am certain they are thankful that my parents were motivated to adopt when they did in the 70's. They are and always have been free to enjoy whatever parts of their ethnic culture they want to. Haven't seen too much evidence they feel deprived, but what do I know, I've only known them as family for 40 years.

TreeJoe said...

Oh, I didn't realize skin color = culture. Also, I didn't realize anyone of a dark (i.e. black) skin color all shared exactly the same culture across the Caribbean, all of Africa, etc.

Oh, and this article also illuminates for me that the phrase "white culture" is unacceptable and must not be used.

elkh1 said...

'a black woman who had witnessed the scene ... addressed our child: “Is this your father? Is this your father?” She was claiming our daughter as part of the black community.'

The white man is full of crap. Any by-standers, white or black needed to make sure that the girl was not kidnapped or worse, especially when the white men were "dragging" the girl. The black woman wasn't claiming the girl back, the woman would rather be misjudged than to talk to the police later that she hasn't done a thing watching the girl being dragged away. If the woman was white, he would say the white woman was racist against his black kid.

Deirdre Mundy said...

We know people who adopted a baby of Haitian descent. They had to promise the social worker to celebrate Kwanzaa even though the kid's mother had specifically requested a CATHOLIC upbringing, and Kwanzaa is an American construction.

"Raised in his culture' often means 'raised in an imaginary pan-African culture that only exists in the heads of washed up American Pseudo-academics."

If you adopt a Rwandan child, do you need to find out whether he's a Tutsi or Hutu and act accordingly?

Moose said...

This reminds me of abortion, in that it seems better to people like this to kill a child then face the uncertainty of raising them. Not unlike that, it seems they're saying that leaving them in foster care is better than adopting them out to a white family.

Big Mike said...

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

Christopher said...

My best friend is from Honduras however he was adopted by a white couple when he was an infant.

We've spoken about the subject on occasion and he has quite bluntly stated that he views himself as white. He seems to have no regrets about "losing his culture", and the only time he gets annoyed is when people assume he speaks Spanish (or when I say he's Puerto Rican).

Lem said...

What is the best interest of the child... hashtag

Johanna Lapp said...

As a volunteer math tutor, I was once recruited for a charter high school in The Bronx. When I turned up the first day and they realized I was a white Zimbabwean exile instead of a black Zimbabwean refugee, it was explained that I was incompatible with the math department's Afrocentric approach.

To calculus.

Lem said...

When a white family adopts a black child why do they do it?

jacksonjay said...

Should a gay couple be required to expose an adopted child to straight culture?

MadisonMan said...

Lyssa at 917 AM: Spot On!

Especially when you have two kids like mine. Different as night and day. Really drives home the idea that individuals are more important than any culture they are raised in.

If I lived in a culture that emphasized isolation and introversion, my daughter would wither on the vine, and my son would not. So I as a parent would want to keep that culture WHY, exactly?

Larry J said...

My boss is of Somoan ancestry but was adopted and raised by a white family in Alabama. A coworker was born in Korea and was also adopted by a white family in Alabama. It's kind of funny listening to them talk sounding for all the world like just another couple good old boys. BTW: good old boys in my company tend to have at least one masters degree in technical subjects. I liken this place to "Redneck Google". This company is amazing.

Neither by boss nor my coworker has expressed any regret for being adopted and raised by someone of another race. They were happy to be raised by families that love them.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

How fortunate that Mr. Ligtvoet is so abundantly endowed with that especial exquisite hyper-race-consciousness of which white persons are so often deficient.

Otherwise his supercilious scribblings would not be available to entertain the NYT Opinion Page readers - who can only wish to attain the Mr. Ligtvoet's level of race-consciousness.

Henry said...

Remember when people migrated to the big city escape their pasts, make themselves part of something new, and different.

This is a big theme in both pop and serious writing of the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. Jay Gatsby. Clark Kent. Holly Golightly.

But, the story goes, they never really escape the past.

