Channel 4's new series on inter-racial adoption highlights some very important issues regarding identity
Channel 4's new strand 4thought.tv which attempts to encourage debates on ethical and religious issues has chosen for this week the issue of trans-racial adoption following decision to allow inter-racial domestic adoptions. So far the Producer Rebecca Frankel has proved that she has a good understanding of the debate with the various adoptees that she has chosen to be interviewed. Each give a snap shot of their perspectives of their adoption and the stories range from Precious Williams's problems with identity to Veronica Whitehead's attitude that love conquers all. The comments by viewers highlights the controversy that always surrounds adoption.
What, though, has become apparent from the adoptees is that a recognition and understanding as well as respect for the racial and ethnic origin of the adoptee is vital. One cannot ignore racial differences and brush them away pretending that they do not exist. Of course each child is different and each adoption is unique so it is impossible to make blanket statements but acceptance of the issues that can and do arise surrounding inter-racial adoption are paramount. In all adoptions the issue of identity rises and with trans-racial adoptions this issue is heightened. It is the conventional wisdom of inter-country adoption that you bring your child up respecting, valuing and honouring their cultural roots. Being proud of where you are from will have a profound effect on being proud of who you are.
It is not only parents and families that have an effect on self identity - environment cannot be ignored. A child growing up as the only brown kid in the village will have a very different life from that of one growing up in inner London. Peer understanding is also crucial to avoid the horrific school yard barbs which can damage fragile identities and teaching our children to be robust is possibly the best education we can give them.
But what this range of films shows more than anything, is that adoption has given them a voice. This is all I ask for my son. Let him speak and it matters not what he says but that he can say it. It is an unfortunate reality that children are neglected, abused, abandoned, that families cannot not afford to look after them, and that drugs and alcohol take priority - adoption saves these children from oblivion - giving them a voice, a chance to express who and what they are.