of the Dight Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Minnesota,
consulted frequently with adoption agencies in cases where matching
was elusive and problematic rather than easy and natural. His career
suggests that deep anxieties about ambiguous racial status persisted
in adoption long after the eugenics
movement of the early twentieth century had disappeared, along with
its frank advocacy of sterilization and race betterment. After 1945,
the horror of race-mixing was expressed in the politer form of genetic
It is most remarkable that the largest single group of requests
for information and counseling at the Dight Institute concerns the
heredity of skin color. Most of the requests come from adoption
agencies and concern the feasibility of placing for adoption children
of mixed racial ancestry. The children are usually brought to the
Dight Institute for an opinion as to their ability to “pass
for white.” The inevitable question is what the skin color
and general features will be of the offspring of the children
being considered. These children will marry into the white community
if their placement is there. The potential foster parents are always
perturbed about the old myth that a “black baby” is
likely to appear from such a marriage. Such tales have been scientifically
investigated a number of times and never have been found to have
any basis in fact.
In all cases investigated where a person of mixed ancestry marries
a white person, no child is ever darker than the mixed-ancestry
parent, and the usual condition is that the offspring are usually
intermediate between the parents in general appearance. . . .
The problem of trying to decide whether a baby will be able to
pass for white as an adult is not quite so simple as that of disposing
of the “black baby” myth. Not enough research on the
heredity of racial differences has been done to provide us with
unequivocal answers. However, we must do the best we can with what
we have. Problems affecting people today have to be solved today,
and by following up our best guesses we can get some idea as to
which of them were correct. Some diagnostic criteria for estimating
whether a child can “pass for white” and thus enjoy
the better socio-economic conditions of the white community are
(A) The Sacral Spot. . .
(B) Finger Smudges. . .
(C) Skin Color. . .
(D) Nose Width. . .
(E) Thickness of Lips. . .
(F) Eye Fold. . .
(G) Hair Shape and Texture. . .
The conclusion from these considerations is that the children from
racial crosses are probably the most vigorous and healthy stock
generally available for adoption. As there is little demand for
them, the supply is good. If potential foster parents are found
to be free of racial prejudices and also match the children to some
extent in appearance, the placement can be expected to be highly
successful. That has been the experience with the follow-ups of
children seen at the Dight Institute. It should be emphasized that
the parents must be informed of the presence of a dash of “colored
blood,” and it must be clear that they are capable of accepting
the fact without emotion before the child is placed with them.
. . . Request
“Sixteen years ago I adopted a little girl from an orphanage.
The mother was unmarried and she told the Sister in charge of the
orphanage that the father was white. The girl has now grown up to
be a nice young lady and we love her very much. The only thing that
puzzled us was her hair because it is always real dry and kinky
like Negroes’ hair. It got to a point where the children in
school would call her “nigger” and it made her very
sad. You see, she does not know she is adopted as yet. My curiosity
got the best of me and I went back to the orphanage and had the
Sister check on the girl’s father. It turned out that he was
“Now my worry is, will she be able to marry and have white
children or is there a possibility of her children being colored?
We love our daughter very much and would hate to see her hurt later
on. This has upset me very much and I don’t know what to do.
. . . Your daughter will marry a white man, no doubt,
and we can assure you that her children won’t look any more
Negroid than she does, as her Negro heredity will be reduced by
one-half in her children.