Now you can't even escape the present.

Hagar said...

My sister told me that the ice cream concession in my home town was taken over from old Hr. Fredriksen by a Viet Namese refugee family, and their oldest son became a quite good ski jumper.

MadisonMan said...

Okay, I clicked, and read the article.

It seems not to have occurred to the writer that a child's wish not to be seen with their parents in a mall is universal. It is not something to do with the different race of parent and child.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. All the writer has is a racial hammer to hit us over the head with. I'm sad for his kids -- they are growing up in a better environment, perhaps (An assumption to be sure, but I will posit that their present circumstances offer benefits they would not have had elsewhere), but racial sensitivity so contaminates it that they cannot learn to appreciate the possible gift they have been given.

Christopher said...

I remember the crazy early days of the civil rights movement when race wasn't supposed to matter. Now it's practically the only thing that does.

Carol said...

I couldn't read the article, but it sounds like an implicit warning to starry-eyed libs wanting to adopt black babies for altruistic reasons. It's all the rage now, especially among artistes even down to the local podunk flyover level.

But it apparently is no picnic for the permissive classes.

Ululating Umlungu said...

It seems South Africa is more “enlightened” than New York City. I, as a white African, have fostered and later adopted two black children, and we’ve never experienced any of the problems encountered by the author. Perhaps it has to do with our high numbers of orphans, and the realisation that any perceived loss of culture isn’t all that important when compared to the alternative of not finding homes for these children.

Eyago said...

My wife and I are white, we have 5 non-white adopted children. Most are old enough to articulate their feelings on this matter. None of them seem to prefer the option of being raised in an orphanage with full cultural identity to being raised by this white couple. The author is full of crap.

The beauty of American culture is that it is AMERICAN culture. Not white, not african, not hillbilly, not Greenwhich village, not tex-mex, not Chinatown, not inner-city. If race=culture, than we are ALL confused since there is not one culture for most races.

Finally, to pigeon-hole someone's culture based on physical appearance is the height of prejudice and racial discrimination. The author is a blatant racist of the worst kind.

rcocean said...

"In the case of transracial adoption, there is the force of horizontal identity, where the child looks for others with the same experience of being adopted, but the vertical identity is complicated as well."

What gibberish. Could someone translate this to English?

Michael K said...

The SF 49er quarterback, Colin Kaepernick is a mixed race guy who was adopted as an infant by a white couple who moved to California from Wisconsin, where he was born. He was a 4.0 GPA student who letter in three high school sports. He seems to be making it OK.

I know other, less spectacular, examples.

rcocean said...

What about the Farrow-Previn kids? White parents, one jewish, one gentile ( I think), and brothers and sisters from all over the world.

No wonder Soon-yi had to leave with Woody to discover her Korean culture.

rcocean said...

The problem with African-American adoptees is we have a "One drop" rule in the USA. Cf: Obama, Tiger Woods or Halle Berry for example.

So even if you're only partly black and raised by white parents, in a mostly white enviroment, everyone regards you as a black person with a loyalty to black culture. So, the pressure on the adoptees must be every strong.

n.n said...

No, it does not. In fact, it is this approach which has delayed integration of people from diverse tribes and sponsored development of prejudice. The concept of race is deceitful. The relevant concept is tribalism, which is a logical partition of people based on common perceptions.

People with "good intentions" need to stop obsessing with skin color and similar incidental features. This is not the relevant metric by which to judge someone or guide their development.

madAsHell said...

the founder of Adoptive Families With Children of African Heritage and Their Friends

I'll bet he drives a Prius with a COEXIST bumper sticker.

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Henry said...

If you changed "Adoptive Families With Children of African Heritage and Their Friends" to "Adoptive Families Of Children Of African Heritage With Their Friends" you would at least end the acronym with a WTF.

Balfegor said...

Re: CR Krieger:

How can you not like kimchi? And re: Larry J, aged kimchi is the best.

