Due to Extenuating Circumstances

Adventures in Unplanned Parenthood

Archive for the tag “#racism”

Oh yeah, let’s get RACIAL.

One of Mac’s favorite stories of his youth involves a soccer game where many of the players were not white. One player made a racist comment, and then Mac’s teammate looked up in total disbelief, saw all of the different people on the field, and in laughing, sneering disbelief said “Oh yeah, let’s get racial.” The moment was quickly diffused in a smattering of “OK, that was stupid.”

I want to look around America tonight and say, on November 8th, 2016, “Oh yeah, let’s get political.” Because it ALL is. The Trump votes, the Hillary votes, the Johnson/3rd Party/write in/Mickey Mouse… all of them are statements about us running around trying to protect ourselves and those we love. Except tonight, I feel a fear I have never known before. I thought I knew fear. But not like this. This is different.

Many times I don’t agree with some of the things Republican candidates say, but I’m also grateful they are there, because if people like me run the system you’re going to have a government where every person in America has 87 social programs, there will be entitlements for dogs and cats, and comprehensive life-care for every living being goldfish-sized and up. This is not practical. The GOP NEEDS to rein me in. However, in this election, I didn’t hear policy discussions, I heard more about The Wall, foreigners have to be the “right kind,” putting Muslims on a registration list, the inferiority of the Mexican people crossing our borders, and that it’s okay to make fun of the disabled.

My husband is from another country, I walk with a cane, and our son is named Eduardo.

A Trump administration is not going to go well for us.

I mean, what do I tell my kid if he hears that Mexicans are generally inferior people? I can tell him, all I want, that it doesn’t mean him, he was born here…but why do I need to split hairs? Oh, well, your bio-parents weren’t born here, but you were, so the magical healing properties of Iowan tap water have cleansed you of the sins of your people? Oh, some brown people are bad because they came here, but you were already here so pin a note on your shirt and the kids won’t make fun of you? No. It’s no good.

So that’s why I’m scared now. I’m scared for him. It’s not as though tomorrow everything will be different. He’ll throw his breakfast on the floor, go to daycare, come home and throw dinner on the floor, mommy will cry in the bathroom because two year olds don’t eat and subsist off of whatever food they find while they’re on the floor. It will be slow. Gradual, I suppose. How many years do we have, though? Two? Three? Seven (she wrote, fearfully)?  Will I have a nine year old who gets taunted because somebody figured out “Eddie” isn’t short for “Edwin?”

If you happened to vote for Trump, and feel my concerns are not merited, please leave a comment below. I’m serious. I need to know who among the majority were voting on the record of his policy decisions, or because they liked his hair, he’s anti-establishment, whatever. I want friends if the revolution comes. I left a pretty good track record of my liberal leanings and make no apology for that. But if I’m going to be first against that damn wall when the revolution comes, please, please take care of Eddie.

He really didn’t do anything wrong. Not even being Mexican. Oh yeah. I got racial.

 

(Another) Open Letter to Donald Trump

Mr. Trump,

I am writing to you today specifically to address one of the cornerstones of your campaign, the idea that there will be a giant wall that separates the US from Mexico. You started off by saying construction would $4,000,000,000 dollars, and from there have moved up to sixteen billion, but it won’t matter how much it costs because Mexico will pay for it.

It’s rude and racist to say you know what an entire country will do when you’re basing that on an exceedingly small sample size. So I’ll tell you this: here’s what would happen if you approached one very particular Mexican person (in this case a person who is now Mexican American because he was born here and adopted). If you told my son there needed to be a giant wall he doesn’t want but it’s his responsibility to make one anyway, this is what you’d get:

