10.02.2005

things behind the sun

Some people are able to take in a piece of information, and immediately comment on it in an intelligent way. Me, I always need time. I'll have an immediate gut-level, emotional reaction, but it's seldom expressible in anything more than monosyllables. I need time to process.

That's why I haven't addressed Bill Bennett's disgusting comments, by now widely talked about in the blogosphere. I was flabbergasted beyond intelligent discourse.

Several of my favorite bloggers have written about it, among them Crabletta, G the Library Bitch, and Redsock. G does a nice job of explaining the difference between what Bennett said and what Freakonomics is about:
The abortion stats that Freakonomics refers to have nothing to do with race. Freakonomics suggests that proportionately, children born into poverty, and those born of single mothers, are more likely to commit crimes due to the comparatively harsh conditions under which the children are raised (as compared to the conditions for those raised in double-parent and/or above poverty-line families). Hence its argument that if more abortions occurred among those whose children would be at greatest risk due to the environment in which the child would be raised, logically the crime rate could decrease. . . .
I'm a big fan of Steve Levitt's; I think Freakonomics is pure genius. If you want to read Levitt's own comments on Bill Bennett's crap, his blog is here.

While Bennett's filth was rolling around in my muddled brain, I retrieved the Saturday Globe And Mail from my doorstep, and I saw this article about white Canadian families adopting African-American babies.
The United States is exporting newborns by the hundreds and Canada is a preferred destination.

Most of the infants are African American or biracial; their birth mothers want them to be raised outside the United States and believe Canada is a land of little racial strife.

Although there are no officials figures, an estimated 500 African-American babies are adopted abroad each year. In the past 20 years, about 300 have come to British Columbia, where blacks account for less than 0.7 per cent of the population.
The story displays a fairly progressive view of adoption, taking into account differences in birth culture and adoptive culture, and the loss that the birth family and the baby suffers.

Although I am not part of "the adoption triad" - meaning, I am neither an adopted person, an adoptive parent, nor a birth mother - I've written about adoption issues several times. I've interviewed dozens of adopted people and people who work in the adoption field. So when I see articles about adoption, I have an interest, and I pay attention.

More American couples are adopting children than ever. (I won't cite stats here, but I've done the research, and I can back it up.) A large proportion of these adoptions are international, many from China, Korea and Russia. Legal, cultural and social conditions have left many children in those countries without families, and have left many American couples without children. Seems perfect, and in many ways, it is.

However. Ahem. If you speak with infertile American couples, one thing you'll often hear is, "If you want an infant [as opposed to an older child], you have to adopt internationally, because there are no white babies in the United States." No white babies. The percentage of white American couples who will adopt an African-American baby is very small.

One couple I spoke with explained it this way: It's hard enough to be black in America - to raise a black child in a white family is giving the child too heavy a burden. This couple adopted a Latina child. Couples who do not want an African-American child will often adopt an Asian baby. Some of this may stem from an understanding like the couple I'm quoting. But most of it has to be racism.

I'm not judging these adoptive families. Whether and how people decide to build a family is an absolutely personal decision. As a woman who has chosen not to have children, and as a reproductive rights activist, I believe this very strongly. What's more, if a person has qualms about adopting a child with skin color different from their own, they should heed those qualms. A black child raised by white parents who aren't completely comfortable with the issues involved is going to have some major issues later. Being adopted comes with enough issues, no need to complicate things further.

I'm referring to this story because it speaks to how much racism remains in the United States, how deeply ingrained racism is in American society. Every once in a while, something slips out. Some idiot forgets to censor himself. A media furor erupts. The person is forced to apologize, or explain himself. Egalitarians are disgusted. Bigots privately agree with him. The "everyday bigots," as I call them - people who quietly cling to their racist assumptions without examining them - wonder what all the fuss is about, since (they claim) racism is a thing of the past.

