The relative value of human life

Hi Majormd,
You wrote:

Thank you. You made my point for me.
I wrote that “many” conservative white couples who oppose abortion rights “usually” wait for a white baby and “usually” reject babies with other skin tones. You say this is “absolutely false,” but then you turn around and agree with me.
Let me ask you this: Why would adoptive parents be “uncomfortable,” as you say, to walk down the street with dark-skinned child? And why would such a child not “excel at and enjoy the same things” as a white parent?

I usually stay out of the abortion debates, partly because I have some mixed feelings about the issue. One thing I am certain about: making it illegal is not the answer. Another thing: tobacco and alcohol kill a lot of folks (yes, there are innocent victims, too) but I’m not gonna start bombing convenience stores any time soon.

No, Temujin, I acknowledged some truth in the fact that inter-racial adoptions are the exception, rather than the rule. I stand by my assertion that there are not “many conservative white couples” out there rejecting other-race babies.

My main point (that you chose to ignore completely) was that the major obstacle to mixed race adoptions is not the lack of white couples willing to buck the trend & adopt other-race babies. The major obstacle is that some minority groups do not want “their” babies raised by parents of another ethnic group, because they believe that the parents will be unwilling/unable to help the child gain a sense of himself/herself as a member of his/her ethnic group. Advising a young African-American girl to have an abortion, or having a Native American child kept in a series of foster homes is preferable to inter-racial adoptions to these groups. I can state with certainty that this is a fact in the Washington DC area, where it has been the subject of several “Sunday human condition exploratory page” type spreads, with comments from people who have adopted out-of-race, adult adoptees coming to grips with who they are, and adoption agencies. I can’t say with the same certainty that this is universal throughout the US, but I would be surprised if it wasn’t.

Separate from that, we do not live in a perfect world. Being different in an outwardly apparent way seems, to too many people, to be an invitation to comment upon what is none of their business. There is much debate on exactly what is the ideal age to share with a child that they were adopted. Mixed race families do not have any choice in when to bring this up, because insensitive clods are likely to bring it up at any time to satisfy their curiosity. Preferring not to go through this is not the same as rejecting “any baby with yellow, tan or black skin.” The couples who can cope with this are to be commended; the ones who cannot need not be castigated.

Sue from El Paso

This is the scenario you’re suggesting:
Prosective parents: “We just want a baby as soon as possible. Race is not a factor.”
Adoption agency: “Sorry, you’re white, so you can only adopt a white baby.”
Your argument is that prospective white parents have no choice but to adopt white babies. I don’t think that’s true.
If this is what most adoption agencies are actually doing, it’s news to me. And, if it is the case, I will agree with you that it shouldn’t happen. Prospective parents should not automatically be restricted to adopting babies of just one race.

On the other hand, I have met prosective parents who were desperate to adopt a baby, but only a white one. It happens very often.
I suspect (but cannot prove) that it’s particularly common among conservative white couples who oppose a woman’s right to choose abortion. This says something about the value they place on human life.

What you chose to ignore completely is that this thread is about the relative value of human life. The point I made about conservative white couples was intended to illustrate how our society continues to place relatively different values on people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. This was not intended as a discussion on the thorny issue of mixed-race adoptions.

Do you think all people are valued equally in practice in American society?

Also, I’m still waiting to hear you explain why a dark-skinned adoptive child would not “excel at and enjoy the same things” as a white adoptive parent.

What is happening is that for the most part African-American babies are never getting to the adoption agencies. If there is any other option (private adoption, grandparents raising the baby, girl raising the baby, abortion, foster homes until the girl could raise the baby) these are pursued to exhaustion before placing a black baby up for open adoption. Again, this may not be the case everywhere, but in the Washington DC area, where there is a sizeable black middle- & upper- class community it is the situation. There was a court case several years ago, in which the Lakota sought & were granted an injunction blocking adoptions that took babies out of the tribe. Prospective parents DO have options. If they are impatient enough, and have enough resources, they can travel to other countries & pursue the adoption of a baby there.

No, this says something about your attitudes towards conservative white couples.

And yet you chose to bring mixed-race adoptions up along with your unsubstantiated
views about attitudes of some couples to prove your point-of-view. I was not participating actively in the value-of-life discussion, but when I saw your statement, I had to speak out against something so wrong. Threads evolve. Deal with it.

No. I think Princess Diana is/was valued way out of proportion to her contribution here. I think the same of most entertainers & sports figures. I think school teachers are grossly undervalued.

You conveniently left off the part where I said that most parents want children who resemble them. Adoptive parents are already dealing with the fact that their children will not inherit their looks, intelligence, athletic ability, etc. Preferring a same race child need not be due to deep dark hatred towards another race or their horrible conservative viewpoints - merely wanting a child that in some small way looks like them.

Sue from El Paso

Wow. I obviously touched some nerve here, because your posts are becoming more combative. I realize threads evolve. But it seemed to me that you were missing my broader point. No offense was intended.

In any case, I’m certainly willing to consider whether what you’re saying is correct, so I did some research. Here’s a quote from a Chicago Tribune article from July 1998:

From the same article, I also found out that the 1994 Multi-Ethnic Placement Act prohibits delaying a transracial placement strictly on the basis of race, culture or ethnic identity.

If a white parent wants a baby regardless of race, an adoption agency MAY NOT delay an adoption until a white baby becomes available. Meanwhile, there are LOTS of minority children just waiting to be adopted, but not so many white children.

You acknowledge that prospective white parents have a choice. You acknowledge that most of them choose white children. You disagree with me that this has anything to do with the relative value they place on human life. Maybe you are right about this last point. I don’t know. It’s a matter of opinion, since nobody can peer into their hearts and know for sure why they choose not to share their home with the first available child, regardless of race.

