Today the nation’s most famous integration activist, the one who works as a single issue writer for the New York Times, may have just upbraided her signature issue. In a long Twitter thread Nikole Hannah Jones relayed her encounters with misguided white parents who adopted non-white children, and the story incites cringes.
It started like this…
Whew. Boy. So, when I was in Ore. I started reporting a story on transracial adoption, specifically looking at w parents/b kids. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that white parents told me. Or maybe you wld. I was shook. Realized was no way I cld be objective. I killed it. https://t.co/6GsoqZGR3z
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) January 10, 2019
I find this so curious. For NHJ to go ham on transracial adoption opens a paradox for the basic premise of public school integration orthodoxy which boldly claims “black children do better in whiter schools.”
She has wondered aloud, publicly, why society continues to focus on countless educational interventions when we know only one has ever “worked.” Integration. But, her critique of transracial adoption is closer to mine about reckless desegregation than not.
Her point that Black students who integrated schools in the past did – marginally – better in on tests, with grades, and in post-school life is supported by research. Alas, you if you want to know what other group of kids have done even better than those black students who integrated into white schools years ago?
Black kids adopted into white families.
I first saw that connection made in Christopher Jenks work on the Black/White achievement gap where he said “[w]hen black or mixed-race children are raised in white rather than black homes, their preadolescent test scores rise dramatically.”
Jenks said the gap closing for black adoptees into white families erodes in adolescence, but that mirrors the effect of integration which also work best for younger students.
So, of course, the solution is clear for black people: if you love your children, find a white family to adopt them.
I sound absurd right now.
Almost as absurd as saying, as NHJ does, educational policy makers should stop pursuing evidence-based interventions other than reassigning all of America’s school children by race so that there are no concentrations of non-white people above 50% in any school.
To do her tweeter post from this morning justice, here is her full rendering:
I met a woman who breastfed her adopted black children as a form of reparations for when enslaved black women had to be wet nurses for white children. She used to post photos on her web site until she got a lot of backlash.
One white couple, who like almost all these parents, did not have any black friends or relationships with any black people, would arrange “black” time for their child by inviting other white parents of black adoptees for African-themed parties.
The kids were all American-born black kids but they would parade them in kente cloth outfits and make them do drumming. Almost all the white adoptive parents I met thought African culture was legitimate but they had to protect black kids from black American cultural influence.
White parents often did not bother to learn a single thing about how to care for black children’s hair, somehow believed black children did not need to wash or comb their hair for months and would get offended when a concerned black person would try to instruct them.
One white family told legitimately told me, without a hint of irony or shame, that they’d adopted a black boy because her husband always wanted a son who would be a basketball player.
They would pretend to be “colorblind” while aggressively removing their children from any and all contact with black institutions, black movies, black books or other aspects of black culture.
When I asked if it were fair to the child to constantly force the child to be the only black person at school, at church, at gatherings, they would tell me that they did not go to black churches or programs and it would feel fake and insincere if they joined just for their child.
They believed they could make the children culturally white and simply overlook their skin color and the way the whole world would see them. They were most concerned about their racial comfort and had no concern for the discomfort and isolation their children would feel.
And, yes, they thought the black people who showed concern, who offered to help them navigate the racial reality of America, or passed along info about black hair salons, or suggested black churches or cultural events were the real racists.
So, yeah, I decided I could not write the story and be fair, because being fair meant I would have trashed their entire existence.
To give apt credit where it’s due, she tells a clear, concise, and pointed story that is chilling on level with Jordan Peele.
She also describes a level of not-getting-it-ness among well-meaning but ill-prepared people who hold all the wrong ideas about black children (and people) while also having the lives of those very children in their hands.
Could that be more analogous to the dangerous demand that black families turn over their children to a nation of white teachers committed to the badassery of deficit-thinking and it’s tragic belief gap?
It’s true her argument is based upon the vast social science research that suggests advantages of integration – some large, some barely visible – for our students who are trapped in underperforming public schools.
The part I think she naively or shrewdly sidesteps could fill another tweet storm about the cultural, social, and capital costs of scattering blacks into white environments that another vast body of social science research describes as full of microagressions, low-expectations, and second-class integration whereby students share a building, but not the same educational opportunities.
And, as she shows up in rooms full of white female teachers (or education journalists) telling them she owes her success in life to a “white haired blue-eyed teacher” in the white school she attended with a speckling of other blacks, she might address her blind spot about what research tells us about those teachers she loves.
That teacher taught her she was just as smart as the white kids, she says.
It sounds an awful lot like a transracial adoption outcome.