Re: culture, Heer Ligtvoet evidently believes that culture is transmitted in the blood, but it's really just a matter of what age the child is adopted at. If the child is adopted at 5 or 6, then they are meaningfully a part of some other cultural identity that perhaps one needs to take into account. But if you're adopting them at the age of 1 or 2, the only community they're a part of is the community they grow up in. They'll never be anything but strangers in the strange land of their biological parents.

It's not like Koreans have a genetically inborn taste for Kimchee, after all.

All that said though, I do think adoption in the same family line is far preferable to adoption by strangers, so I suppose it's not that much of a jump to think that adoption within the same racial line is preferable to adoption by Whites. I suppose I am as racist as the appalling Mr. Ligtvoet.

MaxedOutMama said...

This reads mostly like an explosion in a bigotry factory. The field is endless, so I will just confine myself to defending the morals and decent instincts of the one poor black woman mentioned:
[b] Our daughter once threw a tantrum on a crowded street on the way to school, and the only way to move forward involved dragging. It was not a pretty sight, and a black woman who had witnessed the scene came up and, bypassing my partner, who was doing the dragging, addressed our child: “Is this your father? Is this your father?” She was claiming our daughter as part of the black community.

It was a painful and, for our daughter, a scary situation, but it came out of deep concern. To see a white person boss around a black human being, especially a small black human being, may have triggered a lot of bitter historical and socioeconomic connotations for this woman. I cannot blame her. [/b]

Kids exist to embarrass their parents in public, which is painful. But I doubt very much that this lady would not have done the same if the child being dragged was white and the man dragging the child was black, or if even both were of the same race.

To assume that a black woman would not be as protective of a child of any race is just a vicious, nasty, degrading assumption.

My guess is that the lady saw two men, one dragging a screaming child, and decided to check to see if things were all right.

Words fail me at the fundamental nastiness of this article. I'm really shocked - just genuinely shocked.

Larry J said...

Balfegor said...
Re: CR Krieger:

How can you not like kimchi? And re: Larry J, aged kimchi is the best.

Whatever floats your boat. To me, aged kimchee made from cabbage smells like the flatulence one gets from binge eating bad pizza and drinking cheap beer. I love Korean food but do have my limits.

pduggie said...

White people of anglo-saxon/german extraction also favor the "absolute nuclear family" model.

That means the wider 'community' even other family members, is not part of one's 'heritage'


CatherineM said...

rc ocean - Hallie Berry herself tried to claim that she should have sole custody of her 1/4 black daughter because the father was white.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Adopting children of another race is a good example of a thing that should be legal, but not encouraged/promoted.

Because: human nature

To paraphrase an excellent quote about 'reality': "[Human nature] is so constructed that you can ignore it if you wish. You will not, however, be able to ignore the consequences of ignoring it."

Gahrie said...

Until :

A) There are enough Black families willing to adopt Black babies,


B) There are enough White babies for White families that want to adopt

this "problem" will persist.

Surely it is better for a Black baby to be adopted by a White family than spend 18 years in the foster care system?

David said...

"The National Association of Black Social Workers declared in a resolution in 1972 that transracial adoption was cultural genocide."

How did that work out?

And what does the NABS have to say about the actual, legal genocide of over 15 million black American babies?

David said...

Steve Jobs!

Imagine what an effective lebanese terrorist he could have been.

Peter said...

"Oh, I didn't realize skin color = culture."

And yet we can all see that's not the case. For example, immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa often look much like American-born blacks, yet they come from very different cultures. Which is, perhaps, the weakness in much of American Afrocentrism movements- that few African-Americans really have any authentic connection (other than ancestry) to Africa?

Perhaps they're searching for a word like "heritage," but that's much harder to justify. At least, when I hear someone start talking about some mystical, cell-deep connection to a culture that is passed via heredity I tend to edge away as I figure I'm about to be barraged with a dump of unpleasant pseudoscientific racism.

