This morning I was reading a blog post by Kristen Howerton. If you aren't familiar, Kristen is the mother of two biological daughters, an adopted African American son and an adopted Haitian son. The particular entry has a picture of babies asleep on a tarp in the aftermath of the earthquake. Matthew crawled up on my lap and, seeing black babies, pointed and said, "It's Matthew baby." I tried to explain that it wasn't him but he was having no part of accepting that.
"I promise you," I said, "you've never slept on a tarp in Haiti."
Matthew understands his unique color within the confines of our family. As such, he thinks any picture of any brown baby is him. I pulled him onto my lap and typed "African American babies" into a Google image search so that we could look at several pictures of kids who share the hue of his skin but don't otherwise look anything like him.
As we looked at different kids, I came across this picture.
I was captivated. I moved the mouse to click on it. There is something about the immense muscles of this huge father holding the tiny child, something about the stark color contrast, something about the love, that made me need to see it bigger than it appeared in the image search. When I hovered the mouse over it I saw the title of the jpg.
Perplexed--and not in a good way--I clicked in to the site that the shot came from. It's a site for the Council of Conservative Citizens based in St. Louis. The title of the article reads "New York Times Celebrates adoption of white baby by black NBA star." It was posted in June of 2008. The man is DeMarcus Ware and, for starters, he's in the NFL, not the NBA. The article does correct itself in the body but the title gets it all wrong. This, however, isn't even the tip of the iceberg of what the article gets wrong. It may not, actually, even be on the iceberg at all.
"Why would a wealthy black celebrity go to all the trouble to adopt a white baby, ignoring the multitude of available babies of his own race?" The article asks.
"Why would an adoption agency give a white baby to this bizarre black athlete, when thousands of white couples are desperately waiting in line for the opportunity?" It questions.
"Why is the life of a young baby girl being used for social experiment?" The article implores.
Why is my heart pounding violently inside my chest? Why do I suddenly feel hot all over? I began to research DeMarcus Ware. He and his wife suffered several miscarriages and a stillbirth before adopting their daughter, Marley. They've since added a biological son to their family. When Marley was born, on February 29, 2008, it apparently sparked debate across the nation. The New York Times article doesn't mention ethnicity. Personal blogs and other articles do.
The Daily Voice: Black America's Daily News Source said, "Do you mean to tell me that the Ware's couldn't have found a little black baby to adopt?"
Mediatakeout.com said this, "...the writer never even mentioned the fact that their adoption was a cross-racial adoption. Guess in today's world of political correctness, you're better off pretending that there's no elephant in the room." It also said, "...maybe the next time around they can adopt an African-American child..."
Marley Ware is actually Hispanic.
Does it matter? I'm not asking if her ethnicity matters. Certainly it does. But does it matter if she's Europian American, Romanian, Spanish, Russian, African American, Korean, Ethiopian, Haitian, Hispanic or Canadian? When it comes to building a family, I mean. Does it matter?
Families become families in all sorts of ways that cannot usually be predicted. When people ask me how we "ended up" with Matthew I tell them that his mother chose us. She looked through countless profiles of countless adoptive parents and she chose us. The Ware's are an African American couple with a Hispanic daughter. We are a Caucasian family--a mostly German mutt-breed, really--with an African American son. If it's acceptable for us to adopt transracially and not them, that is overt racism at its worst. That we whites can do it but those blacks can't is absurd. If it's unacceptable for either of us to have adopted transracially, well, we're just dealing with a different kind of racism. And people need to redefine their idea of what it means to be a family.
Transracial adoptive families face an uphill battle of issues. An Everest of issues, if you will. Adoption. Identity. Racism. To call into question the very essence of our families is unwelcome and unwarranted. It devalues who we are.
There is absolutely nothing gross about that picture. It is one of the most incredible shots I've ever seen. And this one...
Gross? Absolutely not. Gorgeous? Yes.
Marley Ware and my son, Matthew, are full members of our families, deeply loved and fiercely protected. They are not social experiments.