Friday, April 24, 2009

The racial double standard

It really irks me when people say we're "post-racial" or "colorblind" now that Obama is president, because it's obviously not true. If you need convincing, here's a good example:
"As a black father and adopted white daughter, Mark Riding and Katie O'Dea-Smith are a sight at best surprising, and at worst so perplexing that people feel compelled to respond. Like the time at a Pocono Mountains flea market when Riding scolded Katie, attracting so many sharp glares that he and his wife, Terri, 37, and also African-American, thought "we might be lynched." And the time when well-intentioned shoppers followed Mark and Katie out of the mall to make sure she wasn't being kidnapped. Or when would-be heroes come up to Katie in the cereal aisle and ask, "Are you OK?"—even though Terri is standing right there."
Why is it okay for white couples to adopt children of different race, but not vice-versa? White couples seem "humanitarian," while black couples are mistaken for kidnappers. People glorify Angelina Jolie and her Gotta-Adopt-'Em-All strategy, but what if Tyra Banks did this with different races from underprivileged places around the world? ...Ok, Tyra's a horrible example since she's full of crazy, and the idea of entrusting her with multiple children scares me. But I digress. There's a part of me that hopes beyond hope that this can be chalked up to statistics. That is, there are far more white couples adopting black children than black couples adopting white children, so people see it as an anomaly. Unfortunately, I think that's just wishful thinking. I'm pretty sure the dirty looks wouldn't go away even if the adoption rates evened out.


  1. Racism is like unto religion in that they both are phenomena related to cultural milieu.

  2. ...That one sentence seems 50 times more intelligent than my whole post.

  3. Josephine Baker and her Rainbow Tribe.

    So a black person can adopt multi-ethnically. They just have to be rich and famous to not get backlash for it.

    Oh. And live in France. They have to live in France.

  4. I disagree with Robert above; racism is fairly ingrained in our basic nature. It crosses cultural boundaries, and is, in fact, standard issue across cultures. Bottom line, we're hardwired to think that people who look different than us are inimical, and people who look similar are part of our community.

    Doesn't make it right, or okay, or anything like that. But it's one of the baser, more depressing aspects of human nature. It happens among chimps, it happens among cetaceans, and it happens with good ol' H. sapiens sapiens.

  5. I hate to double post, but something just occurred to me that I thought might be relevant.

    My dad has told me this story of him growing up in rural Illinois. He grew up in a fairly small town, which was almost entirely white. He was out with his father one day (he was 10, 11, 12, around there), and saw a black man for the first time in his life. He asked my grandfather, "What's wrong with that man?" My grandfather responded, "That's a black man. There's nothing wrong him him, his skin is just darker" (paraphrased). If my grandfather had responded, "That's a black man. He's probably a criminal of some sort," my dad would probably be a racist today. Thankfully, he is not. In that sense, I would argue that racism is human nature, while a lack of racism is culturally ingrained. But a lack of racism is something that society should strive to ingrain in all people within it. Robert's post led me to believe that he thinks racism simply something that culture brought about, and I think that's incorrect. Racism is something that culture has to potential to stamp out, but stamping it out requires culture to stigmatize it. It'd be nice if people were born race-blind, but we're not. It's ingrained in us (hopefully) later in life, and it's important to ensure that it is. To do or hope otherwise leads to situations like Jen's post.

  6. BorgHunter is pretty much dead on.

    Just to add something: we have plenty of subtle racism today (as compared to overt/classical racism) People that say we are "post-racial" are right in a sense that overt racism is pretty much gone, but completely wrong in that racism still exists in fairly inconspicuous ways.

  7. I wouldn't be so quick to call this example racism, or at least mean-spirited racism, if there is a difference.

    The reality is, a black couple adopting a white baby is extremely atypical. When me and my wife were looking into adoption, I was shocked to get an actual price list for different color (US) babies. The darker the baby, the cheaper it was to adopt. It was classic supply and demand, very few white babies to adopt and an abundance of black ones.

    Given that information, I find it odd that a black couple wouldn't adopt a black baby. Nothing at all wrong with what they did, but I can imagine myself seeing this couple and having the same thoughts as the people above.

  8. Scott, read the article. They didn't go out of their way to adopt the kid, circumstances kind of led her to them.

    And like I said - I'm pretty sure even if it became super common, people would still freak out about it.

  9. I'm trying really hard to come up with something to say about this. I've really got nothing. It's all been said better anyway.

    I don't like the urge to reach for the flask at 10:00 AM, though. <.<

  10. With the point I was trying to make, it doesn't matter how they got the child. I'm just trying to look at it from the other side where otherwise good people can do bad things. If this kind of adoption does become common place or even slightly more common than it is now, I don't think they would get the reaction they got.

    It's also not my direct intent to defend the people, maybe they are racist hick bastards and didn't like the idea of a black couple having a white baby. Those kind of people, sadly, probably aren't going away anytime soon.

  11. Nature vs. Nurture: Irrelevant distinction if Nature is mutable. Also a bit silly, given your example: If racism were natural, then your father would have hated that man because he was a different color. He had no exposure to a member of another race, so drew the inference that all people are white, when they are not. This doesn't mean he was a racist before his grandfather told him otherwise. It means he was ignorant, as children tend to be.

    Also, I agree that racism is far from dead. Those who live in a "post-racial" world are usually white protestants who don't have very much contact with African Americans, and understand that bigotry is based upon some flimsy arguments.

    I would point to the recent Facebook quiz that's been going about: "How Black Are you?". To test the quiz, I answered that I disliked education, wanted to be a rapper (from choices like "Doctor", and "Lawyer), liked koolaid, and only ate KFC. Results: 100% black. Major fucking bullshit that isn't fun or funny at anytime -- except, perhaps, at a klan rally.