BUT there are still laws about who may raise the offspring American Indians- and it ain't you, whitey ..

pfennig said...

E Pluribus Unum

C Stanley said...

When we went to Guatemala to bring our baby boy home, we were told by our adoption agency that we needed to stay at a hotel next door to the embassy, and plan to leave the country right after we had the paperwork done. In the interim we were told not to walk the streets with him, because there were Guatemalans who were so upset at the idea of Americans adopting Guatemalan kids that they would try to take the baby from us.

I have no idea if this is true or not, but our facilitators seemed to take it pretty seriously. Clearly the sentiment wasn't universal, as we had a lovely guide/translator, and our son's foster family members were wonderful.

Our son hasn't displayed much interest but he is and will be exposed to his heritage as much as he desires. As someone mentioned above, the melting pot of America means that other cultures get assimilated, not lost. My own heritage, and that of my husband, is Polish, and we keep what we like about that culture and discard the rest. Win-win. We get to enjoy pierogis and Wigilia as well as empanadas and fiambre for Day of the Dead.

Hendu said...

This is total BS. Most people of all colors recognize that their are many cultural differences. Some cultures cross color lines, some don't. Adoptive parents tend to invest time and energy in understanding the culture of their children's birth families so that they can help the child understand their own heritage. I am blessed to be the adoptive father of two children from different cultures and colors. We have spent much time talking to the kids about their birth families, celebrating their "Gotcha Day" by enjoying traditions from their birth families' culture, etc. It is not rocket science. My kids do not see the color of their friends, they see their friends.

donald said...

Couple white males dragging this kid out of the mall.

Of course the poor uneducated lady saw white devils.

They live in New York, so they probably don't have a Prius, but they damned sure turtle and when by themselves sniff their own farts.


Jupiter said...

So, when black people adopt white children...

Larry J said...

Hendu said...
My kids do not see the color of their friends, they see their friends.

Give the busybodies time.

You have to be taught
Before it's too late
Before you're six or seven or eight
To hate all the people the racialists hate.
You have to be carefully taught.
You have to be carefully taught.

TML said...

Is this some stupid "AP Style"-type usage rule example?

Recently our African-American daughter, Rosa, had gone with an older black friend to Fulton Mall, a crowded commercial area in our Brooklyn neighborhood, where the shoppers are mostly black.

On subsequent mention it's ok to use "black" and not the utterly inane and pandering BS word "African-American"?

dwarzel said...

I was astonished to discover that there is (and continues to be) a National Association of Black Social Workers. I'm surprised they would feel a need for collectivity; I've never, not once in my life, encountered a social worker who wasn't black.

Balfegor said...

Re: Peter:

I think Ligtvoet used the term "culture" and "cultural identity" because it was suggested by the term "cultural genocide." But the "cultural genocide" that results from cross-racial adoption isn't "genocide" the culture of the individual adoptees -- it's that because the individual adoptees are cut off from the culture of their ancestors, the culture of their ancestors cannot be transmitted forward. As the process continues, generation after generation, the culture of their ancestors eventually just dies out.

It's the same kind of thing that people complain about with "linguistic genocide," where the speaker population for a language dwindles over the generations because no one learns the language, and the language eventually becomes extinct.

Anyhow, I think it's a misapplication of the term, though his use of it certainly does have the mystical Blut und Boden overtones that you point out.

navillus said...

C R Krieger said... "Sometimes parts of cultures need to be left behind.

Example? ... How about Kimchee?"

I'm shocked, shocked, that Althouse would let a blatant anti-Kimchite post here. Looks like it's time to moderate posts again.

Pookie Number 2 said...

What the heck is Wigilia?

mikesixes said...

This drives me nuts. A baby has no culture, because culture has to be...cultured. The culture that parents transmit to their children is transmitted by education and example. People who say that race or ancestry is what bonds people together, that your genetic heritage determines your cultural allegiances, are just preaching from the KKK prayerbook.

