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October 20, 2020

No, My Adoptive Family Is Not ‘Colonizing’

Those of us who have adopted know that the attacks are hateful and false.

“[They are] my children who we love and who we brought home and made part of our family. And accusations like that are cruel.” So said Amy Coney Barrett, adoptive mother of two children from Haiti, in answer to a question during last week’s hearings. As the adoptive father of two boys from Africa, my wife and I crafted a few thoughts.

But first, the impetus. On the day of Barrett’s nomination by President Donald Trump, Ibram X. Kendi, author of the bestselling woke book How to Be an Antiracist, tweeted his condemnation of mixed-race families. “Some White colonizers ‘adopted’ Black children,” he said. “They ‘civilized’ these ‘savage’ children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.”

(Our Michael Swartz addressed Kendi’s book in July, and our Arnold Ahlert took on his noxious tweet early this month.)

In last Tuesday’s hearing, Senator John Kennedy, in his best Louisiana drawl, said to Barrett, “Some butthead professor at Boston University says that because you and your husband have two children of color, that you’re a white [colonizer]. The implication is that you’re a racist, and that you use your two children as props. Do you use your children as props?”

Barrett responded, “It was the risk of people saying things like that, which would be so hurtful to my family, that … my husband and I had to really weigh the costs of this [nomination]. It was saying deeply offensive and hurtful things — things that are not only hurtful to me but are hurtful to my children, who are my children, who we love, and who we brought home and made part of our family. And accusations like that are cruel.”

They are indeed cruel accusations, and utterly untrue to boot.

Why do people adopt? Well, grafting children into a different family is admittedly an imperfect solution to a tragic problem. When parents die or are otherwise incapable of taking care of their children, someone must step in. Sometimes the couples who do have suffered infertility of their own. There are millions of orphans worldwide, and white American families are doing most of the adopting. That doesn’t make us “colonizers” or “white supremacists.”

Seven years ago, our two boys were starving in Africa. They lived in an orphanage with nearly 40 other children on meager rations and a shared pile of clothing. Were we supposed to leave them there so as not to offend the sensibilities of out-of-touch intellectuals like Kendi?

Our church is full of adoptive families — ranging from children born right here in America to those born in Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kazakhstan, China, and other places. We’re fortunate that we have not personally encountered the hatred spewed by the likes of Kendi and other leftists, but we also don’t lead a high-profile life and we’re painfully aware of other adoptive friends who have experienced racism and condemnation.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Nevertheless, beyond the scriptural mandate to care for widows and orphans, we hope that our family and others like ours will be the seed of something beautiful in our broader culture. We echo Barrett in saying that our boys are our children, part of our family, and furthermore part of our very hearts. Isn’t that the kind of unity and love a truly anti-racist culture needs?

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