Effects of Race in Adoption

Racial Research Reveals…

In today’s society there are more and more multiracial families created through adoption, birth, and a growing population of multiracial persons (Samuels, Gina Miranda). These types of adoptions are controversial but provide the best opportunity for the child. There are numerous factors that the adoptive family must think about before officially adopting a child including economic status, access to family preservation services for biological parents if the child so desires, and the want to take the time to meet the needs of the child and nurture them(Samuels, Gina Miranda). Although all of those aspects are important, “the most publicly debated and emotionally contentious issues in adoption policy and practice are those related to race” which is exemplified throughout The Blind Side (Smith, Darron T., et al.). When the Tuohy’s begin to care for Michael Oher and let him reside in their home, they get bombarded with questions considering he is a homeless African American boy and they are an upper class white nuclear family. This conflict surfaces because adoption centers fear that the cross-cultural dynamic of the family will reduce the overall welfare of the child, especially African American children (Samuels, Gina Miranda). They fear that the adoptive family will not accommodate for the cultural needs and wants of the child, which is reasonable, but assumptions should definitely not be made. The Blind Side demonstrates why there should be no assumptions very well because it is clear that the Tuohy’s support Michael.

Within The Blind Side a huge cultural shock for Michael Oher is the school system he has to attend while living with the Tuohy’s. The school is predominately attended by white children in all grade levels and he feels like the odd one out. It is not until his new siblings realize his discomfort and try to include him that he begins to feel like he belongs. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie that expresses his discomfort is when Michael walks into the school library to study just to receive stares, with judgmental eyes. It demonstrates “the fact that some adopted persons may view themselves as different, out-of-place, unwelcome, or rejected” which are amongst some of the most common feelings of adopted children (Child Welfare Information Gateway). In this scene the table of four white teenage girls studying glare Michael up and down as if they are questioning why someone like him and of his color is even in the library. One of those four girls is Collins, Mr. and Mrs. Tuohy’s daughter, Michael’s sister. She recognizes the uneasiness in his approach to even stay and his difficulty deciding where to sit. Collins makes the right decision to leave her friends behind and sit with Michael, her brother, as family should do. Collin’s friends cannot believe she left them, for him, but in the end true family sticks together. Something that adoptions centers would try to argue is that this conflict may have been avoided if Michael Oher was adopted into an African American family because he would then be enrolled in a school system fitting to his culture. The Tuohy’s do not set out to separate him from African American’s and his black culture, but care about him receiving a good education and succeeding which is vital.

S.J gives advice to Michael at football practice.
S.J gives advice to Michael at football practice.

Further, Michael Oher was born with the most desirable stature to become a football star due to his  6’4″ height, 315lb. weight, and impressive strength (The Blind Side). When he tries to join the football team at school, however, he is out of sorts and unsure of the rules. What makes it even more difficult for him to excel at the sport is the lack of diversity on the team. He is the only African American teammate and it has a negative impact on his performance and enjoyment. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, “A number of studies have found that, while adopted persons are similar to non-adopted persons in most ways, they often score lower on measures of self-esteem and self-confidence”. This is accurately demonstrated in The Blind Side considering Michael is apprehensive about everything he does at practice. Due to this, Sandra Bullock,  playing the role of Mrs. Touhy, cares for Michael as much as her own children and makes sure to attend his football practices, explaining the game to him in terms he would understand. In terms of family. She tells Michael to think of the quarterback as herself and how just like in reality he would do anything to protect her, “have [her] back”, and prevent her from worrying (The Blind Side). She goes on to explain that Michael must think of S.J. as the tailback another because Michael would never let anyone or anything hurt him. After the whistle blows o to run the next play, Michael is unstoppable and the football coach cannot believe it. The football team resembles his family and ultimately portrays how Michael would keep them safe no matter what.

S.J. helps Michael with football plays via kitchen spices.

It is necessary that Mrs. Tuohy motivates Michael not to give up and accomplish what she knows he can in a community where he feels isolated from. It is evident that, “adults and peers from these communities represent additional sources of support, kinship, and affirmation” and that is crucially important to Michael’s life (Samuels). Not only do adults and peers play serve as those sources, but siblings do as well. An accurate depiction of this is how S.J. cares about Michael just as much as his biological family. He films every football practice to point out to Michael areas to improve on and even teaches him the offensive plays with spices and condiments as players and the dining room table as the field. This support and familial bonding is one of the most important things that an adopted child needs, and the Tuohy’s give it to him in abundance.