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shrinkykitten

"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.

6.11.2007

Not sure how to title this.

Today I took the bus to school to pick up the papers my TA decided she is too tired to grade (oh yes, I was happy to get that email. Not!). On my way there, a man got on with a little boy. The man was very tall, very thin, and I think very gay. Oh, and very white. The little boy was very little (maybe 3?) and very black, and called the man "Daddy."

They sat down next to me. Two black women across from me started whispering to each other and staring at the man and boy. A few minutes later, a black woman got on the bus and very obviously stared at the man and boy as she walked past.

It seemed to me as though the reactions of these three women was fairly negative - which is interesting to me because I'm not sure why - and I would have liked to have eavesdropped to learn why. Is it because the dad is white? Or maybe gay?

I know I had a negative reaction to them but it's because the dad's interactions with the boy really bothered me. He kept telling the little boy that he was getting on the dad's nerves. He also kept telling the little boy that he was being "crazy." He then would tell him that I was bothered by the little boy's behaviors (which wasn't true) - and I think that is inappropriate to put on others. His interactions with the little boy were pretty negative - which bothered me a lot. It may also have bothered me more because if he is gay, I think part of me wants him to be the paragon of parenthood so as not to cause people to create more negative views of gays and lesbians as parents. I wanted him to be a super parent, which isn't fair.

I was thinking too about white people adopting black kids. I guess I am making an assumption that the kid was adopted, but I don't think I'm totally off on that. The kid's verbal abilities seemed to be not where I would expect for his age - so he may have some sort of disability.

Previously I have argued that one of the reasons I disagree with fertility treatments is that there are so many kids in the US who desperately need parents. In particular, the foster care system is filled with kids who need stability and caring. Many of those kids in this city are African American as African American kids are less likely to get adopted than white kids.

But if white parents adopt black kids - is that good or bad? Or both? Part of me thinks that it is better for black kids to be adopted by white parents than to languish in the foster care system. But, what is the implication of that? I feel like I don't totally have the language to discuss this well.

I guess I could see it as being somewhat insulting for white people to swoop in and "save" these black kids. It might almost make it seem like we think that the kids need white people to save them - that the black community is unable to care for them. The kids will then be raised in a way that is at least somewhat divorced from their cultural heritage, which could be isolating and confusing. A friend of mine in college was the only black kid raised by a white family in a very very white town, in a very very white state. It totally messed with her identity.

I guess the answer isn't whether a kid would be better with a white family or in foster care - the real question is why are so many kids in foster care in the first place? And why are so many of those kids black? Children's services gets a lot of flak for not responding enough or strongly enough when kids are in peril. And indeed, sometimes kids die because the response wasn't quick or intense enough. But often children's services is trying pretty hard to avoid taking the kids out of the home because an even larger issue is whether kids are better off with an abusive or neglectful parent or in foster care. There's no easy answer there at all - especially not when you know that kids are highly likely to get abused (or re-abused) in foster care.

When I start thinking about this stuff, I get really grouchy at pro-life people. Not for opposing abortion (I kind of understand that at an emotional level). Rather, I get angry at them for putting their energy there. If they are so concerned about kids - why don't they work to help women be better parents? Why don't they work to decrease the stress on parents, especially young and/or single parents so that they *can* keep the kids? Why don't they work to create parenting classes to help parents learn options for working with their kids? Why don't they create education/training programs to help parents get good paying jobs with decent benefits? Why don't they work to create free daycare (two recent-ish horrific child rape cases in the city occurred when the moms were at work and the kids were home alone)? Why not create financial programs to help buy diapers and food and pay rent? Why not create family counseling programs and give gift certificates for dinners and movies out, and free babysitting to give stressed parents some breaks and support? Why not create programs to help parents who a have just been released from jail work to get their kids back and create stable lives for all of them?

I know this post is all over the place - and that's because what I saw today in terms of the women's reactions to the man and his son made me more aware of the complexities. I'd be really interested in any of your thoughts.

1 Comments:

At 7:52 PM, Blogger k8 said...

Not all over the place at all! I totally get what you're saying. My mom's a social worker who, before she became a county-level director, specialized in children's services. Inter-racial adoption is fraught with socio-cultural 'issues' - issues for the families, and issues in relation to their communities, etc. I always find people's reactions to foreign adoptions interesting. I wish people would adopt from the US - there's a whole lot of kids in need of homes - but I realize that children from all over need homes. I really wish that people would be more open to adopting (or at least long-term fostering) of older children. Everyone wants baby.

I'm up for all of the programs you suggested! While it is just a little thing, I work with a jail library group that, as part of its mission, records inmate parents reading children's books and then sends the tape, a tape player, and a new copy of the book to the child. It isn't a lot, but it helps keep parents and children connected. Ultimately, though, I think that we need to have a more comprehensive system of support for parents and children at a govt level, whether it be state- or federal-level.

As to the situation on the bus: I wondered (and I could be completely off base here) if there was a stronger reaction from the women because the child was a boy. With all of the dialogue about raising "strong African American Men," I wonder if this wasn't just a racialized sitation but one that is gendered as well. I could be way off base, though.

 

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