I don’t know whether I believe in pure coincidence or not. Is it a coincidence that within the last couple of weeks I’ve heard a variation on the “transracial adoption in trendy” theme? Maybe it is just a fluke or maybe I’ve tapped into the zeitgeist or semi-universal subconscious belief. The first was a conversation I overheard where a man commented on hearing that a mutual friend was adopting an African American baby: “Oh yeah, everyone is doing that now since Brangelina and Sandra Bullock have made it cool.” The second happened this morning when one of our Creating a Family community sent me this quote from a Slate magazine article about the author, Michael Lewis, who wrote Moneyball on which the Brad Pitt movie by the same name was based. Lewis is also the author of The Blind Side, about a white couple adopting a black teen turned football star. She highlighted this quote: “Do books never make any difference? The bestselling author chuckles. ‘The Blind Side … caused a number of white people to adopt black people … . So I have shifted individual decisions… .’”
My first response upon hearing both comments was a sarcastic chuckle, “Oh yeah, people are going to make a life altering decision that will change their lives forever just because someone famous did it or because they saw a movie!?! People just aren’t so easily influenced.” But as I sat down to write a scathing blog on this assumed gullibility, a niggling doubt crept in.. Have our decisions and attitudes about transracial adoption been influenced by what we read in People Magazine and see on TV and at the movies?
How much credit to celebrities deserve for social change?
I think transracial adoptions are easier now for people to consider because they are more common. While I don’t think many people are trying to imitate the stars or movies, I do think we’ve benefitted by the media exposure. However, are the stars and movies leading the societal shift in attitude or are they too following what is happening generally?
Whether on the conscious or unconscious level, we are all influenced by our society and culture, and our cultural attitude about mixed race families and transracial adoption are changing. A recent study found that marriages between blacks and whites are on the rise. Societal attitudes about these interracial marriages are improving as well, with 86% of Americans now approving of such unions. This reflects a major transformation in the past five decades. When Gallup first asked about black-white marriages in 1958, only 4% approved.
Celebrities can help normalize transracial adoption.
Our movies and their stars are both reflecting this trend and leading the way. Stars get more attention than the rest of us. It’s impossible not to see their glamorous and adorable pictures while waiting in the checkout line. I don’t believe that the everyday folks are copying the famous when they marry or adopt outside their race, but I do think the famous make our decision easier if for no other reason than by making it seem “normal”.
Most people don’t go into adoption saying they specifically are looking to adopt a child of another race. Once they see where the need is or the shorter wait, however, many embrace this route to parenthood. The movie and media focus on transracial families likely helps this acceptance. I think it also helps extended family acceptance. “If it’s good enough for Sandra, then it’s good enough for my son or daughter.”
All this seems good, if, and this is a big IF, prospective adoptive parents are open to being educated about the ramifications of adopting a child of a different race. I haven’t really seen anyone or heard from anyone who thinks that just because Brad and Angelina and Sandra adopted a black child or Asian child, that there is no need to think through how to best raise a black or Asian child. Still I worry that the media exposure makes light of some of the very real differences involved with transracial parenting. Truth be told, I strongly suspect that Brad, Angelina, and Sandra have been and continue to be educated on transracial adoption too.
Image credit: favim.com