'60 Minutes' Blows It on Black/White Adoption

“60 Minutes” strikes again. Earlier this month, the program broadcast a segment on international, “transracial” (black/white) adoptions involving American-born babies.

It turns out, according to “60 Minutes,” a growing number of families living out of the country now adopt American black babies. As for the reason, “60 Minutes” interviewed Walter Gilbert, CEO of The Open Door, a private adoption agency. Gilbert’s agency has placed more than 200 American children in British Columbia. Many of these kids are black and are matched with white Canadian parents. Why? “Especially in Canada,” Gilbert says, “people are just color-blind.

. . . We would tend to tell them [birth mothers] that our experience has been there’s less prejudice. They know what they experience here.”

Never mind that our unemployment rate is 5.2% versus Canada’s 7.0%, or the Canadian GDP per capita is $29,700 versus our $37,800. It’s better up there.

But wait, the “60 Minutes” piece grew even more baffling. Correspondent Lesley Stahl never even suggested another big reason why adoption agencies might look outside of America for parents to adopt black children. For decades, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) and others called transracial adoptions “cultural genocide.” In 1992, the NABSW issued a paper condemning “transracial” black-white adoptions between Americans, warning against “transculturation . . . when one dominant culture overpowers and forces another culture to accept a foreign form of existence,” and stated that “children need to be with those who are most familiar with their culture, heritage and family system.” I attempted to determine whether NABSW still maintains its official status against “transracial adoptions,” but as of final editing of this article, no one from the organization returned a phone call or e-mail.

Responding to the opposition of organizations like the NABSW, adoption agencies pulled back. After all, who could understand the dramatically different “culture” of blacks better than black social workers?

Finally, in 1994 — concerned about the alarming number of black children waiting for adoption — Congress passed the Multiethnic Placement Act, which prohibits delay or denial of any adoption due to the race, color or national origin of the child or adoptive parents. Still, after the Act, the number of transracial adoptions failed to significantly increase. Why? According to the National Adoption Center, government still allows agencies to use variables to calculate “the best interest of the child.” For instance, take a 9-year-old black child who has never lived with a white family. An adoption agency could argue that it’s not in the “best interest of the child” to be adopted by a white family — even when a white family wants the child!

“60 Minutes,” of course, never dealt with the issue of why so many black children are waiting for adoption. Healthy black babies, like white babies, get adopted quickly. But older black kids in foster care, having been removed from their parents, often encounter greater difficulty in getting adopted. Many parents fear adopting older children since they didn’t bond with them when they were young. Others fear some children may have mental or physical problems. But, given the size of the black population, for black families to adopt black children, black families would have to adopt kids at a rate four times faster than the adoption rate of white families.

Is it a healthy thing that Americans feel black children, unwanted by the birth mother, stand to have a better life in “less racist” Canada? Is it a good thing that, given the availability of black children for adoption, black social workers and like-minded whites call black-white adoptions “cultural suicide”?

Why do so many Americans — including white Americans — shudder at the obstacle of American racism? Because many American “black leaders” constantly tell us about the severe obstacles faced by blacks growing up in America. Listen to Rep. Mel Watt (D.-N.C.) chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. When C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb asked what advice he would give to young black men, Watt said, ” . . . [I]f you’re honest with them, you’ve got to tell them, you’ve got to work five times as hard as your white counterpart.”

Black kids wear T-shirts saying, “You wouldn’t understand. It’s a black thing.” “Black leaders” condemn juries with no blacks as inherently illegitimate if they sit in judgment over black defendants. After all, how can a non-black understand the “black experience”? Small wonder, then, many adoption agencies discourage “transracial” adoptions. After all, haven’t “black leaders” and other liberal, guilt-ridden non-blacks emphasized differences? “If you adopt her, how will you be able to comb her hair? How will she know about ‘her heritage’?” (Her heritage? Wasn’t she born in Detroit?)

Many white American families — who would likely be thrilled to adopt a black American baby — now turn to countries like Korea or China to adopt Asian babies and toddlers. Different race, different culture, even a different language — no problem.

“60 Minutes” neither raised nor answered any of these questions. But maybe things will get better at “60 Minutes” — once Dan Rather joins them full time.