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.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.
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.
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."