Oct 08, 2014 @ 1:38 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 0 Comments
Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon the white lesbian Midwest couple have made major news because they are suing a sperm bank for giving them the sperm of an African-American male, instead of that of a blue-eyed blonde-haired white man that they requested. This story has garnered lots of media attention as well as some interesting commentary on social media and online publications. If the devil is in the details, surely the divine is in the nuance. I wanted to take a nuanced look at very complicated situation. Here are the facts of the case:
- This lesbian couple paid to have sperm of a white man and specified the kind of white man they wanted, one that was blonde-haired and blue-eyed so that the child can look like them.
- The service they paid for was not rendered.
- These are two white lesbian women who live in the Midwest who will now have to raise a biracial child in a highly racialized and racist America.
- Someone made a gross medical mistake at the sperm bank and misread donor 380 for 330, which fundamentally changed the race of their child.
- We live in a litigious society where one can sue a company for gross negligence, misconduct, and for making egregious mistakes.
So these are the facts of this case and after watching Jennifer Cramblett on the Chris Hayes show, I feel for this white woman and her partner. However, more specifically, I feel for Payton the biracial child at the center of this debacle. I am a Black woman in her child-bearing years and I am not sure if I will have children, but when I do allow myself to sit with the idea of having kids, I must say that the idea of raising a Black child in the U.S. scares me to death! If you want to raise a healthy, whole, and well-adjusted Black child in America it is gong to require lots of strategy and intention. If you are a Black person raising a Black child you must make sure that you buy your Black kids books that affirm their identity and watch shows that affirm their identity. You have to make sure that the community they will be raised in and schooled in will make space for their Blackness however, your child chooses to perform their Blackness. As a Black parent raising a Black child you must take it upon yourself to teach your Black kids their real history and teach them that their history does not begin at the point of slavery. As a Black parent raising a Black child you have to try and find the perfect balance of talking to your kids about race and racism, without not making them hyper vigilant and fearful of all white people. As a parent of a Black child you have to find a loving way to manage your child’s hair that will instill self-love and pride and not feelings of self-loathing. And perhaps the most crucial thing that a Black parent of a Black child must do is speak to their child about state violence and how to interact with arms of the state such as racist white cops, in hopes that they will not be killed by the state. Beysus forbid that your child identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender/gender non-conforming, or is differently-abled in some way. This adds another layer of complication to ones Blackness. There is a litany of things that Black parents must discuss, navigate, and negotiate while raising a Black child in the U.S. and you must do all of this against the backdrop of a white supremacist society. Parenting by itself ain’t easy, doing it in high definition and in color ain’t no cake walk! Personally, I appreciate the honesty of Jennifer Cramblett and her partner. The fact is if parenting a Black child in the U.S. is daunting for Black parents, then it makes sense that white people should really, really, really take stock of what it means to raise a child who will not have the benefits of white privilege. It is very rare that one hears white people readily admit that whiteness may actually cause harm to a situation rather than uplift and upgrade a situation.
Jennifer Cramblett said, the lawsuit she is lodging against this sperm bank is not about race, but about “wrongful birth and breach warranty.” This where my empathy turns into critical race analysis, Cramblett and her partner now must think about how they must incorporate Black culture into their life, a concept that up until the birth of Payton their white privilege afforded them the luxury of not having to think about. This couple now must drive to another part of town to get proper hair care for her biracial child, who has Black people’s hair. The parents recognize that Payton will not be affirmed in their immediate community and realize that they cannot teach her about her Black heritage. Because although Black people have been in America for 500+ years and helped build the Americas, our history is not taught and white people, some Black people, and everyone in between is clueless about the Black folks collective contribution to society. Cramblett also admits that she is well aware that she has bigoted family members and fears how Payton will be received by them. These are all deep and real issues and I do not fault them at all for their concerns. But the moral of the story is that this is most certainly about race. Payton’s race changes the game for these white parents and highlights how no parenting book or good intentions can ever prepare white folks for the challenge of raising a Black child in a racist society.
Back in 1972, The Association of Black social workers made this statement about transracial adoptions:
The National Association of Black Social Workers has taken a vehement stand against the placement of black children in white homes for any reason. We affirm the inviolable position of black children in black families where they belong physically, psychologically and culturally in order that they receive the total sense of themselves and develop a sound projection of their future.
Ethnicity is a way of life in these United States, and the world at large; a viable, sensitive, meaningful and legitimate societal construct. This is no less true nor legitimate for black people than for other ethnic groups. . . .
The socialization process for every child begins at birth and includes his cultural heritage as an important segment of the process. In our society, the developmental needs of Black children are significantly different from those of white children. Black children are taught, from an early age, highly sophisticated coping techniques to deal with racist practices perpetrated by individuals and institutions. These coping techniques become successfully integrated into ego functions and can be incorporated only through the process of developing positive identification with significant black others. Only a black family can transmit the emotional and sensitive subtleties of perception and reaction essential for a black child’s survival in a racist society.
As trained social worker, I completely understand where my fellow colleagues where coming from in 1972. The National Black Association of Social Workers no longer espouses these views, but it does not mean that these issues are less salient in this Obama era. “Racism is ubiquitous,” and we live in a very racialized country where we do not interact with folks across racial lines outside of work. The average white person has one Black “friend.” I put friends in quotes because, I almost certain that if you asked that Black person if they considered that white person a “friend,” they would probably say no. You invite friends to your family dinners, birthday parties, kids graduation, and you hold space with them when they have lost a loved one, ended a long-term relationship, or just got fired. Something tells me that there isn’t much of that going on across racial lines. Because I am social worker, I take major umbrage with the law suit only because this may one day communicate to Payton that because she is a biracial child who will not be able to pass for white, that she is not enough. She will one day have to read the legal documents surrounding this case, read the commentary, and watch past interviews with her mother essentially decreeing all the reasons why being Black in American is dangerous and undesirable.
The brilliant writer Ta-Nehesi Coates tweeted , funny how white woman who ended with a black kid is basically suing for reparations.” In essence Cramblett is indeed suing for reparations, because she is not blinded by her white privilege, nor has she bought into that post-racial America bullshit. Cramblett and her partner know that raising a female child with any proximity to Blackness in a white supremacist society is not going to be an easy task, the mothers of Aiyna Jones, Rekisha Boyd, and Islan Nettles. My hope is that this white family finds Payton a mentor, Black play group, and/or an affirming village that will help undo the bullshit and damage that seems almost inevitable.
Categories: Mind Over Chatter