Racial matching reinforces racialism.
It strengthens the baleful notion that race is destiny. It buttresses
the notion that people of different racial backgrounds really are
different in some moral, unbridgeable, permanent sense. It affirms
the notion that race should be a cage to which people are assigned
at birth and from which people should not be allowed to wander.
It belies the belief that love and understanding are boundaries
and instead instructs us that our affections are and should be bounded
by the color line regardless of our efforts. . . .
There is no rationale sufficiently compelling to justify preferring
same-race child placements over transracial placements. One asserted
reason for favoring same-race placements (at least in terms of black
children) is that African-American parents can, on average, better
equip African-American children with what they will need to know
in order to survive and prosper in a society that remains, in significant
degree, a pigmentocracy. This rationale is doubly faulty.
First, it rests upon a racial generalization, a racial stereotype,
regarding the relative abilities of white and black adults in terms
of raising African-American children. Typically (and the exception
does not apply here), our legal system rightly prohibits authorities
from making decisions on the basis of racial generalizations, even
if the generalizations are accurate. Our legal system demands that
people be given individualized consideration to reflect and effectuate
our desire to accord to each person respect as a unique and special
individual. Thus, if an employer used whiteness as a criteria to
prefer white candidates for a job on the grounds that, on average,
white people have more access to education than black people, the
employer would be in violation of an array of state and federal
laws—even if the generalization used by the employer is accurate.
We demand as a society a more exacting process, one more attentive
to the surprising possibilities of individuals than the settled
patterns of racial groups. Thus, even if one believes that, on average,
black adults are better able than white adults to raise black children
effectively, it would still be problematic to disadvantage white
adults, on the basis of their race, in the selection process.
Second, there is no evidence that black foster or adoptive parents,
on average, do better than white foster or adoptive parents in raising
black children. The empirical basis for this claim is suspect; there
are no serious, controlled, systematic studies that support it.
Nor is this claim self-evidently persuasive. Those who confidently
assert this claim rely on the hunch, accepted by many, that black
adults, as victims of racial oppression, will generally know more
than others about how best to instruct black youngsters on overcoming
racial bias. A counter-hunch, however, with just as much plausibility,
is that white adults, as insiders to the dominant racial group in
America, will know more than racial minorities about the inner world
of whites and how best to maneuver with and around them in order
to advance one’s interests in a white-dominated society.
To substantiate the claim that black adults will on average be
better than white adults in terms of raising black children, one
must stipulate a baseline conception of what constitutes correct
parenting for a black child—otherwise, one will have no basis
for judging who is doing better than whom. . . .
Is an appropriate sense of blackness evidenced by celebrating Kwanza,
listening to rap, and seeking admission to Morehouse College? What
about celebrating Christmas, listening to Mahalia Jackson, and seeking
admission to Harvard? And what about believing in atheism, listening
to Mozart, and seeking admission to Bard? Are any of these traits
more or less appropriately black? And who should do the grading
on what constitutes racial appropriateness? Louis Farrakhan? Jesse
Jackson? Clarence Thomas? . . .
What parentless children need are not “white,” “black,”
“yellow,” “brown,” or “red”
parents but loving parents.
Yet another reason advanced in favor of moderate racial matching
is that it may serve to save a child from placement in a transracial
family setting in which the child will be made to feel uncomfortable
by a disapproving surrounding community. It would be a regrettable
concession, however, to allow bigotry to shape our law. One of the
asserted justifications of segregation was that it protected blacks
from the wrath of those whites who would strongly object to transracial
public schooling and transracial accommodations in hotels and restaurants.
When the New York Times editorializes today that “clearly,
matching adoptive parents with children of the same race is a good
idea,” we should recall that not very long ago it was believed
in some parts of this nation that “clearly” it was a
good idea to match people of the same race in separate but equal
parks, hospitals, prisons, cemeteries, telephone booths, train cars,
and practically every other place one can imagine—all for
the asserted purpose of accommodating the underlying racial sentiments
of those who opposed “racial mixing.”