I sacrificed myself this morning, for the greater good and watched Sunday Morning Live on BBC1. It is a shouty affair which is not conducive to a slow and sleepy Sunday morning but they were having a debate about trans-racial adoption and so I thought it my duty to take a look. There were three people on the stage: a shouty American woman, a not too shouty black man and Derek Hatton. The referee was the BBC newsreader Susanna Reid.
There were lots of opinions, most from within the studio and some beamed in skype-style. As with most BBC debates, no matter the complexity of the issue, there had to be two opposing sides and the twain was never going to meet. On the liberal and mainly white side of the discussion was the view that adoption should be ‘colour blind’ and that children from ethnic minorities ‘languishing’ (let’s please stop using this word) in care should be available for adoption by white parents. On the opposite side of the debate was the view that white parents may not understand the cultural and ethnic issues of raising a white child, not least the racism which they would be likely to encounter.
A good part of me believes that it is generally better for a child to be adopted, rather than brought up in the care system. I also believe that it can be in a child’s best interests to be adopted by a couple of a different ethnic background, rather than left in the care system. But a rush for white singles or couples to adopt children of a different ethnicity leaves me feeling uneasy, mainly because, with all these thorny, complex issues IT IS NOT THAT EASY.
The (mainly) white debaters on the show claimed that the UK is much changed over the past 25 years and that our society is not riddled with the same levels of racism as it once was. This was not confirmed by the black speakers, who had themselves grown up in care. And who are white people to tell black people that racism has diminished?
As is usual in a debate about adoption, everyone is an expert, whether or not they have any experience of the subject. And as is also usual, the phrase ‘a loving family’ was passed around like a fluffy rabbit at a petting zoo. It is a common misconception that all adopted children really need is ‘a loving family’. In reality raising children who have experienced neglect and abuse (as most children in care have) is exceptionally difficult and requires a level of professionalism not demanded of most parents of biological children. It is also a misconception that Britain is a multi-cultural country: large parts of it may be, but not here in Mudtropolis where we live. If a non-white child grew up here, they would not see anyone who looked remotely like them from one day to the next. And just ask Barack Obama how that would feel.
Most surprisingly it was left to Derek Hatton to speak some words of sense ‘all I’m saying’ he said, ‘is not every white person is fit to adopt a black child, but more could.’