Commentary: A Black Baby for Charlize Theron

The actress has adopted an African-American son. Yes, this matters.

Posted: 03/15/2012 06:30 PM EDT

Another day, another celebrity adoption.

Oscar-winning South African actress Charlize Theron has adopted a new baby boy named Jackson. But Theron’s adoption is a bit different from others you may have heard about. That’s because Theron adopted a Black baby. Not just that, she adopted a Black American baby. It may not sound all that remarkable to you, but it is.

Studies show that African-American babies and male babies are the least likely children in American orphanages to be adopted. This from a 2010 piece in the New York Times:

The probability that a non-African-American baby will attract the interest of an adoptive parent is at least seven times as high as the corresponding probability for an African-American baby. The desire for white babies can be partly, but not fully, explained by the fact that most of the adoptive parents in this data set were white; previous research has found that adoptive parents often want children who look similar to themselves.

Exacerbating the racial debate around adoption is that when white parents do adopt Black children, they often do so in other countries. Madonna, for instance, adopted her son, David, from Malawi, while Angelina Jolie adopted her daughter, Zahara, from Ethiopia.

Nobody is saying African orphans aren’t in need of loving homes, of course, but to some it seems a bit strange to go abroad to adopt when plenty of children are in need of good homes in America.

Allison Darke, a Canadian woman who adopted a Black son named Ethan in 2005, told ABC News, “I just don't understand why American couples go to China and Romania and places like that when they have kids in their own backyards.” Darke was one of a growing number of foreigners who are coming to America to adopt African-American children.

Thankfully, it seems as if some high-profile Americans are blazing a trail for others. In 2010, actress Sandra Bullock adopted a son, Louis, from New Orleans, a city that’s notoriously struggled with violence and poverty. And though Theron isn’t American, she certainly helps set an example for many of the nation’s citizens, who frequently look to celebrities for what’s acceptable in culture.

It might sound nationalistic to some, but asking Americans to look domestically for a child before adopting abroad is not crazy or bigoted. It’s just asking them to acknowledge that there are kids here who need help as well. Perhaps it’s just too painful for some to consider that there are places in Baltimore where kids are as needy as children thousands of miles away.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


 
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(Photo: Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for THR)

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