  1. He’d throw all of your construction equipment to the ground and then DEMAND you, personally, come over and pick it up. It wouldn’t matter that he has 30 other things to make a wall with right now, he wants THAT bulldozer and so you’ll need to fly over on Air Force One, pick up THAT bulldozer, and wait.
  2. Because now he knows the game works. So forget trying to negotiate with China, because your wall-building team is just going to dump bulldozers in the Rio Grande all damn day, until you pick them up, wipe them off, and put them at his disposal again. Don’t bother rehearsing your State of the Union speech, because your entire speech will be undermined by the headline
  3. Wall Builder Will Not Begin Construction Until Demands Are Met
  4. Oh, I know, Mr. Trump, you always fly your left hand over your shoulder and lean forward on the podium then say “whatever. I can handle them.” Then you go back to spewing your thinly veiled hatred of Muslims. But you don’t understand: not figuratively, LITERALLY the wall is not being worked on because you didn’t get your builder Cheerios, applesauce, and three bites of whatever mommy is eating, off her fork. You can put it in front of him and repeat “it’s the same food! It’s the same food! It’s the same food!”until you sound like a deranged parrot from the bowels of hell but it won’t matter. NO WALL FOR YOU because the three bites weren’t from Mommy’s fork.
  5. Good news, Mr. President! Your sample size of one Mexican person is in the mood to build a wall today. An esoteric, sort of postmodern wall with different plastic components, some boxes, a wrapped tampon that fell out of the closet which is super weird since nobody in the house has needed those since Oct. 2011, but whatever. It’s a barrier. To parents. This wall will be a nightmare of trying to walk over his wall without stepping on something sharp, losing your balance, and crashing onto the floor.
  6. Your sample size of one Mexican didn’t want to work on the wall today, Donald. Well, shit. Cancel that whole “I can fix ISIL” meeting. Now what do you do? You can be a normal person and pick up the wall because nobody needs this thing, it doesn’t do a damn thing, and the only people who want it are the same people who have the intellectual capacity to think an empty box from Rice Krispie cereal is an effective barrier to people not coming into your space. But the builder, also at your level of mental development, will cry because you destroyed all the hard work he put into it.
  7. And, finally, I fervently hope, someday…you’ll realize the entire wall was a stupid idea. It wasn’t a good jobs scheme, it wasn’t good diplomacy, it was racist, it was an illusion of security and not worth it…in short you’ll learn your wall was child’s play, Mr. Trump.
  8. So get yourself some Cheerios, play with a bulldozer and make some vroom sounds. Our sample size of one Mexican seemed pretty content and nobody’s mad at him. Although I am a bit peeved–I stepped on a sharp piece of a CAT front loader and it’s bleeding like a son of a bitch.
  9. Oh look! Tampon.

Iowa, one year later

Dear Iowans,

I generally enjoy your state, although I can’t claim any regular or lasting contact with it. I have fond memories of high school speech tournaments in Ottumwa which is famous for being the home of fictional character Radar O’Reilly and a Breadeaux pizza which tasted liked youth, enthusiasm and freedom when I was 15. My cousin got a very nice doctorate from one of your schools and she seems to being doing quite a bit of good with it, so well done there. You supported us for 3 weeks when the Baby came barreling into our lives at the speed of light. You probably shouldn’t put the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino on your postcards, nevertheless we have great memories of completing our family there. You even have a baseball movie about you, which is a very nice feather in your cap and it should feel good that you made the last ever Kevin Costner movie that wasn’t an hour too long or needed a budget concerning Kevin’s vanity CGI hairplug requirements.

You’re pretty liberal for a place as close to Nebraska as you are. In 1869 you had America’s first female lawyer. You were ahead of us on gay marriage. Your 2013 Miss Iowa was a fantastic lady named Nicole Kelly; she had one arm. That’s progressive, and, full disclosure, Nikki was Mac’s student and she let him wear the crown and everything. You need to be confident in your masculinity and genuinely be liked by your students to wear Miss Iowa’s crown with a smile on your face. He had fun and Nikki has helped lots of people born with disabilities, so thanks for that.

On February 1st you’ll caucus, Iowa. It’s America’s first real litmus test on who is going to be primetime and who’s left in the dust of election history. As you prepare, I ask you for this, as a humble Nebraskan who is the mother of a son born in your great state:

IMG_1316

Please remember that this is the little boy that Donald Trump dismissed as being lesser. Trump said we can’t be sure what kind of person he’ll be because he was born of Mexican residents currently residing in the US. Donald Trump thinks he knows something about how this little boy will behave, will dream, will think, will act because he is of the same blood that brought us Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Guillermo Del Toro, Anthony Quinn (yes, really!), Octavio Paz, Pancho Villa and Salma Hayek.