I respect your viewpoint, and I acknowledge that we disagree. Thank you for the opportunity to examine my views more closely.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out, however, that you never did explain what you wrote in your first post, namely:

Why, exactly, wouldn’t minority children “excel at and enjoy the same things” as their white adoptive parents, as you wrote?

I’m really interested in finding out why you think dark-skinned children would be unable to do this.

First, I agree that my previous response may have been a little strong, but I do think you were ascribing evil motives to conservative white couples where none existed. Olive branch accepted & white dove sent in return.

I bolded the word children to point out that we were discussing infant/newborn adoptions, not children (including teens). I agree that there is a large unmet need for permanant homes for many minority children (who, due to the disproportionate effects of poverty, are more likely to need placement). But there is always a need for homes for older children, and always a demand for infants for adoptions. Apples & oranges.

I think I agreed in my last post that adoption agencies do not discriminate the way you had originally understood me to suggest. Once a baby is offered up,(s)he goes to longest-waiting, best-qualified couple on the list. But… minority groups do actively intervene to prevent babies from being put up for open adoption, or ever getting to these agencies.

The point, as I explained in my last post, is that, given a choice, most expecting or prospective adopting parents want miniatures of themselves to raise. The phrase “children who excel at and enjoy the same things they do, and who resemble them” was intended to be thought as a whole. Adoptive parents, to a much larger degree than expecting parents, are dealing with a crap shoot, as far as whether their future children will share their talents, interests, and personalities. You are absolutely right that none of these are pre-ordained by race, and that there is no more likelihood of a same race adopted child sharing these traits with the parents than a different-race adopted child. But appearance is determined by race, and that even this minimal degree of outward resemblence is sought by some/many prospective adoptive parents should not be surprising, nor ascribed to dark motives. As I said several posts back, the couples who can get beyond this are to be commended, but those who can’t should not be vilified.

Sue from El Paso

Thanks for the thoughtful exchange, Majormd.

Your comments prompted me to learn more about this issue, and I discovered that for about two decades until roughly 1994, it was indeed very difficult for white parents to adopt black infants in many states. Since then, however, all that has changed (in part because of the law I cited), and the number of interracial adoptions is growing.

Also, I have found out that healthy infants, black or white, generally are adopted quickly. Older children and infants with special needs languish for longer periods in foster care.

You wrote:

You’re right. It’s unfair to make a blanket statement about the motives of all white couples who choose to adopt white babies. Moreover, that’s not what I intended to do in the post that sparked this dialogue between us.

My original comment picked on a narrower set of prospective parents, namely, couples who:

  1. oppose a woman’s right to choose abortion; and
  2. desperately want a baby of their own; but
  3. reject the opportunity to adopt a non-white baby, even if that might allow them to adopt more quickly.

When I wrote this, I was thinking of a specific couple I knew very well who met this description. The prospective father was a good friend of mine at the time, and he often told me how he and his wife would do anything to have a baby. I suggested to him that the process might be quicker if he looked into foreign adoptions, particularly in Asia. He said he and his wife did not want a non-white baby.

I didn’t push the issue with him. I could tell he was uncomfortable talking about it, so I left it alone.

But at the time, the two of them had been pursuing adoption for quite a while. It was beginning to look as if they would not be able to adopt at all. So the choice potentially came down to this: a non-white baby, or no baby.

They were desperate to be parents. They yearned for it. It was the most important thing to them. But they were willing to abandon their lifelong dream of parenthood if the only option was to adopt a non-white baby.

This, in my opinion, does indeed say something about the relative value they place on human life.

To be clear: I did not vilify this couple. I did not castigate them. I didn’t pressure them one way or another, and I supported their adoption efforts to the best of my ability, including writing a letter of personal recommendation for them.

But, in the end, I believe their choice did, indeed, reflect values that continue to be pervasive in American society.

I am talking about white couples who say to minority women, in effect: “Don’t have an abortion! Give your baby up for adoption. By the way, I really want to adopt a baby, but I don’t want yours.”

I don’t think I have “vilified” or “castigated” these people in any of my posts, although I acknowledge that you think I have.

I merely have stated that in my opinion, these individuals demonstrate how some people are more highly valued than other people in American society.

My broader point is that in many instances, American society continues to devalue people who are not white. I was inspired to try to make this point by posts in other topics from people who seem to believe that American society has done a complete 180-degree turn when it comes to race. These people seem to believe that minorities are America’s new privileged class.

I disagree with them. That’s why I started this topic.

Racism in 1999 still exists, but it is subtle, and often (not always, probably not usually, but often) backwards from the expected “majority continues to get ahead of the minority”.

Classic example:

Job opening, you’ve interviewed 2 candidates. Both are outstanding, and should be super employees. One is a minority; the other is not. All else is equal. Who gets hired - the minority. All companies want successful minorities that they can hire, promote, & proudly include in their “diversity” record.

Job opening, you’ve interviewed 2 candidates. Both are marginal; either their personalities or their qualifications make you worried that they won’t be able to meet performance expectations. One is a minority; the other is not. All else is equal. Who gets hired - the non-minority candidate. If you have to demote, remove, reprimand, or take other adverse action against the employee, you don’t want to have to deal with EO complaints and investigations.

This is racism in 1999. Subtle. Situation-dependent. Still there. Coming close to balancing out, but still there.

Sue from El Paso

I’d like to add one more example:

Job openings: employer has multiple positions available, and interviews multiple candidates. One job opening is in rural central Illinois. That job requires daily interaction with the public. Qualified black candidates are not seriously considered for that particular opening, because the employer believes potential white customers would not respond to a black rep in the area.

This happened in an office where I worked. I had a chance to meet one of the black candidates. He was qualified for all openings. I know for a fact that he was NOT considered for the rural opening, for the reasons mentioned above.