Can I ask a very personal question? Are there no black mothers or Hispanic mothers or Asian mothers capable of caring for and raising a black child in America? Yes, I said it. And in today’s feature piece, “White Moms: Are They Better at Raising Black Children?” I ask the question so many of us thought when we saw the People magazine cover with Sandra Bullock proudly hoisting a black child in the air. Well, at least she adopted an American child my Facebook friends declared. Not like Angelina Jolie or Madonna. Can you believe those ladies? A black child from Africa? Once considered “cultural genocide” for the child (think Losing Isaiah), black/white adoptions have since gained acceptance in the white community and have a new found celebrity in actresses like Sandra Bullock and particularly in the film The Blind Side. But does that make it right? “Bullock’s case shows, a white celebrity adopting a black child raises questions as well as suspicions. Why do they want a black baby as opposed to a white one, when there are also white kids who are up for adoption?” asks Lola Adesioye on the site Black Voices. “Are they buying in to the idea that poor black children must be saved by altruistic white people? Or in the case of celebrities, is a black child just another accessory or another save-the-world mission that they embark on in between movies?”
The white savior claim may be true (or untrue) for celebrities but what about normal people? Like the Tuohy family, the subject of The Blind Side or, more recently, the Hill family of West Dallas recently featured in The Dallas Morning News. The Hills, a white couple, have four white children and are raising two inner city black teen boys (with the consent of their parents). Melissa Hill, or MaMelissa or Lady M, is a sorority sister, raised in a privileged area of Houston and her husband, Trey, was raised in Highland Park. Trey decided to join the ministry and moved the family to West Dallas. He founded the ministry Mercy Street Dallas which is where Melissa first met Darius and Deandre. The brothers previously lived in a crowded apartment with seven other people in West Dallas. Their biological parents have an informal arrangement with the Hills. (You can read more of their story here). It seems to me the thing these white families are giving their black children is a sense of stability, education, knowledge, love and support. And most importantly, the financial means to access things like private tutors, good schools, access and experience (college, the working world). But isn’t that enough? Isn’t that what’s important? Maybe. But why aren’t other black families doing this? Or Asian families? Or Hispanic families? Why aren’t other mixed families being heralded on the cover of People magazine or in movies? And while we may praise the Tuohys and Hills and Bullock we aren’t acknowledging what these mixed families cannot provide. They cannot give their children culture. They cannot give their children the black experience in the way my parents could never give me the sense of being Mexicana. They cannot give their children family and racial history. They cannot give their children that feeling you get when you sit with your daughter and braid her hair or when your father blares canciones when he picks you up from school. And they cannot overlook the fact that at every family reunion and in ever family portrait someone is always sticking out—I know this from experience! I’m not saying adoption is wrong. Let’s face it. The alternative children face in the foster care system or out on the street or in a crowded West Dallas apartment is much worse, but don’t over credit love and hugs and discount the importance of identity and belonging in the process.