I’m not asking that all of you vote for a Democrat. I strenuously believe in the economic values upheld by the Republican party; without them, people like Mac and I would tax everybody 87%. We’d have three protective social policies in place for every human in the US, plus some very nice programs for cats, dogs, hamsters, under-appreciated plants, foods that are no longer trendy and a Medicaid equivalent for unhealthy looking goldfish. There needs to be balance for the system to work and that makes sense to me.

Iowa, can we agree balance doesn’t involve tracing Muslims? It doesn’t require policing breastfeeding? Should balance look like shaming the overweight, making fun of the disabled or infantilizing women? Can we shake hands on finding a conservative candidate who isn’t actually a radical in expensive sheep’s clothing?

Iowa, your Mexican-American son needed you a year ago to guide him to my loving arms. You were so generous you let him come to Nebraska when you could have selfishly kept such a superior baby for yourself. He needs you again. This time, he needs you to fight for the right to be a fully invested, flag waving, America loving, real-live nephew of his Uncle Sam. Please vote for somebody that lets my son proudly be the American in Mexican-American.

Thank you, Iowa.

Fondly,

Sarah

The Color of Love

When Mac and I started this adventure we knew that there were things we needed to have a very long, serious, introspective conversation about. Adoption forms ask you explicit questions about your potential matches for kids. Many of my friends assured me that there is a roll of the dice with biological children, and of course they are right. We are fortunate to have friends who have shown us families can grow stronger embracing children born with unexpected challenges. In the last few years we have welcomed children with eating challenges, intellectual disabilities, epilepsy, diabetes, heart defects. In a flash those terms are replaced with names. They are Paul, or Sabrina, or Elise. They’re loved little humans, not squares you check on a form.

However, bio parents roll the dice with a certain set of givens already in place. Adoption forms ask probing, intrusive questions that you MUST answer honestly. Agencies want to know what you think of “conception circumstances.” I am going to sit here, in my living room, and decide if I could raise a baby that was the product of what one depraved criminal did to a survivor who is somehow carrying her rapist’s baby to term. The questions only get harder from there. Disability? Degree of disability? Will you risk adopting children of unknown paternity? If you gamble, and he shows up, the baby may be taken from you. In the end though, the most complex set of questions were about race.

I know several adoptive families that had difficult discussions about race. In the end, most found they couldn’t see raising a child that looked different from themselves. One of the moms explained to me that she was concerned that when she touched the hair of a black child it wouldn’t feel right. It may be easy to dismiss that as not being open minded. But if, like me, you’re white, I want you to go on this journey with me. See what these questions are. Walk yourself in our shoes.

First of all, ask yourself, really ask yourself, would you feel comfortable knowing every single person that sees your family wonders if your child is adopted? Would you be comfortable with strangers coming and asking (and boy, do they) “where did you get your child?” The correct answer, by the way, is “Iowa!” People never have the guts to ask if we’re joking. It’s pretty great.

Take the question one step farther: could you learn how to braid tightly curled or coiled hair? Could you deal with lactose intolerance, sickle cell anemia and other medical issues found more commonly in the non-white population? Would you feel embarrassed or offended if a teacher assumes you aren’t a mom and bypasses you to go straight to the Chinese family that looks like they must be your daughter’s parents? Do you think about terms like your child being a coconut? An Oreo? A banana? If you don’t even know what I mean here, then you have a serious ways to catch up. These are derogatory terms, usually aimed at kids, to say that the color they are on the outside isn’t who they really are. My son isn’t really Mexican; he’s a coconut. Brown on the outside, white on the inside. A black person may be an Oreo, an Asian person a banana. And we have yet to touch on the special hell reserved for people who are multiracial. It should be so cool: twice the membership, twice the acceptance. It almost never seems to work out that way. These kids may be seen as not enough of one, or too much of the other.