Larry J said...

dwarzel said...
I was astonished to discover that there is (and continues to be) a National Association of Black Social Workers. I'm surprised they would feel a need for collectivity; I've never, not once in my life, encountered a social worker who wasn't black.

I actually know a non-black social worker. She's Hispanic.

Anthony said...

Dwarzel - apparently, social work used to be an Irish thing in this country, like policing and priesting. Which makes sense, as social work is the runt of the litter which produced those other two.

The Crack Emcee said...

65 posts I can't relate to - that's got to be some kind of record:

“My heritage is that I’m Nigerian, and hundreds of thousands of Igbo from the east were taken out of Nigeria and brought around the globe, but specifically to Louisiana and the south of America, so I feel connected the experience. I feel connected to the history, to the reality of it. I feel that once we – if we’re constantly trying to separate each other then we’re missing the point.”

"Missing the point" seems to be what you folks are determined to do. And so much hostility. You should all see your therapists or something. Ask him or her if your colorblind delusions hurt anyone of color. I know - hurting those already hurt is fine by you. That's why we love you so much.

I'm outta here, but you guys keep your fantasy going if it makes you feel better - in the real world, there is a real world out there, and even adopted kids have to encounter it,..

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

On subsequent mention it's ok to use "black" and not the utterly inane and pandering BS word "African-American"?

Happily, I'm old enough to have without damage undergone the conversion from saying 'negro' to saying 'black'. Further tortured locutions like the seven-cylinder 'African-American' can get stuffed.

Roux said...

Or maybe it just requires love....

Anthony said...

Crack Emcee is right - most of the comments here miss the point, as does the author of the article. Sure - the kids want to not be seen with their parents, just like lots of non-adoptive parents. But it's also not about the kids being "claimed" by the black community.

It's about white parents not knowing enough about the black experience to guide their black kids through what they'll experience. While a lot of what I hear that black parents tell their kids is exaggerated, or outright paranoid, and a lot of what they'll pick up from their black peers is self-destructive, people aren't color-blind, and they *will* see black kids, and most whites have no clue what that's going to mean to the kids.

Cops *will* be more suspicious of those kids because they're black. The cops may be justified by the statistics, but it's still gonna sting, in a way most white parents just won't get.

The Crack Emcee said...

Thank you, Anthony.

I don't know how many whites would explain this happening to their child unless they delve into issues like racism or racial bias. Or how that child would learn to endure it without he or she having some input from other blacks.

To think a black child in America can survive without black culture - an understanding of it, including both it's strengths and weaknesses - is beyond me.

Two last things:

1) Black descendants of slaves are, as far as I know, the only people on Earth with no direct line anywhere but to slavery. We are, at best, from West Africa - a quarter of a continent, not a country.

So if you think it's the same as having a family from Italy, Germany, Ireland or whatever, you're mistaken. People from those places don't feel bad, when others return to their country of origin - because they don't have one. As kids, they don't feel weird when everyone's running around screaming, "Kiss me, I'm Irish!" or celebrating Christopher Columbus, when nobody ever celebrates anybody or anything from Africa. I could go on, but the reverberations from slavery are many, and they are profound, and to think simply having a loving family (of any color or culture) can fill in the void it leaves in black lives is an ignorance of astounding magnitude. Like I said, this is now 70 posts of almost total ignorance and any black kid raised hearing such things is almost certainly destined to be damaged.

2) George Carlin told you:

“You take 5 white guys and you take 5 black guys and put em together for a week and what you won't have is 5 blacks guys talking like, 'Golly gee, we really won that big basketball game' but you will have 5 white guys talking like 'Yo slick, whuzzup...we be shootin hoops and mad playin, slammed those mofos”

And that, my friends, shows you both the importance and strength of black culture.

To deprive any black child of that proud and commanding sense of identity is a crime.

I'm sorry for your (obvious) racial resentments, honestly, but that's the truth.