Wednesday, October 14, 2009

White People Raising Black Babies

In the post I wrote regarding Zahara Jolie-Pitt, one of the issues I raised was White people adopting Black babies.  No child should be raised in the system if at all possible but let’s stop pretending that this solution is wonderful.  The optimists out there will point out that a child is being loved and that we should be thankful for that, but love does not save the day. 

We live in a highly racialized world.  As much as we understand that race is a social construct, we do not live outside of it.  How can a White parent prepare a child to called a nigger, spook, or monkey?  How can a White parent prepare a Black child to negotiate experiences they have never had? 

We have had a rash of celebrities adopting Black children, from Tom Cruise to Madonna; Black children are the perfect accessory to cement liberal credentials.  I don’t care if you have a degree in African American history, wear a dashiki and celebrate Kwanza, you have no idea what a Black person experiences the moment they walk through their front door.  As a White person you may educate yourself but nothing compares to lived experiences. 

The reason so many Black children are up for adoption, is in part due to Whiteness in the first place.  How many mothers would think about keeping their children, if they felt that they had the financial capitol and support system to raise them?  Single mothers constitute the poorest social class and where do you think that leaves a mother of color?  We already know the pay gap between White women and White men is substantial but when we factor in race, the gulf only widens.

Social services has a history of being no friend to families of color.  White women used the notion of scientific housekeeping to position themselves as superior to women of color and this formed the foundation of the work in tenement houses.  From that time on, White women positioned themselves as authorities and used their power to separate families of color. Malcolm X and Dick Gregory, have both spoken about how caring White social workers destroyed in the case of Malcolm and nearly destroyed in the case of Gregory, their families.

Today we see an empty cupboard or a house with no heat and readily deem these mothers unfit.  Being poor does not mean that you cannot love and raise your child, being poor is a reflection of the racist, capitalist, sexist state in which we live.  To this day, families of color look at social workers with distrust and they have good reason.  Often that knock on the door means the removal of their children.

We are supposed to smile when we see White celebrities with their Black babies.  Oh yeah one saved…HELL NO.  How long is Whiteness going  to continue to rape and savage Africa for its own ends.  But these White celebrities care about these children right?  Well, if they honestly gave a damn, please explain to me why they aren’t working to help their Black mothers raise them?  It is far easier to stand in silence while the government sets up unfair trade agreements that benefit Western nations and impoverish so-called third world citizens, then swoop in claim the title of saviour,  while whisking the babies away. 

They have money and privilege, how could a child not possibly benefit from being raised in this environment?  There is no doubt that they will have opportunities that they otherwise would not have had, but at what cost do these opportunities occur?   No matter how loving or supporting, there will always be a loss of connection with their culture.  Even if the family engages with people of the same race, there will always be a loss.  Culture is something one must be immersed in and not dabbled in on the weekends.

I know what it is to love a child.  I know what it is to hold their little hand and see the world through their eyes but children of color require more.  This is not about special treatment, as much as it is arming them and protecting them from the certain cruelties ahead.  The first time my child was demeaned because of his color, it was to me, his Black mother that he poured out his soul and not his White father.  Children know intuitively who can be of help.  Without a parent of color, each assault is new and shocking. 

When I taught my child that officer friendly wasn’t necessarily friendly, it was with the passion of Black mother that has heard far too many laments of Black mothers, who have lost their children to police violence.  When I inform him that his behaviour must be different than his White friends, it is with the knowledge that though they are both children, the world will see my gentle Black child much differently.  When it comes to children of color, there are harsh lessons that must be taught and to believe that a White parent is prepared to do that is to deny the racist culture in which we live. Children need love and they need a sense of community to grow, though these things are quickly forgotten when a White person steps up to adopt.  Whiteness may be the dominant culture, but it is not the only culture or community of value.