In my book, to open up your heart and home to another person simply to make that person’s life better is one of the most generous and selfless acts of kindness a person can do.
I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial belief.
Still, when I saw that the ladies of the Facebook web series “Red Table Talk” would be broaching the subject of white people adopting black children, I knew it would not be an easy conversation to watch unfold.
I am extremely distrusting of the legal system in America when the lives of black men, women and children are on the line, so I thought the adoption episode would be one I watched while clenching and feeling attacked.
I saw in video clips promoting the episode that absent model Willow Smith’s presence, Jada Pinkett Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris would be sitting down with “Sex and the City” actress Kristin Davis, who is the adoptive mother of two black children.
I saw that at some point in the interview she would cry, and I thought to myself:
“I know where this is going. I’m good on it.”
But having become a fan of the show, I had to give the hosts more credit than that if for none other than Banfield-Norris. She usually says what I’m thinking, so I decided to watch.
And I have to say within the first few seconds of the episode, the ladies wiped out any preconceived notions I had.
They started the conversation with the media’s infatuation with the white savior and its conversely blind eye to the black saviors among us.
“Sometimes we see white people who are adopting black children as trying to be white saviors,” Pinkett Smith said.
She painted the portrayal as an unfair one.
“It’s not that black families don’t adopt because we do adopt,” she said. “It’s that we don’t go through the legal system. We’ve had family members that have had to raise grandchildren five at a time. I’ve taken on kids. I could’ve taken on more.”
It was an important starting point that really did make the difference between watching the episode and closing the screen for me. I know people who’ve been raised by their grandmothers, and it’s no less honorable a task as when people officially adopt children. That needed to be said, and I’m glad Pinkett Smith said it.
Now ultimately, the conversation about adoption took many twists and turns on the show. Davis talked about how extensive the process of being connected with a child was.
She said she had to fill out a lengthy questionnaire indicating exactly which ethnicities she wanted her adoptive children to come from. Then, she was interviewed about her selections and her preparedness to make sure her children knew their cultural histories.
She admitted to feeling uncomfortable selecting only certain races to adopt.
“It seemed racist to be saying no no no no no,” Davis said.
I can’t disagree there. Something about indicating on paper that you only want a white baby feels wrong, but there is a flip side.
“That’s my thing, and that’s kind of my fear,” Banfield-Norris said. “I feel like people are so anxious and so desperate wanting a child that they’ll say anything, and they don’t really understand everything that would be involved.”
She said raising a black child today is not easy.
“I get why there’s not trust,” Davis said. “Why would your community trust my community with its babies?”
She went on to say that all she could do as a mother was to make every attempt to build as many bridges as possible for her children. She looked at Banfield-Norris and said that’s because “you are their community.”
“I don’t want them to be excluded just because I’m their mother,” Davis said.
The concept of exclusion is an important one to consider. I know people from adopted families and biracial children that felt rejected by both black and white communities for being different, and I’m sorry.
That’s on the parents. I can only say that because I am a parent. It is absolutely my job to find my son’s people, his community who loves and accepts him. That might mean commuting to school, living only in certain neighborhoods or schlepping him to after-school programs, but I will not exist in any place where my child is miserable.
I would sooner move to a different state. As long as adoptive parents have that same devotion to their children, white parents should absolutely adopt black children, and black people should feel free to adopt white children.
The important part is the child.
One of our blog’s content creators, Sydnea Rutland, put it best:
“I can’t imagine depriving a child of parents because they’re from a different culture.”
I just hope that those parents make every attempt to embed their child in that culture on a daily basis because there are few words that capture the pain of not belonging. No child should have to feel that.