White Lesbians, Biracial Baby and Bigotry

I’m so angry about the stupidity surrounding the story about the white lesbians who accidentally received some African American sperm and ended up with a biracial baby.

Jennifer Cramblett with her daughter Payton.
Jennifer Cramblett with her daughter Payton.

 

Last week this story broke about two white lesbians, suing the sperm bank for receiving an African American man’s sperm, rather than the white, blue-eyed blonde haired man’s sperm they had ordered. Ok, I know on the surface this could look like these women are bigots. But they aren’t and I’ll tell you why.

In a nutshell, two white lesbians in Ohio ordered some sperm and came out with a black baby. According to the court documents, they bonded with the baby and love her very much. But for the past two years they have been running into problems connected to her race. First of all, they live in a very bigoted town. Secondly, the grandparents are bigoted. And thirdly, they have to travel to a more racially diverse area to get their daughter’s hair cut, where they feel unwelcome.

Ok, that third one does make them look a little like bigots. Facing your own white privilege comes with some challenges. They are still early on in their journey toward learning how to talk about race, for sure.

Right now, and for the past two years, I can guarantee that they have been facing their own internalized white privilege. Now, they are publicly discussing why having a child of another race is difficult for them. Admitting that parenting a child of another race has subjected them to taunts and accusations from both sides of the racial coin.

White folks are horrified that a white person would admit they feel challenged by parenting a black child. It forces the white community to admit that racism still exists. It sure is a lot easier to just call them racists and go back to their quiet little lives where no white people are racists unless they talk about race.

And on the other side of the coin, some African American writers are mocking the white folks who have been “inconvenienced” by blackness. It’s not an inconvenience to raise a child of color. It’s a joy, just like raising any child. But for white parents raising a child of color, there comes the added emotional expense of coming to realizations that their skin color changes the way you have to parent and live your life. It comes with the realization that their skin color could subject them to violence. There comes with it the knowledge that they will experience hate in forms that you, as a white parent, cannot possibly understand how it feels. They will experience institutionalized prejudice at school. They will experience prejudice from well-meaning, yet ignorant, older, family members. They will see the disparities in the toy section, and so too, will you. And it will piss you off. They will read multitudes of books where their skin color is either completely left out, or used with derision, sometimes purposeful, sometimes not. They will watch television shows where they are always in the minority or being used as a stereotype. You, as a parent, will also see these things and you’ll feel guilty and angry at the same time.

If you were unprepared to deal with that as a parent, it’s fucking scary to come to those realizations as your child is growing up and it’s happening right in front of your eyes. I wonder if African Americans come to those same realizations in the same manner, or if they feel prepared for it beforehand? I would imagine that it is a horrendous mixture of prior knowledge and new fears that come with being a parent. Raising a black child in this country is tough. It forces you to acknowledge that everything in this country is set up for white people to be successful and to oppress black people. And if you’re not prepared for it, then you need support in forms of community and mental health.

In any case, Jennifer Cramblett and her partner are suing for approximately $50,000 and are planning on moving to a more diverse community. They need extra money for moving expenses and regular therapy.

This seems pretty damn reasonable to me.

If these women were ignorant or racist, as the articles and comments are suggesting, then they could have easily given up the baby for adoption and gotten some more sperm, quietly and without any fuss. Rather, they fell in love with the child who Jennifer Cramblett carried for nine months. They have been raising her and giving her love for two years. They have been worrying about her future. They sound like pretty typical parents to me.

To me, this tells me that they love her unconditionally, but they are smart enough to realize that they are going to face some challenges. This tells me that these women are being practical about what life holds for their family. Shit costs money. The sperm bank was incompetent. Jennifer and Amanda need to change the way they live in order to raise Payton successfully. Not to mention, that the sperm bank should be held accountable for their mistake, another practical reason for the lawsuit.

cryingjennifer

I’ve seen comments calling these women hateful bigots. Really?

Anyone who is a part of the LGBT community has had to endure plenty of bigotry in their lives. There is only so much social justice a body can stand up for without having some sort of mental breakdown. These are the things that keep people up at night.

I don’t know these women, but I’m guessing they’ve endured bigotry enough to last a lifetime. And now on top of all that, they now have to raise a child in a world they were, admittedly(!), completely unprepared for. Saying, in public, that they know raising a black child is a challenge and they feel fucking scared to do it, is brave. So brave.

But they are taking on that task because they love their daughter. I give them props for being brave enough to file this lawsuit to bring to the forefront the challenges of raising a black child in a white world. To admit their fear. And to expose that fear to their community.

These women are not the bigots here. They have clarity of mind. They see their world for what it is and they are publicly admitting that they cannot raise their daughter there. Because they love her. They are doing what good parents do. Protecting their child.

Not only that, they are brave enough to publicly acknowledge the white privilege aspects of their own world that they have had to challenge in their own minds. That’s not bigotry folks. It’s bravery.

It’s not easy to admit in public that, as a white person, you are being forced to acknowledge ugliness in your world due to your skin color.

I’m sure that these women are not perfect. But what parent is?

Sure, it’s possible this lawsuit will have a negative effect on their daughter’s self esteem as some are suggesting. But who knows, perhaps she will see the challenges her mothers faced and be inspired. Hopefully they will use this part of their past to show her that she should always stand up for herself, rather than let the world tell you you’re wrong, when you know you’re right.