Our neighbors, let’s call them Seal and Heidi, witnessed this. Heidi, as a white woman, never knew the extent of racism in American today until she saw how her black husband and biracial child can be treated. She told me (and I will never forget this) that she realized she was a different person when someone called her beautiful daughter a nigger and Heidi’s first thought was “I’m going to that person’s house. I’m going there to kill them. This is the day I go to jail.” Incidentally, I didn’t do “the N word” or n—– because they didn’t call her daughter “the N word.” They called her daughter a nigger. I refuse to minimize what was said. It didn’t get sugarcoated for her, and now it shouldn’t be sugarcoated for the people who need to think about what it would mean for this to happen to your daughter. Remember, you’re walking in our shoes right now.

Mac and I looked inside ourselves. We thought about color, ethnicity, belonging, our comfort, the child’s comfort, our families, our friends. We were fairly lucky. A few people disappointed us by focusing on many negatives (a black child would have a higher chance of being born an addict was something we heard several places). We educated others on the fact that medical condition is separated from skin color. We could agree to have a black child and still decide we could not accept a child born on drugs. As it turned out, we did say we were willing to look at a variety of medical complications on a step by step basis if our insurance covered it. But we don’t have great coverage. The hard truth was, we couldn’t afford to take home a very ill child no matter what. It felt heartless and horrible to imagine somewhere out there a beautiful child I may love forever wouldn’t be mine because I said “no” to a certain condition. In all honestly, I was a mess thinking about how much I’d be willing to hurt myself if it meant getting a child. Thank god it was my therapist who sorted me out. She pointed out that as someone with minor mobility issues myself (I have a chronic pain condition and sometimes walk with a cane) I may not be able to adopt a child with a disability if it would make my own health worse trying to care for the child. I didn’t want to feel selfish, or close-minded. What if I missed out on the one meant for me? She asked, very gently, “what if that child misses out on a strong, healthy mom that can’t WAIT to teach a kid how to recover after each surgery and get bigger and stronger? What if they have the money, the means, even other kids to help? Don’t those families go looking for their own “right kid for us?”

But the one, deep-deep-DEEP down fear I had was simple. I am a white woman born in Nebraska. In NYC I got made fun of for being the only white woman in my security division at [STORE REDACTED BUT THEY ARE VERY FAMOUS AND HUGE AND I CAUGHT VERY CREEPY SHOPLIFTERS.] What the hell would I know about raising a Latino or black boy in America? Any other race, or a girl, I felt I could do it. But raising a brown or black man in America? An America where black men have The Talk with black boys about the things you do to survive in a culture where you are constantly a minority, even if you are in the majority. The America where Arizona would require my son to have his birth certificate on him all the time because he looks illegal. What do I do when he asks me about clothes he wants to wear like the other kids and I admit that to me it looks too foreign? How could I tell my son I’m afraid people will assume he’s in a gang? Would he talk one way around me and then become someone I couldn’t even understand as a teenager with his friends? His black or Mexican friends? Would I finally be forced to accept that there is a whole side to race in America that I haven’t thought about because I have never had to? Questions my biological children would never have known. My white nephew Dude plays with toy guns 26 hours a day. What’s the line where a black boy can play with fake guns and it’s cute then it spills over into scary? Would I let a black son become an expert in stage combat like his adoptive father? Sounds great. Until I wonder how it looks if there’s a black guy running around with a training pistol. Here in our relatively small Midwestern enclave these things are probably no big deal. If we move I don’t know how big of a deal they are. Who gives him The Talk? What other Talks exist out there for non-white Americans I don’t know about because I never had to know?

It took days before I decided to answer the most important question: would I love him? Yes, I would. Would I be willing to go outside my comfort zone to learn about a culture where I am an outsider? Yes, if it meant my son felt less on the outside.

I have lots to learn and many fears to face and I need help. I have to talk to people that will help me understand my son’s reality as an American will be different than mine. Most crucially though, I know for sure I can do it. After an extensive soul search I know from the bottom of my soul:

The first time I hear someone call my beautiful son a wetback…that will be the day I’m going to jail.

The State of Iowa Congratulates You!

