Monday, February 13, 2012

Bargain Babies

Did anyone catch the wreg newscast at 10 tonight?  They did a piece whose ads had multiracial families formed through adoptions cringe in anticipation (the bad kind) entitled "Bargain Babies."

The ad showed an African American baby and a Caucasian baby side by side.  The voiceover was something along the lines of:  Two babies---both of them need to be adopted.  But one of them costs less than the other.  You may have to wait years for one baby---but a significantly less amount of time for the other.  Watch tonight, Bargain Babies.  Cringe, cringe, and cringe.  

Ok---lemme start off by saying that many multiracial families that are formed through adoption already find themselves under some pretty intense scrutiny.  At the grocery store, at restaurants, at the park....Here are some comments that friends of mine have had thrown at them as direct fire---or, if it's a sneak attack--then----spoken loudly so that they could be easily overheard.

"How much did he cost?"
"Somebody gave that girl the wrong baby!"
"You know the only reason they adopted those babies is because they got paid to."
"You're adopting a black child....will it be a crack baby then?"

Stu and I have been extremely blessed in that we haven't had any really ugly encounters.  My friends, my family----everyone has been loving towards me and towards my child.  Even before Miriam got here--- everyone was holding their breath with me----waiting for this child---loving this child before we knew a thing about her.  I put it out there early that in all liklihood---our child would be of a different race than us----because I didn't want it to be a huge surprise when the baby came.  And people continued to celebrate with us----I saw our joy shining in the eyes of everyone I would call a friend.  And for this, I am eternally grateful.  I can sit here and cry my eyes out when I think about it.  Seriously. And to any of my African American friends who may be reading this---I need you to know that your excitement before baby Miriam arrived---your love once she got here---your continual support as she grows and develops--- means the world to me.  I still carry within me a fair amount of fear---that I'm going to mess my kid up---with skin or hair care mistakes----or that because I haven't experienced racism myself---I might not be able to prepare my baby girl for how to handle herself when she has to go through that  (ugh, ugh, and ugh---the world is so wrong).  I worry that my kid will wish that I am black---or that she will wish she were white because I fail to instill a positive self image within her.  But knowing that my African American friends have been so supportive of my adoption makes me feel like I have a safety net.  I've had some candid conversations with some of you-----about racial relations---about dealing with ignorance and prejudice.  And you have been so kind and loving in your willingness to share with me---and to offer some much needed advice.  The truth is--my African American friends have a wisdom that I can't have---you've dealt with things I haven't had to deal with---and you've walked out the other side with dignity, grace, even forgiveness.  Except I can't really say you've come through the other side---that implies that the struggle has reached its end---and I know from talking with you that it hasn't----that the struggle will unfortunately never end. Hatred has linked elbows with ignorance and this deadly duo is just hanging around---being passed down---generation to generation.  But you keep walking---you keep holding God's hand----and I just have the utmost respect for you---and I feel a tremendous sense of thanksgiving towards you.  -----Ok---little tangent there, but it needed to be said.

Of the above hurtful comments----only one was spoken to me---the crack baby comment.  And the person who said it seriously didn't even realize she had said something hurtful.  Her face was serene and politely inquisitive as the words poured out of her mouth.  Even when my jaw just about hit the ground.  

I have not had an ugly public scene---though it may only be a matter of time---because I think every family I know who has adopted transracially---has experienced the nasty public scene at some point or another.

I dread the nasty public scene----and at the same time, I feel guilty for dreading it.  I have not had to contend with the racism that African Americans have had to contend with----and so anything unpleasant that comes my way now does not even compare to what my friends have been diffusing, diverting, ignoring, combatting---all their lives.  And part of me is ashamed---because maybe I should have been a bigger part of the battle all along.  Don't get me wrong---- I've never understood how someone could hate a person based on the color of their skin.  I watched my mother defend her kids (she taught for years at Whitehaven high school) when people said racist things about what it must be like to teach at a school whose population was primarily African American.  And I tell you one thing---you want to see my momma get riled up----you just try and insult her kids.  But you better stand back---cause you're going to get it.  Believe me---she never has put up with that crap---and she never will.  You don't grow up in a home like that without some of that spunk seeping into you.  But the more racial problems become something that affects me and my family---personally---at a very intimate level (It doesn't get more personal, more intimate than your baby)---the more I feel it in a new way.  And the more I feel---that I haven't done enough to fight the prejudice that lurks just beneath the surface.   This fight should have been my fight all along.

Sorry---back to the point.  Though I have guilt over feeling this way when I compare my experiences with those of others---it remains a fact that intense scrutiny is not fun.  One of the gals who has adopted transracially says:  "Sometimes I just want to go to the store and buy my bananas---that's all.  Let me buy my bananas and go."  And when you see the ad flashing for "Bargain Babies" you can't help thinking.  Great--let's invite even more criticism of our families.

But I thought the segment itself was interesting---disturbing----but interesting.  I think that it highlighted the need for finding forever homes for all children, regardless of race.  I like what the adoptive couple said near the end---when she said something along the lines of---I think that this means that we all---white, black whatever---need to step up to the plate and give these children homes.

I think that the fact that a financial stipend is needed in order to find minority kids homes is just a symptom of some deeply rooted societal problems.  And while I don't think that it was necessarily wrong to point this out---I am afraid that some people will take away an unintended message pertaining to my family---and to other families like mine---Oh, if you're a white parent with a black child---then you must be getting paid every month.  Hmmmmm.  That's why you made the choice to adopt transracially.

And I feel the need to respond to this message.  So here are some things I want you to know about my family.

I don't get paid a stipend because I adopted through a private agency, not through the state (though I don't feel that adopting through the state is wrong.  Not at all.  Every child deserves a home.) My child did not "cost" less than a caucasian child. (I hate the "cost" thing---money changes hands anytime someone brings a baby home---hospital, agency, whatever)

When you adopt a child---you don't check the box next to the race of the child you want----you check off the boxes of the races that you do not wish your child to be.  Although, you are told that if you are open to adopting an African American child---it is highly likely that an African American baby will be placed in your family.

 I did not adopt to do some great altruistic thing.  As my sis-in-law Nikki said---I wanted a baby---I got me a baby.  God blessed me with Miriam----I hope He'll work it the other way around as well.  But any good that comes out of our adoption----is because of Him, not me.  I am pretty selfish when you come right down to it.  But God loves me anyhow---and He gave us this beautiful little girl.   And if you want to look at it that way--- God blesses me and my husband with something we haven't earned and don't deserve---then yes, I got a "bargain baby."