Representing Transracial Adoptions
Lisa Wade, Ph.D.
In a 2007 national survey, 40% of children adopted by Americans, both domestically and internationally, were of a different race than their adoptive parents (source). Transracial adoptions are very common. But who adopts who? If you ask Google Images, white families adopt non-white children. Six of the images below appear to feature white parents with children of color:
Why in America do we associate transracial adoptions with white parents?
One reason might be simply numerical. White people aren’t more likely to adopt – in fact, the population of adopters is less white (73%) than the general population (78%) – but only 39% of adoptees are white. So, when white people do adopt, there’s a decent chance that they’ll adopt a non-white baby. Compounding this, they may be more likely to adopt transnationally because whites as a group are more affluent and so may have the money necessary pay the expenses of an overseas adoption, traveling across the globe possibly multiple times.
I think, however, that we also associate transracial adoptions with white parents out of bias. Many Americans are suspicious that minorities might not be “fit parents,” especially to a white child. In this scenario, we value white children more than other children and imagine that they should be placed only with good/white parents. Or, conversely, we imagine that it is only children of color that need saving and only white people that save.