Soon the furor dies down. But we've seen something below the surface, something ugly and frightening. It's the foundation, part of the bedrock. The United States is a country born by genocide, built on slavery. It was shamed into equality only by dint of force and fear of revolution, and the poison continues to rise from the roots.

I think of William Faulkner's brilliant statement: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

11 comments:

redsock said...

could some of these couples not want to adopt a black baby for fear of the racism of others rather than their own?

James said...

Remember that one of the attacks Karl Rove orchestrated in the South against John McCain to clinch the nomination for Bush was that McCain had a "black" baby. McCain had adopted a Bangladeshi girl.

James said...

The Republic of T. has a nice little article on
"Bill Bennett's Bigoted Blathering" and links to an older article of his about how GWB things American == white.

A year and a half back, Bush tried to brand those who thought the US approach to democracy in Iraq was wrong as being racist with the statement "There'sa lot of people in the world who don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as ours can be free and self-govern."

To paraphrase an old joke: "What do you mean 'ours', Kimosabe?"

Both articles are well worth reading.

James said...

That should be "GWB thinks..." not "GWB things...", of course.

L-girl said...

could some of these couples not want to adopt a black baby for fear of the racism of others rather than their own?

Absolutely. I think that's what the couple I quoted is saying. But I think that also speaks to how much racism there is in the US.

L-girl said...

To paraphrase an old joke: "What do you mean 'ours', Kimosabe?"

I use that line all the time. :-)

David Cho said...

Laura, you should see the illustration done by one of my favorite bloggers. He is a professional artist.

deang said...

And Bennett's comments come just after the world saw some of the most egregious US racism in the patterns of rescue and relief after Hurricane Katrina. In thinking about all of this, I can't help but recall that the US and some other countries involuntarily sterilized many indigenous women as recently as the 1960s.

L-girl said...

David, that is very powerful. What a terrific artist he is!

DeanG, I know, it's heartbreaking and infuriating. I once attended a forum on sterilization abuse - it just blew me away. What I learned is seared in my brain.

Darren said...

Well now that you've been there 3 years, you sound like the CBC, full of praising the country and how diverse it is. That's bull. I'm a lifelong resident of BC and am moving South to get out of the socialist hell-hole where you can't get a 3 bd house for under a mil. Diversity is fine, but we should take immigrants from all countries, not just china and pakistan - well out west its that way. Remember that this is a country that refused to take Jews during WW2 thanks to Mackenzie King, and here in BC the Japanese were put in concentration camps. Finally, how cliche is it to move to Toronto out of any other Canadian city - real Canadians know the 416 is just an ugly landscape of factories. Live in Vancouver or Quebec City for two totally different lifestyles. I'm not dissing you, I just think your blog is very one-sided, please, we have enough limousine liberals in this country as it is, and be proud of your great hometown.

L-girl said...

My blog is one-sided: my side only.

Of course Canada has terrible things in its history! It was part of the British empire, for chrissakes. And it's a country, made of people, so of course it has horrors and makes mistakes. But I don't live in that history, I live in the present.

I happen to really like Toronto and Mississauga. What can I tell you? If you don't, you don't. But you don't write this blog, I do, so the blog reflects me and my thoughts, not yours. Pretty simple.

How "cliche" is it to move to Toronto? Like most people, I moved to where I could get work. I also moved to where we'd have ML baseball, and be relatively close to our family, especially my aging mother. Toronto is a good fit for me. Should I not move to the city of my choice because some stranger on the internet thinks it's a "cliche"?

Just FYI, the other US-to-Canada immigrants we know have moved to: Fredericton, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Victoria, Halifax, Windsor, Kingston and a few other places. And some to Toronto - because it worked for them.

Thanks for your thoughts, but if all you have to say is "your blog is one-sided, you don't sound like me, you sound like you", you can keep the next post to yourself.

And if you think I'm a limousine liberal, you haven't been reading this blog. I'm a working class person, and NDP.