reflection by Pearl Buck about
her own experience with transracial
and transnational adoptions
expresses her lifelong commitment to intercultural understanding
and belief that it was possible for love and common humanity to
overcome racial and national prejudice. The story is especially
interesting, however, because it was published at a time of enormous
controversy over the adoption of black children by white parents.
For a view quite different than Buck’s, see the statement
opposing such adoptions by the National Association
of Black Social Workers.
My husband and I thought our family of five adopted
children was complete when she first came to us. Her birth mother
was a girl in a small town in Germany. Her father was an American
soldier who was killed. He was black. The German mother said his
black child was despised in her town and had no future there. She
begged his university president in Washington to find the father’s
I was a trustee of the university. We tried to
find the family, but they had disappeared without trace. What then
should we do with the child? From experience we knew that the little
black children from Germany had difficulty adjusting to black mothers.
The president looked at me. “Would you. . .”
“Of course I will,” I said. “We’d
love to have another child.”
I lived in a white community. But I knew it would
make no difference to me or to my husband that this child was black,
and since it made no difference to us, it should make no difference
to our white children. If it did, I wanted to know it and see to
it that attitudes were changed. If there were wrong attitudes in
the school or community, I would see to that, too. If the basic
love was in the home, the child would be fortified enough to be
a survivor. . . .
She arrived at our house on Thanksgiving Day—five
years old, bone-thin, weighing only 35 pounds, speaking only German.
She had been airsick, she was unwashed, she was terrified, but she
did not cry. Later, years later, she told me her German mother had
simply put her on the plane without telling her where she was going.
She had promised to return in a minute, but had never come back.
That plucky little thing, so alone, those enormous
haunted eyes! Tears come to my eyes now when I think of her that
day. I took her in my arms and held her. Her heart was beating so
hard that it shook her small, emaciated frame. . . .
She was our child. When my husband died, she was
my child. I am glad he lived long enough to share in her adoption.
The ceremony was a double one. I asked the judge to ask her, too,
to adopt us. She was then old enough to understand. It was a beautiful
and sacred little ceremony, just the four of us in his private chambers.
It sealed our love.
The years passed. She went to public school, developed
a strong personality, fearless, independent, sometimes difficult.
She had to be rid of all fear before she gave up lying as a protection.
The result today is a strong, outspoken, fearless woman with a mind
of her own. And yet love, our love, has helped her to try to understand
other people. She understands both black people and white. She is
in the deepest, truest sense a bridge between two peoples, to both
of whom she belongs by birth. . . .
In China, I was the wrong color, for my skin was
white instead of brown, my eyes were blue instead of black, and
my hair was light instead of dark. I taught my children to feel
sorry for people who made rude or nasty remarks about such differences. . . .
Adopting a black child into my white family has
taught me much I could not otherwise have known. Although I have
many black friends and read many books by black writers, I rejoice
that I have had the deep experience of being mother to a black child.
I have seen her grow to womanhood in my house and go from it to
her own home, a happy bride and wife. It has been a rich experience
and it continues to be. It has brought me into the whole world. . . .
“Mommy, please find me a little sister.”
It was a natural request at a time when the older children were
growing up and off to college.
Being always in touch with the children of American
servicemen and Asian women in Asia—those piteous lonely children
whom no country claims—I found in a Japanese orphanage a little
seven-year-old girl and brought her home with me. She, too, was
of a black father. She, too, I adopted. At first she spoke only
Japanese, but her lively mind soon discovered English.
How my two brown children enlivened our household! . . .
Let me say here that the attitude of adoptive
parents is most important. If the parents are doubtful, if they
are not strong enough, secure enough in themselves to accept children
of a race different from their own, they should not adopt such children.
My black children knew and know that color means nothing to me.
Whatever they might meet outside they could cope with because at
home there was only love and acceptance. . . .
In sum, should white people adopt homeless black
children? My answer is yes, if they feel the same love for a black
child as for a white one. . . .
I would not have missed the interesting experience
of adopting children of races different than my own. They have taught
me much. They have stretched my mind and heart. They have brought
me, through love, into kinship with peoples different from my own
conservative, proud, white ancestry. I am the better woman, the
wiser human being, for having my two black children. And I hope
and believe they are the better, too, and the more understanding
of me and my people because of their white adoptive parents.
At least I know that there is no hate in them.
No, there is no hate in them at all.