Congratulations! You have decided to become parents in another state over the holidays. Let us be the first to say, your timing is ludicrous. When your adoption agency tells you it will take a few days to settle the Interstate Compact, what they are really saying is “you’ll be lucky to get it done before your child is eligible for Social Security benefits.”

For your reference, here is a guide to what you can expect from the State of Iowa concerning your Interstate Compact.

  1. The fingerprints you have done every year that you were with an Iowa-based adoption agency are not sufficient. Neither are the ones you had taken in Nebraska by both the Sheriff and Police Department. You will need a new set taken in Iowa and sent to the FBI. This must be done before we start the paperwork. You arrived on the 22nd, we don’t work over Christmas, and then after you get it done we won’t submit it to the court until after the New Year.
  2. The only place to get your prints done in Council Bluffs, this is absolutely true, is the UPS store. We don’t know why, either.
  3. While all of this is happening, you cannot cross into Nebraska for ANY reason with the child. This means that you will need to spend three weeks in a hotel. This is above any costs you have already incurred for home studies, adoption fees and necessities for the baby.
  4. All paperwork sent to Nebraska is sent via traditional mail. The government can communicate with people living in the International Space Station, but they cannot use email to complete interstate adoption paperwork.
  5. For anyone wishing to express a grievance with this antiquated system, you may lodge a complaint between 2:00 and 2:07 pm on every other Thursday. The Complaints Division is located at the UPS store. We don’t know why, either.
  6. Incidentally, we are well aware that this is the least-gross way to conduct the business of adoption. Your small, private agency allowed you to apply for an adoption when you were turned away from several traditional Nebraska venues. We know you were turned away because you hadn’t been married long enough (three years for the State of Nebraska, which is understandable) or because you could not register with a religious adoption agency. If you are atheist, as your husband is, you have very real trouble adopting in Nebraska. In fact, some agencies want a letter from your pastor to help prove you’re a good person before you can start the process. It doesn’t matter that you hold good jobs, are involved in your community, pay taxes and genuinely care about helping humankind…if you are Good Without a God then you are also Childless Without a Chance.

Let us not ignore, though, that this bureaucratic bullshit is nothing, absolutely non-existent, compared to what you found when you began looking for private adoption agencies. We are, of course, talking about the sliding scale of race that you got from most of the agencies you researched. The documents that laid out, in black and white (pun intended but still repugnant) how skin color determines what you pay for your adoption.

So that this is COMPLETELY OBVIOUSLY CLEAR, we are going to explain it like we’re talking to a four year old. IN AMERICA, WE PRICE BABIES ACCORDING TO HOW WHITE THEY ARE.

Here is a price list from an agency in Florida. Similar scales were sent from MO and GA.

African American track (100% Black) adoptions are free to apply for. Final cost of adoptions, about $14,000

All other adoption tracks cost a non-refundable $500 application fee.

Biracial (mixed with black) $14,000 to $18,000

Latino, other designations $14,000-$20,000

Biracial (not mixed with black) $18,000 to $25,000

Caucasian boys $25,000 and up

Caucasian girls starting at $30,000

Prices vary according to medical expenses and needs of the birth mother.

You will hear many debates on why this is fair. It mostly has to do with white people not receiving as much government assistance, so the birthmoms deserve more money. Nobody ever points out that these fees can be held separately from medical fees. There’s a mysterious wormhole in the fabric of the adoption universe that sucks up more money when everyone involved is white. So, in conclusion, while there are many conversations to be had, ranging from “this is a supply and demand equation” to “doesn’t this speak directly to why we need to discuss race more, not less in America?” let us not forget the most important factor here: this is fucked up.

All in all, it takes three weeks, tons of money, a paperchase that will end in 2022 and you’re living in a room the size of a postage stamp. But this is what happens when you use a small, ethical agency that collects one uniform fee for one beautiful child. Your child, who is at once the most expensive thing in the known world and the most priceless.

The State of Iowa regrets that we’re out of copies of our free booklet Explaining to Your Children Why It’s Offensive to Designate Them 3/5 of a Human Being but Not Offensive to Charge 3/5 of a White Child to Adopt Them.

Congratulations again on your newest tax break.

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