‘Acting White’ and ‘Acting Black’: Exploring Transracial Adoption, Middle-Class Families, and Racial Socialization

  • Colleen Butler-Sweet
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Studies in Family and Intimate Life book series (PSFL)


More than 35 years ago the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) formally declared its opposition to transracial adoption (TRA), particularly the adoption of black children by white families. While the controversy reached a fever pitch in 1972 with the NABSW position paper, the debate surrounding transracial adoption has waned over the past decade. The controversy has been recently re-ignited, however, due to high profile transracial adoptions by celebrities and other public figures including Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna. The transracial adoption controversy of the 1970s and today typically focuses on concerns that white families, no matter how well intentioned, may be ill-equipped to help black children survive in a racist society and develop a healthy sense of themselves and racial identity (Grow and Shapiro, 1974b; McRoy and Zurcher, 1983; Simon and Alstein, 2002). Critiques are often based on assumptions about the identity of black children raised by their biological parents, yet there is little focus placed on black children raised in black homes who may or may not also struggle with racial identity development. Moreover, while the race of parents in relation to children is at the center of the transracial adoption debate, studies rarely delve into socialization practices of biracial families headed by one white and one black parent.


Foster Care Black Community Racial Identity Black Child Black Youth 
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© Colleen Butler-Sweet 2014

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  • Colleen Butler-Sweet

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