Read the court documents here 

Great Books for African American Children: My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete


Last month I made a pact with myself to keep a regular stream of books with good African American models for Annika. We’ve always read books with black children as much as possible, but with February being Black History Month, it was, frankly, a lot easier to pick up several at our local library with them being prominently displayed on the end shelves in the kids’ section. Now that Black History Month is over, I’m sure I will have to do my due diligence to find a good selection coming in, but I’m determined to ensure that Annika has a regular view of black children in literature, even though she doesn’t always get that in real life. Hey, it’s something.

One of her favorite books we picked up was, My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete. The book wasn’t about black history. It was nice to have some books that had nothing to do with history mixed in with all the Civil Rights books we read during February.

My Brother Charlie is a story about twins, a girl and boy, Callie and Charlie. They are always together. They love the same things. But Charlie is different than Callie. Charlie has autism.

The book was written by Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter, Ryan. Ryan’s twin brother, Holly’s son, also has autism.

Annika enjoyed the book immensely because they were two kids who look like her. It was also a great book to read because, coincidentally, we have recently hung out with some friends who have two children with autism. They are friends we knew when Annika was a baby, but haven’t seen them much lately. I was able to explain to her that Charlie was similar to our friends.

This book has beautiful art and a real sense of love and belonging. It is clearly written from the perspective of a family who loves someone with Autism and they happen to have brown skin.

I liked this book for a variety of reasons, but one was because it was a kids’ book with brown-skinned children that wasn’t talking about negative aspects of our history or making a big deal about their skin color.

I highly recommend this book. It is a touching, sweet story with beautiful artwork and any child will enjoy it.

If you like this book review, check out another one for more great books to read with African American children as the main characters.

Is Biracial the Same as Black?

I’ve had this question roiling around in my head for years. Is being biracial the same thing as being black? (I hope it’s obvious that I understand this is about a mix where there’s at least one part black.)

Every time I bump up against this question, I get nervous. I’m uncomfortable with it, which is why I’ve avoided writing about it for so long.

But I’ve decided that I need to make a stand, for myself, if not for any other reason. And as a white mother to a biracial child, I’m going to say, no. No biracial is not the same as black.

I see this idea posted around the internet and have had multiple conversations (mostly with Toyin) on this topic where black people are generally insistent that it’s the same thing. In other words, they say, biracial means black when it comes to how they may be viewed by a racist culture. And to that I say, sure. Possibly. Probably in many cases.

Is biracial black?
Is biracial black?

For the most part, I have sided with the general consensus in the African American community, agreeing with them about racist acts and arguing for things even when I don’t fully understand them myself. Because I know that as a white person, I don’t get to decide about things that don’t affect me in negative ways.

I have come to the point where I believe that I fully comprehend the amount of privilege that has been bestowed upon me and my life just for the benefit of having white skin. And perhaps, it is that privilege that gives me the ability to speak up about this. Finally. Or maybe it’s that I finally understand the injustice of it all. Ironic, huh? That my understanding of injustice has led me to come back around to this.

So here’s my thoughts on biracial being the same as black. Every time I hear a black person say that, I feel angry. I feel a little betrayed. And I feel shut out of my own daughter’s life.

I know that isn’t the motive. But anyone who understands racism knows that lack of malicious intent is not a good excuse.

So here’s the thing. I get what they mean is that biracial people often have the same experiences as black people who are not biracial. I get that you are lumping biracial people in with the collective of folks who are the recipients of societal mistreatment and stereotypes.

But refusing to acknowledge someone’s choice of self definition or declaring with indignant fervor that “It’s all the same,” belittles and marginalizes all people who choose to self identify as biracial rather than black. In some cases, I read into the statement a “Don’t bother trying to identify with your other side. They won’t accept you.” Or, more often it feels like, “Why do you want to acknowledge them? Stay with us.” Why does it have to be them vs us? Feeding that notion just feeds more racism and I find it completely irrational when minorities perpetuate notions that don’t uplift a future that holds less racism, not more. (Kind of how I feel about gay Republicans. What’s up with that?)

This may sound a little crazy, but even when I read a random internet comment of some black person I don’t even know saying that biracial is the same as black, it leads me to feel marginalized and betrayed in my own child’s life. Just for a second. But when you start to add up the seconds, it starts to feel like a lot.

When my daughter was first born, I worried that as she aged, she would push me aside once she fully embraced the racial construction of American society. At the time, President Obama was just becoming president and I felt a little pained by his insistence at being called black rather than biracial. I wondered how that made his mother and grandparents feel.

Now that I’m five years into motherhood, I realize that part of that was my new motherhood insecurities. But still, it rankles me. It’s also possible that he did it for political reasons. Our own president, the most powerful man in the world, deconstructed by a racist society.

In a recent study, biracial and multiracial people were shown to have felt the need to “pass” as black in many instances to avoid rejection or derision from the black community and often felt just as much racism, if not more, from people of color.

The biracial/multiracial person does have many of the same experiences as the person who defines themselves as black or African American. Out in the world.

But at home, with family members who span all the races and colors of skin, it’s not the same.

Ergo, the biracial person may not experience many of the same issues that black people experience. They will, ultimately, be forced to view the world through the same lens in some instances. But I think that at the biracial and multiracial population grows, we need to allow for broader definitions. Be okay with the idea that some people choose to embrace both sides of their culture. And who knows? Perhaps the worldview can change if we all start seeing things just a little differently.